“Almost Forgotten” – by Debbie Ambrous

IMG_8401I can see the days on the calendar marked for our departure just a few weeks away. I feel a shiver of excitement with the prospect of seeing France again in a new area for us to explore, since during other visits we never stepped foot in the idyllic Provence. I’ve read the guidebooks, and the words have built expectations as high as the hilltop villages in the Vaucluse, edged in vineyards reaching far into the distance. The lavender will be gone from the fields with the summer harvest to scent soaps, lotions and perfumes, but other fragrances will beckon to tantalize and linger as memories of a special time for Jim and me in our version of Provence. I hope for a safe experience, meeting new people, savoring new flavors, seeing colorful towns and feeling France in my bones again.  (The books shown in the first picture can be purchased on the French Market page – just CLICK on over and explore.)

But while all of this is brewing I realize that I have never shared many of the stories, pictures and places from my last trip to France! I skipped and bypassed endearing and beautiful times. These forgotten moments in France are like the times I spend chatting with my girlfriends when we enthusiastically catch up on our news, often talking over each other at the same time. Yet, when I am home I remember that I didn’t tell my friends how cute grandson Daniel plays with his new white dog named London, or mention a new scrumptious recipe. With that type of venue in mind, I thought I would show a few of these lost and suddenly remembered souvenirs of last year’s spring in France.IMG_1287Azay-le-Rideau was described by the novelist Balzac as “a many-faceted diamond, set in the Indre.” The chateau is hidden away in the trees, not towering over the village. One of the special features of the chateau is the great staircase crowned with large sculptures. Inside, two pretty young girls danced on the wooden floors of the massive rooms, and we applauded their impromptu performance.  CLICK any of the photos below for larger image.

I hope you visit and see for yourself, fill your eyes and heart with the beauty.  Read the fascinating history.  The chateau is undergoing renovation presently, so check before you go.

Then, a postman making his rounds in a small village noticed that I had snapped his photo. Instead of being upset, he turned around and returned as a good-will-ambassador of tourism.

He posed proud as the Mayor of the village and then went on his way to deliver bills, postcards and packages like it was his pleasure to entertain a couple from Alabama.  Are you willing to stop what you are doing and be patient to help a tourist?  Remember what it is like to be in a strange place and extend a helping hand.

In the small village of Villaines-les-Rochers that features woven baskets as their main item of trade, an unfriendly dog made it clear to the whole neighborhood that I was not welcome.

He barked in his canine language, marking his territory and daring me to cross the line.  I only wanted to see the pretty tree with the unusual trim-job and take a look at the bright blue accessorized yard and house.  I am not that bold with color splashes in my yard unless you count the lavender door, but the cottage with the rock backdrop was beautiful.  Apparently, barks-a-lot the dog had sniffed me out and alarmed the vicinity that a basket-case was loose in the neighborhood.  Durable, finely crafted baskets are for sale in the village. I purchased a pretty bracelet there more than ten years ago which I still wear despite the dog’s “get out of town” attitude.

I filled my camera with pictures of old signs painted on buildings and weather vanes.

At a rather busy intersection, Jim had parked by the road while I ran to the other side to snap a few pictures of an old “Dubonnet” sign when an antique car rolled to a stop just in time. The gentleman smiled and waved at me, another friendly welcome! We followed in his dust for awhile by fields and through tiny villages until he turned on a side road, tooting his horn and waving Au Revoir!

A few miles from the village with woven baskets and the feisty dog, we found an old mill, a perfect place for a picnic at Pont de Ruan.IMG_3401 After a peaceful, lazy mid-day break by the flowing waters, we drove along the narrow road lined with tall trees to another village where an elderly gentleman welcomed me through the white picket garden gate into his beautiful jardin.  Everything was perfectly cultivated, not a weed in sight.  I identified the plants and remembered some of the French names of vegetables.  Pointing to rows of tiny seedlings, he told me what would soon grow and produce delicious vegetables for his kitchen.  I hope he had abundant crops this year and even more, I hope he has many years of happy gardening.  I’m sure he will never know what a precious memory he made for me.

