July 11, 2016 Nantes
Gordon: Ruth has a cold today, so I cycled the first leg of our potentially transcontinental trip on my own. I took the train to the seaside town of Pornic, conceptually dipped my wheel in the Atlantic, and cycled the 60 Kms back to Nantes. The coast near Pornic is charming, with an activity oriented beach scene and a sprinkling of low key towns. Our navigation app found the usual assortment of tiny roads, trails and bike routes to pleasantly bring me back to the city. It was wonderful to be back in the saddle in the French countryside.
Later in the afternoon Ruth and I visited one of the unique attractions in Nantes: Les Machines de L’Isle. This can only be described as steam punk on steroids. A couple of imaginative locals have constructed, and continue to develop, zoomorphic machines, some on a monumental scale. The well-known elephant, for example, carries more than a dozen people around a course in the former industrial site where the operation is located. The larger machines rely on a number of rider-operators, each responsible for a variety of hydraulic controls. The Machines are a mixture of spectacle, whimsy and art, and they appear to be very popular.