Drinking In Rennes

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After St Malo, Rennes, the official capital of Brittany. Rennes has always competed with Nantes: both city have good universities, both are lively and relatively cheap and both are buzzing cities. But Rennes has a stronger “Bretagne” (Brittany) feeling, proud and alive.

A quasi-independent kingdom during the Middle Ages, the old province was eventually split between two regions of France: Bretagne (capital: Rennes) and Pays-De-La-Loire (capital: Nantes), mostly to avoid the rivalry between Nantes and Rennes. Brittany lost its juridical existence and autonomy right after the French revolution and the cultural area was weaken. Breton language, for example, declined precipitously after WW2 and kids were forced to learn French as school, which is still resented today in Brittany.

Since the 1970’s, various regionalist and separatist movement have debated about the “Breton identity” and its revival… hence bilingual signs in Rennes and even a local “Breizh Cola” (“Breizh” being “Brittany” in Breton).

Bilingual Street Signs

Bilingual Street Signs

Local Breizh Cola

Local Breizh Cola

Rennes is a beautiful city by day, with its small cobblestone streets and small shops. But the city truly comes alive at night.

Downtown Rennes

Downtown Rennes

White Building

White Building

At night, monuments are lit, coffee shops are bars install chairs and tables everywhere in the small streets and people go out. A lot.

Just After Dark

Just After Dark

Central Plaza

Central Plaza

The street pictured below is “Rue St Michel“, nicknamed “Rue De La Soif“, or “The Street Of Thirst“, because it only has one kind of shop: bars! We went there on a Friday night… an interesting experience, indeed. First of all, since Canada and the USA both enforce a legal drinking age, I’m not used to see teens in bars anymore. But it’s fairly normal in France, as I explained in Cigarettes & Alcohol a few months ago. The legal drinking age is between 14 and 16 years old and no one is likely to check ID’s…

Because of the recent smoking ban in public places in France (and yes, people actually respect it — beat me!), people congregate in front of bars and restaurants. People gather in the middle of streets, a cigarette in one hand and a glass of beer in the other and chat. We sat in an almost empty bar (empty because the customers were all smoking outside) and had a drink. We noticed groups of teens coming in, ordering “mètres” (un mètre being shots of alcohol lined up on a meter… forming literally one meter of drinks), drinking quick and then hoping to another bar a few minutes later. Binge drinking to its best. It did get quite rowdy and aggressive later at night (gee, I wonder why) and we left for another quieter place.

At 5am, the city was still alive. We were back at the hotel and trying to sleep (man, I feel old!) and from the window, I could see people walking around with bottles of alcohol, drunk teens and students smoking pot. Man, I feel even older. I know drinking was an art in Brittany. I didn’t know it was that bad though!

Cute Buildings

Cute Buildings

Rue de la Soif

Rue de la Soif

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About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.

17 Comments

  1. Anthony Johnson on

    Hi Zhu,
    I enjoyed looking at your pages and photos, the pics are really good! I love France esp. the seafood around Normandy and Brittany. I noticed your interest in Stonehenge on a previous blog (which directed me here). Please excuse the blatant ‘ad’ but you might like to look at:
    http://www.solvingstonehenge.co.uk
    it carries information on my book which will hopefully be of interest, will sign a copy for you if you get to Oxford!
    Best Wishes, Tony Johnson

  2. You didn’t say if you actually got drunk, that’s what we all want to know… lol
    So great to see you enjoying your vacation back home. Thank you for sharing so well with talented descriptions and good pictures.

    Froggywoogie’s last blog post..Do you speak Whale?

  3. Hi, I’m visting your site thanks to my pesronal and blogger friend in Norvege. Renny.
    D’accord+

    I’ve been to Bretagne and Normandie – in fact in France for 30 concecutive years from 1964. C,est vrai.

    Let this comment be our first recenontre. OK?

    TorAa Mirror’s last blog post..PhotoHunt

  4. that is just utterly beautiful… i love the style of architecture, it feels wonderful… here in bahrain, we have a lot of modern buildings, everything old is being ripped apart to make way for modern skyscrapers and so on… so just seeing something with as much soul as that is always lovely

  5. I’ve been drunk in Fells Point several times, I’m sure it doesn’t have the same atmosphere. 🙂 And again, stunning pictures. You really have a way with that camera!

    Ghosty’s last blog post..Déjà Vu

  6. @Anthony Johnson – Thanks for visiting! I had a look at your website (no shame in self-ads as long as its relevant!) and it looks quite interesting.

    @Froggywoogie – Although I did drink more than my usual no-alcohol (I had like two drinks), I didn’t get drunk. Call me a nun…

    @Art – In theory, I think it’s 14 or 16, but I have never been IDed when I was way underage and the policy isn’t enforced at all. Cultural I guess.

    @Feng – That sucks!

    @Beaverboosh – Or maybe we got the genes from you guys 😉

    @Gary – Quite a long trip from HK though!

    @TorAa Mirror – Hi there, nice to meet you! Your French isn pretty good – did you learn it at school?

    @ammaro – It looks good I must admit. I sometimes get sick of the lack of architecture and old buildings in Canada…

    @Ghosty – You, drunk? Nooooo! 😉

  7. Thanks for sharing this knowledge.
    OK. I’m Norwegian. The Vikings were close to (Normandie) 1000 years ago. But they did not make so much harm and damage the Catholic priests trough history have told us.
    The Exhibit: Les Vikings” in Paris 1992(?) showed that. They settled and “red haired” people even to day are proud of their “Viking” heritage.

    — mois suis tros bavarde

    And I agree: Rennes is Bretagne (St Malo aussi, mais presque Normandie) – Nantes – c’est la Loire.

    Have a great week to come.

    TorAa Mirror’s last blog post..PhotoHunt

  8. I so much enjoy your guided trips around in special cities in France. I’ve never been to Rennes, but you seams to have pointed out some of the highlights – great pics!

    Typical mid European architecture one might say and reminds me a bit of Brussels.

    After reading this, I kind of wished I was a student again – but would love to visit this town anyway!

    RennyBA’s last blog post..Hunting Easter Bunny Eggs in snow

  9. I miss’ya Sista 😀 Sorry for not visiting for the past few days. Here I am and greeted by the charms & lights of your lovely photos, thank you for sharing.

    Teenagers drinking? Strange ya it is a definite no no over here must be at least 18 years old to drink.

    I love it when you mentioned ‘the city comes alive at night’ very nice 😀

  10. City alive at 5 am! That’s so cool.

    This post is so interesting with your description of the drinking style, and it is filled with such attractive pictures. Thank you for sharing. 🙂

    Celine’s last blog post..Hello Spring

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