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24 posts categorized "Champlain 400" Feed

May 24, 2009

Fran in France: Sam Learns to Sail, Wind Turbines and the City of Pirates

Journalist Fran Stoddard is in France this week on a "Quadricentennial Journey" hosted by Burlington City Arts. Here's her latest report from across the pond. I'm told that her videos will be available soon...

Saturday, May 23

Champlain-glass Today was a travel day. We are heading to the coast of Brittany, in the Northwest France to visit many places, including two important ports from which Samuel de Champlain sailed to the New World. So what have we discovered about this guy? He wrote much about the New World, but very little about himself, so there have been many varied assumptions about him over time.

We know he learned the sailing trade from his father, who was a sea captain. He grew up during a nasty religious civil war in a worldly, bustling, diverse port city.  In Brouage, he heard of far off lands and very possibly dreamed of a place that was not troubled by the horrors he experienced during the bloody struggle between the Protestants and Catholics. (The photo shows a stained glass window in a Brouage church, a gift from Quebec).

As a young man, Champlain admired his king, Henri IV, who fought hard to bring peace to France, including the forging of the famous Treaty of Nantes, which, for the first time, allowed the people of France to worship as Protestant or as a Catholic. We drove past Nantes on our journey north today.

Brittany was a the region that was one of the last holdouts of the Spanish occupation that supported the Catholic cause. As part of the Treaty, Henri IV ousted the Spaniards and this is when Champlain pops up in accounts and in history as a young maritime supply clerk. He works his connections get a position aboard his uncle’s ship and his maritime career takes off. The connections he made at this time in the military and in service of the king last him a lifetime. More on that tomorrow…

We were treated to a few surprises today. One was the number of wind turbines early on in the drive cranking away in this pristine countryside. They spawn a number of conversations from their elegant look to their minimal output of power. We also pass the Rance River that houses the largest electricity plant in France, powered by significant tides which have always played a major role in this region. Open spaces and well preserved farmhouses and clustered, quaint villages are also noted by fellow Vermonters. France is a major agricultural country, supplying much of Europe with grains, produce  and of course wine and cheeses.

Tesha1 Speaking of produce, our greatest surprise today was a stop at Marc vanderHeyden’s sister Treesje Stolkman's 1809 farmhouse in Sarzeau, Brittany, which she shares with her husband Fried. It’s a family reunion and also a time to fete fellow traveler, Nicole Carignan, CFO of Symquest, who turns 40 tomorrow. We had over a dozen types of hors d’oeuvres, including coquilles, oysters, shrimp and other shellfish —  all in their native state — artichoke, ham rolls, caviar, deviled eggs, salmon, curried apple on endive, champagne…  And then we had lunch (!), another remarkable spread with asparagus soup, a beautifully presented whole salmon and numerous delightful vegetable dishes, including a Belgian specialty, from Marc and Treesje's childhood home, a seafood stuffed tomato. Mascarpone with blue fruit compote and coffee finished us off.

After naps on the bus, we woke to the “City of Pirates,” St. Malo, another walled city that was almost entirely destroyed in WW2. The old city and the ramparts have been remarkably rebuilt. I’ll investigate further to see if I can recognise signs of the reconstruction on my way to supper at a creperie on the ramparts where I hear the sunsets are spectacular.  

Bon soir.

May 22, 2009

Fran in France: Brouage

Journalist Fran Stoddard is in France this week with a group from Burlington City Arts, to celebrate the Lake Champlain Quadricentennial.

IMG_9377 She sent this report earlier today. Her fellow traveler, John Canning (CEO of Physician's Computer Company in Winooski), sent this photo of Brouage.

Friday, May 22

Jet lag and interfacing with international technology don’t mix well, so that piece of my communication has been a challenge. But some rest, a croissant and café au lait put the day off to a perfectly decent start.

A fabulous market down the street called to some of us. Pig ears, rabbits ready to roast, dozens of varieties of sausage, cheese, wine, fish so fresh it didn’t smell, colorful displays of fresh produce, the song of the fruit seller greeted us. It was hard to move on to a stunning cathedral — and for some, a small exhibition on Samuel de Champlain.

And then we were back on the bus and off to Brouage, the birthplace of Champlain. The small, walled city was a thriving salt producer during Champlain’s lifetime. He grew up in a diverse town of sailors and merchants from around the world. He also witnessed the horrors of the religious wars in France, leading him to want a New France of peace and tolerance among people. 

For Brouage, the  heyday was brief, from 1555 to the 1660’s, barely a hundred years, as it got silted in with shifting oceans and the shipwreckage of the wars. It was cut off from the ocean, but still surrounded by marsh. In it s isolation, it became favored as a prison, until more recent times. It is now an historic site and tourist destination. We heard that it s even popular as a place for second homes for those who want to spent time in a very small, quaint village. Fingernail-sized crabs in the mussels may have been the highlight for some, but the ruins and town were a fine way to spend an afternoon….

"Bonjour" from Fran in France

Isle La Motte It's been 400 years since Samuel de Champlain sailed from France to the "New World," and on Wednesday, a group of Vermonters embarked on a trip that retraces his route. The delegation — including Burlington City Arts director Doreen Kraft, Marcelle Leahy, wife of Senator Patrick, and former St. Mike's prez Marc vanderHeyden and his wife Dana — will visit Champlain's birthplace, Bourage, the port city of Honfleur, and, of course, Paris.

Burlington City Arts organized the tour as a fundraiser in honor of the Quadricentennial. The group be sightseeing, and doing the tourist thing, but they're also charged with presenting a plaque honoring Champlain to officials in Paris.

This photo shows the lot of them in front of the Champlain statue at Isle La Motte before they left. Journalist Fran Stoddard is embedded with the group — that's her, fourth from left. She'll be sending updates on their progress as they rediscover the Old World.

I've received a couple emails from Fran since she left. Not surprisingly, she's encountering some technical difficulties. But I'm hoping that she's able to upload videos with the Flip camera we sent with her.

While we wait for video, here are her notes about the journey so far...

Continue reading ""Bonjour" from Fran in France" »

May 14, 2009

S. de Champlain Rides Again

Champlain 5-15-09 005 fixed Everyone in the Lake Champlain basin is getting on the quadricentennial bandwagon as the summer festivities approach. But at Burlington's Fletcher Free Library, Samuel de C. is getting on the bus.

The library's Outreach Van, that is. The French explorer, looking slightly lumpy but still mustachioed after 400 years, was resurrected, so to speak, by FFL staffer and fabric artist Christine Demarais. He will make his public debut this Saturday as a van passenger in the Kids' Day parade.

After that, Monsieur will stick around to help promote reading--en anglais. And, who knows, maybe he'll do a little more exploring. The place has changed a bit, non?

Stuck in VT (VIDEOS)

Solid State (Music)

Mistress Maeve (Sex)

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