“First Day” – by Debbie Ambrous

June 3, 2018 – Sundayof the Burgundy, France Journal

Published normalement (normally) bi-weekly on Sunday

Kitchens sell houses more than any other room, just ask any smart realtor.  Whether they feature mansions, or tiny houses, the kitchen is top of the list.  I was ecstatic to see our rental home that I had searched the internet world to locate was perfect, especially la cuisineLa Renaissance has a large modern kitchen which is fresh, bright and airy. Yet, it has kept the French character with doors from an antique armoire that open into efficient storage shelving.  Typical Burgundy tiles covered the kitchen floor as they were from hundreds of years ago in this region.  The old kitchen sink is still at the front window, another remnant from the past that would have drained to the outside years ago.  Jim was happy in his element with a superbly efficient modern range, and I loved the view over the tile roofs from the kitchen sink.  The pretty white cabinets held all of the pots, pans, dishes and utensils that we could possibly need.  Since we had shopped at the markets in Avallon and Saulieu the previous day we had our groceries stocked away including coffee for breakfast.  Wandering downstairs, happy to begin our first full day in our new house in Noyers, we had a meeting of the minds immediately.  Sweaters and jackets from the coat rack at the front door were slid on quickly, and we were on our way to buy flaky croissants and a crunchy baguette to enjoy with coffee for our breakfast.

Wait!  It’s Sunday and the boulangerie is not open!  No need for alarm since we inquired about this crucial situation when we shopped at our local grocery store Vival for necessities on our arrival in Noyers on the previous day.   The nice lady at the store kindly divulged the information that she would have our bread on Sunday.  She knew what would really matter on Sunday morning when sleepy tourists awakened.  But back to our short stroll to the Vival which was only a little more than the walk from our house in Alabama to the top of the circle, but definitely much more interesting.  No offense intended to our Alabama neighbors!Turning the corner from our house onto Rue de l’Eglise we passed the neighbor’s house across the street which I would see more than any other during our stay.  The friendly lady was on her front porch watering the stunning, red geraniums when we walked in the direction shown on the sign pointing to Centre Historique Commerces.  The sign is accurate about the history in abundance, but the commerce is far from the definition you may expect.  However, this small village has an abundance of what you really need!  On the peaceful street to the right, a bicycle with a Vival sign on the basket was parked in front of a house. I thought that I would want one like it if I could live in this village so I could feel the rush of riding on the colorful streets, feeling the fresh air and smelling the scent of honeysuckle and roses.  Could you see me on a turquoise bike with a baguette and a bouquet of flowers peeking from the straw basket at the handlebars?   Honeysuckle vines were covered in fragrant, yellow flowers, and pink climbing roses wound their way up the old stone walls of the houses reaching out to the blue skies.

Large red arrows directed cars to turn left with the street blocked for pedestrians only on this Sunday morning.  A few vendors were setting up their displays on the cobblestone streets, and my inquisitive mind and itchy shopping instinct kicked into gear with a reminder to come back later.  We turned left along the lane under the archway where multiple ancient wooden carvings decorated the building walls.  The tourism brochure description says: “Under each saint there is an angel, one holding a shield and the other holding a scroll.  In the center there is an empty recess under a gothic gable and underneath an angel with a shield.  In the corner of the house stands the sculpture of a bearded bourgeois holding a shield in his right hand and an axe in his left hand who might have been a militiaman.  The house is also called the house of the “Compagnonnage” as Companions used to do their apprenticeship in this house.”   I couldn’t believe that I would have the pleasure of walking here each day with new treasures to find and savor.  A long rose cane loaded with beautiful blooms had fallen and arched into the lane, not that it would ever matter to me except to love the rambling beauty.  We continued under another archway into a square with tables and umbrellas surrounded by ancient timbered buildings.  There across the street was Vival – open for hungry tourists – after we waited for the motorcyclist to zoom past.   Warm bread was wrapped in paper for our eager hands.Should I describe the breakfast scene?  Oh, you’ve heard me tell-all about the Normandy butter for our warm, crunchy bread and the flaky croissants with melting chocolate inside.  We can skip over that part and you will miss the calories.

Now with the dishes cleared, let’s rush back to the pedestrian-only section of the village where vendors must surely be ready for me and my shopping bag.  Sunday was not a market day for Noyers, so I was curious about what was happening and didn’t want to miss out.  I made a bee-line to the sunny square, leaving Jim in my dust.  This square is called Place du Marché au Blé (The Square of the Corn Market) where fairs and markets used to take place attracting merchants from the whole of the Burgundy region.  Due to its fine geographical location on the border of three provinces the city became very prosperous.  The most important market was the corn market that took place every third Thursday in the month.  No corn was on sale on Sunday, but a white panel van with triangular hot-pink canopies was the feature, and no other tables were loaded with goodies that women love.    A couple of white-haired gentlemen were selling beehives and other items for the beekeepers and their honey production.  I explained that my cousin Pam and her husband Joe have beehives and the tastiest honey in the U.S.  I added that Pam makes wonderful soap, also.  I knew most of the French words for this conversation, and maybe they understood.  One of the white-haired gentlemen, elegant and convincing with clipboard in hand asked me to sign a petition about some environmental issue concerning the bees.  He is right to be concerned.  They were disappointed that we were not in the market for buying beehives.

We walked on through the Place de l’Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall Square) where the town hall with a long history of destruction, renovation and two fires still stands.  The foundations date from the fourteenth century with the main building from the fifteenth century and the front from the eighteenth century.   After the second fire which destroyed only the front part of the building it was rebuilt in a Louis 15th or pure baroque style.  A bust of Louis 14th was placed above the door but it was removed during the French Revolution.  You should also notice the fifteenth century “Yellow House” with carved beams and corbels.  In 1830 the square was called the Square of Lafayette.

We drove through this beautiful square each day when it wasn’t closed to traffic.  Imagine driving through Ponte Peinte au Ponte d’Avallon (The Painted Gate or the Gate of Avallon) daily, bumping along the cobblestones, watching for cars and people.  This gateway entry into the village was built with limestone dating from the first half of the thirteenth century.  The side facing the town was originally covered with the Lords of Noyers’ coat of arms.  On each side of the gate there is access to the watchman’s room on the upper floor and from there to the rampart walkway on the walls. We walked on through and around to the left so we could ramble along the Serein River.  In 1778 the city walls were knocked down, and the stones were used to fill up the moats and to cover part of the river bed where the Serein was flowing alongside the city, thus creating a path along the river.  The filling up of the moat and river has buried the lower parts of the thirteenth century towers except for the last tower.  Charles-Louis Pothier, a Burgundian composer and lyric writer, lived in the 5th tower known as the Old Tower where he found his inspiration for writing popular French songs.  It is easy to understand why this area would be inspirational for an artist.  Jim and I felt lulled under a spell of peacefulness as we walked in the sun and shade by the water, stopping to admire the intricate woodwork on the houses, or the brilliant blue flowers growing by the tall metal fences.  Across the waterway, we saw farm land and birds swooping and landing on the old wooden fencing.  A mother in jeans with two baguettes in the crook of her arm rushed along with two children and a dog by her side. Joggers were out for their daily run.  At the edge of his property with a weed-eater in hand, a gentleman was busy keeping up the curb appeal.  Half-hidden by branches, a fisherman was tucked away by the riverbank. I located the house with green timbering and stone that I saw in a painting in a window.  Climbing high above, a jet soared into the clouds unaware of the peaceful scene I was enjoying by a small garden, fenced along a stone wall. Leaving the river walk, I turned right to stride uphill toward Ruelle du Four.  Another lady was ahead of me wearing pants that should have never left the closet, a reminder to never wear baggy pants no matter how comfortable they are.  The exclamation point at the top of the street seemed to punctuate baggy pants off the fashion list.

Near the pharmacy, a dispensing machine for les préservatifs (condoms) was on the wall of a building.  Quite often, I’ve seen the machines in France.  But they are not found on the street in our town, or any other in our area to my knowledge.  I was all set for a photo of this unique item in another larger French town.  While I was standing on the sidewalk in the larger city, I raised my camera and just as it flashed a pudgy arm reached to the dispenser in front of me.  As I lowered my camera, I locked eyes with a short, balding middle-aged man.  He quickly averted his eyes and went away as fast as his feet would carry him.  Jim and I laughed at the memory of this incident.  While we were walking back to our rental house I told Jim, “I read about a man who went to buy sausages in one of the travelogues of France that I enjoy reading while you do your thing, whatever it may be.  I could just see him in the market with other men hanging around, probably sampling the sausage like we so often do under the big umbrellas in the market.  Well, he announced to the vendor that he would like to buy sausage, but they must have no preservatives!  The men had a great laugh at the weird American who asked for no préservatifs (condoms) in his sausage!”   Jim replied, “What do you want for lunch?  You killed my appetite for sausage, so what will we have?”

