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