Archive for October 18th, 2018

October 18, 2018

Rennes ,revisited!!!

So today driving to work was foggy dark eerie but nice! easy drive as always in my Breton woods! I like to come back to Rennes, a nice city even once considered living there but not. I visit once in a while and drive by it even more often but needed an update on it ,especially on the history and things to see there.

You can search my other entries on Rennes in my blog. I will just tell you a bit more to get to know the Brittany/Bretagne/Breizh of my adopted land.

Rennes, Capital city of the department of Ille-et-Vilaine(no. 35) and region of Brittany . The city is located in the upper Brittany, eastern part of Brittany at the confluence of Ille and Vilaine rivers from which the department takes its name. It is at 55 km from the coast of La Manche closest to the sea. Rennes is located more than 250 km from the island of Ouessant. In distance, it is closer to Angers (128 km) than Brest (210 km) and closer to Caen (154 km) than to Quimper (180 km). Rennes is located at a more or less equal distance from the large seaports of the West which are Le Havre (204 km) and La Rochelle (220 km) as well as the maritime and military port of Brest (210 km), the city is also located 120 km from the great seaport of Nantes-Saint-Naza Ire. Those of the Atlantic Ocean (90 km), and is the only Breton city of more than 25 000 inhabitants that is not located on the seaside or estuary. Finally, far from any land border, the city is however only 120 km from the Anglo-Norman island of Jersey. Rennes is located 63 km south of Saint-Malo, 35 km west of  Vitré, 58 km north of Redon and 125 km from my house. So as you can see it is pretty fairly central to all.

The city is very easily accessible (think already said that ::)) as it is located at the crossroads of a star network of expressways such as the N157 to the east to Vitré, Laval, le Mans and Paris. The N 137 to the south towards Nantes, La Rochelle and Bordeaux.  The N 24 to the west towards Vannes, Lorient and Quimper. The N 12 to the north-west towards Saint-Brieuc and Brest.  The D 137 to the north towards Dinan, Dinard and Saint-Malo.  The A84 to the north is towards Fougères, Caen, Rouen and Lille. The TGV Brittany, takes you from the train station or Gare de Rennes to Paris Montparnasse in about 1H25 and 45 minutes from Le Mans by TGV. Rennes is also accessible in  about 2h22 from Paris-Charles-de-Gaulle Airport (TGV station), 1H22 from Massy TGV, 2H 5 from Marne-la-Vallée (Disneyland), the Rennes-Saint-Jacques Airport, located seven km from the city center, to the south-west on the town of Saint-Jacques-de-la-Lande. The airport opens the city of Rennes with national and European destinations such as Paris, Lyon, Marseille, Nice, Toulouse, Strasbourg, London, Barcelona, Dublin, Manchester,Madrid, Birmingham and Amsterdam.

The history of Rennes covers a period of several centuries. In the Gallo-Roman era, the city founded by the Riedones bears the Gallic name of Condate. The city saw its political power grow in the Middle Ages by successively becoming a fortress of the swamps of Brittany and then capital of the Duchy of Brittany. Under the former regime, the Union of Brittany (1532)  to France gradually up Rennes to the rank of big provincial city. The establishment of the Parliament of Brittany in Rennes in the 16C and the Palace of the Palace of Brittany in the 17C, however, allowed Brittany to preserve until the French Revolution a certain autonomy with regard to the royal power of the time. Rennes played an important role in the revolt of the stamped paper in 1675. Victim of a terrible fire in 1720, the medieval wooden center of the city is partially rebuilt in stone (granite and Tufa). Still predominantly rural until WWII, Rennes truly developed in the 20C.

