2. Brest

 Brest is located at marker 2 on the map of Brittany below.

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FR BRITTANY BrestBrest (pop 145,100) is the largest city in the Finistére department. It is an important naval base and seaport town, which has also matured to become a university centre. The city’s landscape hardly reflects its rich history, as much of it was destroyed during WWII. Hence, what you see today is the result of hasty rebuilding works using concrete. Nonetheless, Brest is still surrounded by beautiful hills and riverbanks.

History
Brest’s strategic location made it an asset throughout history. Initially, the city laid the hands of the English hands from 1340 to 1397; after which it was returned to the French crown. However, it developed to be bustling port, only in the 1600s under the guidance of Cardinal Richelieu, who ordered the construction of wharves and other important infrastructure. Due to this, Brest quickly became a French naval base. During WWII, the Germans set their submarine base here. This caused the Battle for Brest to take place, right after the Allied invasion of Normandy, causing the massive destruction of the city. 

Layout
Brest sits amidst the natural harbour of Rade de Brest. It is divided by the Penfield River, with Brest city proper, sitting on its right and Recouvrance on its left. The castle, Arsenal maritime and commercial port are located at the waterfront, while the city square is at Place de la Liberté (northeast). The bus and train stations are south of it, near rue de Kerros.

 

 BRITTANY MAP:  A. Finistère Department D   1. Roscoff  2. Brest   3. Île de Batz  4. Île de Sein  5. Douarnenez  6. Îles des Glenan  7. Quimper  8. Concarneau   B. Morbihan Department  9. Lorient   10.  Carnac  11. Quiberon  12. Belle-Île  13. Golfe du Morbihan  14. Vannes   15. Josselin   C. Côtes-d'Armor Department  16. Paimpol   17.  St-Brieuc  18.  Dinan    D.  Ille-et-Vilaine Department  19.  Dinard   20.  St Malo   21.   Cancale   22.  Rennes  23. Forêt de Paimpont



Tour Tanguy et château à BrestLocated slightly off the city centre lies the Château de Brest - one of the few buildings in the city to escape the WWII bombings, relatively unscathed. It is a 13th century castle that was built to defend the Penfield River harbour. In 1532, when Brittany united with France, the castle and harbour became a French fortress. Today, the castle is one of Brest’s oldest monuments, which is still in use, as it houses the Musée de la Marine [Brest Castle, +33 298221239 www.musee-marine.fr ad/ch €5.50/Free]. This museum documents and preserves information regarding the rich maritime history of Brest.

The Tour Tanguy is another of Brest’s old monuments. It is a medieval tower that faces the Château, housing the Musée de la Tour Tanguy [Rue de la Tour, Square Pierre Peron , +33 298008860 Free]. This museum features a collection of dioramas that remind visitors of how the city looked on the eve of WWII. It stands as a solemn reminder of the destruction and loss that the city suffered at the hands of the war.

Opposite the Château is the modern aquarium- Océanopolis [Port de Plaisance du Moulin Blanc, +33 298344040 www.oceanopolis.com ad/ch €16.50/11]. It comprises of 3 pavilions that are separated according to their climatic themes- tropical, temperate and polar and 50 tanks that feature various marine life, from kelp forests to sharks. (Tip: Purchase your tickets at the tourist office, to skip the long queues at the aquarium’s ticketing counter).
 
In an attempt to preserve endangered species of plants, the municipality converted a former quarry and rubbish dump into a botanical garden in 1979. The Conservatoire Botanique National de Brest [52, allée du Bot, +33 298418895 www.cbnbrest.fr ad/ch €4.50/3], comprises of over 1,700 endangered species of plants that have been acquired and cultivated from various parts of the world.

If you would like to cruise down the clam waters of the Brest harbours, you can consider hopping on board the La Sociéte Maritime Azenor [Port Plaisance Moulin Blanc, +33 298414623] which offers daily cruises around the harbour. Each trip lasts for an hour and a half, taking you from the commercial port (near the castle) to the Port de Plaisance (opposite Océanopolis).

Another waterfront activity is the summer festival- Les Jeudis du Port [www.brest.fr/culture/tous-les-ans-a-brest/les-jeudis-du-port.html]. It is a successful summertime celebration that has been happening since 1989. The festival marries the picturesque waterfront views of the bay, with night time concerts of various music genres, ranging form rock to reggae. There are even events for children, to keep the entire family occupied. The festival is celebrated only on Thursday nights, in summer.

 


 

BREST1. Tourist office  2. Chateau de Brest  3. place de la Liberté 4. Océanopolis  5.  Conservatoire Botanique National de Brest  6. Port Plaisance

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