“Madame Michelin” – by Debbie Ambrous

l3May 23, 2014–“Where should we go today? What’s the plan, Madame Michelin travel guide?
l45Yes, those were Jim’s words almost every morning while we were in France, asking me what agenda I had cooked up for the day.  Jim renamed me Madame Michelin after seeing the Michelin atlas that I kept balanced on my lap for directions when we viewed the scenery of the villages and countryside.

Near the end of our stay in the adorable cottage in Crouzilles, France, I knew that I would soon say goodbye to the flamboyantly beautiful peonies in the garden. We would kiss the faces of the cute children we had met, and bid au revoir to shopping in the markets for vegetables, fruit, sausages, cheese and antiques. It was just too sad to think about.   Note: Click on smaller gallery pictures to enlarge.

I saw a real estate listing for a rental house in Huismes on the internet. It’s a two-bedroom stone house with a big fireplace, cute kitchen and small garden. I know we probably can’t ever arrange to live here, but it would be fun to drive by and see the house. We won’t bother a realtor and take up his time since he can’t make money on my dreams. The village looked cute, but we only saw a quick glimpse when we drove to Jean’s house for a visit with his family. What do you say? Will that be o.k.?Merci again to Jean Marc and family for your hospitality and very helpful advice!

Sure, we can look at houses as long as you stay far from the ATM machine and don’t sign any paperwork!

When we were driving downhill from the center of the little hamlet of Crouzilles, I saw an elderly man moving at a fast pace off to the left with an interesting cache of gardening tools in tow behind his bicycle.  Do you have anyone like this in your neighborhood?  We saw a similar gardener on our street when we lived in Coconut Grove, Florida.  He had a small gardening business with all of his equipment stowed behind, or on his bicycle.  Just shows what you can do with a little imagination and creativity!

I couldn’t miss the photo opportunity. Madame Michelin asked for a change of direction and the driver reconfigured his route with a minimum of grumbling. When we caught up with the sprightly gent, he was very cooperative about posing for me. You would have thought that he modeled for GQ magazine on a daily basis.

Huismes, France

Huismes, France

We never found the rental house, but we found a very atmospheric village with restaurants and boulangerie. l32We were welcomed by a nice fellow who chatted with Jim while I took pictures of his fragrant, climbing red rose. l31Then, the driver of a big truck smiled and honked his horn for me after I took pictures of his menagerie of stuffed animals (including a Daffy Duck) on the truck’s dashboard. I wished after the friendly man was on his way down the road that I had asked to sit in the driver’s seat for a photo. Why didn’t I seize that opportunity earlier? I could have bragged about the photo to my Alabama truck-driver friend Teresa. l18l22Yes, it seemed to be a friendly place to live. But I had to leave it for someone else. The house isn’t listed anymore, but I found another one to dream about in a nearby gorgeous town steeped in history. This rental (CLICK for the listing) faces the Chateau Langeais. I wouldn’t mind that at all!! “Oh, Jim, come here a minute!

You will see many, many fields of grapevines everywhere around here.

You will see many, many fields of grapevines everywhere around here in the Indre-et-Loire section of France.

I suppose I have only taken you on a picture journey, not many details, history or conversation. You can read between the lines and possibly plan your own tour with or without a realtor, or Madame Michelin.

CLICK here for your copy of the book "A French Opportunity"

CLICK here for your copy of the book “A French Opportunity” Read the history of Chateau Langeais.   ENJOY!

“Worth the Ticket Price” – by Debbie Ambrous

Certainly the "A" on the cottage is meant for "Ambrous" - lovely scene from the village

Certainly, the “A” on the cottage is meant for “Ambrous” – lovely scene from the village

April 26, 2014 – On the home-stretch to our cozy French cottage rental, I saw through my jet-lagged eyes the charming village of Saché. Jim and I were only sixteen miles from food and a bed with a real pillow, not an airplane sachet-sized-substitute sans the lavender scenting. I remembered the glimpse of Chateau Saché during our six weeks of exploration through villages and towns in the area around Brehemont, France and looked for more information on the pretty town.

The chateau was originally a Renaissance lodge.

The chateau was originally a Renaissance lodge.

My interest in Saché grew when I learned that the chateau housed a museum for Honoré de Balzac, one of the great writers of the first half of the 19th century. Balzac’s writings were not required reading in any of my studies in Alabama. However, my reading does extend beyond Better Homes and Gardens magazine on occasion. Hoping to increase our curve of knowledge in an upward direction, we drove to Saché after our morning coffee and croissants on a beautiful day in April. I hope you are wide-awake since more history is coming around the corner.

“The majority of husbands remind me of an orangutan trying to play the violin.” – Honoré de Balzac    Now, wouldn’t a quotation like this make you want to see what this fellow is all about?

Balzac, born in 1799, lived mainly in Paris, where he died in 1850. His vast body of work comprises some hundred novels written in less than twenty years. “From 1825 to 1848, he paid regular visits to Jean Margonne, a friend of his parents at the Chateau Saché. There, far removed from the bustle of Parisian life and his financial worries, the writer found the silence and austerity that enabled him to work between twelve and sixteen hours a day.”

My view of buildings like this whetted my appetite to return.

A view of these buildings whetted my appetite to return.

Jim quickly paid the admission before I had second thoughts. I wasn’t sure the museum would be worth the price of the tickets, but I was wrong. It was worth visiting to see the printing room alone. Balzac managed a company with thirty-six employees from 1826 to 1828, overseeing the printing of some two hundred and fifty works on the seven Stanhope typographical presses in his workshop. By the mid-nineteenth century, it was still only possible to print a few dozen pages per hour and several months were needed to print a book.

Bright room decorated with hand-crafted wallpaper

Bright room decorated with hand-crafted wallpaper


Balzac wrote the first forty pages of Lost Illusions at Saché in 1836. The novel tells the life-story of David Sechard, a printer in the 1820’s. “At the time when the story opens, the Stanhope press was not in general use in small printing establishments. Leather ink-balls were still used in old-fashioned printing houses; the pressman dabbed the ink by hand on the characters, and the movable table on which the form of type was placed in readiness for the sheet of paper, being made of marble, literally deserved its name of impression-stone.”