In the middle ages, the city was surrounded by a wall fortress of 1200 meters,until the 15C, even as far as the 16C the most relevent aspect of the city is the Cathedral  In 1561 the Breton parlement is enclave here, after the 18C the city begins to grow outside its old walls. During WWII the city suffers great bombings especially during 1944.  The city is divided from 1983 into neighborhoods sort of like the arrondissement of Paris.  These count 12 such as the Centre, Thabor-Saint Hélier, Bourg-L’évêque, Saint Martin, Maurepas-Patton-Bellangerais, Jeanne d’Arc-Longs-Champs-Beaulieu, Francisco Ferrer-Landry-Poterie, Sud-Gare, Cleunay-Arsenal-Redon, Villejean-Beauregard, Le Blosne ,and Bréquigny. From a tourist point of view I mark in black the pertinent ones.

Nice outdoors were sprung such as the Thabor park  not far from the city center;  Oberthür Park; the leisure base of the Gayeulles in the north east of the city; Bréquigny Park in the south;  Les prairies Saint-Martin, along the Ille-et-Rance Canal. The Porte Mordelaise Gate until the 15C, the city grew in the shelter of this wall as its political and economic role increased. At the beginning of the 15C, the town of residence of the Dukes of Brittany, however, has no landmarks outside its Cathedral!



Two new ramparts walls were built in the 15C to ensure the development of the city. In 1422, Duke Jean V decided to build an enclosure to the east that surrounded the “new city”, marked by shops and religious congregations. This new enclosure is completed in 1452, but already another extension is underway. In 1449, Duke François I took the decision to extend the city walls to the south of the Vilaine river. The “new City” thus protected by the ramparts is above all a set of unhealthy and flooded lands where a modest population lived. The interest is nevertheless real to ensure effective protection of both banks of the river and to protect the industrial districts. In 1473, this enclosure was in turn completed. It was during this century that the city was embellished by equipping itself in 1467 with its first civil monument: the Tour d’Horloge (Clock tower), quoted by François Rabelais in his work of Pantagruel

In 1561, the parliament of Brittany fixe itself in the city. The Palace of parliament was built between 1618 and 1655. Many mansions built for the gentlemen of Parliament, such as the hotels of La Noue and the Racape de la Feuillée, built on the place des Lices in 1658. The place Royale where the parliament of Brittany sits and the new square dominated by the city/town hall, less monumental and obedient to cannons less rigorous than its neighbor. The monumental aspect of the place Royale had a strong symbolic value. It was a matter of representing the Dominion of the royal power over the provincial parliament following the revolt of the stamped paper, the square serving as a jewel in a monumental statue of Louis XIV .

The arrival of the train to Rennes in 1857 leads to the urbanization of the alluvial plain located to the south of the city. On the basis of the plan of planning conceived between 1852 and 1855, large boulevards are drawn: cours de la Gare(present Avenue Jean-Janvier) to reach directly the city center from the station, Boulevard de la Tour d’Auvergne, allowing to facilitate the connection between Saint-Malo and Bordeaux (Imperial Road D137), boulevard de la Liberté between these two axes on the backfilled moat of the ancient ramparts already demolished at the time. This plan will be overall achieved; Only the Champs de Mars will be reorganized to allow the extension of the barracks of the Colombier (dovecote).

Some things to see I like

The city is endowed with structuring buildings such as the Imperial High School (1803), University Palace (1847-1855), new Hospital of Hôtel-Dieu in the north of the City (1855), Prison (1863-1876), as well as numerous barracks located on the edge of the city. Finally, in 1897, Rennes inaugurated its power-supply tramway network, consisting of five main lines, facilitating urban travel. There are still some vestiges left today.

There is the Cathedral of St. Peter’s, one of the nine historic cathedrals of Brittany. Classically styled in facade and neoclassical interior, it is the seat of the Archdiocese of Rennes. The Saint-Sauveur Basilica celebrates Our Lady of Miracles and Virtues, protector of the city of Rennes. The place Sainte-Anne houses the former convent of the Jacobins. The old Gothic chapel of Saint-Yves Hospital, located on Rue Saint-Yves, is now a museum on the evolution of Rennes, and is home to the tourist office of Rennes.



