Greetings from Brest, France! After the conference, I decided a small vacation was in order as was mentioned a couple posts ago. I spent today walking around the city trying to just see what there was to do and attempting to see some of the standard tourists sights. One of the many sights is the Musée de national de la Marine, a castle housing the French naval maritime museum. The castle is apparently the oldest monument in Brest and dates back possibly to the year AD 260 when the Romans had an outpost there. Anyway, the history isn't important, what is important is that it was free. Not knowing any differently, I was all in favor of touring. Below is a picture of just one segment of the outer wall (taken from within the castle). The tower in the picture is one of several towers you can visit.
Later in the day, I was having a coffee in the hotel and the hotel worker said that all museums were free this weekend! He mentioned that it was a special weekend, but didn't elaborate - he seemed very hesitant to continue, so I didn't push any further. One site he highly recommended is a tunnel called Abri Sadi Carnot. Not knowing what it was exactly, I looked it up online. During WWII French civilians in Brest and a large grouping of German soldiers were hiding in the tunnel (really a bomb shelter). One night, the clerk in charge of the generator made a mistake somehow and a fire ignited - which then lit the reserve fuel which was nearby. Shortly there after the ammunition which was stored in the shelter erupted. In total, ~400 French and ~700 Germans died in what was apparently a massive explosion - probably enhanced by the topology of the shelter. This occurred on September 8 (I believe).
Anyway, that isn't necessarily what makes this weekend so special. It turns out that tomorrow is anniversary of the liberation of Brest from Nazi control. On September 18, 1944 the American forces finally freed the city. I'm not sure if it's because I'm American that he didn't want to say, or if it's just a very trying time for the people of the city, but either way, this weekend is one of celebration.