Nantes is many things, but it is certainly not isolated. It’s the point where a trio of rivers mingle with the waters of the Atlantic. It lies at the crossroads of three French provinces. It’s the junction of northern and southern France, the union of two traditional Gallic ways of life. What better breeding-ground for a swirling confluence of ideas, cultures and passions?
And it’s the gateway to the central Loire Valley, one of the nation’s jewels, with its lush vineyards and legendary chateaux. From Nantes you have access to a dozen different worlds and their rich history, architecture, gastronomy and more.Just two hours from Paris by high-speed train, Nantes is a link outward to London, Brussels and Geneva.
It is France’s western capital and Paris’ natural route to the sea. Open to the sea, it boasts both the nation’s number-one Atlantic seaport and busiest airport. An airport so popular it will be transferred to a bigger platform in 2012.
A long tradition of openness
But water, in all its forms, has really made the place. There was a port here in Roman times, and like all harbor towns, Nantes has a long tradition of openness. Its dynamism stems from the constant ebb, flow and renewal of the tides that carry talent and ideas from abroad, and in return export its own vision of the avant-garde and its brand of joie de vivre.
The ocean and 300 miles of coastline are close. You can stroll along 350 kms of riverbanks. Travel up the estuary to the neighbor town of St Nazaire, or visit legendary Mont St Michel. It’s all at hand. And wherever you go in the region, there are panoramas: in the parks, on the hills, by the rivers, at the end of every avenue, you’ll find the spacious, expansive vista. Nantes won’t hem you in.
"A singular mix of competencies" Says Thierry Violland, director of the urban planning office AURAN, "Its numerous waterways have sculpted Nantes. Its people have been marked by the need to build bridges between themselves."
Today Nantes is building a bridge into tomorrow. It’s channeling a singular mix of competencies, consolidating its role in the 21st century. The region, always open, is now reopening; it’s in completetransformation. You can visit various civilizations and lifestyles from here. But you’ll also catch a glimpse of what the future is going to be like.