Twentieth Arrondissement and Tempio Maggiore Israelitico di Firenze

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St. Gabriel Church and Hélène-Boucher Lycée, Copyright Sigoise

The 20th Arrondissement of Paris (a.k.a. Arrondissement de Ménilmontant) is on the Right Bank. It’s bordered on the north by the 19th Arrondissement, on the west by the 11th Arrondissement, and on the south by the 12th Arrondissement. Probably its most famous attraction and landmark is Père Lachaise Cemetery.

Historically, the higher the number of the arrondissement, the more working-class and poor folks (many of them immigrants). This isn’t the wealthy, stereotypically “cultured” population which flocked to the arrondissements with very low numbers. As a proud proletarian, it’s right up my alley!

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Town Hall, 1908

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Town Hall, 2009, Copyright besopha, Source FlickrMairie

Its population peak and most concentrated density was 1936, with 208,115 residents, 34,779 per square kilometer. It was annexed to Paris in 1859, and formed from the towns of Belleville and Ménilmontant, the municipality of Saint-Mande, and the commune of Charonne. As of 2012, the population was 198,678.

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1905

Besides Père Lachaise, other landmarks include Belleville Cemetery, St. Germain Church of Charonne, Charonne Cemetery, Église Notre-Dame-de-la-Croix de Ménilmontant, Pavillon Carré de Baudouin, Tenon Hospital, Hospital de la Croix Saint-Simon, and many schools and parks. The 20th Arrondissement also has the next-largest Chinatown in Paris.

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Église Notre-Dame-de-la-Croix, Copyright Zantastik

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Église Notre-Dame-de-la-Croix, sometime between 1863–70

My characters are resettled in a cheap apartment in the 20th Arrondissement upon their return from Nantes in December 1945. Wolfram, who’s since left Le Meurice, has the apartment across the hall, and made the arrangements for them to live there for possibly less than the time of a normal lease.

He’s also bought them mattresses and secondhand furniture, put all their tableware and cookware in the cupboards, and moved in all their extra luggage and Caterina’s recovered small furniture. Wolfram insists he doesn’t need to be repaid, and tells them to consider it a belated Chanukah present.

Their apartments are on Rue des Pyrénées, which forms the eastern border of Père Lachaise.

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Église Saint-Germain-de-Charonne, 1900

Everyone but Wolfram goes for a walk through Père Lachaise on Csilla’s 18th birthday, 21 December, before starting their planned walk to Al Syete, a Sephardic synagogue in the 11th Arrondissement. The walk ends in terror and horrific flashbacks for everyone but Imre and Júlia, as they have an up-close and personal encounter with the crematorium.

The moment they realise what the building and smell are, they start going into hysterics, which attracts a lot of negative attention. Marie is so badly affected, she passes out, and Imre has to run back to the apartment to get Csilla’s recovered sled. The boys are shaking too badly to carry her, and Imre only has one good arm, since he broke his left hand last month.

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The monument Marie passes out by, in memory of the victims of a fire at an 1897 showing of Lumière Brothers’ films, Copyright Pierre-Yves Beaudouin / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

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Crematorium (chimneys not visible), Copyright Christopher Lancaster, Source Flickr

Tempio Maggiore Israelitico di Firenze, the Great Synagogue of Florence, was built thanks to David Levi, late president of the Florentine Jewish community, bequeathing his entire estate for the building of a new synagogue. Architects Marco Treves, Mariano Falcini, and Prof. Vicente Micheli combined Italian traditions with Moorish style.

Giacomo del Medici designed the great arch, and artist Giovanni Panti provided the beautiful frescoes and mosaics for the interior. Every square inch is covered in coloured designs with Moorish patterns. The copper roof was oxidised green to stand out in the Florentine skyline.

The cornerstone, sent from Jerusalem, was laid 30 June 1874. Inauguration was 24 October 1882.

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Photo by CEphoto, Uwe Aranas

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During WWII, the occupying Germans used the synagogue as a storehouse. There are still bayonet blows visible on the doors of the ark.

