Lorient

France’s most exotically named town was founded by Jean-Baptiste Colbert in 1666 as a base for the Compagnie des Indes, which sent ships from here to the Orient in search of spices. Now a major fishing port, Lorient was smashed into semi-oblivion during World War II (a massive submarine base—Base de Sous-Marins Keroman—attests to its wartime importance); however, you can still see a handful of Art Deco mansions, explore the mile-long quay, and enjoy nearby beaches. Lorient is at its liveliest during the Festival Interceltique in August.

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