We met this adorable miss in the chateau, and I promised to show her picture.

We met this adorable miss in the chateau, and I promised to show her picture.

We were fascinated by this printing history, and we could easily imagine what an idyllic life a writer could have lived in the grand chateau. Balzac affectionately dubbed Saché a “debris de chateau” in contrast with the majestic Loire chateaus nearby.

After the tour, I decided I would read one of his novels, Eugenie Grandet – purchased on Amazon. The novel is set in Saumur, France, which we visited several times. Jim enjoyed Saumur, spending the night in a castle hotel with his sister several years ago. Yes, I know, he did all kind of stuff leaving me at home, working my fingers off! I guess I’ll forgive him since he cooks a mean barbecue and carefully packs all of my breakable antiques from French markets and junk stores – unlike the orangutan husband Balzac describes.

Street scene in Saumur, France

Street scene in Saumur, France

Back to the novel, it’s all about a greedy man who makes his family live in poverty while he is counting his gold bricks. A handsome young man comes to rescue his young daughter, more or less. Young man leaves with the only gold the innocent young woman has. Greedy father refuses to forgive the sweet, generous girl for giving the money to the penniless young man. Will he return? What happens when the father dies? If you are interested in a book written in 1883, give it a whirl.

Each evening, currently on my side of the bed, I’m reading Paris My Sweet, by Amy Thomas. I may eat the pillow on our bed if I read any more of her luscious descriptions of food in France. I’m on page 156, and so far, Amy’s book is a winner. On Jim’s side of the bed is a picture of grandson Daniel with his fingers stuck into his ears. Last night, Jim said, “Did you put this picture here as a hint that I’m snoring too loudly?”

A good husband is never the first to go to sleep at night or the last to awake in the morning.” – Honoré de Balzac   Balzac apparently never had an opportunity to meet Jim!

Come around again! Get those fingers on the keyboard and send a message below. We love hearing from you!


“Backdoor Tour of Richelieu” – by Debbie Ambrous

This gentleman and his dog formed our greeting committee at Richelieu.  The gentleman smiled each time we met as he and his companion circled the town.

This gentleman and his dog formed our greeting committee at Richelieu. The man on his bicycle smiled each time we met as he and his companion circled the town.

Read pages 19 through 60.  You will be tested on this history material tomorrow.”  Groans and muttered complaints fill the classroom as the students grab backpacks and hit the door.  Remember those days in the past, or is this currently your daily grind?

One of the entrances to Richelieu with the moat now filled with gardens and only a narrow stream of water.

One of the entrances to Richelieu with the moat now filled with gardens and only a narrow stream of water.

I was taken back to those days of history-cramming when I decided to write about Richelieu, France.  My office printer labored slowly with twenty-nine pages of conquests, conspiracies and wars.   More facts funneled slowly into my brain from guide and reference books, plus more and more pages opened in the computer as I went from one history site to another.  Remembering the groans and complaints in the classroom, I couldn’t come to terms with an all-out history campaign here on the Southern lady’s weekly kisses and hugs approach to France.

Richelieu is a thriving community, not just a tourist town.

Richelieu is a thriving community, not just a tourist town.

But telling about the City of Richelieu without telling about Cardinal Richelieu, its founder, is like telling about Graceland without mentioning Elvis, or talking about Kentucky Fried Chicken and leaving out the Colonel.  So, sit up straight, no throwing of spit-balls (ask me later if you don’t understand) and pay attention since there will be a test following!

Notice the gardens behind the homes in the moat and the pleasant pathway to stroll around peacefully.

Notice the gardens in the moat and the pleasant pathway to stroll around peacefully.  I hope you like this backdoor approach to the city.

Jean de la Fontaine proclaimed the new town as: “The most beautiful village in the universe.” Fontaine could write blurbs for real estate brochures and magazine ads today!

Jim and I could live here.  He would barbecue, and I would sit on the bench in the shade.  Just planning ahead!

Jim and I could live here. He would barbecue, and I would sit on the bench in the shade. Just planning ahead!

Front doors along the main street.

Front doors along the main street.  You already know what lies at their back doors.

The city’s 17th- century urban planning was conceived by Cardinal Richelieu, who as chief minister was the most powerful man in France with the exception of the monarch.  “To ensure quick settlement, the Cardinal imposed no city taxes.  In return, buyers of plots for construction undertook to build within two years a house according to the plans and specifications filed with the court of the city, while being forced to choose as builder one of the Cardinal’s appointees.”  The architect Jacques Lemercier, who was responsible for the Sorbonne and the Palais-Royal in Paris, was engaged to create the walled town on a grid arrangement surrounded by an ornamental moat and large imposing walls. r17

I could handle a garden like this.

I could handle a garden like this.

The walls enclose a series of entrance courts, and on the opposite side there are formal gardens with gravel walks and surrounding trees.

In 1625, Cardinal Richelieu commissioned Lemercier to draw up plans for his huge palace, clearly intending for it to be incomparably luxurious.  It was filled with priceless furniture and works of art.  “Extremely fearful of competition, Richelieu ordered many of the chateaux in the area to be razed.  The town survived the French Revolution; the palace, ironically, was confiscated, damaged and then dismantled.”

That's Jim on a bridge in the beautiful Richelieu Gardens open to the public.

That’s Jim on a bridge in the beautiful Richelieu Gardens open to the public.

Shady long walkways are wonderful in hot weather.

Shady long walkways are wonderful in hot weather.

Soon she will have a backpack with history books.

Soon she will have a backpack with history books.

My homework reading assignment yielded facts that got under my skin.  I’m hoping not to offend the citizens of Richelieu, my regular readers, Elvis or the Colonel with my dislikes.

The tactic that disturbed me most was Richelieu’s plan of blockading La Rochelle to stop any land supplies of food and goods to the city in his campaign against the Huguenots.  This maneuver had a devastating impact on the Huguenots.  Before the blockade, the city’s population stood at 25,000.  After it was lifted, only 5000 remained alive in a very weak state.  “It was said that you either liked Richelieu or hated him – there was no half-way.”