In August 1944, the Italian people once again showed their righteousness by rescuing the synagogue from planned German destruction. The retreating Nazis and their foul fascist collaborators filled the building with explosives, but brave resistance fighters were able to defuse almost all of the explosives. Very little damage was done, and it was restored after the war.

During the terrible 1966 flood of the Arno, the synagogue was damaged, but once again restored.

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Copyright sailko

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Copyright sailko

My characters stay by a vacation apartment overlooking the synagogue when they’re in Florence in November–December 1945. The green dome dominates the Florentine skyline, and it’s just a short walk away.

On the eighth day of Chanukah, before Saturday morning services have started, Imre gives Csilla a three-pearl ring in the synagogue. He reassures her it’s not an engagement ring, but just a promise ring. He wants them to have a serious, committed relationship before they’re in a position to discuss marriage, and also wants to mark his territory so other men know she’s off-limits.

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Copyright sailko

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Rue de la Rosière-d’Artois and Rue Crébillon

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Place de l’Édit de Nantes, Copyright Jibi44

Rue de la Rosière-d’Artois, a street in Nantes, was originally called Rue de la Corderie, then Rue de l’Épine. In 1822, it took its current name from the ship Rosière d’Artois, and a group of rosières who convened in 1777 to celebrate the visit of the Comte d’Artois (the future King Charles X), who came to watch the launching of the abovementioned ship.

rosière is an untranslatable word which refers to a girl rewarded for her virtuous reputation. According to legend, this tradition originated with Médrine, the sister of Saint Médard, in the late 5th century. Rosières were given rose wreaths.

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Landmarks include Place de l’Édit de Nantes (the square where an April 1598 edict of tolerance for Protestants was signed) and the 19th century Rosière mansion (now used as a hotel). The mansion is near the Museum of Natural History, the Museum Dobrée (a former palace converted into an archaeological museum), the former home of architect Georges Lafont, and Place Graslin. A Christian Brothers school and the Nantes Synagogue also used to be here.

My character Marie Zénobie Sternglass lived on Rosière–d’Artois until 1942, when she and her family were deported to Drancy. Upon her return to Nantes in December 1945, she’s very shocked and hurt to be received so coldly and indifferently by numerous former friends. One woman has the nerve to ask if she survived at her age by working as a prostitute or human guinea pig. She and her husband act as though Marie’s the rude one for not answering and displaying such shocked body language.

Marie reaches her breaking point when she discovers an even more hostile woman living in her old house and refusing to let her inside. When the woman says she threw the photographs and other mementos in the garbage, Marie loses control and uses strong language for the first time ever. Her friends have to physically restrain her from attacking the stranger.

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Copyright Kamel15

Rue Crébillon, created in 1770 and formerly known as Rue de Goyon and Rue de Varennes, is a luxury shopping street in Nantes. In 1828, it was named for playwright Prosper Jolyot de Crébillon (1674–1762). In 1852, it was one of the first Nantais streets to get gas lanterns. (Nantais is an adjective denoting a resident of Nantes. Nantaise is the feminine form.)

The untranslatable verb crébillonner (to drag while shopping) was coined after the street. To date, this is the only street which has spawned a French verb. The expression frisé(e) comme la rue Crébillon means “curly as Rue Crébillon.” Ironically, it refers to the street’s straightness.

Besides all the shops, the street is also home to the 4-star l’Hôtel de France, a former 18th century mansion. The hotel is about 20 meters from Théâtre Graslin.

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Copyright Pj44300

Marie gets an even bigger shock by her family’s former photography shop on Rue Crébillon, while she’s looking for any undeveloped negatives. After the war, many photographers did big business with survivors who’d pay anything for pictures of lost friends and family.

