Quietly observing a giant estuary

Picture 1 Lavau-sur-Loire Picture 2 Lavau-sur-Loire Picture 3 Lavau-sur-Loire Picture 4 Lavau-sur-Loire

The Loire expands to epic proportions between Nantes and St-Nazaire, approaching the Atlantic. The little north bank port of Lavau-sur-Loire used to thrive on river trade. Now it’s a quiet haven from which to contemplate the great estuary and its marshes, and to enjoy a practical piece of contemporary art.

A silent history

Lavau-sur-Loire looks deliciously tranquil now, especially compared with some of the heavily industrial quarters along the river’s estuary. But the medieval church and emblematic mid-19th-century Maison du Port serve as small reminders of times when sailors stopped at this harbour where salt, wood and wine, as well as the local blue-tinged granite, were shipped. However, Lavau has always been subject to the tides, and the marshes around it are regularly flooded in wintertime.

Nature regaining ground

As the waters recede, flora and fauna regain possession of the marshes, and cattle are let out to graze on the lush pastures. Walkers can take in the scenery by following the paths beside the canals that help drain the marshes. A few locals keep a traditional flat-bottomed boat to go out on. Enthusiasts organise an annual festival one day in summer, when you might take a tour out on the Loire, or try a typical river eel dish.

Estuary art

In recent times, a highly imaginative, playful and successful contemporary art event, Loire Estuaire, has been staged every 2 years along the Loire between Nantes and St-Nazaire; contemporary artists are commissioned to create special pieces that relate to the great river. Some of these works have stayed in place and drawn new life into the chosen communities. One of them stands at Lavau-sur-Loire. A boardwalk through the marshes leads to Tadashi Kawamata’s observatory, from which you can enjoy amazing views over the extraordinary estuary landscapes. In addition, the village’s Maison du Port has come back to life as an occasional cultural crêperie. Other places where you can track down Loire Estuaire artworks include Couëron, Cordemais and Bouée on the north bank, or the Canal de la Martinière and Paimboeuf on the south side.

Did you know?

In one or two places along the Loire’s vast estuary,you can still enjoy a ferry ride from one bank to the other, whetheryou’re in a car, on a bike, or on foot. One links St-Herblain andIndre, another Le Port-Launay and Le Pellerin.

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