Other than the beautiful village, what remains of his legacy?  His ideas of a strong nation-state and aggressive foreign policy helped create the modern system of international politics.  The International Movie Database (effective April 2013) lists ninety-four films and television programs in which Cardinal Richelieu is a character.  Richelieu is a major character and one of the main villains in Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers. A wing of the Louvre Museum in Paris is named for him.  Four warships of the French Navy bore his name.

Richelieu was famous for his patronage of the arts; most notably, he founded the Académie Française, the learned society responsible for matters related to the French language.

I found more stuff that put my nose out of joint as I read the pages, but I have to give him credit for leaving behind a lovely village that is very livable today after hundreds of years.  Don’t miss seeing a broader perspective of the town of Richelieu with an aerial, pictures of the squares and colorful scenes of a local celebration.  Just CLICK here for the website.

r3Don’t be surprised if the town of Richelieu appears again on these pages since it is a favorite of mine with its lively markets and antique stores.  I could easily write the village on my list of places to search for a two-bedroom apartment with garden in the moat and a stream flowing past, just a few steps from the market and boulangerie.

Ya’ll meet me in the garden for a picnic after I walk past Richelieu’s shadow.

Test Questions – Multiple Choice:

1: What city is the most beautiful in the universe?  Opp, Alabama or Richelieu, France

2: Who is a character in 94 films and television shows?  Cardinal Richelieu or Colonel Sanders

3: Who was the architect for Richelieu?  Rick Ruiz, John Gerald, Jean Perron, Roland Stout, Doug Walker, Dr. George Tseng or Jacques Lemercier (Like Richelieu, I promote my friends, in this case, my architect friends!)

4: Buy “A French Opportunity” and you are guaranteed an “A” on the test!

 Thank you for joining me for journeys in France and beyond.   Your kind support is greatly appreciated.  I will mark your attendance record as excellent on your report card!

I love hearing from students, teachers, mothers, fathers, grandparents, and bachelors in the comments section.

“Sleeping Beauty” – by Debbie Ambrous

s8April 24, 2014 – Château d’Ussé – The grandest approach to the castle is along the narrow lane turning from the road situated high above the Loire River, from the direction of Brehemont where we stayed in a lovely French cottage.  Farms with barns stacked full of hay, and green fields with horses and ducks are down below on one side of the road, while views of the wide river are on the opposite side.  A wise person keeps his eyes on the narrow road, watching for the many bicycles and cars.  Husband Jim was the designated wise person behind the wheel, and I was the roving photographer looking at the beauty flashing by, with no pull-over spot.  I called for a quick left when I saw a perfect combination of stone-built barns, white ducks, chestnut-colored horses and tall green trees in the background.  After Jim did a perfect 180-degree turn with only inches to spare, I clicked and recorded the pastoral beauty.  When I walked to the car, an elderly gentleman rode his bicycle quickly past in the early morning light, smiling and returning my greeting.  It happened so fast that I had no time to adjust my camera, and I didn’t want to offend him either.

I sat quietly in my seat, with no other quick-stop alerts for the designated wise person driver until we stopped at the bridge over the Indre River, which flows below the chateau.  We lingered to enjoy the view, and who should appear but the the gentleman I greeted a few minutes earlier? He wheeled alongside us on his bicycle, pedaling along on his merry way.

He was so nice!  I wished that I had a bicycle to follow him.

He was so nice! I wished that I had a bicycle to follow him.

My camera was ready, and when I raised it for his picture he beamed and waved to me broadly.  He even turned again to wave when he was near the bridge.  I still smile when I think about him.

Welcome to the Château d’Ussé!  It is currently the property of the Duke de Blacas.  The first known owner was a fierce Viking, Gelduin I, who erected a wooden fortress around 1004.  Since Jim’s ancestry is Finnish with Vikings likely in the mix, I’m intrigued by this history.  Jim’s mother Aili was the fiercest, lovable Viking I will ever meet!  I could easily imagine her in the fortified castle.  Her piercing eyes alone could have kept enemies under control and caused the staff to toe the line, not to mention any dreamy-eyed daughters-in-law.  Aili would have perfectly cooked the venison presented by the hunters, and her Finnish baking would have rivaled any French boulangerie.

Now that I’ve paid tribute to my mother-in-law Aili who passed away too many years ago, I feel safe to proceed with the description of the Chateau’s gardens.s7  Hoping not to offend her even after all these years, I tip-toe quietly away and say here on this page in a whisper: “She did not have a green thumb.”   Smiling at this thought, I remember the bright tulips, irises, calla lilies, wisteria, pansies and lilacs in the formal gardens of the chateau that were designed by Le Notre, the famous architect of the gardens of Versailles.

Legend tells that while staying at Chateau d’Ussé, the writer Charles Perrault (17th century) was inspired by the romantic feature of the chateau and wrote the tale of Sleeping Beauty.

The Guard Room:s18

The ceiling is painted in imitation marble and it dates back to the renovations done in the 17th century.  This room contains many of the souvenirs brought back from Count de Blacas’ travels.  The collection of weaponry and oriental objects were brought back in the 19th century from a trip around the world by the Count Stanislas de Blacas, an ancestor of the present owner. The Duke of Blacas (1770-1839) was a friend and adviser to King Louis XVIII and King Charles X. s19 The genealogical family tree of the Duke of Duras, owner of the chateau in 1807 is displayed on the wall.

The Central Gallery:s23

In the 15th century, this was a passageway with arches which opened onto the courtyard.  Here, one can see the Chateau’s finest collection of Flemish tapestries (Brussels), woven in the 18th century by Davis Teniers, a 17th century painter, married to Bruegel’s granddaughter.  They show typical, daily life in Flanders with some bawdy details for that time period.


Flemish tapestries - woven in the 18th century.  I was taken with the detail and bright colors depicting ordinary life.

Flemish tapestries – woven in the 18th century. I was taken with the detail and bright colors depicting ordinary life.

s27s28A bust of Louis XIV by Bernini is in the center of the gallery.  The original is in the Palace of Versailles.