Oh, yes, I just remembered.  I forgot to tell you about the village we found when Jim  wanted to wander around without the map.  It was raining, and he thought I would fall off a cliff.  Oh, and I remember another town with a school situated high on a hill where the children were playing with replicas of ancient toys.  There was lavender in the school yard … I almost forgot!

I’m reading a wonderful book titled 100 Places in France Every Woman Should Go” by Marcia DeSanctis.  It’s filled with delicious descriptions of places to go with insider info on everything from French lingerie to perfume.  You will feel like you’ve been there with the author without the bill on your credit card, or the extra pounds from the chocolate croissants.

Come back to see us.  Next landing could be Provence!  I love to hear from you.  Leave a message below and tell us what you almost forgot.  Thank you kindly!



“Chinaberry Tree” – by Debbie Ambrous

"Honey, I couldn't find a flowerpot.  Will this work?"

“Honey, I couldn’t find a flowerpot. Will this work?”

Do you want me to plant a tree in my old Acura since it’s all banged up from the hurricane when that huge tropical tree fell on it in Coconut Grove? I could drive the car around the yard and instantly have a shady spot for my barbecue parties!

I replied to Jim’s brilliant idea: “No, I don’t want any mobile landscaping. Thank you very much, indeed!

IMG_8222Why weren’t you laughing at this crazy picture that you took of the old, blue pickup with the popup forest instead of a hood? I think it’s hilarious. You were eyeing the picture on the computer with the same faraway look you have when you gaze at that old picture of me on the wall above your desk.”

I agreed to tell Jim my thoughts if he promised not to laugh, knowing that he wasn’t likely to keep his promise.

It all started like this in the hot afternoon sun in the center of the large yard by a double-wide mobile home outside of town. An old, blue pickup which will never haul any bird dogs off to hunt, or carry a load of groceries home from Publix again was going nowhere. IMG_8109 No, the days of glory on the country roads ended right there in plain daylight for everyone to see its ignominious ending. Now with the final days of rust and rot upon the declining blue pickup, it sadly slept in the sun a short distance from the highway of shiny pickups and flashy cars. That is, until I called our red Jeep to a halt and slung my camera bag over my shoulder, the old blue pickup rusted and rested in peace.

The tree growing from the engine area of the old pickup wasn’t just any old tree. I recognized the feathery green branches immediately and knew it was a chinaberry tree. IMG_8193These fast-growing trees are found at old home places and in fence rows, but they are not planted as landscaping at newer homes. Something about the new tree growing in that old engine spoke to me

Jim couldn’t keep his silence at that last statement. He blurted out, “And, what did the tree tell you? Take my picture from this angle. My left side is best! Ha.. ha … ha!!

I reminded him: “You promised not to laugh. Tell me. What do you know about chinaberry trees?

Jim shared his knowledge: “Those hard, green berries were good to use in home-made popguns when I was little.

I asked the popgun expert: “What did you shoot at?”

Offering info before I read his Miranda rights, Jim bragged: “Trees, bottles, tin cans and my sister!

Not impressed, I replied: “Glad I didn’t know you then. You probably would have shot at me, also.”

Quick to get out of a spot like usual, he gave me a sidewise grin and said: “Nah, you would have been too cute.”IMG_8221

Going on from the interruption, I told Jim that around the same time that he was trying to shoot his sister with a popgun I was climbing a chinaberry tree to escape my brother Tim, his annoying friends and dish washing chores. The chinaberry tree grew in my backyard near the kitchen window where Mama kept an eye on me. A few short planks were nailed to the tree so I could climb quickly to my leafy hideaway, not very high from the ground, but far enough for an escape. Like an up-stretched hand, the tree limbs grew to each side with an open center where I would play and dream by myself.

