written 15th November
With dusk beginning to fall and little idea about the location, prevalence and opening hours of food shops in the centre of Nantes (we always shopped in the massive Leclerc at the end of the tram line) we headed for the little supermarket opposite where I used to live (from which we used to buy pink wine for 8.5F (85p for those who don't remember the exchange rate to francs) before a night out - we were classy birds). Being somewhere so foreign (well, french) but yet so unexpectedly familiar is very wierd. I couldn't tell you anything about the supermarket, its layout, what is was called or anything, but I knew it was there and on walking through the door it smelled exactly as I didn't know I was expecting it too. Will had to stop me running around like a small child in a sweet shop and buying everything in sight and I wasn't even allowed any cheese or wine as we still had some english cheddar and abbot ale to finish up in the van so we settled on pork chops, saucisse de Toulouse and saucisse de marguez for the bbq, a baguette and as a special dispensation I was allowed a bottle of breton cidre.
Suitably provisioned with delicious french things we set off back to the campsite. Opposite the campsite there is a new swimming pool and ice skating rink and as entry to the pool was free to campsite residents we decided it would be rude not to. It is a very nice pool, with a wave machine (unfortunately not working) and a flume and various bubbly jets. We did get stopped by the life guard as Will's swimming shorts are apparently illegal in France (I mean swimming shorts in general are illegal, there isnt something especially nefarious about Will's!) but as we are stupid and foreign they let him borrow some fetching speedos from the lost property - we can't be the first people to not know - so we could enjoy our free swim. It was all very civilised really, one big changing room where you enter through a door on one side of the long line of cubicles and exit poolside through the other door of the cubicle ad on leaving we even found a little swimming costume spin dryer and overhead hair dryers you just stand under and press the button.
Feeling virtuous after our active day of cycling and swimming we felt quite justified in retuning to camp and stuffing ourselves with sausage :)
The market is an Aladdin's cave of foody treasures although a bit of a trap for the uninitiated and impulsive - we bought a pineapple only to then discover other types of, presumably inferior, pineapple were a third the price on another stall - oh well, I am sure it will be three times as nice :) Lesson learnt, we stopped buying and started looking first and eventually decided on fish with boiled new potatoes and steamed green beans for dinner and baguette, cheese and pate for lunch.
Again, for all you fact fans, Nantes is built at the meeting point of 4 rivers; the Erdre, two branches of the Loire and another one which I can't remember and at one point Nantes was the major port in France. Ile de Versailles is a little island in the middle of the Erdre which had a rather nice Japanese style garden in the middle and a sort of visitor/exhibition centre. Some time in the past, as we discovered from the visitor centre, they put a section of the Erdre in a tunnel and filled in another of the branches of the Loire to make the town more coherent and easier to traverse. There was also a rather good free exhibition of photos entitled "Garden in the City" or some such thing which was various people taking arty pix of plants in odd places in the town.
City sight-seeing satisfied, we headed back to tackle Fish Pierre.
Although the cooking advice from the fish man was good, having neither oven nor white wine we were unable to follow it, so we set about improvising and stuffed Fish Pierre with onions, garlic and honey and baked him on the barbeque - which Will eventually got lit in the rain under an umbrella - and an hour later Fish Pierre aux ognions d'ail mieles avec des haricot verts et des pommes de terres nouvelles was served - sounds posh in french! - delicieux!
Today, having seen and done Nantes, and after a late morning of tappet checking, light bar wiring and wet sanding in the rain - an hour's work for very little visible difference :( - it is time to press on south towards La Rochelle in search of free camping and better weather.