In the last blog story I promised that Jim and I would spend our first day in Noyers.  We did as planned, but we were even more ambitious and went to tour a castle which I will include in a future story since I had too much story from this one day!! 

Next time, we will go to Tanlay, Chablis and Beru. Thanks for coming around to visit the blog!

You can read more about France, including more about Burgundy.  Just click over to purchase your copy of “A French Opportunity” in paperback or KindlePlease feel free to share this website with others.  Would you like to receive an e-mail notification when each story is posted?  Look at the top of the page on the right-hand side for the area to enter your e-mail.

All photography is the property of Debbie Ambrous.

“Moving Day” – by Debbie Ambrous

June 2, 2018 – Saturdayof the Burgundy, France Journal

Published normalement (normally) bi-weekly on Sunday

We flew the coop like two chickens on the loose with Jim as the crowing rooster, and I was the cackling hen.  Moving day was underway with our stuff packed into suitcases and the refrigerator cleared and cleaned.  We were leaving town, happy with our home in Arnay-le-Duc, but ready to mosey on up the road to different pastures to strut and crow about new treasures.

Noyers, France was our next town and our next rental home, our comfortable nest was The Renaissance, but more about this later.  Meanwhile, you could CLICK The Renaissance for details on the adorable house rental.

SAULIEU, FRANCEWe covered less than twenty miles before I asked Jim to stop in Saulieu where a big market was underway.  It seemed that everyone within a fifty-mile radius was in town.  Parking spots were scarce as hen’s teeth.  I heard the old folks use this expression when I was growing up.  Apparently, hens do not have teeth and while this hen still has her teeth, I was feeling sad with my chance of shopping disappearing if we couldn’t park.  Persistence paid off and soon we hit the bricks and old cobblestones, following the folks with shopping baskets.

Then the street was filled with a dozen or more ladies dressed in black and red wearing red devil horns on their heads.  Laughter spread along the way as they called to each other and the people heading to the market.  I thought they were perhaps a group of bridesmaids throwing a bridal party in the street, a hen party.  We laughed along with the group not really knowing what was up, and then surprisingly one of the ladies asked Jim if he would like to buy a condom.  Puzzled and a little shocked, Jim declined.  Maybe they were promoting safe sex, and in that case we could assure the fun-loving group that we are as safe as it gets!  I have photos of the whole episode, but Jim wouldn’t agree for me to show him with a bunch of women wearing devil horns.  Does the devil have horns?  Hmm?  We will leave that question alone for now, like we left the women in France.Since we had a new refrigerator to fill in Noyers, fresh vegetables and fruit were on our shopping list.  Jim was caught sampling the goat cheese, licking his fingers, when a little boy holding his pretty, young mother’s hand saw him and seemed to question Jim’s manners.  I decided to buy a pretty pink hat to wear instead of my black and white polka-dot number which seemed to attract attention wherever I went.  Live chickens were not on our list, but we watched as people bought the poultry, stuffing the flapping birds into boxes for the ride to their new home.  Some of the pretty chickens, fluffy and colorful, reminded me of a show on Netflix with a lady who raised show chickens.  She was bathing a hen in what seemed to be her kitchen sink.  Not sure I want to eat at her house!  She explained that all layers of the feathers should be cleaned with the sudsy water while the contented hen was enjoying her bath like a spa treatment.  The full salon prep with a blow dryer to fluff the feathers was the next step before show time, and possibly the grand prize.  I am gently mocking the show chickens, but I am sure it would be fun.  I checked for names of the poultry varieties and found one named Dominique, a black and white chicken.  I’ve heard the older folks talk about Dominicker chickens which is the same breed, considered the oldest in the United States, brought from England during colonial times.  Have you heard this name?  I must tell my friend Mabel – something new to cackle about!

AVALLON, FRANCELunchtime found us in Avallon where the crowd was much larger and the town as well.  Our main purchase was spices, and I wish we had bought more!  We bought a spice for chicken that was totally delicious.  Our lunch was at a street-side table, and we watched the people in the sunshine.  You could buy everything from lingerie to mattresses.  More about this lovely town later…NOYERS, FRANCE

Initially, I wanted to spend our entire time for our trip to France in Noyers, but the house was not available for all of our days.  We decided to rent the house in Arnay-le-Duc and then move to Noyers for the remainder of the time.  It was a good choice since we could cover a larger area with day trips from each house.  Noyers is one of the plus beaux villages, but I will save the history and interesting tidbits for later.  When we parked our car across the street from our house, we discovered that we were neighbors to a museum with very unusual artwork.  The curator may have thought that Jim and I fit right into the mix of strange creations.

Our new home, The Renaissance, was just as lovely as I had hoped.  Even now, I find myself remembering the comfortable, bright bedroom, my table with laptop at the front window, the modern kitchen with the old flooring and so many extra touches that made our stay perfect. Moving day was fun and the beginning of a new chapter. Did you enjoy the poultry lesson?  I wish I could say that the couple in the picture below is Jim and me, but we are not that young anymore.  But we are still like two chickens on the loose, and that’s not bad at all!In the last blog story I promised that Jim and I would move from Arnay le Duc to Noyers, further north in Burgundy, a new region to explore.  But I didn’t mention that the story would be very short, composed more of pictures than words. 

I had a behind-the-scene episode.  I ate something yesterday that did not agree with my stomach.  Jim says he tried to poison me and I felt like it!  Next time, if I survive, we will spend our first day in Noyers. Thanks for coming around to visit the blog!

P.S.  Did you notice that I skipped from May 31st to June 2nd?  Hey, now I understand why I had an extra May 31.  The photos and events from the last story, Extra Day in May, were actually June 1st!  I thought we moved on June 1st, but when I checked my rental records I found it was June 2nd.  It still doesn’t explain why the photo download date was May 31st.  Life is too complicated to worry about it.

You can read more about France, including more about Burgundy.  Just click over to purchase your copy of “A French Opportunity” in paperback or Kindle.

Please feel free to share this website with others.  Would you like to receive an e-mail notification when each story is posted?  Look at the top of the page on the right-hand side for the area to enter your e-mail.

All photography is the property of Debbie Ambrous.

“Extra Day in May” – by Debbie Ambrous

May, 2018 – EXTRA dayof the Burgundy, France Journal

Published normalement (normally) bi-weekly on Sunday

The leap day in February is coming next year in 2020, with no extra day this year, or last year.  Who wants an extra day in the wintry cold with dreary gray skies and frozen walkways?  What were the timekeepers thinking when they gave us 24 extra hours of frigid weather?  Why not give an extra day in May with warm sunshine, blue skies and fragrant flowers in the garden? Forget the thoughtless timekeepers!  I hereby proclaim this extra day in May as officially open for your enjoyment!

How did an entire extra day appear at the end of May, 2018?  Blame it on my Canon camera which downloaded evidence of an extra May 31st with photos from the far south of Burgundy.  I know that I didn’t go there on the same day as the garden visit north of Beaune.  The following day, June 1st, was moving day to Noyers, so no match there either.  I’m surely not ignoring this day of 150 photos, and I’m not worrying about how it happened.  I will just bask in an extra day of May and tell you what happened.

Here’s the plan.  We will leave the house immediately after breakfast, promptly, not dilly-dallying over coffee, or stopping to admire the new blooms in the garden.  We will drive south to Chateau Cormatin with apartments described as the grandest Louis XIII (1628) remaining in France, with painted, sculpted and gold-leafed paneling and ceilings.  The chateau is fully furnished with tapestries, a vast stone staircase (1623), picturesque kitchen and drawing-room decorated in 1900 for an Opera director.  Surrounding the architectural masterpiece are 25 acres of ground, flower borders, extensive box maze and an old-fashioned kitchen garden.  Are you excited?  There’s no time to stop at any charming villages, amazing chateaus, vineyards growing up hillsides or farmhouses with roses at the front door.  Got that?

Here’s what really happened.  We were in the car driving from the rental house almost on time, about three blocks from the house when this conversation happened.  We rounded the corner in front of Chez Camille where big trucks compete with mad French drivers, and on this day road repair equipment was part of the traffic circus.  In the midst of this confusion, I said, “Jim, please find a place to park.  I need to get photos of the atmospheric Chez Camille and the cute murals on the outside walls.  This is my last chance since we leave tomorrow!”  I heard groans and muttering coming from driver Jim as he negotiated through the monster truck noises and waving flags of the repairmen, but my almost-French Jim parked in true French fashion on the curb.

