Modern Times

Tourism triumphs over war

As the 19th century rolled on, Breton industry developed but Brittany’s poor suffered. French relations with Britain radically improved, however. While British visitors came peaceably to enjoy Brittany’s delights, the Germans spread the terrible effects of war this far west. Between the appalling conflicts, tourism brought glimmers of light and then emerged triumphant.

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A fishy business 

The lot of most Bretons continued to be hard in the 19th century. Many men joined gruelling long-distance fishing expeditions, recalled in ports such as Cancale, Paimpol or Concarneau and while the Republic offered schooling for all, the Breton language was denigrated. One positive legacy was the building of phenomenal lighthouses.

Very mixed fortunes 

As Victoria’s reign advanced, old animosities died down and well-to-do Brits enjoyed Brittany’s splendours. The new enemy lay to the east and three wars with Germany left terrible scars. Infamously, in the Second World War, the Nazis had the Breton coasts fortified and built formidable bases at St-Malo,  Brest and Lorient, ports bombed to smithereens in Allied raids.

The draw of Brittany 

 After the last war, tourism triumphed. Even if the Breton language has struggled, traditional music and dance have mingled happily with modern forms and vibrant festivals abound. Brittany’s resorts have grown, offering more and more activities and entertainment, but you can easily find unspoilt parts on the coast, in the Parc d’Armorique and across the more secretive Breton interior.

Did you know ?

Although Brittany’s great lighthouses are no longer manned, a fair number are now open to visitors, so you can climb them for exhilarating views over the Breton coast.

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