Situated in Brittany in north-west France, Lorient has a long-standing link to the maritime world. Back in the 1600s, Lorient was part of the chain linking Europe to India, and later the French East India Company, backed by King Louis XIV, created a thriving base there. It remains a functional port but that, in appearance terms, is pretty much where the historical links end.
Much of that port infrastructure was destroyed during World War II, with Lorient being defiantly held by the Germans until the end of the war and as such, suffering extreme Allied bombing. Key targets for the Allies were the German U-Boat pens, but the Keroman submarine base survives to this day and is open to the public as a tourist attraction. The majority of the rest of the city was destroyed and rebuilt in the 1950s. Henceforth, and since 2006, the city of Lorient has been qualified as “Ville d’Art et d’Histoire” which reflects its ambition to develop its heritage and to liven it up.
In terms of attractions, Lorient is sprinkled with the usual mixture of street-side bars, cafes and restaurants for those fond of the authentic French experience. As with almost anywhere in France, it is not hard to find great food and wine. The region is famed for its high quality fresh seafood, as well as its delicious crepes and local cider.
Culturally, there is a strong Celtic feeling in Lorient. Each August, the city hosts the InterCeltic festival, when no less than 700,000 spectators take to the streets to watch and take part in traditional performances by musicians, writers, dancers, singers, artists and sculptors. One of the most famous Festival in Europe.
Did you know: Lorient has been a twin town of Galway since 1978.
Volvo Ocean Race stopover
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In the year 2012 the fleet will be in Lorient, Brittany. The first Volvo Ocean Race stopover in France in over 10 years, Lorient is a city fully dedicated to sailing.
“France is sailing-addicted!” enthuses Stopover Manager, Christophe Baudry. “Offshore sailing is always successful here. French races such as the Route du Rhum or the Vendée Globe have huge media and public impact.”
Once a base for the French East India Company, Lorient has always had a strong maritime bond. Yet, much of that port infrastructure was destroyed during World War II. Held by the Germans until the end of the war, the city suffered extreme Allied bombing. The submarine base survived these attacks and is now a successful tourist and nautical centre.
Next to the base is now a sailing museum, the Cité de la Voile. It is a spectacular place and the port facilities already host 70 skippers training everyday – all positive points for the venue that will host the Volvo Ocean Race’s fleet on 17 June 2012.
“We can already say that the public will be there,” adds Baudry. “It’s not only France that is coming back to the game, but people will support Groupama Sailing Team, whose home port is Lorient.
“The key to a successful stopover is generosity. It’s obviously about yacht racing, but it will also be a festival – art, culture and music. In that sense this will be different from most French sailing events where there is nothing to see but the boats. We’ll have concerts, musical shows around the village, educational exhibitions and art demonstrations. Our programme will be unveiled in September.”
Another key to Lorient’s stopover is their volunteer campaign. Launched on 11 June for Groupama 4’s christening, the campaign got off to a good start with 150 people enrolled already. Everyone is welcome and job descriptions are many and varied – security on the water, hospitality in the race village, cultural touring around the submarine base, translation, etc.
Lorient is also working closely with the local universities to offer students their first professional experience.
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