There’s a lot of things to like (and dislike) about living in a new city, especially when that city is in a country different than the one where you grew up. As I’ve said many, many times: Living abroad is not like a permanent vacation. It’s easy to get distracted by work and kids, and other small stuff, just like you would in your own hometown. It’s sometimes easy to forget that you’re living abroad (except for that whole different language thing, but that’s another topic). It’s also extremely fun to try to take some time and just wander around the city. This is possibly one of my favorite “hobbies” because 1) it’s free and 2) It’s cool to look at weird and old architecture. And Nantes is full of that.
Here in Nantes, it’s been about 3+ months of nonstop grey weather. It’s been cold and rainy with very few days of sun. This time last year, felt practically like summer. I was even planting a garden and we were going to the beach, it was that warm. After so much rain and cold this year, I’ve started feeling a bit cramped up (being a little sick hasn’t helped either).
Today, it finally started warming up a little (though still very rainy), so I decided to take the afternoon off and go to the museum. Unfortunately (or fortunately), I forgot to check the hours, and it was closed. I decided just to take a walk, as the rain had let up a little.
I ended up walking next to the Erdre, one of the two rivers in the city. The Erdre is a relatively quiet, shallow river (at least compared to the Loire River, the other body of water in Nantes). The Isle de Versaille Park is there, people go boating on it all the time, there are some small boat restaurants on its docks (haven’t tried any of them yet), and there are small river cruise boats you can take, too. It’s a really quiet and pleasant part of the city.
I was walking along, looking at some of the houses and apartments that line the eastern bank, and thinking how cool it would be to live there. Then I noticed what seemed to be a mansion hidden behind some trees and other houses. I couldn’t get a great view, but it really looked like it could be huge. I decided to investigate.
I walked all the way around the far side until I found the entrance. It looked like a normal, average-sized house in France. Turns out that was just the gatehouse.
Here’s what was through the open gate. I didn’t want to trespass, so I didn’t go further.
I followed the outer wall back down towards the river. Here’s a huge tower on the side of the building.
The walls were incredibly tall, probably 10+ feet. You couldn’t really see the house from this angle, or most angles for that matter, the walls were so high on every side. The property was fairly large, encompassing about an entire city block.
Finding hidden gems like this has really become one of my favorite pastimes. It actually reminded me of when I was in my early 20s and I used to wander the neighborhoods of Baltimore. Looking back, I think I didn’t realize how rote my life in Baltimore had become before leaving. I rarely had or made the time to just wander. And even at times where I’d be taking a run or walk at Lake Roland, Loch Raven, or Soldiers Delight, one of a number of other parks in the area, I usually would stick to the same path.
And that’s possibly the best part of moving abroad–getting to explore a totally new place, where almost everything you see is the first time. Here, I can just pick a street or a direction, keep walking, take random turns, and I’m bound to see something new. And in that sense, I guess living abroad is a bit like being on vacation. I just have to remember to make the time to do it!