So far, throughout my semester in Limerick, Ireland, I have had the opportunity to travel to many places on the weekends. One of my favorite experiences was visiting Nantes, France.
Nantes is a city located in western France and is full of culture. Nantes was also the birthplace of Jules Verne, author of numerous famous novels such as “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” and “Journey to the Center of the Earth.” Compared to Paris, France there are not nearly as many tourists in Nantes, which makes it a perfect place to experience authentic French culture.
While there, I stayed with a fellow American friend who had been living in the city for about a month. We were able to explore numerous streets, bakeries, pastry shops, and parks. I was able to practice my French by talking with the locals and ordering food.
The first morning I was in Nantes I went to a morning market near my friend’s accommodations. It was full of fresh meats, fish, fruit, vegetables, breads, and pastries. Many clothing, accessory and art vendors were also scattered throughout the area. There were definitely many strong smells coming from all directions. At the market I bought a “pain au chocolat,” which is similar to a croissant with chocolate in it. This tasted absolutely heavenly and was just the start to a weekend full of French foods and drinks. What I had included — but are definitely not limited to — a baguette, regional wine and beer, various pastries, cakes, chocolate, incredible cheese, kebabs (not necessarily French, but many Nantes residents come from the Middle Eastern area and own kebab restaurants), and of course crepes.
Although the food was to die for, my favorite part about visiting Nantes was going to an antique flea market. Many vendors were scattered throughout a park with their tents and areas full of antique toys, furniture, postcards, clothes, kitchen appliances, books dating back hundreds of years, and much more. I spent at least two hours walking around to the different vendor areas, having short conversations with some vendors, and looking through as many books as I could get my hands on.
When lunchtime came, almost all the vendors would put out their food on a table (that was probably for sale) and sit down as families or individuals to eat their meal. It was humorous and heartwarming to see families eating meals at tables in the middle of an antique flea market. I was glad I only brought a small backpack to Nantes or I would’ve wanted to buy every single little thing! I’ve grown up going to antique shows, so spending an afternoon looking at European antiques was a dream come true for me.
Aside from the morning markets, flea markets, and food, Nantes is also a city full of beautiful architecture, a castle, and cathedrals. I highly recommend visiting Nantes if you have a desire to experience authentic French culture. I hope to be able to have the opportunity to return someday and I will be craving the food (especially the pastries) until someday comes around.