Traditionally an ancient Breton port and now a thriving and picturesque tourist resort in the department of Loire Atlantique, there’s plenty for visitors to Pornic to enjoy.
The picturesque old port on the Baie de Bourneuf was once a pirate haunt and departure point for fishing fleets to Newfoundland.
Today, Pornic is the base for numerous sailing activities and regattas and the Noeveillard Marina can berth almost 1,000 vessels. Climb the labyrinth of steps connecting the fishing port to the medieval old town.
Take in the sights from the miniature tourist train, including Pornic’s chateau, casino and thalassotherapy centre. Watch demonstrations at the faïenceries (tin-glazed earthenware factory) which has maintained its traditions for over 3 centuries. Indeed, it is one of the last places in France to produce hand-painted goods.
Chose from the town’s many restaurants specialising in seafood, pick up local produce at the ‘halles’ market held 4 times a week and check with the tourist office about guided tours, local megalithic sites, and dates for Pornic’s many summer festivals.
Nantes is the former capital of Brittany and although it has been part of the Pays de la Loire since the 1960s, its history is very definitely Breton, and most citizens still regard themselves as such. Nantes’s medieval old town is built around the Chateau des Ducs fortified by Francois II and his daughter, the Duchess Anne, to defend Brittany’s independence in the fifteenth century. See houses built for fourteenth and fifteenth century shipping owners and enjoy the old quarter’s excellent restaurants. The tombs of Francois II and his wife Margaret lie in Cathedral de St-Pierre-St-Paul - used as a barn during the Revolution and now restored after being bombed in WWII. Look for the statue with 2 faces. Nearby, on rue Clemenceau, Nantes’s Musee des Beaux-Arts exhibits paintings by Monet and Chagall. And, for a spot of shopping, head to the beautiful Passage Pommeraye shopping arcade full of boutiques and complete with ornamental staircase and glass roof.
Take a tour around the Island of Nantes to find out more of the city’s history and industrial past and also future plans. Some cruises stop at the charming little port of Trentemoult from April to September. Details from Nantes tourist office, tel: (00 33) 2 72 64 04 79. Further up river at Le Pellerin or Indret, it’s possible to take a sightseeing mini-cruise across to the opposite bank.
Jules Verne Museum
The novelist Jules Verne was born in Nantes in 1828 and lived on an island in the middle of the Loire River. Although the Jules Verne Museum is not his original home, it houses a collection of his manuscripts, travel books, illustrations, models, posters and more. For more information, tel (00 33) 2 40 69 72 52
Mechanical Elephant and the Machines of the Isle of Nantes
‘The Sultan’s Elephant’ made in 2007 to celebrate Jules Verne’s centenary, can now be seen at the Machines de L’Ile site at Nantes’s former shipyards where Francois Delaroziere and Pierre Oreface mix the mechanics of Leonardo da Vinci with the invention of Jules Verne to create a mechanical universe of oversized creatures and marionettes. Ride the 12m high wooden elephant weighing 45 tons, see the Marine Worlds Carrousel with 27 moving exhibits on 3 levels, pirate fish, reverse-propelling squid and more. Open daily until end August.
Tel: (00 33) 0810 12 12 15 for other times or check with Nantes Tourist Office.
The Lu Tower is the tower of the former Lefevre Utile biscuit factory. Founded in 1886, the palatial factory symbolised a powerful, flourishing industry. After its closure, it was sold in the 1970s and then remained empty for many years. Eventually, the city of Nantes recognised the site as part of its industrial heritage and the tower was restored to its original blue, red and gold colours and Art Nouveau decoration. Visitors can enjoy a panoramic view of Nantes, and there is an exhibition of the biscuit makers family archives and old photographs. For more information, tel (00 33) 2 40 12 14 34
The Castle of the Dukes of Brittany
The Castle is one of the oldest historical buildings in Nantes and has been completely restored. Built in the late Middle Ages by Dukes Francis II and his daughter Anne of Brittany. With its mix of Gothic and Renaissance architecture, the Castle has 7 towers and a 500m long sentry walk. Famous prisoners and visitors include Bluebeard and Bonnie Prince Charlie. There are viewpoints across the city and moat gardens, and the castle is illuminated at night.