The King’s Bedroom:

Under the reign of Louis XIV, some of the larger castles were obliged to prepare rooms for the King.  The original silks on the wall were woven in the 18th century in the factories of Tours, with Chinese patterns.

Some of the well-furnished rooms have wax-work figures with period costumes that bring life to the rooms. - King's Bedroom Salon

Some of the well-furnished rooms have wax-work figures with period costumes that bring life to the rooms. – King’s Bedroom Salon

Canopy bed "a la polonaise" - made fashionable by Louis XIV's wife

Canopy bed “a la polonaise” – made fashionable by Louis XIV’s wife

I have only mentioned a few of my favorite rooms, leaving much for your imagination, and even more for you to see for yourself.  Next, we will meet Sleeping Beauty in the rampart walk, high in the tower above the pretty village.







Sleeping Beauty can be viewed through large windows in each room around the rampart walk.

Sleeping Beauty can be viewed through large windows in each room around the rampart walk.

On the opposite side, one can view the village, fields and forest.

On the opposite side, one can view the village, fields, river and forest.

I took a short break from writing the blog and joined Jim in the living room where he was eating dry roasted Shur-Fine peanuts from the grocery outlet and watching CNN for his daily dose of news.  I rattled off the gist of the story of the Sleeping Beauty Castle, and he asked, “Now, you are not going to say my mother cast the spell on Sleeping Beauty, are you?”  Hmm, never thought of that!

No, I will not follow a story-line with my mother-in-law in that role.  Although, you might just be surprised at the audacious thing Jim’s brother-in-law John Alwyn did.  He presented a broom with a saddle to Aili as a gift!  He really handed over this outrageous present to her with his big-boy smile, risking life and limb and hoping she would laugh it off.  He is braver, or perhaps more foolish than I am!

At the conclusion of our tour of the chateau, I told Jim that I had just one more picture to take in the garden.  He’s heard me say that one many times!  I wanted a picture of the hard-working gardener in the front garden digging flower bulbs.  Can you imagine the hundreds of pansies and other flowers that he plants?  Think of the sweat and aching muscles after days of digging, hoeing, watering and pruning!  His work, along with the others working in the gardens, produces beautiful results through the entire year.s2

Jim leaned over to see where my Canon was aimed and said with a grin, “Seems like you have a thing for chubby guys!”  My goodness, Jim, you are certainly an observant, designated wise person.

May Aili’s firm Viking stance with generous love continue within this family and the generations to come!

                                                                                            THE END  


“Hairstyle by Fidji” – by Debbie Ambrous

Hairstyle by Fidji suitable only for Hell's Kitchen

Hairstyle by Fidji suitable only for Hell’s Kitchen

Tours, France – May 31, 2014:  A day that will go down in hairstyling infamy occurred here with no historic plaque recording the event, and thankfully no pictures!  Jim, the ever helpful husband, was in the budget hotel room watching the world news while I was addressing the more critical issue of what to do with my sopping wet hair.   I steamed and fumed while looking for the hairdryer; it is quite amazing that my hair didn’t dry d’une manière naturelle.   During a commercial, Jim appeared in the doorway to ask a ridiculous question.  “Are you ready to go yet?

Do I look like I’m ready to go?  Never mind!  Where did this hotel hide the hairdryer?”  With a smug look on his face he pointed to an apparatus on the wall.  IMG_3591Eyeing the device, I thought it seemed like something that would be attached to a hospital room wall; any patients in their right minds would hope the contraption would never be used on their personal bodies.  And, oh please, do not show a video of what would happen during the procedure!

Quickly realizing that I needed my glasses to examine the French hairdryer, I said to Jim, “Do something useful, and please find my glasses!”  I know you are smart and don’t need my help, but I will tell you anyway:  “Always have your glasses handy in the bathroom!”  For further instructions on this, I would suggest reading “Umpteenth Second Honeymoon”, if you have not previously perused this gem set once upon a time in Destin, Florida.

Peering through my tri-focals, I saw dangling, looped coils on each side, similar to the coils attached to a plastic bonnet used years ago as a hairdryer.  Pretty ladies stretched the plastic bonnet over their huge curlers and hot air dried their hair while they read fashion magazines. Do you remember the hairdryers with the bonnets and the beehive hairstyles?  You must have told me about it because surely I’m not that old!  I couldn’t have fooled anyone about my age when I stood there in a towel studying the fine print on Fidji the hairdryer via Asia.  In desperation, I yanked one of the coils from the unit.  Jim was back on the sofa watching the news.   What did he care if this thing sucked the hair off my head?  Suddenly, it came alive when the coil was outstretched like an Asian snake with a vacuum cleaner head.  If I stood in front of the commode with the long, white plastic tubing in a straight line, the dryer hummed and blew warm air, not hot!  If I loosened my grip on the loop, it stopped hissing on my helpless hair and died a natural Fidji death.

Notice hat on head, hiding Fidji hair.  Would you wear this wedding gown?

Notice hat on head, hiding Fidji hair. Would you wear this wedding gown?

No, the mirror did not extend to my hairstyling stance by the commode.  No, I do not want to remember what I looked like.  No, Jim never noticed what my hair looked like.

I put a hat on my head and tried to forget my hairstyle by Fidji.


Who styled her hair?

Who styled her hair?

These bridal shower ladies have the right idea!  Could you share some purple with me?

These bridal shower ladies have the right idea! Could you share some purple with me? – Tours, France

Jim and I spent the night in Tours before taking the train into Paris on our return home.  Tours is a good departure point for visiting the Loire Valley since there is a direct train, the TGV from the CDG airport, and the major car rental offices such as Avis are located at the St Pierre des Corps train station.  You can order your rail tickets in advance on www.Rail Europe.com, or through your favorite travel agent.  Previously, we have rented our car and driven from the CDG airport, but we don’t want to attempt the traffic around Paris, and especially the airport anymore.  Tours is a large city, but still much easier to navigate than Paris.

