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Right at the tip of the rugged Breton peninsula, bite-sized Brest is the ideal destination if you want to get off the beaten track whilst absorbing a mega-dose of authentic French lifestyle. An important marine research centre and lively university town, Brest combines nautical jauntiness and savage natural beauty, with a certain avant garde trendiness (this pretty Brittany town was, after all, the backdrop for cult filmmaker Fassbinder’s 80’s art film Querelle). Add to that rugged, granite cliffs and isolated sandy coves; succulent seafood and traditional Celtic customs; charm-packed dining venues and a plethora of fun nightlife and you’re guaranteed that you won’t get bored in this upbeat Breton town.
LE POTAGER DE MEME
Translating as ‘Grandma’s Garden’, this eco-conscious eatery and delicatessen shop that serves a mouth-watering range of Brestoise specialities created with locally sourced organic products. A savant mix of cosy and trendy – think checkerboard walls, modern art, warm colours and mood-lighting - Le Potager de Meme is a real local’s address. Order flavoursome végétarien clafouti, a colourful tart stuffed with caramelised vegetables and topped with tangy sheep’s cheese, then try the brine-fresh harengs (herrings) served on a bed of samphire. Top off your vitamin-packed meal with a fresh fruit salad marinated in an organic tea and pear coulis – and don’t forget to wash it down with one of his locally sourced beers or wines.
THE NAVY MUSEUM
In a city where the sea air and wonderful scenery incite al fresco activities, visitors tend to overlook Le Musée de La Marine. The title might sounds dull and dusty, but even if you’re not a fan of museums, Le Musée de La Marine, set inside Brest’s atmospheric mediaeval castle, will win you over with its enchanting collection of model ships, paintings and sculptures that give a fascinating insight into life in Brest through the centuries. Dedicated to the history of the local navy, the exhibition is accompanied by a lively audio guide that explains the main exhibits on show. Take a leisurely ramble along the castle ramparts afterwards and enjoy panoramic views over Brest town and the city’s colourful commercial port.
L'HISTOIRE DE CHOCOLAT
If you’re a fan of Charlie and The Chocolate Factory or you’ve always wondered what black bee honey, or seaweed- flavoured chocolate tastes like, L’Histoire de Chocolate is the one-stop shop for you. Artisans of Brest have been making chocolate since the first shipment of cocoa arrived here in 1679, but award-winning chocolate-maker Jean-Yves Kermarrec and his team have taken the art of fabricating these sophisticated sweets one step further with specialities like the Littoral, a chocolate-covered caramel made with local seasalt, and a crunchy chocolate bar made with spices from the mediaeval town of Guerande, called Delices de Beniguet.