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First prize for originality in the international competition for French-speaking writings about the travel and sea.

The head physician was an artist. The officer in charge of the crew was a “good fellow”, paternalistic and gruff, as is expected. And the petty officers were hard drinkers and didn’t try to hide it. And me, just a sailor. The “good fellow” called me “The Professor”. In civvy street, I was a painter and a drawing tutor. Clearly it was the title ‘Professor’ which most impressed the crew’s father figure. Not that this helped me in the least to get a rank, because after all what does one need with an artist on board a ship. But anyway, as I needed a speciality, I became a nurse. A sailor and a nurse – one could hardly dream of better at a time when France was defending its colonies in the Sahara or the Aures Mountains in Algeria. Naval forces were very rarely sent to these zones, apart from perhaps the odd marine commando, but to be one of these you have to be extremely sporty and not too “intellectual”. Sporty? Not me! Intellectual, I’m not sure, but probably not simple enough!

09/11/2019 - Learn more...
Paul Gauguin was born in Paris on 7th June 1848, and died at Atuona in the Marquesas Islands on 8th May 1903. This famous painter was at first an Impressionist, but although coming from this movement he reacted against it by moving on in his work to use large uniform areas of colour and a more abstract drawing style. He was striving for a simplification of shape, eliminating details in order to retain only the essential form, a simplification achieved through the use of bold outlines and flat colour. His paintings abound in warm colours and soft shapes, placing the same importance on the natural element as on the figurative. He also wanted, as a symbolist, to confer a spiritual meaning onto his paintings. As his creativity began to burgeon, he spent some time in Brittany in 1886 with the young Emile Bernard, a cultured young man, only 18 years old, whereas Paul Gauguin was 38. It was at this time that, along with a few others, he founded what would later be known as the Pont-Aven School, and synthetism was born.

04/10/2019 - Learn more...
Despite the continual development of technologies – radio beacons, radar, GPS – it is still lighthouses that illuminate our coastline and are the last resort for sailors when their sophisticated equipment is faulty. Let’s shine a spotlight on these structures which have dotted the French coast since the end of the 18th century.

The history of lighthouses most probably began in Antiquity, in the Mediterranean. At first they were simple wood fires set alight on clifftops in the open air, then later atop towers specially built for the purpose, such as the famous lighthouse of Alexandria on the isle of Pharos. Lighthouses evolved along with their means of lighting: charcoal replaced wood, the oil lamp replaced charcoal, and electricity replaced the oil lamp.

24/08/2019 - Learn more...
I grew up in Cornwall and whilst hordes of tourists descended on our region every summer our family would often drive down to Plymouth and get the ferry across to Roscoff in Brittany for our holidays. At first we stayed in the north, but over the years we explored quite a bit of the region. The beaches around Roscoff are gorgeous, a mix of amazingly fine white sand and rockpools to go foraging in. And Roscoff itself is more than just a ferry terminal. Venturing just to the east of Roscoff, we stayed near Perros-Guirec on the Pink Granite coast. The sandy beaches here are backed by distinctly rose-coloured rocky outcrops. We would often do a day trip to the huge Océanopolis aquarium in Brest, and further south, in the centre of Brittany, we’d go for long walks through some quite wild countryside. Then we finally got as far as the south coast… The area around Quimper and Pont-l’Abbé is quite traditional and strong in its Breton identity, and there are museums in this area dedicated to the local culture.

