Brittany has its share of two holiday curses - wet weather (as in pouring, sideways rain) and an embarrassment of 'attractions' ("Crepe-Land, FishVille, the Butter Experience - over the top claims for dusty sheds with nothing to do since 1874)... I therefore had only mediocre expectations as I approached the massive carpark of Aqualand in the pouring rain...
The aquarium at Brest is a real world-leader so the promise of tanks of fish and a 'touching pool' seemed a bit feeble, but it was close and we liked Audierne...
What a surprise though. The place is in four sections: some fish in open tanks (carp, bream, pike, that sort of thing) then - er - birds of prey. Desultory-looking but awesome owls, the 'duke of Europe', snowy owls... Impressive (although I hate seeing them in cages). Then the odd blue-gloss-paint amphitheatre with a massive fish tank... This was for the live bird display. Again, I expected it to be cheesy, but WOW they had egrets, owls, a kite of some sort and then a stunning bald eagle. The birds were flying between handlers in the crowd and swooping low enough to take off any stray toupes. The show ended with diving cormorants cleaning out the pool of some released trout.
The commentary was live, fun and informative.
Then there was the deep ocean tanks and these were well-presented and really interesting. Finally the 'touching pool' where Equity-accredited, hardened fish suffer prodding, lifting, chasing and handling by squealing kids and adults alike. Great fun - I just hope that the fish only have to do a couple of sessions each a week ;)
The staff were very friendly indeed and helpful - it's a social enterprise/Co-op where the staff banded together a couple of years ago to save the place when local authority cuts threatened closure.
There's a decent enough basic restaurant too (crepes, steak hache and triple-fried frittes, usual fare) with a round covered outdoor area that looks over the river.
From a low expectation I found that nearly 5 hours had gone by very enjoyably with lots of learning and a good few 'wow's. The kids really enjoyed it too.
Cost of entry was about €44 (two adults, three kids).
Once you're in Audierne make sure you allow a hour to wander around the town - a real Breton treat - and if you have a whole day then heading out to Point Du Raz makes a great venue for a suset picnic.
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