Ryan Air, the low-cost airline based in London, has round-trip and one-way flights from Tours to Dublin, London, Marrakesh and Marseilles.  We could have flown round-trip to Marseilles on the Mediterranean coast of France for less than $100.00.  I did a quick check today and found a fare of 47 euros round-trip on September dates.   Check the multiple cities within the Ryan Air system since you may find that you can visit many areas for less cost than you would expect after only one flight from the U.S.

The stained glass is notable for its rich, strong colors and for the amazing light filtering through. - located at Cathedral St. Gatien

The stained glass is notable for its rich, strong colors and for the amazing light filtering through.

t5t19When we stayed in Tours, we parked our car at the Best Western hotel on the outskirts of the town and took the city train to the historic center.  We chose this hotel for convenience, comfort and budget, rather than ambiance.   The front desk staff went out of their way to help us, providing information especially on the train which was super clean and modern.   A word of advice, American credit cards are not designed the same as European credit cards.  Quite often, we had problems using ours at machines.  Jim used ATM machines quite easily, so don’t fret about that, but toll booths and other such areas were difficult.  Have euros handy for this, especially coins.

Who is our mystery star?

Who is our mystery star?

In Tours, we saw the beautiful stained glass in Cathedral St. Gatien, and we meandered here and there along the ancient streets.  Then, we settled into seats at a tempting café at the place Plumereau, surrounded by medieval houses, local people and tourists.  We had at least one famous person with a huge diamond stud in his earlobe, just a few tables away from us – signing autographs.  I couldn’t approach him personally, not with my hairstyle by Fidji.

I have an extra special picture saved for last, some very good news!!!!  The sight of Dr Pepper in the window was enough to make a girl’s hair curl with desire.



Thank you always for joining us!  I am very grateful for the encouragement you have given, and for sharing the website with others.

Just leave a comment below.  It is always very nice to hear from such delightful readers.

Must rush away since it’s 10-2-4 time – Dr Pepper time!

Before I go for my Dr Pepper break, I want to remind some of my local readers about the great entertainment in Opp, Alabama, without a transatlantic flight.  Just CLICK “OPP FEST” to see the fun we got into.

“Think of the Children” – by Debbie Ambrous

d7S’il te plait … Pense à moi! The French words mean: PLEASE THINK OF ME!  This colorful sign near a school in the small village reminded drivers in their cars to be careful, watch and think of the children.  The color-crayon drawings of young ones playing, jumping rope and kicking a ball was a reminder to slow down and watch very carefully since a child could dart into the road at any minute.

BACK TO SCHOOL –  It’s that time of the year!  School is beginning again and parents everywhere will be anxiously seeing their youngsters off for the first day of school, hoping they will be safe and happy.  School supplies, backpacks, new shoes and clothes are bought and ready.  d58No more splashing in the pool all day or riding bikes with friends in the sunshine until they are hot and sweaty all over.  New teachers are ready for the first day of school, hoping all of the students will be safe and happy. S’il te plait … Pense à moi!

d37DANIEL IS BACK BY POPULAR DEMAND – Readers have asked about Daniel, wanting to know when I would show more pictures.  His mom agreed to share her photos, and naturally I am proud to show them off and brag.

Daniel with his mom, Brittany

Daniel with his mom, Brittany

Our grandson Daniel who is sixteen months old will not be ready for school for a few years, but we are reminded of him when we see other children playing and beginning a new school year.

Daniel and his proud dad, Craig

Daniel and his proud dad, Craig

Traveling in France, we remember Daniel often when we hear the laughter of little ones as they chase each other, or skate in the park.  We always think of the future when Daniel might enjoy playing with small sailboats on a pond, or climbing higher and higher on an enormous tree house at Chateau Langeais.

Daniel would have fun like this little boy!

Daniel would have fun like this little boy! – Paris, France

Will he be delighted to look through a telescope to see a wild deer with spreading antlers on a hillside, or to see birds through the lens close-up as they fly in the air?

Jim is down below planning to take Daniel to each level.

Jim is looking up and planning to take Daniel to each level.



What will he think of Sleeping Beauty in the storybook depiction at Chateau Ussé?


d25Which flavors of ice cream will he like?

Will he be excited to see the knights’ shining armor?



Riding a carriage will be almost like Disneyland.  "Keep your hands and arms inside at all times."

Riding a carriage in Tours will be almost like Disneyland. “Keep your hands and arms inside at all times.”

Which flavor will be Daniel's favorite?

Which flavor will be Daniel’s favorite?

How about a ride on a double-decker carousel?

How about a ride on a double-decker carousel? Tours, France

Riding on flashy cars is always an attraction for young and old males!

Riding on flashy cars is always an attraction for young and old males! Saumur, France

d42d18Farm animals along the narrow country roads are an immediate draw for me.  Will he be anxious to see the horses, cows, ducks and chickens like his silly GranDeb?

"Ya'll slow down now! 10-4"

“Ya’ll slow down now! 10-4″

We just hope that all young ones will be able to learn and play with no hindrance, or harm.   Keep in mind the sign in France, and please, please look out for the children.  S’il te plait … Pense à moi!

I’m off to the kitchen to bake a peach cobbler.  d46Tomorrow I will be mailing a little shirt to a VIP in our family – Daniel!  If you are new to this blog, perhaps you would like to Click and see “All About Daniel” which shows pictures of Daniel when he was only a few weeks old.

d31Thank you for allowing a proud grandmother to brag about her only grandson.   Ya’ll come back!

I imagined Daniel before he was on his way.  Read the book A French Opportunity and you will find me on the front porch of a farmhouse in France hoping for a future grandson.

Daniel gives the book a thumbs up!

Daniel gives the book a thumbs up! CLICK FOR YOUR COPY

I am always so happy to see your comments.  Just write in the reply area below and brag about your grandchildren!

