September 26, 2010

A Whirlwind in Europe - Nantes (Day 13)

The night before, Stephane said I could wake up as early as I want to go fishing in the canal about 10 minutes walk from the house. When I woke up at 8am, the little kiddies were already up and about. As a responsible adult, I just couldn’t leave the house with the kiddies unsupervised.

When Mathieu, the oldest brother, woke up, I started packing my gear. Stephane also woke up at 10am, so I headed out the door for about 1.5 hours of fishing. My target was European perch (aka redfin perch). I had some small soft plastics and small red worms for livebait.

I started off working around some docked boats. The water was very murky and full of algae. The bottom was rather soft with very little vegetation. About 10 minutes into fishing, I had a quick hit on my Powerbait T-Tail…but the fish hit it so fast that there was no time to set the hook. I worked another 100 yards of canal without any hits. With only 30 minutes remaining on the clock, I decided to try fishing Ile de Versailles. There was a little dock at the tip of the island where it reached into deeper water.

When I got to the dock, there was a lot of baitfish in the area. These may actually be bleak. If only I had my fly rod because these little fish were taking mayflies stuck on the surface.

With baitfish in the area, there was also signs of larger fish since I saw two surface commotion. I tied on a splitshot rig and baited with a whole red worm. I took about 10 casts without any hits…but lost the worm on the cast. With only 2 minutes left on the clock, this was really my last cast. I casted as far as I could and worked the split shot rig very slowly on bottom. About 25 feet away from me, I felt a hit, then a better hit…and I set the hook. Fish on!

A short fight later, I found my target fish! The European perch fought harder than the Yellow Perch in North America.

7” European Perch (Perca fluviatilis)

The canal has a good population of zander and pike as well…but there was no time to fully appreciate the fishing this time. Next time I visit Stephane, I’ll give it a more thorough examination.

I returned to the house at 12pm and Christelle had just returned from the market with fresh fish and fresh bread. We made a great lunch with melon and strawberry (dipped in red wine) for appetizers, boiled fish on rice smothered with a very rich butter shallot sauce for the main course, and fresh French bread to soak up every last drop of that wonderful sauce. We also had fresh baked Cannales Bordelais for dessert. Although we had more red wine for lunch, I did remember that meal very well.

After lunch, Christelle, her daughter Lila-Marie, their guest student Zhu and I went to a theater festival to see a couple of 30 minute shows. The neighbourhood had 3 small theaters in the area and it was an open house at one of them. I forgot my camera so I had no pictures...but there will be a night picture to come.

When we returned, Stephane asked if I want to ride an elephant in Nantes. Riding an elephant? I was open for any idea so we drove to the riverside of the Loire. This was the elephant that greeted us.

This was a gigantic mechanical elephant where every conceivable body part moved with anatomical accuracy. The trunk even blew out steam!

Nantes is the home of sci-fi writer Jules Verne so the city had taken on the initiative to beautify the city with these wonderful, fantastical machines. They are actually building a gigantic carousel full of these fantastical animals where the riders could manually control the animals. It would be completed in 2012. Imagine this carousel but about 20 times larger.

This area was once a shipyard. Nantes was a famous ship building port. The modern ship building facilities had moved closer to the mouth and this area was now converted to a park. The old factory had been converted to a museum.

Some of the buildings were converted to restaurants with some fantasy sculptures as well.

All along the riverbank, scattered around Nantes, there were modern landscape art installations. This set of rings is illuminated at night with a rainbow of colours. Nantes is a great rejuvenating cities that is spending a lot of money to beautify the city and improving the quality of life for her residents.

I also visited Stephane’s lab. It’s only one year old and all the bench space and equipment were sparkling new.

We returned home for a quick crepe dinner. Crepe smeared with salted butter caramel is the $h!T! It was so very tasty! We also had some traditional crepe with eggs and cheese.

After dinner, we took a picture together. Stephane and Christelle are a wonderful couple. They adopted a Cambodian boy and girl and a Vietnam girl. As you can see, they have a very happy family.

Matthieu, Lila-Marie, Stephane, Anna-Iris, Christelle, me.

After dinner, Stephane, Christelle and I went to a Yiddish music concert at the theater. I was a great night of music and dance. Here I was, a Chinese-Canadian dancing among an entire group of French singing. It was a fitting end to my culture visit to Europe.

It was sad to say goodnight to Stephane and Christelle since I would be waking up at 4:30am the next morning to catch a train to Paris. They were super host and Stephane and I had became good friend working together in the past.

It was also sad that my Europe trip was coming to an end. My 13 days in Europe officially came to pass. I had rediscovered so much about my love for art, culture and history…things that I had often set aside in favour for fishing.

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