Thursday, June 7, 2012

Treasure Hunt on the Loire, Part Une

This was a lengthy day (and this is going to be a lengthy post as a result) but full of pleasant surprises and serendipity as a result of going on a treasure hunt for outdoor art along the Loire estuary.

During her lengthy planning of the trip, looking for things to do out of Nantes, Marian stumbled on Nantes Estuary Art, an outdoor museum of art works scattered around the 40-kilometer estuary of the Loire river from the city to the Atlantic. Each year since 2007 they have commissioned one or more elaborate works, some really monumental in scale, that are permanently sited somewhere along the river.

The tourist website ( but you won't learn a lot by clicking that) gave a sketchy map and brief descriptions and Marian said: let's go find some of these. Which we did, and along the way made several serendipitious finds of our own.

First up was "The Clock" by Roman Signer. It repurposes a huge piece of an old cement factory, adding a 7-foot swinging pendulum to make it "without a hand, indicate the slow decline of the building... and the relentless flow of the river."

A back view, note pendulum swinging out

That's a view from the back. The area around the front of the piece was unfortunately occupied by a dense cluster of small travel trailers, with kids playing and laundry hanging to dry on lines between trees and people lounging about. David got cold feet, thinking these might be gypsies, or some kind of squatter camp, and did not want to flash an expensive camera around them. Probably lovely people, but...

As close as we cared to get to the front.

Next was "Red Snake" ("Coming out of the river he stands and faces the Loire mouth wide open") near the Indre Bac (Bac is Breton for Ferryboat).

As seen later in the day, from the north bank.

Who knew there were ferries across the Loire? Turns out there is a very well-used car and people ferry.

Ferry "Lola" comes to the south shore every 15 minutes all day.

We moved a bit further west to find the Canal de la Martiniere, once used for cargo and now for flood control. The art work wasn't immediately obvious but we noticed two old cement-hulled canal boats abandoned on the canal.

Marian hadn't known about cement-hulled boats but David told her all about them.

With a little looking around we found Erwin Wurm's "Misconceivable" (English pun probably intended), which shows a yacht that yearns for the river.

It is really quite adorable. So is the real boat parked below.

A few kilometers farther along we found the site of Kinya Maruyama's "The Garden of Stars", a garden built using local materials. Unfortunately it was severely damaged by storms and a fire and had to be closed. They have been rehabilitating it and intend to re-open this summer.

Garden of Stars as originally built

As it looks now. Some replanting was evident but lots of work is still needed.

Now it was time to cross the wide mouth of the Loire on the Pont St-Nazare, a large cable-stayed bridge built in 1975.

A minute after this was snapped, the bridge vanished in a rain squall.

The rain was still heavy as we approached it.

Through the rain, you can see that the roadway is an S-curve, straight between the pylons.

This brought us down into St-Nazare, a port town and ship-building site for a long time. One of the first things we noticed was some colorful objects on a roof. There's a lot of new construction there, and on the roof of a new condo or apartment block we spotted these.

Estuary Art?

Nope! Just roof ventilators, but they turn with the wind and are in bright colors.

Lots more about St.-Nazare in Part Deux!

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