The streets of Rennes were quiet on that rainy December afternoon. Being the capital of Brittany, the city is historically and culturally significant, invests heavily in the arts, and has many artistic and cultural institutions. Rennes is known for many things, not least for its densely constructed timber-framed structures and large population of university students.
They say that the miserable weather is a natural defense against conflagrations as it dampens the city’s timber-framed architecture. It might, I suspect, similarly inhibit the passions of its inhabitants. Maybe it has no effect, as history books often mention a fire that consumed the city in December 1720.
The setting sun blinded us as it reflected off the puddles of water between the cobblestones on the street lined with popular bars and pubs, the so-called Rue de la Soif (The Street of Thirst). There was not much to see anyway. We heard no buoyant if unintelligible conversations. We saw no lively crowd. S– had lived in Rennes for nearly six years, yet she and I felt as outsiders. We caught piercing glances of random passersby. We visited familiar places and walked down familiar streets, but no familiar faces greeted us along the way. The streets were characteristically damp, and the market was uncharacteristically empty. Forgotten memories were waiting to be remembered on those lonely streets, but they did not emerge during our stroll; if they did, there were mere fleeting recollections.