Sunday, October 6, 2013

Nantes & Noirmoutier

Every semester, the Brown-in-France program goes together as a group to some small and hidden part of France. It's our opportunity to bond as a group and to visit an area that we would almost definitely not go to on our own. This year we went to the island of Noirmoutier, which is just off the west coast of France. We took a train from Paris to Nantes and then a bus from Nantes to the island.

Noirmoutier is marked by the red pin.
Before actually heading to the island, we stopped at the city of Nantes to check out Les Machines de l'Île--an ongoing project that creates awesome steam punk-esque machines. Their past works have included a giant mechanical elephant that visitors can ride, a heron that can fly with people seated in baskets held by its talons, and a marine-themed carousel. We also saw various other smaller projects, all of which moved and worked when turned on. The machines are inspired by a mix of influences from Jules Verne and Leonardo da Vinci.

Miniature model of a tree house that would utilize the various machines as forms of transportation.

The heron in flight. 
They were able to move its neck and make its eyes blink.

The marine carousel.

I got to ride this one! 

Once we got to the island, we were assigned cabins, given bikes, and let loose for the weekend. We wandered the beach and biked into town to explore. The island of Noirmoutier is known for its special hand-gathered sea salt (fleur de sel) and salted caramel (caramel au beurre salé). It also has an old castle from 830 (Château de Noirmoutier) and the Passage du Gois, a paved-over path through the sandbank which connects the island to the mainland. Noirmoutier was rustic and charming, a refreshing break from urban life in Paris.

The church in the keep of Château de Noirmoutier.
The town of Noirmoutier-en-l'Île
View of the Passage du Gois during low tide.
The keep of Château de Noirmoutier.

These little white snails were everywhere on the island! I accidentally brought a live one home with me--I was so surprised when I put it down and came back to it later only to find that it had crawled away. 

Day two - the beach!

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