At the fictional Palomer Photography, Marie runs into Gaspard Diamondstein, her father’s old business partner and her family’s former neighbour. At first she’s unbelievably happy to finally be called by her French nickname, Marise, again, instead of Marika, Mariella, Mitzi, or Maruška, but her joy turns to shock when Gaspard tells her what happened to her father. Marie believed it could only be good news, and didn’t want to go across the street to Gaspard’s flat to hear it in private.

Marie does find one old family photo, though, and Gaspard invites her and all her friends into his flat for lunch. Marie is in such a daze, she doesn’t respond to the barking Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen or the fluffy Persian cat rubbing against her legs and purring. She also picks at the lunch Gaspard makes, and barely responds to his two surviving children, Gwenaël and Océane, when they come in. 

WeWriWa—Wolfram’s stocking

Happy Christmas, and Happy Chanukah!

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8 sentences from a book or WIP. This week’s snippet comes a number of pages after last week’s, when Wolfram invited his friends to join him for some Christmas baking. Now, Christmas morning, they’ve come across the hall so he’ll have some company on his holiday.

Glühwein is heated, spiced wine; gedeckter apfelkuchen is a cross between apple pie and apple cake; kranzkuchen is braided, wreath-shaped bread; lebkuchen is gingerbread; eierpunsch is eggnog; and vanillekipferl are small crescent cookies made of ground hazelnuts or almonds and heavily dusted with vanilla sugar.

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The breakfast which presently appeared on the table consisted of Stollen, glühwein, hard-boiled eggs, rolls with strawberry and raspberry jam, quark, kranzkuchen stuffed with chocolate marzipan and glazed with apricot jam, gedeckter apfelkuchen with cranberries in place of the usual raisins, lebkuchen, eierpunsch, vanillekipferl, chocolate muffins, chocolate croissants, hot chocolate, a platter of mixed cheeses, and pain au chocolat.  Marie eagerly piled her plate with everything.

After every crumb had been devoured, they went back to the living room.  Of the sixteen gifts under the tree, the biggest by far was from Marie.  A few of Wolfram’s new co-workers, and Marie’s friends, had gotten some little trinkets, and his new boss had given him an envelope of money.

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Wolfram first went through the contents of the stocking Marie had put together—chocolates, jellybeans, gumdrops, nonpareils, caramels, a dark green yo-yo, a silver bookmark with embossed swirls and the letter W, a small bottle of Fougère Royale men’s perfume, a pocket-sized copy of The Little Prince, a kaleidoscope, a Chinese puzzle box, a miniature telescope, Nénette and Rintintin good luck dolls, an angel figurine, and an orange.  Marie had individually wrapped everything except for the orange at the bottom, and put the candy in colored gauze drawstring bags.

“You’re such a sweet girl, Mitzi,” Wolfram said as he set the now-empty stocking on the side table. “You didn’t need to get me another present besides all these little things.  If people like me were able to have children, I’d want a daughter just like you.”

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Nénette and Rintintin are little yarn dolls originating in 1913. They began as children’s toys, but during WWI, they became very popular good luck charms for soldiers. Parisian civilians also wore them as protection against air raids. Many were made in white, blue, and red, like the French flag.

A primer on French names

My Atlantic City character Kit Green is half French from her hated mother’s side, and her father’s side of the family settled in France after they were chased out of Ukraine in the wake of a December 1902 pogrom. After WWII, Mr. and Mrs. Green go to France for a few years so Mr. Green can help the surviving members of the family.

My character Marie Sternglass is also French, from Nantes, and features in the hiatused The Strongest Branches of Uprooted Trees and The Natural Splash of a Living Being, a few sections of Cinnimin, Malchen and Pali (needs a much better title!), and the planned future volumes Sweet Miracles and Aliyah After All These Years. The Troys of my contemporary historical family saga are also half French Huguenot, from their marginally more intelligent father’s side.

Surnames:

As a proud second-generation Lucy Stoner, I’m thrilled French women don’t change their surnames if they marry. Since 1789, that’s been the law. Women in many Canadian provinces also keep their names as a matter of course. Happily, since 2005, France no longer requires children to have the same surname as their father.