Considering my risk of life and limb, be sure to notice the cute, bright red Caravelle, a sports car manufactured by Renault from 1958-1968.  Pietro Frua used the floor plan and the engine of the Renault Dauphine to design the rear-engine, rear-drive natty car.  Returning to our non-sporty rental car before anyone took issue with our parking place, I chatted away about the elegant lady with hat and gloves in the mural, asking Jim if he remembered how women always dressed in their best for Sunday, trips to the doctor, luncheons and all of that.  I described a pastel pink batiste cotton dress with a full, swishy skirt that I wore when the Caravelle was on the road.  On my wrist a Caravelle watch kept the time with a gold bangle bracelet.  Jim was quiet over there on my left-side, driving down the long road stretching along past the wide-open fields of white cows and yellow flowers.  Maybe he was listening, or perhaps he had his own memories playing out like the colorful murals on the wall.

Silence reigned on the road past vineyards with red poppies and roses at the end of the rows.  In the interest of truth-telling, I did require one photo shoot of vines in the valley with one workman diligently doing whatever they do.  Can you find the fellow in the vines?  It was just a quick stop, like I promised.  Honest.CHATEAU SERCY

In the middle of nowhere, a chateau appeared like a vision in a dream, something only a romance novelist could create.  This was a chateau that the driver Jim could love since it only required a pull over by the road with a convenient place to park in front of the lake.  Weeping willows gracefully edged the mirror-like surface of the lake with a rowboat at the edge, seeming ready for me to step inside wearing finery like the ladies from the past.  I quickly found that the Chateau Sercy is privately owned and only on rare occasions can one get any closer.  Chateau Sercy dates from the twelfth century.  My eyes were drawn to the wooden palisade and I discovered that its openwork oak frame resting on stone corbels is from the fifteen century and it is probably the only example from this period still intact in France.  The palisades were designed to send projectiles through the gaps. The Sercy family owned the chateau from the time it was built until the sixteenth century when Philibert Sercy died accidentally during a wedding in Lyon.  From that time it did not fare well with disrepair and sacked during the French Revolution and a major fire.  Thankfully, despite this long, sad history, it is truly easy on the eyes and stamina for two travelers with weary bones, but adventurous plans.

Have you referred to the plan for the day?  Apparently, plan “A” was slipping further and further away.  I had already deviated 3 times!


Another big digression was ahead.  Jim was driving south according to the plan when the road crested above the town of Buxy.  I could see the charming, medieval town spread below with a very tall building with cylindrical towers, ascending into the sky.  A tiny bridge was suspended between the towers.  I felt scared out of my wits at the thought of walking from one side to the other.  But I had to see this incredible structure close-up.  Jim turned off the road without grumbling or referring to plan “A”.  He parked in the town parking lot making a quick note that we were next to the karate training place.  A bathroom and food were next on our agenda.  We purchased sandwiches at the boulangerie by the florist and passed on the chocolate stilettos in the pastry case.


Walking uphill we met two little friendly, scruffy dogs at the front of a narrow house with what seemed to be a picture of a matador in the upper window. The friendly dogs couldn’t tell us where to find the tall towers with the scary bridge.  I don’t know how you can hide two soaring towers, but they were out of sight for awhile.  Eventually, we hit the mother lode with winding streets, flowers at doorways with ancient lintels and a sundial with words that seem to mean: “I do not mark the time with beautiful days.” I do love the beautiful days, but I’m just thankful for life itself.  Scruffy dogs, velvety chocolate high-heels and a very patient husband are the beautiful bonus!

Are you still with me?  I hope so.  This is a fairly long blog story.  Maybe I should have warned you.


Finally, we arrived at Chateau Cormatin which was the last to be built (1620-25) by Jacques de Blé, a favorite of Marie de Medicis and a regular attendant at the Queen’s palace (the Luxembourg in Paris), he commissioned from Salomon de Brosse, the royal architect, the designs for three monumental doorways, two of which survive to this day. The family motto: “du Blé forever” Do you have a family motto?I was anxious to see the garden which is created in the spirit of the baroque period, with approximately thirty acres of parterres of flowers, a box-wood maze with belvedere and aviary, a potager, open-air theatre, water features and outstanding trees.  The topiary animals and shrubbery bordering the garden, like the outline of dragon’s back captivated me, along with the many flowers in the potager.  When the bell rang for our tour, I didn’t want to leave the remarkable garden.I’m sure you would like to know some of the scandalous history as an insider before we enter the chateau.  Notice closely:  “The long avenue of lime trees was particularly favored by the poet Lamartine, who was a frequent to the chateau – so frequent indeed that Jacque’s daughter, the Comtesse de Pierreclos, bore him a son of this dalliance.”  Now you know.  Here’s another bit of intrigue: “To preserve his memory a statue representing the Second French Republic was erected in the courtyard in 1849.  It has survived but – decapitated!”  Whoa!!

Inside the monumental doorway, our sizable group listened to the guide explain that “the building contract specified that the walls were to be whitewashed with no sculpture, no painted decoration.  This is vastly different from the apartments that were so richly decorated only five years later.  This decision in lack of decoration was linked to philosophical theories of neo-platonic philosophy with metaphysical virtues assigned to numbers and geometrical shapes.  A staircase born from mathematical calculation was therefore understood as a simile for the universal order.  Plato taught that superior beauty is expressed only in abstract and pure forms.”  Therefore, this area of the staircase has only the interplay of lines, colors and light.”

Step inside the grandeur of the apartments and you are in a different world of luxury. In 1896, Raoul Gunzbourg, director of the Monte-Carlo opera, bought the chateau and entertained in sumptuous style with such stars as Caruso and Sarah Bernhardt.

Do you entertain your guests in the bedroom?  In the early seventeenth century, the bedchamber was the main room in an apartment.  It was public, or private, according to the time of day.  Once the marquise was up, friends, children and servants would enter freely without knocking.  People would gather in the bedchamber as if it was a drawing room, and they would eat there!  Maybe it was the warmest room in the house.








“The décor makes use of many symbols since the right choice of symbols was valued as a proof of culture and moral elegance.  The ceiling is painted blue, the color of faithfulness.  On it are depicted cut flowers which symbolize good deeds.  To please God, good deeds must be renewed constantly like cut flowers, which wilt rapidly.  So, you see the symbolism which was thought to bring harmony into the room.  The lower wall panels depict baskets of flowers and fruit, symbols of fertility.”

“The walls are covered in textiles which were changed according to the season with silk in summer for coolness and woolen in winter to insulate the cold walls.  In winter, it was necessary to have tapestries all around the room and even over the doors and the bed.”

I was ready for a bathroom, but not the privy closet for the royals!  However, it had one thing going in its favor.  Privacy!  This was the only truly intimate room: only the houses of important people had them.  “Here one could escape from the company of others.  Hence the later term “boudoir”, or sulking room.  This was a room for reading, resting, taking a bath or taking meals when it was very cold in the bed-chamber. These rooms should have had an even more sumptuous décor, but work ceased upon the death of Jacques du Blé who was killed during the Protestant revolt.  His wife decided to adopt deep mourning.  By this she hoped to help her husband’s soul to leave purgatory and enter paradise.  She had four children to look after, but she had a mourning room furnished in the south wing which was hung with black cloth, even the bed had black hangings.”  How sad!

The kitchen lifted my spirits, in fact so much that I didn’t want to leave as quickly as the guide requested. Then, in the last area I saw something unexpected.  There was a table just like mine at home!  I tried to tell the guide that I had a small table just like it.  No joke!  No one seemed interested.  Compare the two below and tell me what you think!  Which one is from a chateau and which one was purchased at a thrift store forty years ago?  (You must admit there is some similarity.  My table is on the left.)When we were leaving and I was rushing to the bathroom, Jim asked if saw the painting of the “Father of Botox” in the chateau.  You can always count on Jim for fractured culture!!

Our tour is finished and our extra day in May is at an end.  We packed it full of treasures and surprises.  I loved having you along while the minutes of the extra day ticked along.

I promised a bonus day, totally unexpected.  I hinted that Monty Don might appear on the page again, and while that didn’t happen I can imagine him chuckling at the fun of the garden at Chateau Cormatin.  I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that he took a private tour.  Next time, Jim and I will move from Arnay le Duc to Noyers, further north in Burgundy, a new region to explore.  Thanks for coming around to visit the blog!

You can read more about France, including more about Burgundy.  Just click over to purchase your copy of “A French Opportunity” in paperback or KindlePlease feel free to share this website with others.  Would you like to receive an e-mail notification when each story is posted?  Look at the top of the page on the right-hand side for the area to enter your e-mail.

