dimecres, d’agost 10, 2005

Rainbow Tour 2005 Travel Log - Day 4 - Sunday 7.10.05

Sundays are sleepy days in most of France, especially in the "provinces", and even though Rennes is on one hand a very modern city with its fully automated subway system, it is nonetheless a provincial capital, with all that it implies - largely that on Sunday's few people are about and few businesses are open.

The weather was warm and sunny, and after breakfast at the hotel, I set out on foot along the SNCF and along the railroad boulevard toward 25 Straed Pierre Martin, the location of Skol an Emsav. I had a small tourist map of the city the desk clerk provided to me, and I wanted to check my time and the distance to the school. It was in fact very close the Ibis as already mentioned. I found it easily enough across the street from some old rail sheds in half of what had been an old primary school; the other half was still run by the local school authority as a maternelle, a state-run day care. In France, children are provided state-run education from the age of 3.

From Skol an Emsav I walked along the streets that hugged the rails until I came to another main road that crossed them back toward the center of town. I strolled along until I was just south of the heart of the old city, and the old Parlement of Rennes, and turned down rue St. Georges, skirting the old city, and walked to the grand entrance of the Thabor Gardens, sort of like the Central Park of Rennes. The Thabor rests atop a minor mountain in the middle of Rennes, and I scurried up to the top and then took a rest, studying the map to plot my way back across town back to the hotel. I chose a path that would bring back out on the Boulevard du 14 Juillet, the main street that heads north from the SNCF. I returned to the IBIS and relaxed, cooling off from the heat of the day, and very very thankful for the airconditioning.

Shortly after noon, I walked through the SNCF and across the street to the Brasserie Leffe for lunch. I had a nice beef hotpot and some beer, and then decided to head back allong la 14 Juillet to the Musée de Bretagne. Since Rennes is the capital of Brittany, I figured I was in for a treat. I was wrong. Brittany is a Celtic country, but it is not like Wales or Ireland in many senses. Its identity is convoluted, tormented and surpressed. People in Brittany have not yet decided to be Bretons first and French second. The Musée de Bretagne was housed in a grand palais on one of the quais along the Vilaine as it plods through the city, Rennes' version of the Seine, but it shared its accomodation with the Musée de Beaux Arts. When I got there I waited in line and happened to be behind some other Americans, who were having a hard time understanding the clerk at the ticket desk. We all learned, after I offered my translation services, that Musée de Bretagne was moving to new quarters (their own after all), but until then, it was closed, and all the exhibits were in storage.

Imagine, the "national" museum of Brittany in moth balls until its new home was ready! In Rennes, and in Brittany itself then, the decision that beaux arts were more important than Breton history and identity won the day. It's hard for me to imagine the National Museum of Wales, either in the center of Cathays Park in Cardiff, or its larger sister museum at Sain Ffagans, ever putting all their exhibits away for capital improvements to the grounds. There in the lies one of the big differences between Wales and Brittany, two sisters as different as my two sister friends in Tai'n Lôn in Wales. Wales is still a nation rediscovering itself and coming of age, an ancient land with a classical language slowly emerging from the iron crisalis of 19th century imperialism with the hopes and asperations of being the 21st century's Denmark or Norway. Brittany is a 17th century feudal duchy secunded to the French Empire under the guises of Republic and homogeneity, its people not torn as much as blindfolded by the trifecta of soi-disant fraternité, égalité and liberté, none of which apply to you if you're bold enough to be Breton before being French, as I would learn in a couple days.

Disappointed I returned to my hotel room to escape the heat. When the coming of evening, I got a small snack from the hotel bar and called it a night. Monday I was to begin class, and discover the secret Brittany, the one that still spoke a Celtic language.