19/07/2019 - Learn more...
The langoustine, or Nephrops norvegicus, is a decapod crustacean, the only species in the genus Nephrops. As in French, it is sometimes known as ‘langoustine’ in English, but it will be more familiar to many in Britain as ‘scampi’. Other names for it are Norway lobster or Dublin Bay prawn, and whilst it looks like a shrimp, it is officially in the lobster family. Langoustine are found in the north-eastern Atlantic, from Iceland to southern Portugal, and in the North Sea. They are also present in the Mediterranean, particularly in the western Med. Langoustine is very popular in Brittany, and found in every seafood restaurant. The ‘capital’ of langoustine fishing is the area of Loctudy and Le Guilvinec, two neighbouring ports in Bigouden country, in the far southwest of Brittany. You can’t stay in Finistère (western Brittany) without tasting it, either in a restaurant or at home; fried, poached, grilled, flambéed, roasted or simply cooked, with a good homemade mayonnaise. Here is my recipe…

13/05/2019 - Learn more...
A megalith in the etymological sense is a large stone which has been set, on its own or with other stones, to create a manmade monument. There is nothing random about these monuments, they are positioned to face a certain direction, they use energy currents, and they are part of a larger whole on a regional, national or even continental scale. For example, if all the megaliths across Europe are seen as constellations, together they form a veritable star chart, a fact most non-initiates remain unaware of. Standing stones are found all over the world, and most were put in place between 5000 and 2000 BC, although in Western Europe their major development occurred in the third millennium BC. This was the Neolithic era, a prehistoric age when humans began to settle, construct villages, grow crops and raise animals. It was part of what we call the Stone Age, after which followed the Bronze Age and later still the Iron Age, which was the period when the Gauls arrived.

02/03/2019 - Learn more...
A great activity to enjoy on holiday in Brittany, foraging for shellfish will delight young and old alike. It is a well-known pastime among Bretons, as our rich and varied coastline offers up numerous species of shellfish, notably molluscs and crustaceans, and at low tide people of all ages can be seen milling along the shoreline and over boulders, turning over rocks and stones, foraging in the seaweed, or digging in the wet sand in search of a tasty morsel… Talk to a born and bred Breton of ‘la pêche à pied’ and a hundred childhood memories will surface, remembering exciting moments of discovery from nature’s bounty and, even when the pickings were slim, never going home empty-handed. They will tell of the pleasure of learning the techniques and the best spots from their grandfather, as well as a strong respect for nature.

20/01/2019 - Learn more...
If there is an archipelago in Brittany that can come close to its southern sea counterparts, it is the Glénan Archipelago, a scattering of nine large islands and numerous smaller siblings in the sea off Concarneau, its snow white sands lapped by clear turquoise waters. The Glénan Archipelago is composed of nine principal islands and a large number of smaller isles, but it is thought that way back this mass of granite had been a single land mass; indeed local legend even talks of how the nine Glénan isles were once one big island. They were eroded gradually by the waves over time but, if popular hearsay is anything to go by, collective memory of the time when this archipelago was part of the continent is not yet completely lost. It is said that it used to be possible to walk from Beg Meil (on the mainland) to the Ile aux Moutons, which is now far out at sea, and also that the Trévignon headland used to adjoin Cigogne island.

03/11/2018 - Learn more...
Brittany is a Celtic region… Yes, but what does that mean? The Celtic culture evokes for each of us numerous images, legends and sounds, but it becomes harder when we try to describe its real connections with Brittany more precisely. What is Celtic and what is Breton? Historical, geographical and cultural confusions abound and they have been further disseminated by popular culture, the prime example being the adventures of Asterix and his village of indomitable Gauls, set in what is now Brittany. In the story, menhirs and dolmens are part of everyday life and appear to be the sole preserve of the inhabitants of the Atlantic coast. But in reality, menhirs and dolmens have been found all over Europe and do not date from the Gallo-Roman era but rather from the Neolithic period, which was several millennia earlier.

15/09/2018 - Learn more...
Of the 148 lighthouses along the French coastline, a third are in Brittany, which can be said to be quite logical in fact because Brittany represents a third of the country’s shoreline. Finistère alone contruibutes 23 of them, located either on the coast or at sea, including the most powerful one in the world, the highest in Europe and the oldest!

For a few years or decades now, there have been no lighthouse keepers, but these edifices dotted along the French coast since the end of the 18th century are still a night-time companion to sailors, and are there to safeguard the passage of all vessels at sea.

25/07/2018 - Learn more...


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