“Sweet Talking in Georgia” – by Debbie Ambrous

Fruit and Vegetable Stand - Warm Springs, Georgia

Fruit and Vegetable Stand – Warm Springs, Georgia

You will not find Georgia in the Michelin Atlas of roadways in France.  Georgia is the friendly neighbor to the east of our home State of Alabama, and Jim and I took a nice, short trip across the border to Atlanta with a stop at Pine Mountain and Warm Springs on our return.  We are constantly turning around, backing up and circling in our travels anyway, so I’m doing the same on the blog and planning to jump back into the French scene after enjoying the roadways of Georgia.

Somewhere near Lagrange, Georgia, we were moving along carefully in the July 4th weekend traffic.  Jim cleared his throat and said in a serious tone, “Uh, it’s time for us to think about where we put the Marta train tickets.”  With no hesitation I said, “I never saw the tickets.”  You will notice that I politely did not say, “YOU had the tickets.  What did YOU do with them?”  I could tell that he was testing the waters, hoping I knew something of their whereabouts.  Worry spread over his face and combined with traffic irritation, yielding a scrunched, scowling face.  No words uttered, but a lot of groaning was brewing in the driver’s seat.  It was time for lunch so I suggested that he stop at the next exit at a steak house for lunch.  The restaurant was nicely decorated with western gear and had comfortable seating.  I was hoping for a nice lunch before we hit the big city of Atlanta.  You will notice that I haven’t mentioned the name of our lunch stop.  For the sake of the story, I will call it the “Wrong Steer” since the food was greasy, flavorless and only a step above roadkill.

Back in the Jeep, Jim was calling to see if he could get a refund on the train tickets.  After the call, I said, “Don’t worry, honey.  We will just buy some more tickets.  It isn’t very much expense.  Don’t feel badly, I forget things all of the time.”  Honestly, I really said all of that.  Wasn’t I the Sweetest Georgia Peach from Alabama?  I only mention this because a guy flatteringly called me by that description years ago.  Definitely not a time to mention that one to Jim during the ticket fiasco!

Once we hit the big city with more one-way streets going the wrong way and most of the street names containing the word Peach.  “Yes, that’s Peachtree Street, and you just passed Peachtree Road.  Which Peach thing do we need to turn on?”  It was sometime when we were riding up and down those roads that I suddenly remembered that I forgot my eye drops and we had to find a pharmacy.  All of my sweet talk paid off!  Jim had to stifle any groans.

Sunset viewed from our hotel room at Atlanta Mid-Town W

Sunset viewed from our hotel room at W Atlanta Mid-Town

We found our hotel, the W Atlanta Mid-Town, a tall, dark-gray building standing proudly like a Heat player visiting from Miami among the other contenders.  We like the W hotels for their good service, casual atmosphere and many amenities.  Pets are welcome.

Lobby - viewed from second floor level

Lobby – viewed from second floor level

Business hotels can be a good buy on weekends unless special events are happening, or holidays.  We have booked a good value room for our anniversary, or as we say “second honeymoon” no matter what number it truly is.  (You may enjoy reading “Umpteenth Second Honeymoon” which has received the most clicks, so far. Click and I hope you enjoy, if you have not seen it previously.)

W Atlanta Mid-Town is near the Margaret Mitchell House (Birthplace of “Gone with the Wind”), Atlanta Botanical Garden, High Museum of Art/Alliance Theater, and with those aforementioned and forgotten Marta passes you can get to almost anything else without worrying about the one-way streets.

Our comfortable room with L-shaped sofa, corner vanity area with magnifying mirror, large walk-in shower, desk workspace and rather strangely a king-size bed with lights underneath.g15  It glowed very pretty in the colorful room creating a modern, contemporary space facing a wall of glass framing a beautiful sunset, and then during the night a glittering show of city lights.  During the night when I had a headache, I got up without turning on any lights, hoping not to disturb Jim.  I looked for my black purse with the Aleve, fumbling on the dark gray carpet and black furniture. Suddenly, I slammed my foot into the desk, and sharp pain attacked my toes and surged to my eyeballs!  Fully expecting to see my white toes on the black carpet, somehow I kept quiet so I wouldn’t disturb Jim.  But Jim still jumped from the bed to my side.  I said, “Why aren’t you lying in bed asleep?  I’m OK!!”  Edging back to his side of the bed like a scolded puppy, he said, “Well, how could I sleep with you practicing a drop-kick for the World Cup on the bedroom furniture?  How did you hit your foot with all of the light shining from under the bed?”  Still holding my mortally wounded foot in my hand, I complained, “Why on earth do they have lights under the bed which we cannot turn off?”  With a lilting, silly voice Jim answered, “Because they’re ro-mannn-tic!”  Gaining strength, I said: “What romance??  Unless the designers planned a sexy mood for dust bunnies, they’re wasting electricity!”

Next day, we found the W hotel has a wonderful restaurant that serves fresh, local food.  TRACE has as its mission: “to create an updated Southern dining experience in the heart of the South by celebrating fresh, seasonal ingredients sourced and foraged from local farm to form healthy, signature dishes.” g3 With a helpful, friendly staff and delicious food, we expect TRACE to have great success.  Cem Vural, the Manager, was friendly and attentive to assure our enjoyment.g4  I especially enjoyed the Summer Pot Pie with Springer Mountain chicken, carrots, mushrooms, peas, potatoes and a flaky buttermilk biscuit crust.  Jim had rave reviews for the Seasonal Meatloaf with pork, cherries, savory herbs and whole grain slaw.  He still wants the recipe for the slaw!  Honestly, the menu is loaded with good stuff to eat at reasonable prices, especially considering this is a large city, business hotel.

We were very happy to have such a nice restaurant right there in the W hotel, and we thank the staff for a very pleasant dining experience.

Another fave: GA Shrimp & Grits

Another fave: GA Shrimp & Grits


On our way home, we spent one night near Pine Mountain, Georgia, a very pleasant town with antiques, good restaurants and a wonderful bakery.  While the pretty young lady packaged our pecan, raisin bread, Jim begged her to set up business in Opp.  I thought he would kneel at the altar of bread and ask her to knead dough in our kitchen.

g25g26Don’t miss The Bakery and Café at Rose Cottage since the atmosphere is more than you could ever hope for in a small town with food to match! g18 While you are there see the antique stores: Country Gardens, Sweet Home Antiques and Chanticleer. Visit Dog Gone Good Bargains that benefits the Humane Society of Harris County.  Many more stores line the pretty streets that had beds planted with tall stalks of corn and squash vines, mixed with flowers.