Many French surnames have the prefixes De, Du, Le, Del, Dele, Dela, La, D,’ and De La. Some of these prefixes depend upon the gender or geographical origin of the name. De isn’t capitalized, though Du is. Contrary to popular belief, De doesn’t always indicate noble origins.

Like most other cultures, French surnames also have origins in patronymics, geographical location, profession, appearance, and nicknames.

Naming customs:

Though it’s common to have two or more names, only the primary name is used in everyday life. Not only do middle names in the Anglo–Saxon sense not exist, but middle initials aren’t used either. Compound names (e.g., Marie-Lucille, Jacques-Philippe Henri) have fallen out of fashion, as has the custom of giving old-fashioned middle names in honor of relatives. Just as with English names, French names too go through cycles of popularity, and names of foreign origin have become trendy in certain circles.

Pronunciation:

French uses the familiar Roman alphabet, with the addition of accent grave (à, è, ù), accent aigu (é), accent circonflexe (â, ê, î, ô, û), tréma/umlaut (ë, ï, ö, ÿ), and cédille (ç). The letter ù only appears in où (“where”). The tilde (ñ) appears in some Spanish words and names which have become a part of the French language.

W and K almost never appear outside of loanwords and certain regional words. Final consonants are typically silent, though there are some frustrating exceptions to have to learn!

Geographical spread:

Beyond France and Canada, French is also widely spoken in southern Belgium, western Switzerland, Luxembourg, Monaco, Italy’s Aosta Valley (which borders southwestern Switzerland), the Channel Islands (between France and England), Corsica, Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon, Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Madagascar, Cameroon, Haiti, Congo, Lebanon, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, and many other former French colonies.

Some common names and their nickname forms:

Male:

Abel
Adam
Adrien, Hadrien
Aimé
Alain
Alban
Albert, Aubert
Aldéric, Aldric
Alexandre
Alexis
Alfred
Alphonse
Ambroise
Anatole
André
Anselme
Antoine
Armand (Herman)
Arnaud (Arnold)
Arthur
Auguste, Augustin
Aurélien
Baptiste
Barnabé
Barthélémy
Basile
Benjamin
Benoit (Benedict)
Bertrand
Blaise
Boniface
Bruno
Célestin
Césaire, César
Charles (Charlot)
Christian, Christophe
Claude
Clément
Constantin
Corentin
Corin (Quirino)
Cyril, Cyrille
Damien
Daniel, Deniel (Breton form)
David
Denis
Dieudonné (Given by God)
Diodore (Gift of Zeus)
Dominique
Donat, Donatien
Dorian
Edgard
Edmond
Édouard
Élie (Elijah)
Émeric
Emmanuel
Étienne (Steven)
Eugène
Fabien
Fabrice
Félicien
Félix
Ferdinand, Fernand
Firmin
Flavien
Florent, Florentin, Florian
François, Frañsez (Breton form), Francis
Frédéric
Fulbert (Bright people)
Gabriel
Gaspard (Jasper)
Gaston
Gaubert
Gaultier, Gauthier, Gautier (Walter)
Georges
Gérald
Gérard
Ghislain
Gilbert
Gratien
Grégoire
Guillaume, Gwilherm (Breton form) (William)
Gustave
Guy
Hector
Henri
Herbert
Hilaire
Honoré
Hubert (Bright heart)
Ignace
Isidore
Jacques
Jean (Jeannot)
Jérémie
Jérôme
Joachim
Joël
Joseph
Josué (Joshua)
Jourdain
Jules, Julien
Justin
Lambert
Laurent, Laurentin
Lazare
Léandre
Léo, Léon, Léonard, Léonce
Léopold
Lionel
Lothaire
Louis, Loïc (Breton form)
Loup (Wolf)
Luc, Lucas
Lucien
Ludovic
Marc
Marcel, Marcellin
Martin
Mathéo, Matéo, Mathieu, Mathis, Matthias, Mathys, Matthieu
Maurice
Maximilien
Michel
Nazaire
Nicolas
Noé (Noah)
Noël
Norbert (Bright north)
Olivier
Pascal
Paul, Paol (Breton form)
Philippe
Pierre, Per (Breton form), Perig (Breton nickname), Pierrick (Breton nickname) (Peter)
Quentin
Rainier
Raoul
Raphaël
Raymond
Rémy, Rémi
Renaud, Reynaud
René
Richard
Robert
Rodolphe
Roger
Roland
Romain
Ruben
Sébastien (Bastien)
Serge
Séverin
Simon
Sylvain
Sylvestre
Théodore (Théo)
Thibault (Theobald)
Thomas
Timothée, Timothé
Toussaint (All saints)
Tristan
Ulysse
Urbain
Valentin
Valérian, Valère, Valéry
Vespasien
Victor
Vincent
Vivien
Xavier
Yann (Yanick, Yannic, Yannick) (Breton form of John)
Yves
Zacharie

