It shouldn’t have come as a surprise, but again, we woke to incredible thick fog. We figured it was only affecting the coastal areas, but we were now considerably inland. It never ceases to be eerie to drive through roads with fog that swallows the world.
Unfortunately, it was a bit of a maintenance morning, attempting to find parts to fix/complete the car. There was lots of driving, and searching, and in the end, not a whole lot of success. Part of my problem is not being familiar with where to buy the parts I want to buy. If I was in Australia, I’d know the names of the shops, if I was in England, I could just use Amazon and have it in a day or two – and even have it delivered to a shop for pickup, if we knew where we were going to be. French friends tried to help, but it wasn’t the kind of parts they’d had to buy in the past, so they didn’t know either.
All this time driving around meant that we didn’t make it to Nantes until after 4PM. The next goal was finding a park. Since we are (well) over 1.9m, it wasn’t possible to use one of the multi-story parks, and had to circle for a street park. The van is only 5m long, but in a French city, where most of the cars are small hatchbacks, it’s enormous.
We came to Nantes to visit the Machines of the Isle of Nantes, which featured some ingenious mechanical creations, including a giant mechanical elephant. Enormous doesn’t do it justice, it was three times the size of a real elephant! 12m high, and 45,000kg of wood and steel, and riding felt ethical, unlike the real animal. It sadly didn’t walk on it’s own, but was instead supported by wheels front/rear, but the movement of the legs was quite realistic. As was the trunk that swayed back and forth, occasionally spouting water in giant streams.
But, it was the roaring that made my hairs stand up. It was visceral. I could feel that sound penetrate me, and it was amazing.
We were fortunate enough to catch the last ride of the day – 5:15PM. It was a small group, so plenty of space to walk around the two passenger levels.
There were so many incredible details on board, that I spent my time trying to find them all, including a bunch of small turrets like the ones on St. Basils Cathedral (in Moscow), or the Arabic writing in the metal work, and the incredible eyes and leather ears.
But for me, it was watching the mechanics of the elephant that was the most entertaining. Seeing the solenoids and actuators move the giant metal skeleton was fascinating for me.
However, it reminded me of a camel ride, where it was something that seemed like an amazing idea, and from the outside looks incredible, but when you’re on it, it’s actually kind of slow and after a while, a little boring, especially after 45-minutes
There was another ride in the park, however, it was already closed by the time we’d arrived. The best description would be a giant interactive merry-go-round based on 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea – at least this is what I gathered from watching the video in the education area. It was filled with mechanical sea creatures that you could ride and control, allowing you to be the animal as it danced around the bottom of the ocean. Interestingly, Jules Verne was from Nantes, and I wonder if this influenced the design.
There were posters advertising their sponsorship from Burning Man, and I could just imagine their creations wondering the playa. Hopefully one day we’re able to attend and catch them there.
There was a giant warehouse that housed their new projects that they were working on. Some were announced, including an enormous tree, filled with mechanical insects and birds. There was a small sample outside the warehouse, and it looks like it will be quite an experience once completed.
The area surrounding was incredibly trendy, with dozens of new and fashionable apartments, bars, cafes and people – I really liked it! I wished that we had more time to explore Nantes, because I really got the feeling that it was an interesting city – but, it just wasn’t possible to spend the night there in a van, so we moved onwards.