Brittany for beginners

<l'Aise Breizh figure - seen all over the Brittany region of France.>Brest is a long way away from where I live in the Aravis region of Haute Savoie, but it’s still part of France. Or is it? More on that later. I spent a long weekend in the region, catching up with a friend, going to a wedding and being a tourist.

Brest is situated in Brittany — a region proud of its produce, such as mussels, salty butter, savoury crepes and buttery biscuits. But it’s not all about the food. It seems that every car and truck in the area has a sticker of the curly-haired tall-hatted figure on the left, with “A l’aise Breizh” written in the middle. The phrase is a play on words from another French phrase, “A l’aise Blaise” (“It’s cool, Blaise”, where “Blaise” is a person’s name that happens to rhyme nicely). So, it means something like “It’s cool, Breton”. “Breizh” is the old Breton language for a local. The figure was created recently, in 1996, by a Breton in Paris who wanted to draw a figure on a t-shirt that reflected the spirit of his home region. And the people of Brittany certainly do seem chilled. Most of the people I met there were on for the chat and happy to give their opinions and make a few jokes.

My friend who lives in Brest explained that Brittany isn’t like other regions of France because the locals don’t really consider themselves French: they have their own flag, their own language and their own Celtic heritage. But here in Haute Savoie, there’s a push for independence, they  have their own flag, their own language (although only some words are used these days) and their own non-French heritage. And in Corsica, there’s a push for independence, they have their own flag, their own language and their own non-French heritage. So now I’m starting to wonder if there are any regions of France where the locals consider themselves to be plain old French — not that being French is at all plain! It seems to me that resisting being French is actually a very French pastime. Well done, Brittany, Haute Savoie and Corsica: you’re all truly French.

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I’m a technical author, journalist and writer from Australia who has been living in Europe since 2000 and exploring the world from there. My passions are writing, snow sports and travel.

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8 comments on “Brittany for beginners
  1. Bex says:

    J’adore Brittany! I didn’t know you were coming up this way, I could have popped over to see you :'(

    x

  2. Michelle says:

    I’m in Brittany and I love it! My kids are at a Breton school learning Breton by immersion!

  3. Maybe in the Loire Valley, they think they’re French! I love Brittany too. We spent a week near Brest one year, cycling around the “Abers”. It was never really warm but we had sun every day. Wonderful seafood.

  4. Wendy says:

    Bex, it was a flying visit for a wedding, with a 14 hour drive thrown in on the last day in desperation to stay as long as possible. I think a retour will be on the cards soon, so I’ll let you know.

    Michelle, I can see why you love it there. I can’t wait to go back.

    Aussie in France, if they think they’re French, are they really being French? 🙂 I imagine Brittany is a great place to cycle around.

    Stand by for a few more posts about cool things to do in the region.

  5. Tom Long says:

    I’m very fond of Britanny, it reminds me of home (South Wales) except with better weather. It’s fun to cycle around and recognise all the place-names because the Breton language is a close cousin to Welsh.

  6. wendy says:

    *Better* weather? Oh Tom. Oh dear. But yes, the language is very interesting around those parts. What’s Welsh for ‘microwave oven’ again? I remember hearing that the translation is ‘The oven that goes “bing”.’

  7. Tom Long says:

    That would be popty ping. Literally, it means a bake (pôb) – house (ty).

  8. wendy says:

    Popty ping! I love it. Thanks Tom. :O)

About me

Wendy Hollands writer in Annecy, France

I'm an experienced professional writer based in the French Alps. I enjoy learning French language nuances, winter sports and travel. Read more...

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