On our first evening in Brest we did our usual and just walked to see what we would find. It soon became apparent that something was afoot. Before long we were accosted by ladies bearing T-shirts and glow sticks. It turned out to be the big fest to celebrate the inauguration of the new tram system. Whether it was just more southern European scheduling, or whether the organisers were aware of the French-Spain football match that evening, festivities were not due to start until 1030pm. The wind was getting up and the rain was coming and going, but it was obvious to all of us that we were going to have to stay the evening. The French were shaping up to be terribly British about the weather! The only problem was that most of the cafes and bars were screening the big match and were packed with fans. In the end we found some space in a little wine bar where Jenny played glow stick games with a little French girl and we all warmed up a bit.
Then, on cue, rockets were fired and the red glow of flares could be seen to the west of the river bridge. A procession of three metal sculptured, full size elephants emerged through the smoky dusk and drizzle, their ears being blown backwards in the wind. They were accompanied by a marching band of Celtic pipes and drums and a slightly wind flustered flock of oversized metal birds with flapping wings. The whole procession moved up the new tram line to the Hotel de Ville where everyone gathered in the Place de La Liberte for the promised ‘Spectacular’. There was Celtic band music which merged into rock blended with opera (a spot-lit lady on the balcony). There was a spot-lit man on a wire slowly descending from the roof. He danced, other dancers appeared, the music swelled. And then, just when we thought that we were going to have a bit of a concert, it turned into a led-from-the-stage community dance along. The dance was, of course, the Tram Dance! And woe-betide anyone who hadn’t already learned it. The gathered throng weren’t really finding their feet. So there was some berating from the stage, then a process of going through “1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8 and round 2,3,4,5,6,7,8” until some improvement occurred. Then it was back to the beginning and “All together, once more”. By which time it was mid-night and the rain was really falling. We decided, along with many others, that it was time to call it a night, just as the mayor got up to say his piece. Even before he started he must have had a view of hundreds of wet backs moving away. C’est la vie!
Yesterday it was still raining so we visited ‘Oceanopolis’ – an enormous aquarium/marine research centre on the outskirts of the city with Polar, Tropical and Temperate zones. This was a ‘Jenny Day’! There were penguins and seals, seahorses, sharks and fish in abundance. But there were also lots of varied and interesting videos, a touch tank and an exhibition on ‘The Abyss’. It all means so much more to the kids now. They comment knowingly about things like ‘The Continental Shelf’.