Do you happen to know of Ben Hatch ? If not, I strongly advise you to read Road to Rouen, a hilarious (not only that, of course) travel book telling of France and the French. I have selected the following passage about les Machines de l'Ile:

    "In Nantes they have a 45-foot-high, 25-foot-wide mechanical wood and metal elephant. Like some clockwork creation (un mécanisme sorti d'un roman de ...) from a nineteenth-century Jules Verne novel, this beast resides on the outskirts of (les quartiers périphériques de ...) the city, like some caged King Kong, in a giant hangar. It takes 50 passengers a time (50 à la fois) on a 45-minute clomp (marcher d'un pas lourd) around the Ile de Nantes. In Britain its route would be stewarded (il suivrait un chemin supervisé) with the intensity of a royal walkabout (un bain de foule de la famille royale). Yet in France, when we visited, small kids risked being stomped into (se faire transformer en ...) pâté as they darted in and out (entrer et sortir en courant) of its tree-trunk-sized legs (des pattes grosses comme des troncs d'arbres), with just a  solitary, whistle-blowing security guard (un simple agent de sécurité équipé d'un sifflet) there to stop them." (p. 65)

    >> Note about "the outskirts" : the author is right to say this, since Les machines, and before them the shipyards (les chantiers navals) were in the faubourgs / quartiers périphériques -- neither the suburbs (banlieue) nor the city centre.

    *Road to Rouen (Headline Publishing Group, London, 2013)

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