As you might have read in my previous post, I was recently invited to attend the TBU conference (disclaimer: I was kindly invited to attend by Visit Nantes and Atout France, but all opinions are my own). When I first read Nantes in that e-mail invitation I must say that the name sounded familiar to me, but I knew very little about the city. Most of my French colleagues have never been to Nantes. And indeed, many people that attended the conference (which came from as far as the US or Australia) had not even heard about the city. But we were in for a surprise, and we all had a wonderful and unforgettable experience!
Before travelling to Nantes I was in Paris for work so I checked trains to get to the city. It was a 3 hour journey, but the TGV costed over 80€ and I thought it was a bit expensive. So I checked Blablacar and found many options to travel for just 25€. As my previous experience with Blablacar had been excellent, I decided to use it again. This was again a great solution: I found a driver leaving from nearby where I was and at a time that was suitable for me. It was a pleasant journey and he dropped me right in front of the hotel I was staying at. Besides, the other travellers had already been to Nantes so they gave me some tips. In short, I love Blablacar and I find it a very good idea to save money and travel more comfortably. That said, I’d only travel with people who have several, good reviews on the website. You can also see the profiles of the people you’re going to share the car with, which personally gives me much more confidence.
In Nantes I was hosted at the 7 Urban Suites hotel. I absolutely loved this place! The staff was refreshingly welcoming, smiling and helpful at all times. My room was quite big, brand new (like the rest of the hotel) and came even with a kitchen. And the wifi was free and worked perfectly all the time, both in the room and at the rest of the hotel. For people who travel for work like me, this is a must but it’s yet surprisingly hard to find! Also, the breakfast was delicious (several types of gourmet bread and organic food) and, one of my favourite places of the hotel was the spa! It’s bookable in advance, and I used it almost every day 🙂
The location of the hotel is also great. It’s in the modern part of the city, just a 15 minute walk (with beautiful sights) or a 5 minute ride with the amazing Bus way. You know, the public transport of Nantes was a highlight for me! This city is not too big (the population is less than 300.000), but it has one of the most modern and efficient network of public transport I’ve ever seen. You can walk almost everywhere, but you can also use their trams and buses, which run frequently and are very easy to use. Basically, even if you are in the city for a few hours and don’t speak French, I think you’ll find it very easy to get around.
Now, about the city itself. As a frequent traveller, I’ve been to many destinations, but I can honestly say Nantes is a really beautiful city and I can’t wait to go back. You can tell the quality of life is really high. It’s a clean, modern city where green areas and bikes are common. I loved the contrast of tall buildings and modern areas with the charming old city centre. Think quaint streets and shops, beautiful cathedrals and dozens of creperies. Marvelous flower decorations and funky art. I even saw a bus stop with a vegetable garden! To top it off, stunning tourist attractions and fantastic eateries make for a perfect destination. You can see Nantes in a couple of days, but if you have some days to spare, you’d also enjoy seeing its region, La Loire-Atlantique.
For those of you who are business travelleres, Nantes is also a perfect destination. This is a growing destination for business conferences and events, and I’m not surprised at all. I was lucky enough to go on a site visit of the Congress Center La Cite, and was really impressed by the sheer beauty of its auditorium (which they also use for opera, theatre and concerts). Besides, there are many rooms of all sizes, all staff speaks English and the wifi is very reliable.
What else does Nantes offer for business travellers? Definitely, efficiency and comfort. If you are into running and jogging like me, you’ll be pleased to know there is a fantastic pathway along the river that’s the perfect spot to exercise. As I already mentioned, wifi was great at both the hotel and the congress center, but I must say I didn’t see many signs of free wifi at local coffee shops and restaurants. Here’s a tip though: there is a tourist office in front of the Castle of the Dukes of Brittany that has free wifi, and it works even when it’s closed! You just need to get close to the entrance and sign in.
The city is easy to reach (there is a direct train connection with Paris) and it has its own airport, which is fairly large. On the way back I went to the airport to take my flight, and it was very easy to reach by a bus (which costs around 7€). The check-in and security check was really quick. Also, apparently Nantes is one of the cities better prepared for handicapped people, so if you travel with heavy luggage, you’ll always find a lift or mechanical stairs.
Have you ever been to Nantes? What other tips do you have for business travellers?