Female:

Adélaïde
Adèle (Adeline)
Adrienne
Agathe
Aglaé
Agnès
Aimée
Albine
Alexandra, Alexandrine
Alice
Aline
Amandine
Amélie
Anaïs (Catalan and Occitan form of Anna)
Anastasie
Andrée
Anne (Anouk, Annick [Breton nickname]) (Annette, Ninon)
Antoinette (Toinette)
Ariane, Arianne
Arlette
Aurélie
Béatrice
Bérénice
Bernadette
Blanche
Camille
Caroline (Charlotte, Charline, Line)
Catherine, Katarin (Breton form), Katell (Breton form)
Cécile
Céleste, Célestine
Céline
Chantal
Chloé
Christine (Christelle)
Claire
Clarisse
Claudette, Claudie, Claudine
Constance
Coralie
Corinne
Cornélie
Cosette
Danielle, Danièle
Daphné
Débora
Délia
Delphine
Denise
Désirée
Diane
Dominique
Donatienne (Given)
Doriane
Dorothée
Éléonore
Élisabeth (Élise, Lili, Lise, Lisette)
Élodie
Éloïse, Héloïse
Émeline
Émilie, Émilienne
Emmanuelle
Ernestine
Estelle
Eugénie
Eulalie
Ève
Fabienne
Faustine
Félicie, Félicienne, Félicité
Fernande
Flavie, Flavienne
Fleur, Flore, Floriane, Florianne, Florine (Fleurette, Florette)
Florentine
Françoise, Frañseza (Breton form) (Francette, Francine)
Frédérique
Gabrielle
Geneviève (Ginette)
Georgette, Georgine (Gigi)
Géraldine
Ghislaine
Gisèle
Guenièvre
Hélène
Henriette
Hermine
Honorine
Hyacinthe
Inès
Irène
Isabelle
Isaure
Jacqueline (Jacquette)
Jeanne (Jeannette, Jeanette)
Joceline
Joëlle
Joséphine (Fifi, Josette,Josiane)
Judith
Julie, Julienne, Juliane
Justine
Laure (Laurette, Laurine, Lorette)
Léa
Léonie, Léone, Léonne, Léontine
Léopoldine
Liliane
Livie
Louise (Louisette)
Lucie (Lucette)
Lucienne
Lucrèce
Lydie
Madeleine
Marceline, Marcelline, Marcelle (Marcellette)
Marguerite (Margaux, Margot)
Marie (Manon, Marielle, Mariette)
Marine
Marthe
Mathilde
Mélanie, Méline
Mélisande
Michelle, Michèle (Micheline)
Mireille
Monique
Morgane
Natalie
Nicole (Nicolette, Nicoline, Colette)
Noëlle, Noèle
Noémie (Naomi)
Océane
Olivie
Olympe
Ophélie
Oriane, Orianne
Pascale, Pascaline
Pauline, Paulette
Pénélope
Pétronille
Philomène
Rachel
Raphaëlle
Rébecca
Régine
Renée
Romaine, Romane
Rosalie
Sandrine
Séphora (Zipporah)
Séraphine
Sidonie
Simone
Solange
Sophie
Stéphanie
Suzanne (Suzette)
Sylvie
Thérèse
Valériane, Valérie
Véronique
Victoire, Victorine
Vienne
Violette
Vivienne, Viviane, Vivianne
Yseult (Isolda)
Yvette
Yvonne
Zénobie
Zéphyrine
Zoé

Nantes, France

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Aerial view of Le Château des Ducs de Bretagne, image by Jibi44.