I could see a chicken pen far to the edge of the yard where white chickens were pecking around for worms and the scraps that I threw on them. Yes, you read that right. I think I threw more food scraps on the hens than on the ground. I’ve admitted to a mean streak now, or at least mischievous. Why didn’t those fussy hens line up along the fence and wait for their lunch instead of rushing like a line-backer to the exact spot where I tossed their lunch? Then, they wouldn’t have worn shriveled English peas and dried-out biscuits to strut around in the afternoon sun. Oh, maybe Jim should have shot me with his popgun!



My sweet, young sister Rachel had a pet chicken among the brood. Only one of the chickens would allow her to pet and cuddle which caused her to meet some angry hens with flying feathers when she chose the wrong white chicken.

I wonder what these French chickens would have socialized in our Alabama chicken pen.

I wonder if these French chickens would have socialized in our Alabama chicken pen.

French hens and a rooster leading them on ..

French hens and a rooster leading the way

Rachel solved that problem by opening a can of black paint in Daddy’s shop and painting one of her pet chicken’s wings! Blackie stood out in the pen, a newly-detailed chicken for my cute little sister who outsmarted the bird-brained critters.

A larger and taller tree was in my future, the sweet gum tree which was growing and stretching its limbs into the sky waiting for me to do the same. I still cannot smell sweet gum leaves without memories of climbing so high I could almost see downtown. Next to the sweet gum tree we had a giraffe slide. I saw Jim’s eyes widen, and I assured him that I did have a giraffe slide, not imaginary at all. Daddy could make almost anything in his shop. The kindergarten teacher, Mrs. McGill, brought some plans to him and asked him to build a giraffe slide for her class. (CLICK here if you would like to see giraffe slide pictures.) Daddy did better than that. He built two! The kindergarteners had their slide, and we had our own slide with fewer kids to share the fun.

Mama planted pretty purple coleus under the shady branches of the tree on one side. I liked the bed of bright purple leaves. Somewhere deep inside the little tree climber’s mind, the colorful mix of coleus and the lavender blooms on the chinaberry tree planted a first love of flowers.IMG_8140The comforting center of my chinaberry tree was a good place to hide when I felt sad. I remember rushing there after school to forget the paint box incident. My elementary school  teacher kept all of the bottles of paint for artwork in a wooden box. One day she had the box on the floor near the sink at the back of the classroom, and I accidentally stepped into it. I was so embarrassed, absolutely horrified! I stood there in class with paint splashed on my legs and the skirt of my pretty dress, hoping no one would notice my tears. It never crossed my mind, not even until now, that the box was an accident just waiting to happen and not my fault at all. Sitting in my tree with the breezes blowing through and the chickens clucking below, I felt secure.

I told Jim that I remembered all of this when I discovered the chinaberry tree growing in the old, blue pickup. I learned something new about the old tree. The chinaberry was introduced to the United States by a French botanist! Yes, that’s right. There I was in my childhood playing away in a tree brought to America by a French botanist.

Jim had held his tongue as long as he could. Then he said, “When that chinaberry tree spoke to you, did it speak in French?

IMG_8196Information on the tree from University of Florida: “A native of Asia, chinaberry and was brought to the U.S. in the late 1700’s by a French botanist. chinaberry has been used over the years as an ornamental plant, shade tree, and fuel wood. There are also some medicinal applications for chinaberry including a peptide isolated from leaf tissue that is effective against the herpes simplex virus. Unfortunately, chinaberry has all the qualities of a successful weed. This plant is adaptable to many environmental conditions, is virtually disease and insect free, and thrives in disturbed or open areas.”

July 18th was an anniversary for my blog which began on that date in 2012. July 22nd was the 48th anniversary for Jim and me. We posted this cow and the silly quote on Facebook and I couldn’t resist doing it again.

"Something in the way she MOOS attracts me like no UDDER lover!

“Something in the way she MOOS attracts me like no UDDER lover!