Murals are painted on many of the buildings

Murals are painted on many of the buildings

g33With a healthy amount of good food and shopping out of the way, we turned the Jeep toward Roosevelt’s Little White House.  We wanted to see the museum with its many exhibits of life during the Great Depression era and see much of the history that happened during our parents’ lifetime.  It was hard to imagine a President staying in the house which wasn’t much larger than our home and dying on a small bed in a room much smaller than ours.  FDR went in search of relief from polio to swim the springs’ naturally heated water.  I will not try to expand on all of this history, or provide an extensive review of our visit, but I would suggest that you look at the website and visit if possible.

Near the entry to the house, in a corner, is a wheelchair fashioned from a dining chair.g43  I almost cried when I saw it since it brought back memories from my childhood when my carpenter father did the same for my mother who was seriously ill for a long period of time.  Wheelchairs during that time, and earlier, had large wheels and were nothing like they are today.  My sweet dad built a small wheelchair from a dining chair, easier to move around our house.  I didn’t realize that a President did the same.

We had an enjoyable, late lunch at Mac’s Barbecue, in Warm Springs, Georgia with good prices in a laid-back atmosphere.g50

g55Our last stop was at The Crossroads Store, 6926 Whitesville Road, West Point, GA 31833 at Jones Crossroads with a historical marker.   Look it up! Don’t miss it!  It’s worth dropping by to see the antiques and the setting of the beautiful stone building, almost like a slice of France in Georgia.  I was very sorry that I had to rush.

Charming owners of Crossroads

Charming owners of Crossroads

Well, I’ve written more than usual.  Southerners tend to linger with their conversation and say good-bye at least a half-dozen times before they depart.  Departing, I must give a plug for my book.

Seriously, A French Opportunity is a concoction of Southern humor and French country life which any good person like you would enjoy.

g56CLICK THE DOGGIE to order your copy of the book in paperback or Kindle!

Thank you for visiting!

“Thanks to AARP!” – by Debbie Ambrous

a1The silver-haired lady was seated in the cool, green haven with laptop positioned ready for her thoughts to be entered on the keypad. My blue eyes changed to envious-green when I saw her cozy corner by the languid pool reflecting the tree canopy.  A red cushion in her seat showed she was prepared to stay awhile in the peaceful outdoor-office by the baroque Fontaine de Médicis with its long pond filled with goldfish.a37  (The fountain was built in 1624 for Marie de Médici, but the mythological figures were added much later.)  I did not have a cushion to claim a seat for my creative endeavors.  I did not have the euros to claim a flat in the Luxembourg Quarter as a semi-permanent Parisian either.  Wow!  Wouldn’t that be grand?

Notice that the young man to the right is being observed from above!  I think my dad had the same expression on his face when he saw Jim, but he was wearing more clothes!

Notice that the young man to the right is being observed from above. I think my dad had the same expression on his face when he saw Jim, but Dad was wearing more clothes!

The Jardin du Luxembourg covers 60 acres in the heart of the Left Bank with formal terraces, a large pool that attracts young and old, hundreds of statues, an open-air café and many other beautiful features. a42 When I planned our visit to Paris, I knew I wanted to be near the gardens. .  I tried to be a savvy traveler and book a room close to the area most important on our wish list.     Here is a suggestion to the planners in the family: get a good guidebook with pictures, such as the Eyewitness Travel Guides that show glossy photos, maps and the essential information.  Computers are great for searching prices and some of your planning, but I recommend a good book as your first resource tool.a13








I patted myself on the back and smiled a big smile of relief when our taxi driver dropped us at the door of Hotel Le Clos Medicis.  True to its advertisement, the hotel was just a few meters from the Jardin du Luxembourg and ideally located between Saint Germain des Prés and the Latin Quarter.  Of course, I did my homework, checking many websites and reading the reviews.  I found the best rates on AARP’s travel website. Off-season or shoulder season will provide the best rates.  Check carefully since a day or two in one direction, or the other, may yield lower rates.  Ask friends, but do your own comparisons for a hotel that will make you happy and create wonderful memories.  After all, most of us don’t go to Paris every weekend.

I would suggest that you never just arrive without reservations at hotels, or you will likely pay the rack rate.  Many years in the past, we ignorantly did this, but it is usually not a smart idea.  Use any discount options you have such as credit cards, loyalty membership etc.  For instance, consider this possibility when arranging your flights. If you have American Airlines frequent flyer miles, there are discounted mileage requirements for those with Citi Cards at: www.aa.com/rma

Back to the check-in at the Hotel Le Clos Medicis, we found a small hotel on a narrow street with an atmospheric lobby and friendly reception at the front desk.  Holding my breath and hoping for the best, we took the tiny elevator to the second floor (first floor in French terminology) and entered our beautiful room with two large windows that opened to view the courtyard below. a21 I thought I wanted a street view, but Adnann the nice young man at the front desk assured me of nice views and a lovely room with this selection.  He was right!  I could see the terraces of old buildings across and imagine what life was like in the apartments.  a22Ladies opened their shutters and windows in the morning and closed in the evening as I did the same.  Our room was large enough, considering the stories I heard about the tiny rooms in Paris!  As you can see from the pictures, it was decorated beautifully.  The carpet with a peacock feather design is not shown in my photos, but it was a perfect accent to the colorful room.  The bathroom was spotlessly clean with good hot water supply, fluffy white towels and very modern.  With this comfort, we could explore the city and come back to the room to cocoon when we were ready, or when we were exhausted to the point of dropping on the street.  More likely the latter!

We went to the boulangerie on our street each morning, and then we walked in the gardens, watching folks rushing to work or jogging. a3 The gardens were a peaceful retreat in the evening to watch the sun go down along with many other people, both old and young.  a10Romance taps on the shoulder whether you have such a notion on the brain, or not.

