Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Rade de Brest

Finally managed a day of research ambling around the peninsulas and promontories edging the most fabulous roadsted in Europe. The Rade de Brest is a stupendous natural harbour, an inland sea big enough to house and hide a dozen fleets. Here, by the little settlement of Landévennec with its famous ancient and modern abbeys, the mighty Aulne disgorges itself - and so technically here ends the equally mighty canal. St Guenolé, who founded the original abbey in 485 first settled on an inhospitable island opposite and used to look longingly across at a beautiful wooded valley where mist rose like smoke each morning. I wanted to find that view, and to overlook the strait where the Viking fleet appeared on a fatal morning in 913, the Goulet where the Cordelière was blown to smithereens in 1512, and the scene of lethal German submarine runs in WWII. This cradle of a major port and regional capital is a vast arena, different from every angle, full of light, shadow and deceptive directions, calm, emotive, redolent of death and loss, beautiful, ominous -the source of many long thoughts to draw together themes in this final chapter of the book. Then I shall have to think about writing chapter one.

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