THE GUARDIAN: City breaks with kids
Part 2 - by Carolyn Boyd (PART
is also a great city for cycling. We hired a couple of
Dutch-style family bikes and pedalled around for an afternoon,
following the green line and venturing up the river Erdre (which
runs north out of the city) to an island called Île de
We discovered a sweet Japanese garden and weird and wonderful
plants and trees, paths and bridges to explore. The cycling
route out of the city along the Loire makes for a great
adventure, too, with outdoor art installations from the
dotted along the river. Highlights include a house partly
sunken in the river, with lights on and smoke coming from the
chimney, a fearsome serpent in the water, and a fountain
that only shoots up out of the water when you sit on a
particular shore-side bench.
Where are all the other
With its huge concourse to belt around on, the Île de Nantes
is the obvious place to let them run wild. We loved the
small moonscape with trampolines in each crater that provided
hours of entertainment, while we sat on deckchairs in the sun
sipping cold drinks from a booth.
Not far from the chateau,
a large playpark in the Square Mercoeur features a
Japanese artist’s monster artwork that doubles as a slide.
to this, the Miroir d’Eau (water mirror) is a splash-park
where 32 jets shoot up out of a shallow
pool. It proved a great place to cool off, but spare clothes
would have been useful.
Meanwhile, the botanical gardens,
Le Jardin de Plantes, offers nearly 20 acres of green
space with huge greenhouses, pretty walkways and bridges, ponds
and sculptures to explore.
When we weren’t picnicking in the many green spaces, there were
plenty of family-friendly eateries to tempt us. On the Île de
Nantes, the huge La Cantine du Voyage offers a menu
of just one dish per course (two courses plus drink: lunch €10,
dinner €13) across dozens of refectory tables. The ingredients
for the dishes are grown in the neighbouring kitchen garden
(there’s an undercover skate park at the other end of the
warehouse to watch as you wait).
For something quirky, go to
Le Nid (“the nest”) on the 32nd floor of the city’s
highest building Le Tour de Bretagne.
by cartoonist Jean Jullien, the bar features an enormous
outstretched stork: its back provides the counter, and its eggs
are the stools and tables. It’s just nibbles and drinks on sale
(coffee €2, fruit juice €3, platter of cheese €7.50), but it’s
worth a visit for the spectacle and the amazing view of the
This being the former Breton capital, it’s a good place to try a
crêpe or savoury galette with Le
Coin des Crepes serving a good selection of
fillings (from €3).
Le P’tit Qu’a Fait (menus from €13.80/€9.30 for
children) serves fresh, organic food in a setting designed
specifically for kids, with smaller furniture and toys. In the
city centre, we had lunch at
which serves hearty French staples in a bistro rammed with
vintage bric-a-brac that fascinated the kids.
One lunchtime, we jumped on the
Navibus (river bus) to cross the river to the fishing
village of Trentemoult. It’s a pretty little place and has a few
good restaurants including
Guingette (lunch menus from €13, child’s menu €8.50).
If you want to take home souvenirs, Petit Beurre biscuits,
salted butter caramels (made with Guerande sea salt, from the
coast near Nantes) and Rigolette sweets from the
city’s much-loved confectioner are the things to seek
Huang Yong Ping Snake
Photograph: Mathieu Chaveau