Sunday 16 June 2019
On my return to Nantes, I visited the Memorial to the Abolition of Slavery beside the Loire. Accessed by steps
from a 400m walkway embedded with the names of 2000 slave ships that sailed from Nantes, giving a sense of scale to the trade, is a 90m passage evocative of a ship’s hold.
The words are historical accounts of slavery. Very effective.
Crossing the river onto the Île De Nantes which splits the Loire, I had a look around the three tier, steampunk style carousel,
the first of three attractions of Le Machines De L’Île. On each level are sea creatures that can be ridden in,
Nearby is the Galerie Des Machines, where creatures are demonstrated, such as this spider,
that starts off in a hole in the ground, then rises up,
or this ant.
There was also a sloth,
a heron, a hummingbird, a caterpillar, all effectively copying the movement of their living analogues, but the show stealer was the elephant.
12m high and 21m long, including the vehicle,
it takes 50 people for a ride around the docks,
walking and spraying bystanders with water.
The Île is a former shipyard. The slipways are still there.
and some cranes,
but mechanical giants are now built there and dispatched to entertain cities around the world. The rest of the island has artworks,
like these circles that light up at night,
but there are lots of places to hang out, and deck chairs are a thing.
Nantes is welcoming, wacky, laid back, family, child, pedestrian and cyclist friendly. It’s delivering for its inhabitants now, not living in the past. It’s not fixed in amber, it’s a clash of styles, it’s fun.
Like this sculpture,
it doesn’t take itself too seriously,
or seek to put itself on a pedestal.