Located on the highest point of Rennes, the pro-Cathedral Notre-Dame en Saint-Melaine was used as the temporary seat of the Bishopric of Rennes. A former abbey church, it has kept all its adjoining buildings, its cloister and its monks ‘ garden: the present Thabor Park. The tower and the transept of the ancient Benedictine abbey of St. Melaine are from the 11C. It has 14C Gothic arcades and a bell tower with a gilded virgin.


In the heart of the new city district , the Church of Saint-Germain, the former parish of the merchants and then of parliamentarians, is the last major edifice of flamboyant Gothic style (15-16C) in the city. The Church of Sainte-Thérèse, of Art Deco style, built between 1932 and 1936 , notably adorned with mosaics. Les Halles Martenot, built from 1868 to 1871, welcomes the market des Lices every Saturday morning. The Halles Centrale, covered market of 1922-26, were shouted municipal and then converted partly into a contemporary art gallery today


The Portes Mordelaises (gates), a two-towered châtelet and drawbridge, border the remains of the ancient medieval fortifications of the 3C, up to the Jehan Duchesne Tower of the 15C at rue Nantes, and the ramparts of the 15C to the east of the Gallo-Roman fortifications at place Rallier-du-Baty. The wooden-framed houses, also known as half-timbered houses, draw the boundaries of the old Rennes: they are typically present in the streets around the rue de Champ-Jacquet, and the place Sainte-Anne and Place des Lices. The rue Saint-Georges has kept many houses of the 17C some houses with wooden pans on rue Vasselot. Traces of the 16C on the facade of 20, rue dù Chapitre.


The Palace of the Parliament of Brittany, which gave Rennes its role as the capital of the region/province of Brittany, was a long time one of the few stone buildings in the city. The construction of buildings on the ground floor of granite and the floors of white stone came later such as the Hotel de Blossac, which hosts the Regional Directorate of Cultural Affairs, is built on this model. The theater of the city was inaugurated in 1836. At the same time, the Palais du Commerce, located on the Place de la République, was built from 1885 to 1911 this building is currently used by the Post office. The Champs Libres, a cultural installation comprising the activities of four structures: the main library of the city, the Museum of Brittany and the space of Sciences. Opened in March 2006. Also worth a look the Museum of Fine Arts.



To recap on this wonderful city of Rennes

You need to see the Cathedral Saint Pierre, still in the city centere, the Basilica of Saint-Sauveur de Rennes celebrates our Lady of Miracles and virtues, protector of the city of Rennes. The  Place Sainte-Anne  houses the convent of the Jacobins. The former Gothic Chapel of the hospital Saint-Yves, located rue Saint-Yves, is now converted into a museum on the evolution of Rennes, and houses the tourist office of Rennes. Located on the highest point of Rennes, the Church abbey Notre-Dame-en-Saint-Melaine was used as the provisional seat of the bishopric of Rennes. Former Abbey Church, it kept all its buildings, its cloister and garden of the monks: the current  Parc Thabor. The tower and the transept of the ancient benedictine Abbey of Saint-Melaine are from the 11C. It has Gothic arches of the 14C and capped  by a spire with a gilded Virgin on top.

Good to walk around its center or centre area, lovely wooden house, maison en bois, adorned all the Streets,and you can come into the halles Martenot, built from 1868 to 1871 by Jean-Baptiste Martenot, who welcome the marché des Lices market every Saturday morning. The Central market halles covered in 1922, were  then converted partly in contemporary art gallery. Not to missed the Marché de Hoche, at place Hoche, where there is a book exchange, food market ,and arts creation market at different days of the week.  Books every day, food Thursdays afternoon after 15h to 20h, and art creation every Saturdays from 9h to 18h.

See the wonderful parlement of Brittany building done in 1720 ,burned in a fire and rebuilt in 1994.  Right by the Hôtel de Ville, you will see the theater of the city  inaugurated in 1836; it was designed to take the idea of the curved part of the town hall to draw a convex building.  At the same time, the Palais du commerce, located on the place de la République, is built from 1885 to 1911. This building is currently used by the Post Office, and with a big esplanade with full of stores including the grand Galeries Lafayette.