No animals, or husbands, were harmed in this episode.

Thank you for joining us again! Take care and ya’ll come back!

CLICK HERE for your copy of "A French Opportunity" Thank you!

CLICK HERE for your copy of “A French Opportunity” Thank you!

“Micanopy” – by Debbie Ambrous

IMG_7651Jim and I were traveling an endless, boring highway for hours with the hot sun chasing us out of Florida. Disney World with the children and grandchildren had been fun, especially with the lunch in France at Epcot. The sadness of leaving the sweet faces of our family kept us in a quiet mood while the billboards of houses for sale flew past our Jeep like commercials during a mediocre television series. Lunchtime rolled around, and exits for McDonalds, Subway and Arby’s were there for the taking of calories and a quick fill-up. Bags of Nutter Butter cookies and Lays wide-ridge potato chips were within easy-reaching distance on the back seat, I’m ashamed to say.

I had a different option in mind with perfect timing for a quick escape to Micanopy, just two or three miles off the endless highway to a small community with quiet, narrow lanes. Jim agreed to my idea, although he would have preferred to keep his foot firmly applied to the accelerator with the Jeep headed to Alabama while wolfing down a burger and fries.IMG_7635

Gradually, he accepted the idea when the calm, serene and shady lanes worked the kinks out of his tired shoulder muscles. A restaurant under the ancient oaks, draped with Spanish moss had a menu of good food with ambiance worth the stop. I had my eye on an after-lunch foray into the old buildings along the main street for antiques and “just looking” for fun. Jim kept reminding me that we couldn’t linger around too long.

Maybe next time we could stay in the Herlong Mansion Historic Inn (1845) for our wedding anniversary or a short trip in the fall, or spring. IMG_7637IMG_7643Micanopy is between Gainesville, Florida, home of the University of Florida and Ocala, Florida with its world-class horses and Silver Springs State Park. Micanopy (Pronounced as Mick-ah-No-pee) was named for the Seminole Chief Micanopy (ca. 1780-1849), and it was founded after Spain relinquished Florida to the United States in 1821. CLICK here for the amazing history of the old town that was originally an Indian trading post and a community that has kept historic homes and old cracker houses in a romantic setting. IMG_7622

Our short visit to Micanopy to slowly wander the streets in a dreamy state of mind refreshed our spirits so we could face the road home again with plans for the future. Perhaps the photos and this short hint of a special place off the main road will inspire you to take an exit to explore a special place of interest.IMG_7632



I have left the history for you to explore by clicking the links. I’m not doing all of the work for you. After all, summer is here! Juicy ripe watermelons must be eaten and lounging by the pool with a tall cool drink is necessary. Typing at the keyboard is allowed for only so long, and then shut-down happens before you can say: “That hammock has my name on it!” Stay cool. Enjoy your summer. See you next time.

I love hearing from you. Have you been to Micanopy, or another memorable place just off the beaten path?


Thanks for your kindness and support!

Just a hint of what you could be reading this summer …






As a final note I would like to say thank you from the bottom of my heart to all of those who sent messages of kindness after my brother’s tragic loss of his business in a destructive fire. It is reassuring to know that we have family and friends who genuinely care.

“A Fire in our Family” – by Debbie Ambrous

IMG_7812-1Our neighbor rushed to our front door. I could see the expression on Jim’s face and knew it was not good news, or another sack of squash from our friend’s garden. My brother’s business was on fire! Jim and I rushed to our Jeep, leaving on the dinner table: baked potatoes, fresh green beans, tomatoes, squash and baked chicken. A hot blackberry cobbler was waiting on the range to be served with vanilla ice cream. Why do we always remember where we were and what we were doing when tragedy strikes? From Elvis’ death to our own personal blows in life, we remember and relate the events to anyone who will listen. It’s true.

Why am I writing this story on A French Opportunity, basically a travel site? If you can bear with me just a little while, I will try to explain.