With rosy skies casting beautiful light on the pond and on the faces of people sitting on benches or chairs, who could resist a few hugs and kisses?


a9 Thanks to AARP for discounting a room for two young oldsters!

Click here for the French Market with books to plan your trip.

For armchair traveling and travel planning click here.  Thank you for joining us!

I just finished reading “From Here to Paris” by Cris Hammond.  He says, “I was in my mid-fifties. My hair was graying.  My belly was softening and my feet hurt.  And now I was unemployed.”  Can any of you identify with that crisis?  Check the French Market for this book.  I loved it!  Share the link to A French Opportunity with romantic dreamers, or anyone who loves travel.


“Feeding Jim and the Birds” – by Debbie Ambrous

n6The Notre Dame de Paris is recognized around the world as a masterpiece of architecture.  Thanks to Disney’s movie “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” even young children will recognize the famous cathedral.

Of course, we see the architectural beauty of the façade, but what about the framework? See the following excerpt from the Notre Dame de Paris website:

This building has been given the romantic name of “the forest” for many of the beams used to build it, each beam came from a different tree. The structure is made from oak.

The gothic arches required sharply-sloped roofs. Notre-Dame de Paris’s roofs are at a 55° incline. In addition, as framing timber became less common due to deforestation and urban development at the time, it was necessary to use weaker and lighter cutting wood, which made it possible to erect the structure and increase its incline.

The first choir structure was built using wood cut around 1160-1170 (some of these trees could have been 300 to 400 years old, coming from trees planted in the 8th or 9th centuries!!!). This first structure did not last, but the wood was reused in the second structure built in 1220The wood is still there today.

The nave structure was built between 1220 and 1240.  This structure supports a lead roof composed of 1326 tiles, each measuring 5 mm thick, for a total weight of 210,000 kg.”  See the Notre Dame de Paris website for more.

n1A long line of tourists wound its way around the cathedral on this beautiful day at the first of June when Jim and I were among the colorful crowd.  Did we join the tired, waiting, sweating folks with faces of pain resembling the scowling faces sculpted on the nearby bridge?  No, we didn’t trudge along with them since we have previously opted for out-of-season visits with fewer tourists knocking on the massive front doors of Notre Dame.

We mingled with the happy crowd, not in the long line, capturing photos to show folks at home in a Facebook or Twitter message: “Look where I am today!”  Just married, or soon to be married couples, posed in radiant happiness for photographers.  Exuberant, playful, young members of the American Boychoir School were there wearing their bright red sweaters. n7 Sitting on a bench in front of a rose garden, they behaved like typical boys on the loose.  Just as I readied my camera for a photo, two boys stuck fingers into their ears (at least, it wasn’t up their noses) and one of the larger boys tried to push a small one off the bench.  They never even looked my way.  I could report to their mothers that the youngsters were nicely mannered, and they could be proud of the budding young men.

We joined a group of lovely young ladies who had discovered tiny birds in the shrubbery in front of Notre Dame.  A gentleman with bread crumbs showed them how to attract the little birds for a landing and a photo.n15  Jim was once again mingling with the pretty ladies, and I was busy with my camera.  I asked Jim, “Are the odds for a bird in the hand higher at the Notre Dame?”  Jim edged away from the group and replied, “Could be.  You might just find a bird poo decoration on your pretty hat if you don’t get a move-on outta here! Enough of feeding these birds!  I’m hungry. If you aren’t planning on barbecued bird wings by the river, we need to be on a search for a restaurant.”  Watching out for poop on my hat and hoping to satisfy Jim’s growling stomach, we crossed the bridge to check the possibilities.

Atmosphere and ambiance head the list when I’m looking for a place to eat.  Jim’s focus is all about the food and the price.

Take a look at this Lapeyrouse!  Ambiance inside and out, but Jim didn't like the price.

Take a look at Laperouse! Ambiance inside and out, but Jim didn’t like the euros posted on the menu.


n28n18Which one would you chose? A small café near our hotel was our final choice.  We were seated facing a large fountain near the Luxembourg Gardens with my camera finally switched in the off position.  The waiter brought my favorite, a jasmine tea from Mariage Frères, Maison de Thé à Paris depuis 1854 – the perfect way to end the day.


CLICK to Shop at the FRENCH MARKET for books, the movie Hunchback at Notre Dame and more!



“The Beauties from Marseilles” – by Debbie Ambrous

You can stop rubbin' your eyes.  That's Jim alright!  Don't that just beat all!

You can stop rubbin’ your eyes. That’s Jim alright! Well, don’t that just beat all!

It seemed like a harmless plan with a low risk factor.  I had only left husband Jim alone in the crowd of tourists near the entrance to the Louvre for a few minutes.  What could possibly happen?  After a brief time alone with the other love of my life, my Canon camera, I turned and found the most unlikely scene.  I felt like Alice in Wonderland, except I had dropped through a hole into Jim’s dreams.  There he was surrounded by gorgeous ladies from Marseilles, who doted on his every slow-spoken, outrageously corny word!  Wake me up, please!!

Read the rest of the story by CLICKING HERE to WWW.ILOVEPARISLIFE.COM 

Message to the lovely ladies from Marseille:  I hope you are still circling around to visit the website A French Opportunity for the story since I promised to include the photos you graciously allowed me to take.  My business cards were gone when I jumped into Jim’s dreams without a proper introduction to his beautiful visitors.  But Mr. P.R. man was ready with hand-written business cards, so we would look like professional idiots, not the ordinary garden-jardin variety.  Thanks for posing with my guy and making his day!  He won’t forget it!

Bicycle for Sale

FOR SALE - A little old man rode it around the circle only once!

FOR SALE – A little old man rode it around the block only once!

Just so you know I’m selling his bicycle.  Then, he won’t up and get it into his head to recreate this scene in the Jardin des Tuileries of Opp, Alabama.

Thanks to Porter, Louise, Bob and the entire group at I Love Paris Life for making me look extra pretty on your website.  I enjoyed every minute of being your guest writer!

If you’re aching for more, just CLICK here for the book – A French Opportunity.