Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Trip to Nantes - Day 2

The second day of our visit was a short excursion into the main town of Nantes. Nantes was largely flattened by the Allies during WWII, so the architecture is mostly modern, and therefore, almost by definition it seems, ugly. But the chateau is intact and is worth seeing, housing a museum of the town of Nantes. It gives a detailed and fascinating account of the evolution of the town from medieval centre of political power, through busy port, (active in the slave trade), industrial manufacturing city, up to its current incarnation as centre for tourism and bureaucracy.

There is an interesting publication on display; a book called The Black Code. A treatise on the ethical treatment of slaves, its purpose was to reconcile the "Christian" concept that "blacks" are "Children of God" with the idea that they were at the same time an item of household property like a table, horse or barn. It considers questions like "Who do the children belong to, if the father is owned by one master and the mother by another?", or "Can you adopt your children by a slave?" or " Is it OK to mutilate a slave?", and other burning questions of the time. It is a thick little book, densely typed, which perhaps attest to the difficulty of its stated objectives.




















Moving out of the castle into less offensive subjects, there was, in the middle of town, quite the finest coffee shop I have ever been in. It was Italian. Featuring genuine hot chocolate drink (28 flavours!), the kind of ice cream for which Italy is justly famous, and coffee strong enough to paralyse a small horse, it was the ideal place to recover.

9 comments:

Tim Trent said...

How scary, then, that the French seem to be descended from the black Africans, as we all appear to be.

@eloh said...

Beautiful and very interesting.

Mark said...

Two packs of the chocolate please

Jonathan said...

The name of the coffee shop? Just in case...

Bizarre book. I'll look out for it next to the tills at Waterstone's.

Cogitator said...

The coffee shop turns out to be a chain, Amorino, and if you look them up in google.fr you will find 17 outlets around France.

The one in Nantes is at 23 Rue Du Château.

Cogitator said...

Oh no! There's even one in Bicester, for heaven's sake!

Bang goes my exclusivity.....

Molly Potter said...

Le code noir makes for a fascinating insight to social attitudes of the past! That's the history that grips me.

I have driven around the north of Nantes but never quite made it in...went to Vannes and Auray....Medieval stuff aplenty I'd say.

ReedBunting said...

I could forgive the coffee shop for being a chain if it does real hot chocolate! Chains aren't necessarily bad.
Interesting about the book. My modern mind fails to comprehend how people could once have thought like that.

Cogitator said...

The hot choclate drink is real, as far as I can tell. It looks (and drinks) like runny melted chocolate, except it doesn't solidify when it cools.

Yes the book is strange, by today's standards. I don't hold the view that everything about the USA is good, but credit where it's due: to go from what can at best be described as an unpromising start in race relations to a black (-ish) president so quickly I do find impressive.

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