On the day of our departure from L’Atelier des Bons Plants, we woke to sun, which was further heightened by the glow of our caravan’s orange walls. Nonetheless, it was with heavy hearts that we extricated ourselves from our den of blankets, packed up, had breakfast and left our new-found home. Theo and Loire had left early for the plant market in Nantes (a one hour drive compared to what would be our two day journey there), and we had said our goodbyes the night before. We had about 25km to Redon following the “D” (secondary) roads which were quiet for a Saturday morning, and it wasn’t long until we were back on our favourite canal!
We spent the remainder of the day biking alongside the river, with the sun gleaming, the birds singing and the flowers in blossom all around us. By 6:30, it was time to start looking for a suitable place to set up camp, and we spent about 45 minutes keeping our eyes out for a picnic area long the canal. When we at last found one, it was in a perfect spot: away from the canal side (i.e. from the traffic of early morning runners and dog walkers), with a garbage can and compost toilet nearby, and several picnic tables to choose from. Who would ever pay for camping with these kind of amenities?
Christian and I have finally gotten into the swing of the set-up of our campsite and, after 9 months on the road, have finally figured out that it’s a good idea to stick to what we are best at: I at making dinner, he at putting up the tent with a precision and care I never have the patience for (particularly when I’m cold and hungry, which is often after a day of biking).
We enjoyed some quinoa topped with the nutritional yeast, oil and salad greens from the farm, a parting gift Theo and Loire insisted on, and were fed and tarped up before sunset.
We knew from the weather forecast that it was going to be wet the next day, and we woke up to a pretty heavy rain falling on the tent. It is one of the coziest thing to be wrapped up in a sleeping bag, nice and dry in a tent while it rains outside on a Sunday morning and you don’t have a lot of urgency to get up. We had originally thought we had about 35 kilometres to go to Nantes, and because our host Ingrid was only going to be home at 8:00pm, we figured it was a good idea to wait out the rain and read until it stopped. Eventually, the rainfall ebbed and our stomachs were grumbling though, so we had a quick breakfast and hit the road, hoping that was all the rain we would have for the day. Sadly, we were very mistaken and we ended up having our toughest day so far in France with torrential rains and a much longer route than we had originally planned for.
One thing that did brighten our day, however, was the baguette vending machine we found on the side of the road… That was pretty exciting and the rain even let up enough for us to enjoy a non-soggy baguette.
By the time we got to Nantes (52 wet kilometres later), we were exhausted and soaked to the bone. Not even in the mindset to enjoy the arrival into Nantes (and somewhat disheartened that the city was much larger than we had thought and was 8 further kilometres into the centre), we bunked down in a McDonald’s, used the wifi and waited patiently for 8pm to meet Ingrid (our Warmshowers host for the next two nights) in front of her apartment.
Luckily, Ingrid was there before us and, spotting us immediately, ran over, shook hands with us and asked us if we liked beer. We, of course, said yes and she headed into the little shop next door to buy us beer. What a welcome! Ingrid was an amazing host and, even though I was completely wiped and not feeling very sociable, we ended up staying up until after 11 talking. She also let us do laundry, hang up all our wet clothes, have showers and enjoy a delicious dinner together.
The next day was May 1 and a holiday in France to celebrate workers rights. This meant Ingrid had the day off from her teaching practicum with her class of four and five year olds. We were lucky enough to enjoy a well-deserved sleep-in in a real bed, and then to have Ingrid as our tour guide for the beautiful and bustling city of Nantes.
We checked out all the major sights, including the Nantes cathedral…
the art neighbourhood, the waterfront, the botanic garden…
and the Iles des Machines exhibit featuring a giant walking elephant (“a blend of the invented worlds of Jules Verne, the mechanical universe of Leonardo da Vinci, and the industrial history of Nantes”) that was on holiday too.
It was an excellent little city stay in Nantes, thanks to Ingrid, and it just goes to show how much more you learn about a city when you have a local to show you around. Thank you, Ingrid- you are awesome!
Next up: we hit the Atlantic coast!
Musician, teacher, traveller. Currently on a year-long journey around the world. Bronwyn is one of the founders of onlyamazingdays.com.