Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Best of Brest

In Brest this week for a commissioned piece on all the city has to offer. I have to say the place is looking much more appealing these days: the smart new tramline has been adorned with striking works of modern art and an increase in verdure up in the Place de la Liberté has considerably softened the ugly lines of that concrete jungle around the town hall, so off-putting to visitors in the past. It's also a lot less scruffy, and the calming effect of keeping traffic - apart from the sexy new tram-cars - out of much of the Rue de Siam should be a good thing. But the centre does seem almost deserted - surely everyone can't be in IKEA?
There are also lots of interesting initiatives to develop understanding of Brest's tragic past, with a shelter used during the terrible allied bombing in WWII now opening to the public, and the Rue St-Malo, a rare survivor of that ghastly onslaught, being given a place of honour on the tourist trail. It's true that there's abiding interest in the war from my generation, whose parents fought and suffered, but also a more detached curiosity  on the part of younger visitors of many nationalities. No war they ever experience will be fought in quite that way.
Together with the sensational location of the city on the Rade de Brest, a glorious maritime history outlined in the excellent chateau museum, the development of new marinas and a general air of sleek modernity, Brest is looking good as a competitor for that lucrative European city break market.

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