All photography is the property of Debbie Ambrous.

If you enjoyed this story, perhaps you would like to read “Heart of the Lion”  Just CLICK the link to read this much shorter story from 2013.

“Romancing the Cube” – by Debbie Ambrous

May 31, 2018 – Thursdayof the Burgundy, France Journal

Published normalement (normally) bi-weekly on Sunday

Like the last licks of a deliciously sweet vanilla ice cream cone with the crunchy cone finally down in one gulp, I was savoring the beautiful garden of our rental house, Au Faubourg Saint Honoré in Arnay le Duc, France, and relishing the last moments of walking the historic streets.  Our departure to a different location was approaching, but I still had time to see the ladies rushing from the boulangerie with long baguettes in their arms and time to inspect the tiny raspberries – still green – that would ripen when I was gone. A brochure of gardens in France from the tourist office, which I had read like a gourmet restaurant’s menu, listed Chateau de Barbirey and its gardens which inspired our agenda for the day.  Lilting, enticing words like “bucolic and rural atmosphere’ and “come and visit one of the most beautiful vegetable gardens of Burgundy” lured us on to the remarkable garden.  Nothing could stop us, except a Ford Fiesta!Question: When is a Ford Fiesta remarkable? Answer: When it’s painted to resemble a Rubik’s cube!   Did you know? The world’s largest Rubik’s cube is three meters (9.8 feet) tall.  The smallest is 10mm (0.39 inches) wide.  Both turn just like a regular cube.

There are more than 43 quintillion ways to scramble the Rubik’s cube!  In fact, there are 43,252,003,274,489,856,000 possibilities!

If you had one cube for each scramble position and laid them all side-to-side, they would stretch 261 light years from Earth.  Or, you could use them to cover the Earth in 273 layers!

If you turn the Rubik’s cube once every second, it will take you 1.4 trillion years to go through all the permutations.

A robot solved the Rubik’s cube in 0.637 seconds!  The first Rubik’s Cube was sold in 1975 in a Budapest toy shop.

Jim will be so jealous that I learned all of these facts about the famous best-selling toy ever that was invented by Ernő Rubik, a professor from Budapest, Hungary.  Jim is impressed by such statistics, and he quotes stuff like this to me while I roll my eyes.  I learned about this characteristic after I had married him when it was too late!  As a pretty newly-wed, adorable and maybe even alluring, I was in bed with him.  Yes, in bed with him – when he said: “Did I ever tell you about Tecumseh?”  I don’t know what marriage manual or love-making expertise he was reading!  However, I’m quite sure that this Shawnee Native American chief was not involved.  Down to this day, Jim and I will quote the words “Did I ever tell you about Tecumseh?” and laugh in memory.  Tecumseh is credited with saying: “A single twig breaks, but a bundle of twigs is strong.”  Wise words indeed, but he named one of his children Mahyawwekawpaese.  What was he thinking?  Now, there was a kid who could probably solve the Rubik’s cube in a New York minute!

Ecclesiastes 4:9,10 – “Two are better than one … For if one of them falls, the other can help his partner up.  But what will happen to the one who falls with no one to help him up?”

We lingered around Vandenesse where we found the stunning car and a rusty old motorcycle before we watched a boat go through the lock in the canal.  Now, that would be fun!  We messed around here and there long enough that it was time for lunch.  A visit to a boulangerie, La Banette in Commarin, provided pizza and a lemon tart for a picnic lunch which we spread under the shade of the trees in the center of the village near the entry to Chateau de Barbirey.We wandered over to the gateway to the gardens and looked for the bathroom facilities.  Now is my opportunity to show a bathroom, or toilet room, which is shared by men and women. (Look closely in the photo where I am standing at the mirror and Jim is posed at a cubicle door.)

Jim and I found our first such toilet at the Chateau Ussé years ago when I was surprised to be in a cubicle next to a gentleman, and then I washed my hands at a sink next to another pretty lady along with Jim.  All of this was civilized, very polite and sanitary.  Toilets like this are still scattered here and there, but most of them are old.  Times have surely changed everywhere.No one was around the office to accept our payment which was only six euros per person, so I happily wandered in the garden and by the old buildings on the grounds in front of the chateau.  A gentleman came toward me from the chateau, and I worried that he would turn us away since a school group was already there with their teachers guiding them past the wheelbarrows through to the flowers and vegetables.  What a wonderful beginning for those youngsters learning about the flowers and vegetables! Thankfully, we were allowed to join them to see the terraced garden, the orchard, ponds and my favorite – peonies!! The gardens were designed in the nineteenth century, and they are located 25 km (15.5 miles) from Dijon and Beaune in Burgundy, France.  You can rent the chateau!  Why not have a wedding, a family reunion or some other special event here?  Honestly, I thought the rates were not that bad for a large group.  CLICK here for more details.

Recently, here at home in Alabama, I have fallen in love with Monty Don, the gardening guru in England.  I know I will have to get in line, a very long line of other adoring gardeners who found him long before I did.  Be sure to see his shows on Netflix, or whatever outlet you may find.  I especially enjoyed Monty Don’s French Gardens.  I just melted away in a dream world listening to the music, seeing the jaunty 2CV on the back roads of France and hearing his warm words of gardening wisdom.  Yet, Monty Don hasn’t told me anything about Tecumseh, so I am very happy to cultivate my garden with the fellow who has taken me to France and back many times over!  I will dance to the music with the handsome fellow who brung me!

I promised a remarkable garden and more of the Burgundy canal, and I did just that along with a fantastic Ford Fiesta! Y’all come back next time for a bonus day, which even I did not expect.  Monty Don may appear on the page again if I am still in gardening mode.   Thanks for coming around to visit the blog!

You can read more about France, including more about Burgundy.  Just click over to purchase your copy of “A French Opportunity” in paperback or KindlePlease feel free to share this website with others.  Would you like to receive an e-mail notification when each story is posted?  Look at the top of the page on the right-hand side for the area to enter your e-mail.

All photography is the property of Debbie Ambrous.

If you enjoyed this story, perhaps you would like to read about the gorgeous Chateau Villandry and its magnificent gardens.  Just CLICK the link below:

“Fractured Fairy Tales”

“Donkeys Never Lie!” – by Debbie Ambrous

May 30, 2018 – Wednesdayof the Burgundy, France Journal

Published normalement (normally) bi-weekly on Sunday

A reminder for a blog story was scribbled on a page in the flip pad when I was in France among other memory-joggers such as: buy coffee at the store.  There was only one problem, many days later at home in Alabama I didn’t have a clue what ridiculous event could have prompted me to jot down:  “U gotta lotta experience controlling a jack***.”   Jim was the only one who could have said it.  I knew it was him because those words didn’t roll off my tongue!  In the interest of fair play, I confided that I would use this quote in my story and asked if indeed he had spoken this bit of wonky wisdom.  He hemmed and hawed and said, “I must have said it if you say so. I know that you want another one of my famous sayings to quote in your blog.  It’s gonna cost you, but remember – Donkeys Never Lie!”  Donkeys never lie?!

The photos from the grounds of the Chateau Germolles jolted my memory of the situation that prompted Jim’s unique observation.  Finally, I knew what had happened.   A donkey, or jackass, was grazing in the field, a bucolic scene with birds chirping and flowers in bloom along the pathway.  A perfect country scene was in my camera lens, but the stubborn animal would not move from a pile of manure which disturbed the feng shui immensely!  Jim sidled up next to me and asked why I was having a conniption fit.   Laying my troubles on his shoulder, I said, “This stupid beast won’t shift his ugly self from that pile of smelly manure so I can get a pretty farm scene photo!” Grinning at his own supposed smartness, Jim said he didn’t understand why I had a problem because after all U gotta lotta experience controlling a jack***.   Now you have the whole story except for the part where I Googled the question: “What is the difference between a donkey and a jackass?”  Apparently, they are the same.  If you want more in-depth information on this subject, I would suggest that you speak to Jim since he apparently believes that donkeys never lie!  I would challenge that statement, but I just don’t want to go there.  I hope no one ever investigates all of the questions that I have Googled, or they will think that I am bonkers!Goats were walking on top of the wall by the stream when we ambled over the bridge and past the stone buildings along the path to visit the chateau.  I lingered in the shade of a massive plane tree, finding spring flowers and a large shrub with delicate blooms like spun pink cotton candy.    Workers were busy in towers near the courtyard.  When I walked below, one of the men dropped some of the debris to the ground far enough away that there was no harm.  I called out to them with a big smile, “Oops! You missed!”  I heard talking amongst them, probably one of them translated since hearty laughter and friendly waves came my way.

