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Nantes, in the region of Pays-de-la-Loire, is a young and creative city by the Loire River with many interesting things to see and do. Nantes is the perfect getaway from Paris by train: direct TGVs connect Paris Montparnasse to Nantes St Nazaire train station in only 2 hours! If you have 2 spare days in Paris, don’t miss this interesting city in Western France.
Nantes’ must attraction is located on the isle in the middle of the Loire River. Once occupied by shipyards, the Ile de Nantes hosts today quirky machines that delight children and adults: Les Machines de l’Ile.
About Les Machines de Nantes (The Machines of the Isle of Nantes)
The Machines of the Isle of Nantes could be described as the result of Jules Verne’s imagination, the mechanical universe of Leonardo Da Vinci, and Nantes’ industrial past.
Les Machines de Nantes is a cultural and artistic project developed by the theater company La Machine, which tries to promote Nantes’ tourism and the city as a place of creativity and fantasy.
These giant, uncommon machines are designed and developed by a group of artists and machinists in the former naval workshops of Ile de Nantes. This place is known today as La Galerie des Machines and you cannot miss it when you visit Nantes!
There are many cool machines spread on Ile de Nantes. This article, however, will focus on the company’s three biggest projects: the Nantes Elephant, the Giant Carousel, and the Heron Tree.
L’Éléphant, Nantes’ Giant Mechanical Elephant
Nantes’ giant mechanical elephant was the first big project born in the Galerie des Machines. Le Grand Éléphant is a huge living machine made of steel and wood who likes to wander around the Ile de Nantes. The elephant can carry up to 50 passengers on his back on a funny, original 30-minute ride. Be careful because this is a cheeky elephant who likes to spray people with his trunk!
Unfortunately, during our visit to Nantes the Giant Elephant was “out of order” and never left his pole position. However, cheeky elephants are still cheeky while they are sick and we got a second shower that day…
Le Carrousel des Mondes Marins, Nantes
The Carousel of the Sea Worlds is a giant carousel (almost 25 m high) located not far from La Galerie des Machines. It is an incredible mechanical aquarium of disturbing marine creatures swimming or diving in 3 different levels: seabed, abyss, and sea surface.
This carousel is great for kids and adults. People sitting on the creatures can move most of their parts as if they were puppeteers. Le Carrousel de Nantes was voted in 2014 as the most original attraction in the world (Thea awards).
L’Arbre aux Hérons (The Heron Tree)
L’Arbre aux Hérons is the most ambitious and crazy project at La Galerie des Machines in Nantes. The Heron Tree, when finished, will be a giant tree made of steel and wood 50m wide and 35 m high where people will be able to walk from branch to branch and enjoy amazing views of the Loire River and the city.
The Heron Tree will be populated with living machines like hummingbirds, spiders or caterpillars, and other creatures like carnivore plants. And of course, there will be the herons! Two giant herons will be flying around the tree with the possibility of transporting up to 12 people from branch to branch.
Today visitors can see some prototypes at La Galerie des Machines. The staff introduces the project and also does some live testings so people can enjoy short rides on these machines.
La Galerie des Machines, Nantes
This is the place where Les Machines de l’ Ile are born. La Galerie des Machines is located in the old shelters of the former shipyards in Nantes. These buildings were originally used for ship construction and later used as business sites until the arrival of the machinists.
Today visitors can see the ongoing construction of l’Arbre aux Hérons, walk on the prototype of a branch, and admire some of its future inhabitants. Currently, there is also a prototype of heron (scale 1/5) for testing which can take up to 2 people.
During the visit, the machinists introduce the project of l’Arbre aux Hérons and its living machines. Also, they invite some of the visitors to test the machines with them or even by themselves.
We found the concept of La Galerie des Machines as “tourist attraction” very interesting because in this way people, especially locals, can follow the evolution of the Heron Tree while helping with the funding of the project (entrance ticket for adults costs 8,50€, 6,90€ for kids). The Heron Tree will be ready in 2022 and we are sure it will be a blast!
Are you planning to visit Nantes in France? Would you like to walk on the Heron Tree?
Cover picture: (c) métropole.nantes – Stephan Menoret photographe.
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