Brest, sea and traditions!!!

And here I take you way north of me almost to the tip in the pretty naval city of Brest. One of the emblematic cities of my lovely Bretagne and seldom over look for its distance from the mainstream. However, it is worth a detour for its sea and Breton traditions. Let me tell you a brief introduction in black and white series to Brest on this post ,and do see my other many posts on Brest in my blog.

And we go way up Bretagne into the wonderful Finistére dept 29, and see wonderful sea and traditions at Brest. I have come here several times , however, I like to come back to these places where I can dwell on something I like history; Brest has plenty of it.  The city 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. It 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. It 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.  A train station, a single railway (line Paris-Montparnasse-Brest), a bus terminal, and 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; it 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 (see post) 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 was 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 3rd 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 in Brest, me think are

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 (see post)  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  (see post) 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, (see post) 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.

Some webpages to help you plan your trip here are

The city of Brest on arts and history:

The Finistére dept 29 tourist board on Brest

The Bretagne tourist board 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. Looking forward to be back when possible.

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

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