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Northwestern France

Northwestern France consists of Bretagne (Brittany), Pays de la Loire, and Basse Normandie (Lower Normandy).


Brittany occupies a large peninsula in the north west of France, lying between the English Channel to the north and the Bay of Biscay to the south. Brittany received its modern name when it was settled (in around 500 AD) by Britons, whom the Anglo-Saxons had driven from Britain. Breton history is one long struggle for independence, and the Breton people maintain a fierce sense of independence to this day, as displayed by their local customs and traditions.

Brittany has many faces, it is a land of raw but stunning Atlantic coastline with steep cliffs, and old picturesque fishing ports in quiet coves that have become resorts. The sea bathing center of Brittany is on the south coast of the half-island Quiberon, but also 
Carnac and other places around the Gulf of Morbihan have become seaside towns. Rennes is the capital city of Brittany, it is not often mentioned on tourist guides, but it is well worth a visit. Brest is a city on the west Atlantic coast, it has a long history of navigation. There are very large tides here. 

The best known tourist attraction in Brittany is 
Mont Saint Michel located on a granite island north-eastward of Rennes. The island is the site of the spectacular and well preserved Norman Benedictine Abbey of St. Michel at the peak of the island, surrounded by winding streets and convoluted architecture of the medieval town. It is the third most visited tourist attraction in France.

The Pays de la Loire (lands of the Loire River) presents many great monuments such as the castle of Angers, the castle in Mayenne, the town of Saumur and Château de Saumur; Château de Brissac and Château Plesses-Bourre are also very highly regarded, The Royal Fontevraud Abbey is one of the most extensive complexes of its type to be found anywhere in Europe. Visit Le Mans, it is not only a race track, it also has a very interesting historical center to the town. The region furthermore has many natural parks such as the Brière and the Marsh of Poitou.

Nantes is the regional capital of Pays de la Loire. It is the sixth largest city in France and located on the Loire River 50 km inland. Nantes has an interesting historic center, and offers plenty of opportunities for shopping and urban tourism. Activities include river boats on the Erdre river, a tributary of the Loire.

The Basse Normandie region is extremely varied, both as regards the range of landscapes and the wealth of agricultural production. With five hundred kilometers of Channel coastline the region has a solid history of maritime activities. Basse Normandie has retained its rural and coastal traditions which constitute its regional identity.

Caen is the regional capital and largest city of Basse Normandie. It was favoured by William the Conqueror, who built two fantastic abbeys and a castle in the mid 11 century on the bank of the river Orne. Unfortunately Caen's historic center is small due to extensive World War II bombing. However, it is still worth investigating for its half-timbered buildings especially along rue Vaugeux. The main shopping district lies in the modern part of the city with numerous cafes, and a market takes place on Fridays. The pleasure port is where most of the action takes place in the summer.



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