En Brefs 2016

• Open International de Nantes  • 05 - 11 Sep 2016 • France •  

All you didn't know you needed to know about Nantes Open

View from the Venue

Discovering an 'Intelligent & Humanist' Nantes

One of the greatest gifts of travelling on the PSATour is you come to discover well, even your own country.

I had never visited Nantes before, and to be frank, I'm completely under its spell. What an original, stress free, clever, humanist and intelligent city this is.

With around 300,000 habitants in the heart of the City, going up to 700,000 with the "Nantes Metropolis" around it, it's one of the biggest cities in France - along with Bordeaux and Toulouse for example.

What strikes you is how different this town is conceived. For example, how many occidental cities do you know with "jardins gourmands" in the heart of it, as in areas when tomato plants, salads, fruit trees, and so on are cultivated? I kid you

Also, a "Green Line", not as dramatic as the Film, OBVIOUSLY, and much more fun, as it's a 12km journey through town - painted mostly by hand believe it or not - that takes you from a point of interest to another one!

I love the idea, and I'm told that one of the main instigators of the event, François Le Jort, is very much implicated in both Jardins Gourmands and the Green Line. You won't be surprised then that the event last year was not a normal 10K, with a 100,000 euros budget and a HUUUUGE success here.

Back to the Green Line, it's e
asy, friendly, at your own pace, no guide needed, just a good pair of shoes.

I found kids everywhere too. It was Sunday afternoon when I arrived, and I found that kids were having fun well, pretty much all over town really! From the "
Galerie des Machines" to the "Carrousel des Mondes Marins", the "Jardins des Plantes", or the "Water Mirror" just in front of the Castle, kids are just, well, being kids.  Priceless.


Mathieu Fort, one of the main "Têtes pensantes" of this amazing event and owner of the club where we are doing the Men's qualifying and most of the Women's draw up to the semis, welcomed me at the train station, 2h10m from Paris Montparnasse, easy and fast TGV, along with Christophe André, French player who will try and qualify today against Lance Beddoes...

We walked to the Hotel, a whole 5m really, dropped my luggage, and off we went to see the Nantes Wizard. All walking if you please...

First stop, the astonishing Jardin des Plantes,
a style of Kew Gardens in the middle of the town really. You could walk for hours, and still wouldn't see it all.

Three centuries of botanical adventures, aided as much sailors as by green-fingered gardeners have made the gardens what they are today I'm told.

The botanical gardens host over 10,000 taxa, which places it among the top 5 national collections. Som of these have been cultivated on-site in one of the elegant 19th century greenhouses.

Of course, it wouldn't be a French Garden without its café, now, would it. The Orangerie welcomes visitors in the afternoons...

I personally loved seeing goats, ducks and other animals roaming around the place, for the delight of kids and adults together.

One small minus for me. As often in France, you are not allowed to walk or sit on the grass.

Shame I say.

Off quickly to have a glance to the 'Cathedrale St Pierre & St Paul'. Incredibly, it's higher than Notre Dame de Paris, the white-stone tower front raising to a full 37.5m! No wonder I was having trouble taking a picture of it!

First stones laid in 1434, and one of the oldest religious constructions in France, not finished before 1891! How many generations is that, I wonder....

A site that has been chosen to host future PSA is the "Cour du Château des Ducs de Bretagne", if you please...

Five centuries of Medieval history in those stones.... It takes you from the 15th to the 18th centuries.

Building started under François II, the last Duke of Brittany, and then completed by his daughter, the famous and iconic Anne de Bretagne - of Brittany - twice queen of France, whose role still is alive in Today's Brittany, as some of her decisions are still protecting  the region, would you believe!

The castle houses a royal palace of elegant Renaissance facades, and hosts a lot of exhibitions, plus the kids just seem to enjoy the moat a lot for some reason, and so do fish and turtles!

But I must say I can definitely see a glass court in there... Can't wait!

A little walk across, and we find ourselved in the "Water Mirror", place John Kennedy. Covered by 2cm deep layer of water reflecting back  the castle.

Its 208 nozzles can create a refeshing mist billowing across the surface, or a further 32 sprays can fire vertically up to 150m!


We finally take the car and stop for a few seconds in front of the Opera House, that will probably host the PSA in the coming years -if they find a way to get the glass panels in that is!

And we arrive finally to the heart of the city and probably the most original of what I saw, the "Machines de l'Ile". Scary, astonishing, mesmerising. You name it, you'll feel it...

A team of mad builders led by Pierre Orefice and Francois Delarozière (Compagnie la Machine) have set up their workshop under the warehouse.

Their imagination has run wild exploring the tree-tops, the savanna and the bottom of the deep blue sea while their menagerie of machines roams free - I was personally chased by a giant Elephant!

It was a zone where Ships were build and after that market collapsed, so now they make monumental mechanical animals that kids can run and ride - ok, the older people can have fun as well...

Gallerie des machines

An imposing 8m heron carries passengers and flies over the Galerie. The Giant Ant has been scurrying accross the gallery, with four passengers controlling its legs, head and mandibules.

And before you ask, NOT ON YOUR LIFE I WOULD GO IN THERE!!!

Apparently, they just added a spider to the Mechanical Menagerie. Oh Joy. It can take up to three people in its abdomen, and rises above the spectators using its web....


The Grand Eléphant...

When we arrived, it was sort of asleep in the main hall. By the time we parked and all, it was moving towards the main esplanade, and of course, we needed to have a pic of my two guides.

The bleeping thing just moves well, just like the real thing! The passengers on board can see what makes the engine and moving feet tick.

And the trump is working too, believe me, as it just splashed a few spectators - yes, Mathieu and Christophe too...

The Caroussel
des Mondes Marins

That is weird, I tell you. I tried and took some photos, but they don't give it justice really, you have to watch the video.

Imagine a three floor "caroussel", round structure, with stairs going up all around it, and entrance to the machines on the ground, first and second floor.

All See Animals inside wich you swim in the air, plus on the third floor, a "normal" Merry Go Round, with even more animals....

A plus, the view from there is just pure breathtaking, and I took my life in my hand - I got vertigo, and I've got it bad - to take a pic of the scenery...


Lieu Unique

It literally means "Unique Place", and it was there the event was staged last year, with a huge success and more than 600 paying spectators for the final, for a 10K. Not bad for a first attempt....

As we drove back to the venue for this year, "La Cité des Congrès", we parked in front of the "Lieu Unique", an old biscuit factory at the center of the city. It was founded by Jean Blaise and is now directed (since January 2011), by Patrick Gyger.

The 'lieu unique' is the national center for Contemporary Arts in Nantes. Opened on January 1st, 2000, it a very warm and welcoming Art Centre, a great café where you can sit inside or outside, looking at the river passing by, minutes from the Train Station, and about 200m from the Cité des Congrès where the Glass Court has been erected.

As we sat to have a drink with some of the organisers of the event, Christophe André bless him, asked if there was a masseur available, as the walk around the city had literally killed his poor legs.

Yes, one thing you've got to know about squash players all over the world, boys I mean: they run for hours, but they just do not walk. And that's a fact. Apparently, if Christophe loses today, it will be all my fault...

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