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Nantes is a city in western France, located on the Loire River, 50 km (31 mi)
from the Atlantic coast.
The city is the sixth largest in France, while its metropolitan area is the eighth
with 711,120 inhabitants at the 1999 census, and 804,833 inhabitants at a 2008 estimate.
Nantes is the préfecture of the Pays de la Loire région, as well as the
It is also the most important city of the historic province of Brittany,
and culturally still remains strongly identified with it.
The city's name derives from the Nemnètes, a Gallic tribe who had settled there
before the Romans conquered Gaul.
In 2004, Time described Nantes as "the most livable city in all of Europe".
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NANTES , the former capital of Brittany,
is no longer officially part of the province: it was transferred
to the Pays de la Loire in 1962 when the modern administrative
regions were established. Nonetheless, such bureaucracy is not
taken too seriously in a city whose history is so intimately
bound up with Breton fortunes, and whose inhabitants still consider
it to be an integral part of the province. A considerable medieval
centre, it later achieved great wealth from colonial expeditions,
the slave trade and shipbuilding - activities in turn surpassed
by more recent industrial growth. Although much of the former
provincial character of the city has been lost, thanks to such
recent accretions as the tower blocks masking the Loire and motorways
tearing past the city, it remains to its inhabitants an integral
part of Brittany.
The Loire, the source of
Nantes' riches, has dwindled from the centre. As recently as
the 1930s the river crossed the city in seven separate channels,
but German labour as part of reparations for World War I filled
in five. What are still called "islands" in the centre
are now surrounded and isolated, not by water, but by hectic
dual carriageways. These are not easy to cross, but they do at
least mean that Nantes is separated into a series of discernible
districts: the older medieval city is concentrated around the
cathedral, with the château prominent in its southeast
corner, and the elegant nineteenth-century town lies to the west,
across the cours des 50-Otages
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