For more information, tel (00 33) 8 11 46 46 44
Nantes History Museum
The Castle also houses the new Nantes History Museum with more than 850 historic objects and multi-media displays in 32 rooms. You can find out about this city’s fascinating past with information on the Edict of Nantes, the city’s colonial period and the slave trade and the major events of the twentieth century.
International Ocean Liner Museum housed in a former submarine base where visitors can discover the world of past and present ocean liners through films, photographs and collection pieces.
Become a passenger on an imaginary ship and re-live the luxury cabins, art deco dining rooms, wheelhouse and promenade decks on historical maritime routes to the Far East, in particular the Marseille-Yokohama route of more than 11,500 miles. An ‘emergency evacuation’ in which visitors are lowered in real lifeboats into real water to the sound of sirens makes for a great end to a most interesting visit.
At St Nazaire Harbour, you can also visit the submarine Espadon, the Aker Shipyards, the Airbus Factory and the Heritage Museum Ecomusee.
Wine production in the Nantes area is big business with some 750 vineyards. The Vineyard Museum takes visitors through the history of wine production right from the Middle Ages to the present day. For more information, tel (00 33) 2 40 80 90 13
Drive through 16 different areas and get close to giraffes, elephants, bears, wolves, rhinos, hippos, lions, tigers and antelope, just some of the 150 species of animal to be seen here from the 5 continents. Plus there is a mini farm, sealion show, flamingo island, reptilarium, jungle bridge and African village. You can even spend a whole night in the park. Restaurant on-site. Open 10am to 6pm. For more information, tel (00 33) 2 40 04 82 82
69km north of Nantes, the Fortress of Chateaubriant rises dramatically from the surrounding forest. Like Fougeres and Vire, the fortress was begun in the eleventh century as part of Brittany’s defensive frontier against the French Kingdom. The fortress is in fact a medieval castle with a Renaissance wing. Guided visits 1430 daily May-mid Sept except Tues. Tour at 3pm in English on Wed. Weekends only, mid Sept-May at 1530.
The town of Chateaubriant which has grown up around the chateau has pleasant riverside walks, attractive shops and restaurants and is famous for its horse racing, cattle market and the beef fillet which takes its name.
A summer resort with a fine, seemingly endless beach regarded as one of the best in Europe and a pleasant town with winding streets and giant pines. It has an unusually mild microclimate and is exceptionally warm for the region. Visitors can enjoy a variety of activities including go-karting, horse riding and golf. There are children’s summer clubs and a casino for adults. The resort also offers stylish boutiques, friendly restaurants, and thalassotherapy and spa baths.
Close to La Baule, the resort of Pornichet has 7km of coastline with 3 fine sandy beaches, each with a different ambience to meet all needs from families to body boarders. Holidaymakers in Pornichet can take courses on sailing, kite-surfing, diving, tennis and horse riding.
To relax away from the beach, visit Pornichet’s casino or thalassotherapy and fitness centre. The area also has cycle routes and 3 long-distance footpaths.
Why not take a tour based on Pornichet’s history or seaside architecture. For children there’s a ‘Kids’ Club’ with a different theme each week on Friday afternoons in the summer holidays.. Tel: (00 33) 2 40 61 33 33 for more information on both of these.
The resort and fishing port of Le Croisic has 5 beaches ranging from the beautiful sandy Plage de Saint-Goustan to the wild and rocky Cote Sauvage du Croisic. Fishing boats do still sail from here. Watch the day’s catch being auctioned from the modern fish market on Trehic quay. There’s plenty to do at the seaside in Le Croisic plus a wealth of other holiday activities.
Walkers and cyclists can find a variety of routes exploring the local countryside - the shortest of 5km (coloured green) is known as the ‘English’ hike or ride! The whole family will enjoy Le Croisic’s Ocearium to see sharks and penguins and take a journey in an ancient submarine http://www.ocearium-croisic.fr
But some members might not be so keen on tasting the produce at the ‘Espace Escargots’ (snail farm), at the tip of the Croisic Peninsula, which is open to visitors from April to Sept www.espace-escargots.com
Riverside town on the Sevre Nantaise devastated during the Vendee Wars and completely rebuilt in elegant Italianate style with colonnades, bell-towers and loggias. Visit the Temple d’Amitie and church of Notre Dame. Notice Clisson’s unusual skyline, medieval bridges, ruins of thirteenth and fifteenth century castle and enjoy riverside walks.