We went to different churches other than above, like the Church of Notre Dame de Bonne Nouvelles,and the Church of Saint Martin in the property of the private lycée or high school St Martin, Church Toussaints, and the old hôpital Sainte-Anne there since 1340a, and attached to the hôtel-Dieu in 1557.

As said, written on it before with plenty of info for visits but just out of simplicity and habit, here are some webpages to help you further plan your visit ,which is a must.

Tourist office of Rennes

Tourist office of dept 35 ille-et-Vilaine

Tourist office of Brittany on Rennes

Hope you enjoy the information and get you to taste Rennes and Brittany. I know had a couple friends from an old defunct travel forum who had visit me in my neck of the woods Breton ,and both love it! Maybe you…

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

October 18, 2018

Brest , sea and traditions of Finistére!

And we go way up Brittany into the wonderful Finistére dept 29 in the region of Brittany or Bretagne or Breizh and see wonderful sea and traditions at Brest. I have come here several times and more in my blog.

However, I like to come back to these places where most touristic is given and dwell on something I like history; Brest has plenty of it.

Brest is an important port, the second military port in France after Toulon, at the western end of Bretagne. In the Middle Ages, the history of Brest is confused with the history of its castle. then Richelieu makes it a military port. Brest will develop around its arsenal, until the second half of the 20C. Heavily marked by bombardments during WWII, Brest saw its historic center almost entirely renewed during the Reconstruction.

Brest is today a university town . Important training of the officers of the national Navy. Brest is also an important research center focused on the sea, including the largest of the centers: The Naval Academy was founded here in 1752, the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle was built here, and every four years, in July, Brest hosts the great International  sea, boats ,and sailors Festival.


A train terminus, a single railway (line Paris-Montparnasse-Brest), a road terminus (two expressways, the national Road N12 and the national Road N165, coming from Paris and Nantes-Quimper . If Brest is a port in metropolitan France ,the closest to the American continent, the attempt to create a transatlantic passenger port was only fleeting under the Second Empire; Brest does not even have a direct maritime connection by ferries with the British Isles nor with the Iberian Peninsula . The automobile remains the preferred means of transport by the Brestois. A third national road, the N 265, connects them to the east. A section of this route is part of the bypass that partially contours the city.

Brest is developed on a plateau located a hundred meters above sea level, a paradoxical situation for a port, “turning its back to the sea” a main urban axis (Place de Strasbourg-rue Jean-Jaurès-Place de la Liberté-Rue de Siam-Rue de la Porte-rue Anatole-France, Rue Victor-Eusen) parallel to the coast. The district of the Sept-Saints, built around the eponymous Church of the Seven Saints, was the historical nucleus of the city center of Brest, Brest itself (left bank), on the edge of the Penfeld before climbing on the plateau above. All the old Brest was belted in ramparts built by Vauban, and was organized left bank around two main streets that departed from the gate of Landerneau: The Grande Rue (renamed Rue Louis-Pasteur in 1907), the main artery of the city which went down to the Arsenal, and the rue de Siam. On the right bank, otherwise called Recouvrance, the Main Street was the rue de la Porte leading to the Porte de Conquet. Brest was little by little driven out of its historic heart, which is the Penfeld, by the military who will fully take ownership of it at the end of the 19C, which will result, among other things, in the destruction of the neighbourhoods bordering the Penfeld like that of the Seven Saints.

The city center of Brest has had its deepest redesign since the reconstruction of the city and the renovation of the Place de la Liberté, with the arrival of the tramway, put into service in June 2012, the rue de Siam has become pedestrian, which also benefits the adjacent streets. The lower part of the Rue de Siam saw its appearance completely transformed with the redevelopment of the Place des Français-Libres. Rue Jean-Jaurès has gone one-way, which has significantly reduced car traffic. The Recouvrance bridge received a new apron with more rounded shapes; Finally, the shopping rue de Recouvrance, the Rue de la Porte, has been completely renovated.

