Nantes is a river port, and, during the pre-modern period, was a major player in sea trade as it was about as high upstream as ships of the day could go. When the Industrial Revolution led to the possibility of iron hulled ships which soon became bigger than any wooden hulled ones, Nantes found it couldn’t handle the larger vessels … and that’s where St. Nazaire came in … it was just a sleepy fishing village until the merchants of Nantes decided to turn it into the front end of their trade.

Anyway, I stopped overnight and hit the Ducal Palace and Museum …

The Chateau walls – this was originally an important part of the town’s defences and its defences were first rate … for the medieval period. Unfortunately, the Dukes ran out of male heirs and the last female in the line was married to the King of France and thus Nantes, and Brittany, became a French Royal possession and lost much of its previous importance as a semi-independent province.
One of the major Towers that formed part of the Chateau’s defences. The wooden structure arching up along the wall on the right is a giant slippery dip that leads down around the walls to just near the main entrance. The moat … dry and wet … is now mostly grassed and (evidently) a very popular recreational area.

There were some interesting Roman, Medieval and Modern (WW2 German occupation & Resistance) displays in the museum … but, as is all too common, they were poorly situated and badly lit, so no photos of the interior, sorry.

Puy du Fou

This is a French ‘historical’ (for some limited values of ‘historical’) theme park that is, evidently, much better than Disneyland Paris … and on the recommendation of one of the backers of Orbis Mundi I spent two days there …

Oh Deer! This is the interior of a ‘reconstruction’ of a 10th-11th century peasant’s home. Notice the glaring error? No? The Fireplace has a chimney. BZZZTTTT!. No Chimneys for several hundred years yet, guys. Sadly, a lot of the ‘historical’ stuff was like that … history only for those who haven’t got a clew about history (probably, I suspect, because the creators either didn’t have a clew either [most likely] or didn’t care [also possible]).
The 13th-14th century Village Church is somewhat better done … except for the fact that the altar would have been screened off from the congregation by a screen, and they wouldn’t have been able to see the Priest perform Mass … and, even if they could have, he would have had his back to them. Wall paintings and other decorations seem reasonable … but I am sure a specialist in medieval art could easily tear them apart.
The Blacksmith’s shop in the 10th-11th century village … and another massive fail. The dual bellows and their cunning arrangement that (if it had been hooked up properly – as far as I can tell seeing it in operation, it wasn’t) allowed a continuous (sort of) draft to feed the furnace is way anachronistic. Probably late 13th and more likely 14th or 15th centuries. Far too technologically advanced for the alleged period.

Sure, it’s a theme park. I get it. But it was annoying.

The real reason for being there was, anyway, the live performances – which were amazing … at least the ones with English commentary (or English commentary that worked) were … around 10 or 11 and it took me two days to manage to squeeze them all in as the place was hugely crowded both days (the end of August and just before most French schools outside of Paris and the deep south went back.

Of course, the performances were even less historical than the villages … but, what the heck, they were huge fun.

The next post will be about the Musee des Blindes (Tank Museum) at Saumur followed by two Loire Chateaux.

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