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Visiting the Boardwalk of the Northern Extremity of France at Bray-Dunes, With Its Colourful Flag: Abiding Symbolism

Updated on December 12, 2017
Flag of France
Flag of France | Source
Flag of Bray-Dunes
Flag of Bray-Dunes | Source
Northern extremity of France at Bray-Dunes
Northern extremity of France at Bray-Dunes | Source
Flag of Bray-Dunes
Flag of Bray-Dunes | Source
Flag of Gabon
Flag of Gabon | Source
Landscape of Les Moëres, Maritime Flanders
Landscape of Les Moëres, Maritime Flanders | Source
Map location of Bray-Dunes in Dunkirk 'arrondissement'
Map location of Bray-Dunes in Dunkirk 'arrondissement' | Source

Representing a municipality where the sandy, coastal borderland merges into Belgium

No, this is not Gabon! This hub is not just about to give impressions of a visit to equatorial Africa (it's never been my privilege to go there, yet). This is, rather, the town of Bray-Dunes, in the Dunkirk (French: Dunkerque ) arrondissement of the Nord department, at France's northern extremity. Despite the close similarity of the respective flags of the Republic of Gabon and the French municipality of Bray-Dunes, they are, in fact, quite distinct.

Especially along the boardwalk by the North Sea (French: Mer du Nord), the municipality's colourful flag may often be seen. The coastal situation of the town at France's northern extremity is in fact closely linked with more than one aspect of the rich symbolism of the flag's colours.

The colours, then, are horizontal stripes of blue, yellow and green.

More precisely, even, in French the colours are given as:

azur - azure (essentially light blue)(1).

or - gold (2)

synople - in older English sources also written thus, derived from Synople in the Levant, where a green dye was produced (Latin: sinopis).

The colours each represent significant elements of the municipality's geographical situation. Azure symbolizes both the sea — here, no longer the English Channel (French: la Manche) but the North Sea). Azure represents the sky also.

Gold represents the dunes, which, at Bray-Dunes are extensive, merging into similar dune lands over the adjacent, Belgian border.

Synople represents the moorland which forms the hinterland to the town, and its Belgian neighbours. (Interestingly, not far from Bray-Dunes is a locality on the Franco-Belgian border which is called Les Moëres / De Moeren (French/Dutch respectively)(3).

In fact, the landscape symbolism of the flag is so intense that, quite literally, "what you see is what you get".

Who said that vexicollogy and abstract art are not often founded in an elemental and internalized appreciation of the physical environment? Bray-Dunes's brilliant flag is surely a bursting forth of Expressionism, as the emotion of the local Maritime Flanders landscape is forged into a confident, permanent and often windswept symbol!

November 23, 2012


(1) Thus also, curiously, both the far north and far south of Continental France — la Côte d'Azur (usually rendered in English: 'French Riviera') are represented in one way or another by the French word Azur.

(2) Indeed, the dunes of Bray-Dunes metaphorically represent the economic 'gold' of the municipality, as the expanses of sand along its windy beach bring attract visitors annually.

(3) Although French is widely spoken in the south of Belgium, the area of the country adjacent to the Dunkirk arrondissement in which Bray-Dunes is situated is the Dutch-speaking Flemish region of Belgium. (Indeed, there are still a few pockets of Dutch-speakers who live in the northern part of France's Nord department.)

Also worth seeing

In Bray-Dunes itself, the parish church has artifacts relating to the former fishing industry based in the town.

Calmeynbos , Adinkerke , Belgium (distance: 5.8 kilometres) is a wooded nature reserve in a locality which saw much action during both World Wars 1 and 2.


How to get there: A number of North American airlines fly to Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport, and the French SNCF railroad links Paris with nearby Dunkirk. But the nearest large international airport to Bray-Dunes is Brussels Airport (Brussel Nationaal / Bruxelles-National). Belgian rail links exist between Brussels and nearby De Panne. Car hire is available in Paris, Dunkirk, Brussels and elsewhere. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. You are advised to refer to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.


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