West Virginia University in Vendée, France


The Longest Day, Part Deux.
(or The Shortest Night.)
June 21, 1999

Another day at the office (in class) for WVU-V, 1999.  Today our lessons included a short lecture on the development of the French language in the Renaissance, with a focus on the "giant" writer François Rabelais (author of Gargantua).   Rabelais was a major figure in moving French from the status of "vulgar" or vernacular languages to the forefront of fully developped modern modes of expression (and this before Shakespeare in England).  Tomorrow we will visit the Abbey of Maillezais where Rabelais began his work.  We will also pass through the town of Luçon where the equally important Richelieu began his career some 100 years later.  A  part of that career was also focused on making French the language it is today -- the foundation of the Académie française in 1636.  Our trip tomorrow will also involve a visit to the Gulf of the Pictons, which monks before, during, and after Rabelais' time converted from a salt water bay into rich and productive farmland and salt marshes.  The canals the built for this purpose are now known as the Venise Verte or the Green Venice.  The gondolas we will take tomorrow are called "plates" or flats because of their shape.

As the title above suggests, today is literally the longest solar day of the year.  It is also the birthday of Allison Lastinger, who turns 15 this year in Les Sables d'Olonne.  The proprietor of the crêperie (crêpe restaurant) where we had lunch today was kind enough to take the picture of Allison with her parents below.  It is also digital proof that the voice behind these pages is here in body as well!

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One of the cultural topics that arose in class today was the different hierarchies in American and French tastes in sport.  One note was that in earlier Europe, French and English styles of boxing diverged along the lines of blows that were considered legal, the English allowing only blows with the hands and the French sport of "savate" allowing blows from both hands and feet.  The later arrival from the East of karate was a confirmation of the French instinct, and this sport is one of the most popular in France today.   A coincidental illustratration is the picture below, which I took later in the day on my way to the remblai (loosely, the boardwalk) of Les Sables.  This karate team obviously believes that their legs will be all the stronger from their practice in the waters of the Atlantic.  Maybe there's a future "Michel Tyson" among them.  I hope some one tells him that kicking's ok, but biting's not allowed even here!

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The "pendule" (clock) below is a major landmark on the shore of Les Sables, and all of the WVU-Vendéens use it as a meeting point when they come down to the remblai.  With today's setting sun I could resist sharing this familiar scene.

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Several years ago the Minister of Culture in Paris decided that France needed at least one more holiday:  "all work and no play makes Jacques . . ."  Well, the Festival of Music was born and added to a calendar that makes working in France a joy just for the benefits.  Actually (and exceptionally), there is no respite from the job for this festival, but it is nevertheless on track for replacing the 14th of July (Bastille Day) as the nation's greatest summer celebration.   Below, a rhythm group is among the first to set the beat for today's Fête de la Musique.

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The "remblai" is not really a boardwalk, but rather a breakwater and promenade built by Napoleon III in the 1860's.  Its purpose was at once to protect the town from storms and tides and also to provide an attractive area on the seashore for visitors.  Napoleon III's ambition was to develop the railroads of his powerful business friends by encouraging tourism.  In just a few days we will all see the modern fruits of his work, as Les Sables overflows with tourists and vacationers from all around Europe.  Since today is only the first day of summer, however, Les Sables still belongs to its permanent residents -- and those of us lucky enough to be their guests!  Below, Kelly McKnight enjoys the remblai and the Festival with her host parents, Monsieur and Madame Lhuissier.

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Kimberly Dorman is also on the remblai this evening, accompanied by her host sister and a friend.

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Freddy Perkins and Kathleen Schattenberg have similar plans to enjoy one of France's happiest days.

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Stay tuned to WVU-V!

Go on to June 22, 1999
Return to the 1999 Calendar
Comments to mlasting@wvu.edu