Friday, 5 October 2012

The great elephant of Nantes

At 8 o'clock this morning we moored at the pier of the island of Nantes. It is fair to say that the main attraction on this island is the museum "Les Machines de l'ile". This museum is built on the location of the former shipyards and it shows mechanical creations where Jules Verne's "invented worlds" are combined with Leonardo da Vinci's mechanical universe. The main attraction of this museum is the great elephant. After 30 months of construction it was ready in 2007. The elephant is 12 m high, 21 m long, exists out of 48 tons of steel and wood and costed around 2,5 million euro to build. But it was worth effort and the money!!  People can actually sit (max 49 passengers) on this humongous elephant and have a ride for half an hour. In the first four years the elephant carried already 250.000 passengers. It's really amazing, it walks like a real elephant, majestic and it even flaps its ears and can spray water if spectators are coming too close. But the city of Nantes has much more to offer. Especially on a day as today, mild temperatures and sun! Nantes is located on the Loire River 50 kilometer from the Atlantic coast. By the way, the Loire river is the longest river of France with a length of 1012 km. One of its main tributaries is the Erdre River and on this lovely river we could join a river cruise in the morning. This excursion was combined with a visit to the St. Pierre Cathedral and the castle of Dukes of Brittany, which both lie in the centre of Nantes. Also the surroundings of Nantes are very beautiful. In the afternoon we had two excursion possibilities, either to the town Guerande or to the Chateau Goulaine & Clisson. At 20.30 we left the pier and made our way west to sail down the Loire towards the Bay of Biscay.