BRITTANY

Westernmost part of France, Brittany is a peninsula that jets out in the Atlantic Ocean, which with the Gulf Stream gives it a mild and very pleasant climate, favorable to stock breeding and vegetable growing, in spite of its latitude. With an 800-mile rugged coastline, the life of Armorica (land of the sea), is definitely turned towards the ocean. Varied landscape from granite cliffs to sandy beaches, numerous ports are dedicated to fishing and fish farming, sailing and shipping. The coastline, dotted with many islands and lighthouses, is affected daily by big tides that change the look of it continuously.

Over 50 centuries of history here : a prehistorical civilization developed here long before the Roman conquest and is still visible in the numerous stone alignments. Then "Brittany" got its name from the "Britons" who settled here in the 5th century A.D as they were fleeing after the Anglo-Saxon invasions of the "British" Isles. After Charlemagne, it became a duchy under the authority of a local dynasty who ruled until the 16th century, when the last duchess Anne married the King of France Charles 8th and then after his sudden death his successor King Louis 12th, only to allow the province to be united to the French Kingdom in1532.

Under the protection of Saint Anne, Mary's mother, as a patron saint, the Bretons have always been devout Catholics and have showed it in the construction and the beautiful decoration of their many churches. Visit the typical parish enclosures around Guimiliau or experience the well-attended pardons, religious festivals in processions, when people wear traditional costumes, including the ladies' distinctive headdresses made of lace.

More recently, the area was the birthplace of many French writers, including the famous Chateaubriand, and attracted numerous other artists, especially to Pont-Aven when painters gathered around Paul Gauguin in the 19th century and created their own painting movement.

One of 22 provinces in France, Brittany has kept many of its own characteristics. From its Celtic historical background, it has similarities with Wales and Ireland in both the Breton language, still taught in Diwan schools, and traditional music played in Bagad bagpipe bands. Specificities are found too in special local meals, such as fish and seafood, crêpes and pastries, apple cider and muscadet white wine and chouchen brandy. Not to forget the local handcrafts, amongst which the Quimper faïence.

With a population of about 3.2 million inhabitants, Brittany now is a prosperous area with a thriving economy, and more than ever is one of France's most popular tourist destinations.