Saturday, 29 December 2012

Breton Moules Marinière and the 'Atlantikwall'

A day at the Brittany seaside wouldn't be complete without a bowl of moules marinière washed down with a boule de cidre Breton.

A cool innovation I saw in a restaurant in Carnac. Chips cut as half cylinders so you can soak up as much salty, garlicky wine, mariniere sauce.
Frites Innovation
The Brittany coastline really is amazing. It has such a variety of water sport spots for surfing and kite surfing as well as so many historical buildings like World War 2 German defenses.  The Quiberon peninsula is stunning: a roughly one kilometer strip of land that hangs down on the south coast of Brittany with one side aptly called the 'cote savauge' battered by surf and wind, the other side shielding the pretty town of Carnac from the elements. Mussels are farmed in certain spots.

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Here are some of the fortifications on the Quiberon peninsula. The drive along the cote sauvage is a classic coast hugging surf and history tour. Well worth it if you're in town.

Anti-tank girders

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Anti-infantry barbed wire

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Anti-car blocks defending the surf beaches...

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German fortress on Quiberon:

Pillboxes overlook many of the beaches.

These artefacts provide a stark, lasting memorial to the sacrifices made by many for the freedom we enjoy.

These fortifications were installed from March 1942 onward when Hitler ordered the creation of the Atlantic Wall (Atlantikwall).

These fortifications were ordered to be stepped up in April 1942 following the heroic and successful St Nazaire Raid (Operation Chariot) by British commandos to destroy the dry dock at St Nazaire (just below Brittany). The dry dock would have provided safe harbour and a repair station to the Tirpitz German battleship. Without this dry dock the German navy could not risk taking the battleship into the Atlantic as it had no other port that could repair her. Without St Naziare, should she get into any trouble in the Atlantic, she would have to limp back past Britain to Norway for repairs risking aerial assault and destruction.

The raid became known as the greatest raid of all time. I thoroughly recommend the documentary below - it's from Jeremy Clarkson, but trust me, it's brilliant.

To put this raid into perspective, it was essentially a suicide mission by the commandos. 228 men of the force of 622 returned to Britain; 169 were killed and 215 became prisoners of war. 89 decorations were awarded for bravery and five Victoria Crosses. The men achieved their mission sailing a bomb up the estuary disguised as a German warship and destroying the dry dock by ramming the dock door with the boat. It is so outrageous it is barely believable. All this was achieved at a time when Britain was weeks from starvation due to u-boats sinking shipping vessels and gaining control of much of the Atlantic. With the super destroyer, the Tirpitz, also in the Atlantic, it might well have meant Britain's surrender. The commandos selfless heroics were a lifeline to a Britain starved of food and hope.

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