Chateau Germolles is the only country estate (demeure de plaisance) of the Dukes of Burgundy that has been preserved so extensively.  In 1380, Philip the Bold (Philippe le Hardi), Duke of Burgundy bought the estate for his wife Margaret of Flanders (Marguerite de Flandre).  I was disappointed initially because I wasn’t allowed to use my camera inside, but then I was granted permission to use it for part of the tour, and I am very grateful that I could do so. The painted and sculptured decors, including the floor tiles demonstrate the quality of the chateau.

Rully, a medieval fortress built onto a 12th century keep was on our route, but it was closed for touring until July.  We have seen the chateau situated in the heart of a vineyard at least once before, if not more, but our timing has never been right for a visit except for the grounds.  The Renaissance chateau is still owned by the original family.

Clos Salomon was an enjoyable visit.  We love the vineyards with a personal touch like this one with the children’s play slide by the grapevines, old work shoes on the old well and the old house by the wine cave.  We bought a few bottles with no pressure, and we would definitely return if we are in the area.  The known history of the estate goes back for at least 700 years when a fellow named Hugues Saloman put their Givry vineyard on the map by making it a favorite wine of the Pope of Avignon and Henry IV.  Today, the Clos Salomon is a partnership between the most recent heir to the estate, Ludovico du Gardin and his winemaker, Fabrice Perrotto.  They do not use insecticides or herbicides.  All of the work is done by hand.  You will be very pleased if you purchase wine produced here which has been described as: “proudly endowed with structure and full-throttle flavors from its gifted terroir.”    You will notice that he kindly promoted A French Opportunity by displaying my card in the photo!  Thanks again, we felt very fortunate! Click for further information on Clos Salomon.

Chateau de Couches was our last visit for the day.  Built on a rock peak, between the vineyard and the rolling panorama, the chateau is listed as a historical monument and demonstrates several architectural phases.  Restoration was underway, and we were admitted with a reduced rate since most of the buildings were closed. Notice the colorful tile, typical of Burgundy, which is being used in the renovation.  I’m sure it will be magnificent when completed.  The setting alone with beautiful views from the grounds and a topiary garden makes the visit worthwhile.    Jazz concerts and other events are scheduled here throughout the year.  Be sure to click on Chateau de Couches to read more about the restoration and see the aerial views.

I promised two chateaus in my comments in the last blog, but I delivered three here for you to visit plus the charming vintner at Clos Salomon! Y’all come back next time for a remarkable garden, more of the Burgundy canals and possibly more inscrutable notes from my flip pad.  Thanks for coming around to visit the blog where – Donkeys Never Lie!

You can read more about France, including more about Burgundy.  Just click over to purchase your copy of “A French Opportunity” in paperback or Kindle.

Please feel free to share this website with others.

All photography is the property of Debbie Ambrous.


If you enjoyed reading this blog story, perhaps you would enjoy reading more like it, just CLICK on the title below:

Jim’s Ha-Ha Moment 

The ha-ha is of French origin. A city in Canada is named Saint-Louis-du-Ha! Ha! It is the only city name with two exclamation points!!

“Women in Wine” – by Debbie Ambrous

May 29, 2018 – Tuesdayof the Burgundy, France Journal

Published normalement (normally) bi-weekly on Sunday

Designer Armani black ensembles speak a higher currency language compared to a sports shirt with ventilation suitable for lawn-mowing and fishing.  A modish young couple clad in the newest clothing trend was buying wine in grand quantity and receiving attention from a knowledgeable staff.  When the elderly couple stumbled on the scene, the senior fellow was taking the lead wearing baggy jeans, Sketchers suede shoes and a Columbia relaxed-fit shirt, designed with a mesh-lined vent at center back.  The other-half, or better-half, as she is affectionately known, wore black, skinny-leg jeans with a black and pink tee-shirt from Nordstrom Rack, decorated with a sparkly Eiffel Tower in sequins.  The wacky couple thought in unison that they were dressed stylishly, especially the other-half!  All eyes were centered on the Armani duo.  Their commanding presence left the oldsters alone in the shadows. The small-town pair with their small-currency wallet bumbled around the large lobby with the lady snapping photos with her Canon at everything on display including the walls and floor.

Finally, a young sales lady broke loose from admiring and encouraging the flow of euro exchange in the other room and pointed the way for the seniors to the wine caves down the stairs.  After the second time of explanation, the old couple finally got it and made their way without falling, or damaging anything.  No wine barrels were overlooked by the roving, old lady photographer.  She got them all and to record the moment she posed for a photo at the cave entry before ascending the stairs with the old gent following as rear guard.  Eventually, they left the premises of the Chateau Chassagne Montrachet.

Surprisingly, the lady in glitter writes a blog, and the lovable fellow can tell a fine story while he cooks a delicious meal.  Black Armani could learn a thing or two from these travelers.

Continuing on our way after the grand tour of the wine cave – doing it our way – we followed the Route des Grand Crus.  Grand cru wine ranking originates from the Wine Classification of 1855 by order of Emperor Napoleon II who believed that wines of recognition and long-standing should have a certain classification.  This classification of a vineyard is for maintaining a consistent reputation of producing quality wines.  Grand Cru status focuses on the vineyard and the uniqueness of terroir.  In some regions, the Grand Cru status can represent the best of an entire region.Wine production has been primarily dominated by men, but women are entering the scene.  One of those is Amélie de Mac Mahon, the Duchess of Magenta.  You may remember this name from the blog story “On Golden Pond” where I dropped a strong hint that the name would appear again.  The Duchess has a twenty-two acre domaine – the vineyard planted by Cistercian monks in the 1100’s.  Marcia DeSanctis, author of 100 Places in France Every Woman Should Go, shares this interesting information about the Duchess: “It is she who runs the estate and all the operations for producing eight different wines and, in that capacity, belongs to Femmes et Vins de Bourgogne – the Women Winegrowers of Burgundy – now thirty-six members strong, aged twenty-one to sixty, all of whom you may visit with an appointment.  The group formed in 2000, not simply in recognition of their mutual womanhood, but as like-minded professionals who shared the desire to run successful businesses and make the best wines possible.”  Amélie took charge of the vineyard when her husband died.  She says, “As women, I suppose we feel as though we need to look after our grapes and our wines as if they’re our children.”  Considering the stories I have read about producing wine and caring for vineyards, I would say that they require almost as much hard work and attention as child rearing.   Further along the Route des Grand Crus a young woman with expressive hands had the attention of the tour group alongside the road, except perhaps one young man who looked my way quizzically when I snapped a shot of the scene.  The monument at the edge of the vineyard had my attention since it bore the name of a lady vintner who died in 2015.  Anne-Claude Leflaive was 59 when she died from cancer.  An article from 2015 in The New York Times stated: “Anne-Claude Leflaive, who presided over one of Burgundy’s most storied white wine estates and was a fervent, influential advocate for environmentally sensitive forms of farming, died on Monday at her home in Gilly-lès-Cîteaux, France…”  The article went on to explain the importance of good terroir: “In the world of Burgundy, no quality is as prized as much as good terroir, a mystical term that refers roughly to the combination of the soil in which the grapes are grown, the vineyard’s microclimate, altitude, angle of inclination and exposure to the sun, as well as the people who tend the grapes and transform them into wine.  Domaine Leflaive’s holdings represent some of the most precious terroirs in the world for the Chardonnay grape, including legendary grand cru vineyards like Bâtard-Montrachet, Chevalier-Montrachet and Le Montrachet itself, which potentially makes the greatest and most expensive white Burgundy of all.”  Ms. Leflaive had the distinction of being named the best maker of white wines in the world by Decanter magazine in 2006.  Her passion was the land, and she had a great commitment to environmentalism.  She was not the first of the vintners in Burgundy to go biodynamic, but she had a strong conviction and drew much attention for her dedication as a high profile vintner.  In 2008 Ms. Leflaive helped found a school, École du Vin et des Terrors, with the purpose of exploring production of wine from an environmental and humanitarian point of view.Gray clouds were hanging around overhead, threatening to drop a wet blanket on our vineyard tour as we continued to the next town.  Meursault was a beautiful town, a nice stopping place where we were drawn to the Hotel Restaurant Le Chevreuil, formerly known as Restaurant de la Mère Daugier and established in 1866.

The famous La Paulée de Meursault was hosted here at the beginning of the last century.  Originally, the celebration included only winemakers, cellar workers and the surrounding community and in my opinion that would have been the celebration that I would have enjoyed.  Oh, to be a fly on the wall of that cave!  Today La Paulée de Meursault has grown to international fame, and is one of the three key events referred to as Les Trois Glorieuses which take place the third weekend of November to coincide with the Hospices de Beaune auction. The third event is the Confrérie des Chavaliers du Tastevin at the Château du Clos Vougeot.