In 1914, troops made up of Breton soldiers fought on Belgian soil and in particular in the town of Maissin in the province of Luxembourg and since then two towns commemorate this link. It is called Rue de Brest and Rue du 19th Infantry regiment of Brest. At the Franco-German cemetery in Maissin is a 16C Breton Calvary transferred from the Tréhou.. From May to October 1918, hundreds of thousands of American soldiers landed in Brest. The world’s largest steamer, the Leviathan, served only Brest, and it brought 10 000 men to every voyage. Camps were established around Brest to house all these soldiers while waiting for their transfer to the front. Since the entry into War of the United States until the Armistice, the Brest Harbor received 105 troop transport ships and 784 110 men.

During WWII, Nazis troops entered Brest on June 19, 1940. The first bombardment of the Allies on the city began in 1941 and lasted until the occupation of the city on 18 September 1944 by the American troops, after a siege of Forty-three days, the Battle of Brest. The collateral damage is immense. At the end of WWII, Brest was besieged by the 2nd, 8th and 29th US 62 Infantry Divisions, members of the 8th Army Corps commanded by General Troy Middleton of the third American army; The city is liberated after 45 days of siege.

Every four years, in July, Brest hosts the Great International Festival of the Sea, boats and sailors Festival. The highlight of the feast is the Great regatta during which the whole fleet sails from Brest to Douarnenez where the feast extends, along the rocky and carved coast of the Breton point, and passing for many between the Tas des Pois.

Things to see

The jardin des Explorateurs ( explorers), called thus because it commemorates the sailors of Brest, offers a breathtaking view of the port and the castle as well as on the harbour of Brest. The Jardin de l’Académie (academy), close to the castle, dominates the port of commerce.

The  Beaches such as Moulin-Blanc beach, Sainte-Anne-du-Porzic beach, and the marinas such as Port of Moulin-Blanc, Port of the Château. The arsenal of Brest.

The road of the Corniche and the Jardin des Explorateurs offer views on the arsenal of Brest. On the edge of the Moulin Blanc Marina, Océanopolis is a large, giant crab-like building. Center for scientific and technical culture of the sea, showcase of all activities related to oceanography its 42 aquariums containing in addition some 3 700 m3 of sea water, 10 000 animals of 1 000 different species. Océanopolis has the largest jaws in Europe.


The Saint-Louis Church is a modern-style monument erected during the reconstruction of Brest between 1953 and 1958, after WWII on the ruins of the ancient Church of St. Louis, built between 1686 and 1785.   The Church of St. Martin was built between 1865 and 1877 in a Neo-Romanesque and neo-Gothic style. The annexation district will take the name of Saint-Martin in the aftermath the Church of Saint-Sauveur de Recouvrance, is the oldest parish church in Brest, dating from 1750, the oldest religious building in Brest, unfortunately in ruins, is the Chapel of Saint-Guénolé on the banks of the Penfeld, ancient site of a cult of water and fertility.


The Brest Marine Museum, a decentralized establishment of the National Marine Museum, houses a collection of models of ships, paintings, sculptures. It is in the castle.  The Musée de la Tour Tanguy is a free municipal museum presenting various historical documents and models reconstituting the old Brest from before 1939.  The Museum of Fine Arts is a point of anchor in the new city: a place to find, through artistic expression, a memory elsewhere erased. This is why the acquisition of European painting has been preferred from the end of the 16C to the present day.  The Fort Montbarey Memorial Museum tells the history of the department of Finistère during WWII and its liberation.


Again just out of habit and simplicity , some webpages to help you plan your trip here in addition to my blog posts on Brest are

City of Brest on heritage

City of Brest tourist office

Tourist office of Finistére on Brest

Tourist office of Brittany on Brest

It is a rebuilt city from WWII but still with very nice monuments and wide boulevards we like it, hope you enjoy the post on Brest.

And remember, happy travels , good health, and many cheers to all!!!

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