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      February 2013 > For the love of artichokes...

For the love of artichokes...

The year is 1973; the place northern Brittany.

It’s been a bumper year for agriculture, not just for pig farmers like Alexis Gourvennec, but for arable farmers, too. The perfect combination of sunshine and rain at exactly the right time has led to storesheds across the land bulging with artichokes and cauliflowers – and, here in Britain apparently, we just can’t seem to get enough of them. Literally. But why not?

The answer is simple – because, despite the recent opening of a deep-water harbour at Roscoff, there is no ferry service between there and the markets of Great Britain accessed via the port of Plymouth across the Channel. Something has to be done – and Alexis Gourvennec is about to do it.

Alexis Gourvennec is a proud Breton and proud of his Celtic heritage. He is determined that his home region is not to be left behind by the modern world.

And so, from the 1960s onwards, he campaigned for a better communications network between Brittany and the outside world – including the construction of the harbour at Roscoff. The trouble was that, on completion, he discovered that there were no takers among ferry operators, who viewed his proposed route as uneconomical, and therefore potentially unviable.

Faced with what seemed like an unsurmountable problem, he took the only action open to him and formed his own ferry company. He proved his critics wrong – Breton farmers finally got their artichokes to England and the company has never looked back.

This year, Brittany Ferries celebrates its 40th anniversary, and now operates services between the UK and Santander, Bilbao, Cherbourg, St Malo, Roscoff – and from May this year, to Le Havre, too.

So the next time you’re enjoying a short cut by sea to reach your holiday destination in north-west France or northern Spain, say a quiet thank you to M. Gourvennec and his partners for their foresight and pioneering spirit.

Félicitations, Alexis – nous vous saluons.

Posted: 04/02/2013 10:57:58 by | with 0 comments
Filed under: cycling, France, gastronomy, heritage, journey, opinions, Spain, transport

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