We peeked into windows from under our umbrellas in the touristic town of Beaune on rainy Monday the previous day, and I said I would return for sun and an open tea shop.  Our next stop on this Tuesday where sunshine had appeared was Beaune with many open shops and delightful window displays.

But my favorite tea was not available in the tea shop, Les Comptoirs Thé Café .  Notice the photo for the name and seller of my delicious tea.  If you are a tea drinker, by all means try it!!  You will need to wait awhile for an explanation of where I finally found this wonderful tea.

Women have what it takes to make wine, and in my case the tenacity to find a favorite tea!  I will keep searching for some of the delights in life and all of the important things in life.

Y’all come back next time for goats, a mule, two chateaus and a friendly, warm vintner.  Thanks for coming around to visit.

You can read more about France, including more about Burgundy.

Just click over to purchase your copy of “A French Opportunity” in paperback or KindlePlease feel free to share this website with others.

All photography is the property of Debbie Ambrous.

“Monday in the Rain” – by Debbie Ambrous

May 28, 2018 – Mondayof the Burgundy, France Journal

Published normalement (normally) bi-weekly on Sunday

Dark, threatening skies.  Thick, gloomy, impenetrable, fog.  Crashing, jolting thunder.  Cold, pounding rain.   A creaking, banging shutter.   Writers employ all of these elements to heighten the drama and set the mood of the story.  Monday alone causes distress for many working people without playing with the weather elements.  My Monday had all of the awful weather elements with the exception of the creaking shutter.  The worrisome, impending lack of medicine was pounding repeatedly in my mind like a shutter in a howling wind since the package was still in the post office in Alabama taking a personal holiday on Memorial Day weekend.

I was determined to break out of the gloom and enjoy the day as much as possible.  I would not hole-up in the house when we could surely find fun somewhere, if not blue skiesBeaune, a beautiful town with many shops and restaurants, is a short drive from Arnay-le-Duc.  Surely, I would find enough colorful distractions there to lift my spirits.   Many businesses in France are closed on Monday!  How could I forget?  No blue Mondays, or stressful Mondays for the French workers!  Are you packing to move to France spurred on by that bit of trivia?  I had checked the address of a tea shop where I hoped to find my favorite teas, but they were closed.  At least the streets were less crowded, and I could window shop.  It seemed that a pharmacie was on every corner, reminding me of the urgent medicine issue.  Did you know that the symbol of a green cross is an emblem for the pharmacy in France? The glistening cobblestones, washed clean by the rain, set the stage for my camera.  Restaurants and pastry shops were open.  Jim and I bought sandwiches and luscious pastries, but where would we eat them without the cold, damp ambiance at the street side tables? The answer to that question was a short walk down the street at a shop selling hot tea and coffee.  They sold sandwiches as well, so I felt guilty bringing the outside sandwiches into his shop.   The friendly young man welcomed us and was not bothered by my sandwiches since we were buying our drinks from him.  Wide shelf-like tables at the huge windows, and tall chairs presented the perfect place to linger in warmth and watch the street scene.  I had enjoyed most of my crunchy baguette sandwich and every morsel of my delicious pastry when I haphazardly reached for my tea.

Fully contented with my lunch in a day-dreaming mood, I clumsily knocked over the paper cup of tea which was only half-full.  How can a half-cup of tepid tea cover the table, floor, chairs and my shoes in a few seconds?  What a mess!!  I worked hurriedly with the paper napkins, hoping to clean everything before the shopkeeper noticed.  Finally, I had to ask for a cloth.  To my surprise, he was not bothered except that I had cleaned up instead of him.   We left Beaune for another day, not a Monday, with sun and an open tea shop.  Our next stop was Nuits St. George with more closed shops.  Mother’s Day in France (Fêtes des Mères) is held on a different date compared to the celebration in the U.S.  The big holiday was on May 27th, Sunday, the day before our Monday in the wet weather.  Most of the shop windows featured Bonne Fest Maman! 

Travel France online presents interesting information on Mother’s Day saying it is not a modern concept, but originated in Greek mythology.  The online magazine went on say:  “Ancient Greeks indeed celebrated Rhea, the mother of all gods and goddesses, during spring.  The Romans took over the celebration.  The cult of Cybele, the mother of all the Roman gods, survived until the 4th century AD.  However, the tradition then disappeared until 1806, when Napoleon I tried to implement an official date in order to celebrate motherhood.  That said, the project never materialized! … Fêtes des Mères became an official celebration in 1929, however, more or less fell into oblivion until 1941.  The celebration was very controversial at the time because it had been implemented by the Regime of Vichy.  Many women also thought that it was a sexist concept that denied them emancipation. Like any other French history subject this one is also long and complex.A petite lady statuette with a very generous derriere and bosom stood in a small pond with rain pouring from the edges of her umbrella.  She seemed to be the French version of the Morton salt girl who first appeared on the blue, round package in 1914. 

Jim had a mischievous grin on his face, but somehow he stayed quiet and didn’t utter a word probably remembering that he compared me to an African artifact the day previous, which now that I think about it was Mother’s Day!  We weren’t celebrating Greek, Roman, French or American holidays.  However, it seemed that every self-respecting mother in France was home with feet propped-up on Monday while I was up to my ankles in streams of cold, rain water.

It was Jim’s turn to be distressed.  The rain was heavier on this stretch of road as we went west with a road sign saying we were leaving Bouzy-les-Beaune

What a name!  We were not bouzy, that’s for sure.  More about funny names in France later, but for the moment Jim was not amused.   A massive truck was much too close, hugging the rear of our car.

His face was red and wrinkled into a frown reflected in the rear-view mirror when he said, “Dude, get your big-honking truck off the rear of my little Volvo, or I will report you to the MeToo truck organization!”  I thought, “Where did that come from?”  But I’m only a lady with a camera, what do I know?Driving home along the way we stopped in Bligny-sur-Ouche.  I know the town’s name sounds like something you would possibly expect a polite Frenchman to say when he stumped his toe, but Ouche is the name of the river.  The history of Bligny is ancient as you will notice from some of the dates on door lintels.  Since the twelfth century the village was protected by a regiment of archers, but they remained loyal to the Duke of Burgundy so the regiment was dissolved.  We were attracted to the pretty stream of water with white swans peacefully gliding on the mirror-like surface.  Yellow irises and colorful doorways caught my attention while Jim looked for fish in the lazy-moving waters.

The sun was still hiding when we made our last stop in a small hamlet with blue and white wildflowers in a field.  A gentleman wearing a blue shirt with white polka dots, identical to my favorite polka dot shirt, was walking two frisky, white poodles up the hill.  I followed in hot pursuit with my camera.All in all, it had been a beautiful Monday in the rain.

I had thought of a plan while I was in the front seat of the car watching the wet countryside swish its way past my window.  I would write a polite note to the pharmacist explaining my dwindling medicine supply.  Google translate could convert my English to French, and I would write the results on my note pad.

A few days of desperation later, I did just that and took the medicine bottle with me after I looked up the name of medicine in French.  The first lady at the counter said she couldn’t provide the medicine.  But then an older lady came to the counter, probably noticing the panic and distress in my face, and she directed the first lady to get the medicine.  Relief washed over me.  I could have kissed her!!

Would you believe that the package never was delivered and it was returned a few weeks after we were home in the U.S.!!

Y’all come back next time to go deep into the cave of Chateau de Chassagne Montrachet to see barrels of wine.  Thanks for coming around to visit.

You can read more about France, including more about Burgundy.  Just click over to purchase your copy of “A French Opportunity” in paperback or Kindle.  Please feel free to share this website with others.

All photography is the property of Debbie Ambrous.

“Distress in France” – by Debbie Ambrous

May 27, 2018 – Sundayof the Burgundy, France Journal

Published normalement (normally) bi-weekly on Sunday

Only eleven days of medicine was left!  There should have been a second bottle, but it was nowhere to be found in our luggage.  That was an emergency for me! The owner of our rental house had given a bowlful of freshly-picked cherries to me, but my day was far from a proverbial bowlful of cherries!

Jim had called his sister Virginia, who lives only a short distance from our house in Alabama, and she agreed to use her key to our house and send the medicine in our cabinet by express mail.  Virginia was coming to Jim’s rescue, not the first time, since she is his older sister who is always reliable.  I felt better with this urgent request in her hands.  This 911 call to the big sister, who is actually little in size but a giant package in love, strength and compassion, happened on Saturday, the day of the “Rose Sale”. 

