Thursday, October 20, 2016

Breton Bread and Circuses

The Port of Brest sponsored some evening entertainment over the weekend, with some imaginative diversions.  Here's an example:

These guys are milking the cow and powering the carousel
I don't remember what this did.

But here's the result:

August 2016 - Crossing the Channel and our first week in France

Gentle Reader, At long last we'll fill you in on our summer cruise along the Atlantic coast of France.   By now, it's ancient history and some of the photos were already on Facebook, but it was such a wonderful cruise, why not relive it.

After a lovely 10 day visit to Cornwall, we crossed the English Channel from Plymouth to Brest in  NW France. (Well, really it's in Bretagne, or Brittany to English speakers.
 It was an easy, overnight crossing, due to calm weather.  However, it is a very busy shipping channel,  And great care and attention is required.   Here's a screen shot of ship traffic on our plotter:  The lines are ships' tracks in one direction.  There's whole other set going the other way.  The small arrows are predicted wind direction and speed. Once we crossed this mass of ships, we had to do it again for the inbound traffic lane.

Anyhow, we arrived safely in Brest Sunday morning.  Marina du Château staff were very thoughtful and add the US flag to the array when we checked in.  It was a very nice gesture.  As you can see, there are many countries represented.  There is an old fort and museum remaining that overlook the harbor.
We spent several days at Marina du Château.  Checking into Customs and Immigration was perfunctory.

Our friends, Catherine et Pierre, who we met in the Bahamas live nearby and gave us a warm welcome.  Pierre took us to the chandleries and supermarket.  One main problem to resolve was cooking gas.  Portable gas tanks are not refillable in France, and the standard fittings are different than our American ones.  So Pierre got us set up with Camping Gaz bottles, hoses and regulator.

one of several memorials to US troops
It has just a few historic buildings left because it was extensively bombed in WWII by the Allies.  The Germans were occupying the town and had an important submarine base nearby.

Brest is a wonderful town.  They try very hard to keep it clean....  This is a reminder to pick up after walking the dog.

 After some catastrophic modern shipwrecks that cause huge oil spills, the French posted some gigantic remorques, giant tugboats to rescue ships in distress.  They can tow container ships.  The Abeille Bourbon was so big, it was hard to get it all in one photo.  It was open for public tours, and was really impressive.  Anytime there is a gale, the ship puts to sea to be ready for an accident.  I guess the crew must have cast iron stomachs.

The harbor, the Rade de Brest, is a wonderful, enclosed, deep body of water surrounded by small villages.  Perfect for cruising and a submarine base.    We were underway when a sub was being towed out, and the Gendarmes came around and very politely asked us where we are going and please to clear the way.  We could overhear them on the radio to other boats, and they were as polite with all boats.

During WWII, Germany had a navy base and a submarine base in the city.  The surface ships were moored in the river and this section of town was obliterated by allied bombing.  The locals joke that they bombed everything but the submarine pens. The bridge in the photo below replaces the famous Pont National that way destroyed during the war.

Here is large piece of art from the town.  If you look closely, you can see plants growing out of the metal tree.