West Virginia University in Vendée, France


Rain, rain, go away... and it did!

 10 juin 2010

Our wet troops are marching towards our first destination this morning, the castle of Talmont.


We are rightfully armed with umbrellas and ponchos as we approach what was once one of Richard the Lion Hearted's castles.  Richard, king of England by his father, duke of Aquitaine through his mother, the famed Aliénor, spent much more time on his French domains that he did in England.


Hildegarde, our guide today, shows a lot of enthusiasm in spite of the terrible weather conditions.


This view of the castle helps us understand that defense was the major factor in influencing the design of this castle.  Comfort and light were secondary luxuries. 


A wall once stood starting at this tower and divided the courtyard in two areas.  The lower courtyard was used by the peasants when they needed to seek refuge and the protection of their lord.  In the upper courtyard roamed the lord, his lady and their court.


After our tour of the castle, it is time for some of us to experience what our life would have been like, had we lived in the XIIth century...  What did you do now, Kevin?


Hildegarde decides to pose with us for a group picture, along with a few knights, princesses and such who happen to be passing by.


Dr V. has many arrows in her quiver... Just in case ironing does not become an Olympic sport, she will be able to compete on the stilts team.  This promenade pales in comparison to the reputation she has earned for her triple crease-free pleat!


The Lastinkoffs are most dedicated teachers who will support any of their students' endeavors.  Don't worry, Ben.  Once you know how to walk on stilts, you'll never forget.


Needless to day, after such extraneous physical exercise, we need to recharge our batteries with a little snack from the Middle Ages: hypocras (spiced wine), local hard cider, and apple juice for the faint of heart.  Along with our drinks, we enjoy some spice bread, similar to ginger bread.


Alexandra and Melaney seem to be adjusting very well to these harsh times.


As we descend from the castle, the sun comes out.


Next, we are ready to recharge our batteries again, with XXIth century fare.



First course: salade à l'italienne, featuring Vendée ham.


Second course: sauté de dinde au curry with a few (French) fries.





We enjoy a slice of traditional flan with a scoop of raspberry icecream.



Kevin holds his court.  


David and Jordan enjoy the company of our bus driver, Fred.



Les Trois Grâces: Alexandra, Liz et Emily.


After lunch, we enjoy a few minutes of free time to explore the town of Talmont-Saint-Hilaire.



Les Trois Mousquetaires: Ben, Kevin, David.



The rain has definitely gone away, so Dr. Orlikoff has time to polish her skills to prepare her for her next Olympic sport: picture snapping.


Les Baigneuses--Dr. Orlikoff, in the tradition of the great French masters (Renoir, Picasso, Bonnard, Cézanne), knows how to compose her pictures.  Olympic material indeed...


Drying out after a wet morning.



Still drying.




We are now just off our Vendée-mobile, ready for our pre-historical adventure of the day.


In this lively tableau, Kevin (making cheese), Alicen (keeping him on task), and Melaney (crushing grain) have no difficulty jumping back in time.  



Look, they fit!  This dolmen seems to have been made to size for Jordan and Emily.


Vendée Gothic, yet another composition by the famed Dr. Orlikoff.  Quelle imagination!  Thank you David and Jordan for posing.



This cairn, an ancient burial place was never intended to serve as a Vendéen-keeper, but it works!


Our enthusiastic guide, Joe, is going to take us back in time and challenge us to think as our Neanderthal ancestors did.  Joe has guided WVU-V students since 1998.


Here, Joe demonstrates how, with this advanced technology, a Neolithic propulsor, ancient men could efficiently kill smaller game and stay close to home.




All the girls in our group watch closely as Joe tries to reach his set target with his javelin.  He has requested a "bisou" (a small kiss) from all the ladies in attendance, should he succeed.  We will be most discreet about the outcome of this event.


The mastery of fire and stone were some of the main conquests of the Neolithic people.  Here, Joe demonstrate how to make a tool from a block of flint stone.




Joe makes this look very easy, carving out first a knife, and then a scraper.


Now is the moment we have all been waiting for: fire.  



On our way back to Les Sables, we stop behind the town hall of Avrillé to admire the Menhir du Camp de César (not that the Romans had anything to do with the erection of these prehistoric monuments).


Random menhir in a corn field.  Only in France...


This is a beautiful and moving picture of a monument of times long gone.




What an artistic eye.


We pose here for another traditional picture of the group during our visit of the Dolmen de La Frébouchère.


Dr. V. will definitely not take up dolmen climbing as an Olympic sport.  Thankfully, Kevin, a true knight, will help her out of a pickle, and we will all be heading home.


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