La Cathédral Saint-Pierre.

Nantes is France’s sixth-largest city, at about 900,000 people, and the biggest city in Northwestern France. It’s about 31 miles from the Atlantic Ocean. The name derives from the Namnetes, the Gauls who founded a town in the area about 70 BCE. After the city came under Roman rule in 56 BCE, the name became Condevincum, or Condevicnum. In the third century, the name changed to Portus Namnetum. Citizens of Nantes are known as Nantais. Its nickname is the Venice of the West.

The city is on the banks of the Loire River, where the Erdre and Sèvre Nantaise Rivers meet. Because of the convergence of all this water around land masses, the city historically contained many islands. Most of them have sadly been filled in since the early 20th century, but a few remain, such as L’Île Feydeau and L’Île de Nantes.

L’Église Saint-Clément, image by Claire POUTEAU.

Île Feydeau (Feydeau Island), image by Jibi44.

Nantes is the hometown of my sweet little Marie Zénobie Sternglass (later Sklar), one of the ensemble cast of my hiatused WIPs The Natural Splash of a Living Being and The Strongest Branches of Uprooted Trees, and in planned future books Sweet Miracles (late Forties-early Fifties Newark) and Aliyah After All These Years (2008). She also appears in my hiatused WIP Malchen and Pali and my handwritten magnum opus Cinnimin, first in 1954, and much later in 1997-98.

Marie is just the sweetest little thing. Even after everything she’s been through, she still remains sweet, naïve, innocent, hopeful. She owes her survival in large part to Dr. Caterina da Gama and Wolfram Engel, and she never forgets this. To sweet, naïve little Marie, it’s genuinely baffling why anyone would hate and abuse her angel Wolfram just because he was born gay. Wolfram becomes her surrogate father, even walking her up to the chupah on her wedding day and acting as her children’s grandfather.

One chapter of The Strongest Branches of Uprooted Trees takes place in Nantes in December 1945, after a long journey from Germany to Hungary, to Italy, and finally Marie’s belovèd France. Marie is eager to find her family and get back her family’s possessions from their old house, but it’s far from a happy homecoming. After finding some old family photos, getting back some things from a friend of her mother’s, and learning how her father died, she and her friends return to Paris.

City panorama from the port, image by Pepie34.

Fontaine de la Place Royale, Copyright Guillaume Piolle / CC-BY-3.0.

During the Nazi occupation, locals assassinated Lt. Col. Fritz Hotz, which resulted in the revenge killings of 48 civilian Nantais. Nantes was also bombed heavily by Americans on 16 and 23 August 1943.

Le Passage de la Pommeraye, image by Philippe Alès.

There are a lot of beautiful things to see and do in Nantes. The city is home to lots of beautiful old churches, the 13th century Château des Ducs de Bretagne, many historic public squares, art and history museums, many parks and gardens, the Jules Verne Museum, a natural history museum, a museum of Nantes history, the Thomas Dobrée archaeological museum, a planetarium, a naval museum, a sewing machine museum, a print and typography museum, many old houses and buildings, and an 18th century theatre and opera house.

Entrance to the Château des Ducs de Bretagne, image by Paravane, based on original image by Plindenbaum.

More information:

http://www.france.fr/en/regions-and-cities/nantes-former-capital-brittany

http://www.nantes.fr/home.html

http://en.nantes-tourisme.com/

http://www.chateau-nantes.fr/en/

http://www.nantesmetropole.fr/