Nantes is home to ‘le Voyage à Nantes’ but this exuberant arts trail isn’t confined to the city. It winds its way along the Loire estuary to Saint-Nazaire and is dotted with land art installations, some of which are my very favourite sights in the region.
What is the Estuaire Trail?
Nowadays, the Estuaire Trail is often seen as a continuation of the better-known Voyage à Nantes, but it was actually here first. This arts trail features permanent installations and was completed in three stages in 2007, 2009 and 2012. It now livens up the banks of the Loire (both south and north banks) with thirty astonishing installations. Among them: a melted boat, animals hidden in the trees, a house perched on top of a factory chimney and another sinking into the Loire as well as a giant sea-snake skeleton, the ‘wild motorway’, and an Asian-inspired play garden. It’s not just any old riverside path!
The installations can be found in Nantes, Saint-Nazaire and in unusual locations between the two towns. At each stage of the trail, there is a work of art to admire but it’s also an opportunity to take in the landscape and the ambiance.
You can follow the Estuaire Trail by car, by bike or even on foot (if you’re up for a challenge). There are also river cruises from which you can see many of the artworks on the trail. Perhaps the best of these are Ecoutilles summer musical cruises!
My favourite installations on the trail
I was planning to describe my favourite artwork but I couldn’t choose just one so here is a short list of the installations that I could look at forever. If you haven’t got enough time to do the whole trail, here are the three installations you should really see.
– L’Observatoire (the Observatory) in Lavau-sur-Loire: visit for the location, lost in the middle of the Loire saltmarshes, as well as for the installation itself, which reveals a landscape that is quite simply breathtaking.
– La Maison dans la Loire (the House in the Loire): Because it seems to belong right where it is. It gives the impression that it has always been here. People dream up so many stories to explain it but really it’s a recent installation.
– Le Serpent d’Océan (the sea snake) in Saint-Brevin: it brings out the inner child in us all. This is the first installation on the trail that I saw and I was simply blown away. This giant skeleton makes me feel like I’m dreaming.
Whether you want to follow the whole trail or choose the parts that interest you most, find out more at the Estuaire website: http://www.estuaire.info/en/