Brest, naval city
The history of Brest has been much influenced by its geographical situation. The city occupies a strategic site at the back of a bay whose only entrance is a narrow channel. Many battles were fought in its waters, and the most important of them are described in detail at the Naval Museum. Brest’s fortress, designed by the royal architect Vauban (UNESCO world heritage) is one of the major monuments of Brittany.
The city itself was almost entirely destroyed during the second World War and is now characterised by the geometrical layout of its main streets.
The famous phrase “Tonnerre de Brest” (“Thundering typhoons” in English), made popular by Tintin’s captain Haddock, refers to the cannon shots that were fired every morning and every evening to signal the opening and closure of the port for almost three centuries. Occasionally, these cannon shots signalled the escape of a convict.
Brest’s bay is a large sea area covering 150km² (60sq miles) opening to the west on the Iroise sea through a 1.8km large bottleneck (goulet de Brest).
The bay is a very secure sailing area all year long. It is one of the biggest in the world.