On Sunday, May 27th, my panic had settled to “3” on a scale of one to ten.  The story wasn’t over for me, but ignorance is bliss.  We should be exuding bliss!  Counting our blessings, we went for a walk in Arnay-le-Duc when fewer cars were on the streets.  Starting at La Maison Bourgogne, which houses the tourist office, sculpted lion heads greeted us in the morning light.  The growling, frowning lions matched our faces since we weren’t picture-perfect models of radiance and joy.  Hoping to lift our spirits I teased Jim, “You can pose by the lion face as its long lost twin brother!”  A slight, up-turned grin spread across his cloudy face, but he wasn’t quick with a jab in reply since he was also under the weather about the medicine mix-up.

La Maison Bourgogne – Tourist Office


La Maison Bourgogne was built at the end of the fifteen century with a decorative turret, and it was purchased in 1850 by Mr. Bourgogne who gave his name to the building and turned it into a confectionery and a biscuit (cookies) factory.  The shop was closed in 1971, and then forty years later the city hall acquired it. The tourist office opened in the building in 2012.

Jim and I continued down the lane past the many flowers from the florist shop displayed for customers to examine and purchase.


Past the tempting, pretty flowers that I could only plant in an imaginary garden, an interesting doorway presented B. Frey’s gallery of African art

Jim was apparently returning to his old self because he dared to suggest, “Stand to the right of the doorway, the far right by the picture of the woman with the baby on her back.  Yes, that’s the one!  Stand in profile and I’ll take your picture!

What a set-up!!  If I could have found an African poison dart gun, I would have shot him right there in front of the other African sculptures with the heavy eyelids!  They wouldn’t speak a word to the gendarme


Our next destination was the tall tower that we could see from our garden at the rental house.  We walked along a lane past a bed and breakfast with the cutest ideas for flowers at her window boxes.  The pansies reminded me of our lovely white-haired friend, Mable, who still has a huge garden in the country despite her age of 80+ years.

I have bought pansies for her flower garden by her front porch when I purchase mine, but she always has one request saying, “Now, I want pansies with the ‘faces’, not solid colors.”  If you look closely at the pansies, you will see the bright, cheerful faces, enough to cheer any worry-faced person, even the stone-faced, grouchy lions.

Around the corner, Jim said, “You know I don’t think you look like the saggy-chested African woman by the gallery door.  I just thought you would be extra pretty standing next to her, a contrast, like standing a peacock next to a buzzard.”  I walked on ahead of Jim up the hill toward the tower thinking that we rarely have a dull moment and feeling very thankful for it.  When Jim caught up with me I told him, “I get the picture.  I’m not a beautiful Victoria Secret lingerie model. But at least you don’t think I look like an old buzzard!” That husband of mine really has a way with words.

La Tour de la Motte Forte

La Tour de la Motte Forte:  Arnay-le-Duc became a fortified city in the Middle-Ages.  The castle was built on a natural mound of earth.  When the last capetian duke died in 1361, the lieutenant gave the castle to the residents of Arnay.  They had to maintain the castle and pay the castle tax, but they didn’t respect the pact and used the castle as a stone quarry.  The last vestige of the castle is the Tower.

Now, I only hope you don’t use a poison dart gun on me for inserting so much history.   Or, hopefully, you enjoy digging into the past as much as I do.

La Plus Ancienne Maison – The oldest house in Arnay-le-Duc

The last building for this day on the walking tour of Arnay is La Plus Ancienne Maison: This is the oldest house in Arnay, built at the end of the fifteenth century. It is a typical house from this age with visible beams, a first floor which overhangs the ground floor.  It was a shop which can be recognized by the typical shop windows for display of goods.

We walked past this old building every day on our way to the boulangerie which has a sign showing Sophie and Jeremie as the owners.  Heather and Jeremy are our good friends at home, so we laughed about whether Heather knew about Jeremy’s boulangerie.

We finished our walk and rushed to a vide-grenier (large community yard sale) after we bought our picnic lunch at a boulangerie near Gevrey-Chambertin.

With camera in hand, I wandered around and found murals, ornate gateways and a maison’s front yard filled with poppies.  Jim suggested that we could do the same at home and he wouldn’t have to mow the grass.  We located the sale in a smaller village where I found two adorable little dresses for Royce, a precious, beautiful girl at home.  Spice jars with colorful lids went into my shopping bag for my sister-in-law Virginia.

On our way home we drove through a tunnel and I snapped photos since I wanted to add tunnels to my list.  What do you think about the results? We drove along the Burgundy canal in a new area, and Jim stopped at a hamlet with lovely scenery.  A couple of older gentlemen joined us and I asked permission to snap photos of his colorful flowers.  He showed the vegetable garden to us where the tiny plants were growing in rows with promise of many good meals in the future.  I identified the vegetables, calling out the names in English.  The gardener understood and seemed impressed that I knew my veggies!  I smiled as one gardener to another, where we had soil, seeds and a love for all growing things in common.

Back at our rental house in Arnay-le-Duc, my emergency story continued.  Jim’s sister broke the news to Jim in a phone call.  She had rushed to the post office on the previous day, Saturday, but it had closed early since Monday was a holiday, Memorial Day!  The package could not even begin its journey until Tuesday!  With that situation, my medicine in the bottle was dwindling to a very narrow gap!  What could I do?  My days in France should not be filled with such distress!!Y’all come back next time to read how my emergency was solved and see our rainy Monday.  Thanks for coming around to visit.

You can read more about France, including Burgundy.  Just click over to purchase your copy of “A French Opportunity” in paperback or KindlePlease feel free to share this website with others.

All photography is the property of Debbie Ambrous.

“Rose Sale” – by Debbie Ambrous

May 26, 2018of the Burgundy, France Journal

Published normalement (normally) bi-weekly on Sunday

The morning light was streaming through our bedroom windows, enticing us to venture from our comfortable, cozy bed in our beautiful rental home in Arnay-le-Duc (click to see the gorgeous home).  Each night I would tell Jim that he adjusted the air conditioner perfectly, sharing an inside joke because there was no air conditioning, yet the temperature was always perfect inside the thick stone walls of the old maison.  I miss those blissful nights of sleep in cool comfort when I’m tossing and turning in the Alabama heat at night with air conditioning and a fan.  With a lush garden at our doorstep and creature comforts galore inside, we were totally spoiled! 

On the previous day, I saw an advertisement for a rose sale posted on a community bulletin board near our picnic area.  Jim was lingering by the stream at the table with the tasty lunch while I poked around with my camera, finding climbing roses, an abandoned gateway and a weathered door among other goodies.

I quickly took a photo of the rose sale announcement and mentally posted it on the schedule for May 26th.

Following my Google map directions I told Jim: “Turn right at Reclesne, and then right again at Tavernay and follow the D-978 to La Celle en Morvan.”  Driver Jim had a different suggestion: “Woman, you’re speaking in a foreign tongue.  Say something understandable like right at the big barn and left at the pile of manure on the road.”  He was telling the truth about the manure since there was a horse and wagon in the street at the grand rose sale.  After we turned through a narrow one-way entry and parked our car in a field, I rushed along the road dodging cow patties to the entry. 

Many more flowers and plants were on sale other than roses.  I was admiring large amaryllis bulbs, flowering in pots on shelves when a lady rushed out-of-breath and hurriedly said something in the foreign tongue of Jim’s earlier accusation.  I finally understood that we had to pay and get a ticket.  I didn’t expect to pay to see stuff for sale, but I was glad to help the garden group sponsoring the event at La Celle en Morvan.

With tickets in hand, we were chastened, but at least legitimate.  Back to the amaryllis bulbs, I couldn’t buy them or most of the other garden plants, but it was a joy to see the abundance for the French gardens.  I have enough amaryllis bulbs to have my own sale.  I thought about Beverly P., a sweet friend of mine that we tease about her slip of the tongue in another beautiful garden filled with bright, glorious amaryllis blooms.  She blurted out to the lady owner of the garden, “I adore your armadillos!”  She will never live down that wrong choice of words.  Now her story has traveled to France and on a blog for the world to see.  Sorry, Beverly!!  Blackberry plants, vegetables, succulents, irises and plants I didn’t recognize were there for sale.  I wished that I had a garden in France – not for the first time.  Charming garden ornaments were displayed, such as carved wooden piglets and bird feeders which would be beautiful whether birds flew into the garden, or not.



Around the corner, cotton candy billowed in pink for a sugar high, and rides for the children provided entertainment for the young crowd, while burgers and sausage were sizzling on the grill.  I made a mess of myself with the ketchup and mustard with a burger hot off the grill, a bit later in the day.

