West Virginia University in Vendée, France
All about town...
June 10, 1999
Today was a pretty typical class, which is very good news and a sign we are now settling into something of a routine. Our session was divided into three parts, the first focusing on our continuing analysis of cultural differences. Among our topics of discussion were "verlan," which is the word for backwards, itself pronounced backwards. This is simply a way of speaking French that is both "cool" and clever. Young speakers today consider it hip and very new. It is indeed hip, but not really new. Surely the most famous speaker and writer of "verlan-like" language is Rabelais, who like our own Shakespeare, lived in the Renaissance and did much to form the modern language of his country. His joy in the play with words is still very much alive today. Among other things, we also covered the work week and the social protections offered in France and their differences with the conditions of work in the US.
Our second hour was devoted to current events. There are several big items in the news in France these days, one being the provisional end of the museum strikes in Paris. Much more talked about, however, has been the chicken scandal in nearby Belgium. It seems that the poultry and other livestock in that country have been accidentally fed nutrients containing dioxin. All of Europe has outlawed the sale of Belgian meat and dairy products -- a real disaster for the country that is headquarters to the European Union. Another big item today is the signing of peace accords in Kosovo. While still somewhat skeptical, most French news sources suggest a real hope that a satisfactory solution has been found. French troops are now ready to be a part of the ground forces to be sent there. It is generally believed, however, that work on the ground will be much more dangerous for our soldiers than was the bombing campaign. Finally, the European elections are scheduled for this Sunday. The greatest fear in France is that no one will come. National elections here generally boast a better than 90% turnout, but it is feared that Sunday's vote may draw only half that. Ironically, Belgium will perhaps have the strong hand this weekend, since it is illegal for a citizen to abstain from a vote in that country!
Our third hour was reserved for a small walking tour of the heart of Les Sables. Below, we leave les Atlantes and head for the jetty that protects the port and the beach.
Here, les Vendéens pose on the jetty, with the 11th-century Prieuré St-Nicolas across the port to the right.
Below, we pose before the Tour d'Arundel which is built on the remains of a 12th-century fortress which was largely destroyed by Louis XIV in the 1600's. For some reason he had little symnpathy for lords that were not completely obedient to the crown.
The Vendéens pose before the fishing port whose markets we will visit tomorrow.
Les Halles, or main market, of Les Sables is a vibrant and colorful part of the city. As they ride up the escalator, the Vendéens look down upon a vast array of fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, and, of course, seafoods.
Tomorrow is a big day for us, as we plan to visit the fishing port, to be received by the Mayor's office, and to take a boat tour of the nearby salt marshes.
Stay tuned to WVU-V!
Go on to June 11, 1999
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