Inside the display building we found artwork with imaginative light fixtures by Anne-Marie Gagniere.  She showed me how they were made, but I still wouldn’t know where to start.  The colorful lights would brighten any room with a unique sense of style.A painting of two pears styled as cottages caught my eye and reminded me of cabins I saw on television recently that were styled like a top-hat and a dragon’s eye.  Some people are loaded with talent.   I’ll just hang around with my friend Beverly, accidentally saying the wrong names, often in a foreign tongue and dodging manure clods in the road. Now for the prize attraction, the roses were displayed in rows and wound through the garden and under trees like a colorful, dance troupe.  Nothing like this happens in my area with such a wealth of selections!

Enterprising young men with wheelbarrows were pushing the rose purchases to cars for the visitors, for a tip, of course.  The young fellows wore hats and rushed along with big smiles.  One of the boys had a mustache painted on his upper lip and a smiley sign on his wheelbarrow, a very enterprising entrepreneur!

Since we couldn’t load a wheelbarrow with purchases, we walked along the street to the parking lot following a grandmother with her grandchild.  Old brick at the edge of the narrow lane caught my attention, so we paused at the one-way entry for a few pictures.

A flashing light notified the drivers when they could go with cars in line on each side.  As we stood at the entry, a lady rolled down her window and asked about the parking, thinking we were staff members, someone in charge.  I answered in my foreign tongue and she laughed all the way to the other side of the field.

On our way home we saw a pasture with sheep grazing and sweet little lambs scampering around.  The mother seemed to be warning me to point my camera away from her babies.

Further along the road we saw colorful rhododendrons in bloom and USA sheets flapping on the clothesline.  I wonder what they thought about the woman who stopped to snap photos of their laundry.  I hope the tomatoes and marigolds were plentiful.Did you like the Rose and Garden Sale? Y’all come back next time to read about my emergency and see the ancient town of Arnay-le-Duc where we lived for a short time.  Thanks for coming around to visit.

You can read more about France, including more about Burgundy.  Just click over to purchase your copy of “A French Opportunity” in paperback or KindlePlease feel free to share this website with others.

All photography is the property of Debbie Ambrous

“Beyond Golden Pond” – by Debbie Ambrous

May 25, 2018of the Burgundy, France Journal

Published normalement (normally) bi-weekly on Sunday

Henry Fonda and Katharine Hepburn weren’t along for the ride when we found the Golden Pond along a narrow country road leading to the Chateau Sully in the Burgundy region of France.  Husband Jim and I had no problem mimicking the cantankerous couple, Norman and Ethel, from the movie On Golden Pond, starring Fonda and Hepburn.  Jim drove along an embankment by the pond, like a blue lagoon ringed in gold, glowing in the morning light.  My enthusiasm for the pond was equally matched with Ethel’s love for the idyllic Golden Pond in New England.  I pleaded, perfectly in character, to my husband, more handsome than Henry Fonda: “Jim, please stop so we can walk around the near the boat.”   “I can’t stop right here!  There’s no place to park the car and wide farm tractors are taking up the road, and then some!” I pointed to a parking place by an old stone farm building, so he stopped for me, especially since I added that part about him being more handsome than Henry Fonda The deep blue pond embellished in gold may be an ordinary view for farmers and other local folks, but I have never seen anything like it around our area in Alabama.  When I walked carefully to the car, trying not to sink up to my ankles in mud and muck, Jim said, “It was awfully nice of you to compliment me with a comparison to Henry Fonda, but you could’ve selected a handsome dude that isn’t dead! And, I believe your suggested parking place is next to a pig-pen.”  Don’t say we can’t do a good impression of Norman and Ethel!

Chateau de Sully was just around a few more curves and bumps in the road. Travel guide entries stated: “Chateau de Sully is the largest stately home in Burgundy.  And a home it still is, for although on a grand scale, the smell of beeswax, bowls of fresh flowers, books and family portraits bring a touch of reality to the scene.” We walked from the parking lot to the majestic gated entry.  The gates were open, so we entered along the wide pathway looking for the proper door to pay for a ticket.  A slim, pretty lady came toward us and pointed further along the road to the gift shop/entry building.  She apologized and said the gates were only open for construction equipment to enter for repair/remodeling work.  Norman and Ethel were not amused.    A busload of students and a few other tourists joined us for the tour.  Heavy construction equipment went through the bright blue gates where carved animal heads which date from 1803 protruded, quite a contrast of the new and old.  The central courtyard was a scene of construction with a John Deere tractor and dirt tracks instead of stonework and fountains.  I was a bit disappointed, but I thought the inside would compensate. An article from a 2015 edition of House and Garden (UK edition) tells a fairytale story of the Scottish-born Amelie, Duchesse de Magenta, who remains at the helm of the Chateau de Sully in Burgundy: “In 1985, 21-year-old Amelie Drummond, dressed in a crinoline gown spangled with gold, was leaning against the wall of a ballroom in a vast house in Germany when she spotted someone staring at her.”  The someone across the room staring at her was Philippe Maurice de Mac Mahon, the 4th Duc de Mangenta.  Amelie returned home to reveal to her parents that she was leaving university at once to live with him in his chateau in France.  Her parents supported her.  Norman and Ethel probably would have consented as well.

Since the 4th Duke’s sudden death in 2002, the stately home and estate have been run by his widow.  The Duchesse lives in the Chateau all year round with their two children, Pélagie and Maurice.  Maurice is the 10th Marquis of Mac Mahon and 5th Duke of Magenta.

The website for the Chateau de Sully includes a “Diary of a Scottish Country Lady” with a highlight for seasons of the year.  I particularly enjoyed the entry for summer at Sully:

Summer heat is coming!  The Chateau sits serene above the moat against a brilliant blue backdrop, and the fish in the moat are growing larger on the bread fed to them by visiting children.The kitchen garden is filled with flowers and vegetables, and there will soon be lots of blackcurrants waiting to be tasted (at their best straight off the bush).  Most of the redcurrants, green and red gooseberries will soon be eaten or made into jam – on sale in the shop.   There will again be hens resident at the bottom of the garden, sleeping in the Dovecote (doocot to the Scots), and laying well (we hope!). .. A German couple said it was the most alive Chateau they had ever been to.”

I would agree with the German couple, but I was tremendously disappointed that I could not use my camera inside!  The guide explained that we could not take photos since it was occupied by the owner. A warm description of the proprietress, the Duchess of Magenta, is included in 100 Places in France Every Woman Should Go by Marcia DeSanctis.  DeSantis says that the Duchess bellowed, “Welcome!” and the writer continued saying, “She is youngish, with a bob of honey-colored hair and appears distinctly unroyal this morning, clad in earth cords and scuffed boots, despite the fact that her home is the Chateau de Sully (whose Renaissance courtyard is considered one of the most magnificent in France), which she has inhabited since marrying Philippe, the 4th Duke of Magenta in 1990.

The Duchess sounds lovely and warm natured to me.  You will see her name once again in a future story.

We drove on to the city of Autun passing woods, streams and scattered farms.  Autun is described as the Roman heart of Burgundy.  As a window on Rome, it commanded monumental architecture and the greatest Greek scholars.  “The ruined Roman theatre once resounded to the acclaim of 15,000 spectators.  But to see Roman Autun rise from the ashes, attend Augustodunum, a summer spectacle held in the Roman theatre.  Valiant Gauls, Roman legions and chariot races are presented by 600 eager citizens.”  Unfortunately, it was a quiet day in the stadium when we stood in the shade of the tree canopy with no crowds roaring on the hillside.We found our way into the city, winding through narrow streets to a central parking area.   I had a certain shop in mind, once again looking for bargains, but we had time for window shopping.

Under the trees, shaped uniformly in rows, reminding me of push-up ice cream bars, people were relaxing in the shade at tables. 

Students from the Lycee Bonaparte were coupled intimately under the trees. (Faces are deliberately blurred.)  Norman would not approve! Then again he did ask Ethel, “You wanna dance or suck face?”   I reminded Jim that Ethel said, “You know, Norman, you are the sweetest man in the world, but I’m the only one who knows it.”   You can figure out Jim’s reply, that he thinks he is the sweetest man instead of Norman.  Edna called Norman an “old poop”.  I’ll save that quip for a very appropriate time in the future!

I found a beautiful hand embroidered cloth at the store when it opened, and much more!  The beautiful, linen, embroidered handwork is perfect in my guest bedroom now.

Y’all come back next time to see a Rose Show and more.  Thanks for coming around to visit.

You can read more about France, including more about Burgundy.  Just click over to purchase your copy of “A French Opportunity” in paperback or KindlePlease feel free to share this website with others.

All photography is the property of Debbie Ambrous.