When Jim turned on to the highway still several blocks from the fire, I saw smoke pouring into the sky. The fire wasn’t real until then. All of my emotions that were held in check surfaced without control. Jim tried to comfort me and still drive carefully since the road was blocked by emergency vehicles. He went on through explaining that the red-faced, crumpled person in the front by him was the sister of the business owner. Sisters have rights!IMG_7769IMG_7779We walked downhill through the neighbors, friends and relatives who had gathered at the property. My eyes took all of this in, but I was searching for my brother Tim. I knew he was not harmed because he was not there when the fire started, but I wanted to see for myself and tell him how much it hurt with my eyes, my heart and a hug.  I found Tim in the front yard of his house, our family home where I grew up with him and our sister Rachel. Tim was facing the burning wood works building just a short distance away, with the structure near complete collapse as numerous firemen on the ground, and in buckets in the sky, wielded powerful water hoses.IMG_7805 My brother’s green shirt was soaked through from the heat and exertion. I hugged him with a lifetime of memories in our embrace. He was holding up fine, all things considered. I should have been the one to comfort him, but he is my tall brother, so he had the soothing words and sounds as I cried on my big, baby brother’s shoulder.

My daughter Jessica said it best: “This business is part of my family’s legacy. It’s not just a building, but many generations of memories and hard work.” If you are part of a family business, you will understand those feelings. I spent my childhood playing in and around the wood works shop. Daddy had lumber stacked in compartments in two or three levels to the rear of the shop. I would sneak back there and build playhouses on the clean lumber, pretending I lived there with my dolls in my own little frame house. It was great fun until he caught me and shooed me to the real house next door. I ran around barefoot anywhere in the shop, but when friends came to visit the mothers drilled it into their heads that they could not step one foot into the shop. I thought they were too picky. What did they expect us to do, send them home without legs and arms hacked off by the big band-saw? I thought this with a chuckle while I innocently played paper dolls with the less-brave friends.

Then, there was the time that I played Indian behind the shop in the big, open field covered in dry broom sage. I built my teepee with branches and Mama’s tablecloth. Then, I built my campfire! It got out of control, very fast. Thankfully, Royce Spivey, a carpenter in the shop, hurriedly put out the fire while I stood crying and scared of what would happen next. He must not have told Daddy because I went without punishment, or maybe they thought I had my punishment already from the fright of it.IMG_7792

IMG_7803IMG_7800Through the years, we have always been very conscious of the danger of fire. My brother does not smoke, and he stresses this danger along with many other measures for safety. We have always known that if a fire happened, the shop would likely be destroyed.IMG_7772

When we rushed over to the shop after hearing the news, I didn’t take anything with me, not a purse or phone, and certainly not my camera. I noticed many others were snapping pictures around me and decided I wanted my own photos to record the sad moment. Jim went to our house to retrieve my camera. With camera in hand, I was re-energized. However, the smoke and burning chemicals were hurting my eyes. I found my brother sitting on the front porch, the same porch where Jim and I spent many hours before we were married holding hands, and kissing – when Daddy wasn’t looking.

Tim was reliving the days he spent enlarging the shop (7200 sq.ft.), since he doubled or tripled the size from the original, adding many pieces of expensive equipment. Yet, he said some of the equipment that was created by Daddy was better than the new stuff. Tim was telling the group about a day when he had worked on the addition to the shop until he felt he would fall on his face from tiredness. Daddy’s failing health and years left him on the sideline, but he was watching from his favorite chair. Daddy saw Tim’s condition and called a friend to come and help, offering to pay him for his work. Suddenly, Tim was puzzled when he had a worker at his side to help with the addition to his building.  I’m thankful that my brother and my daddy have the reputation of producing fine quality work and being honest businessmen.  Tim has two lovely daughters, Berkley and Shannon, who are a great support to him.

I said my good-byes, telling Tim to call me for anything, anything at all. Then, I was home and looking at the picture of Daddy and Mama on the shelf with the bouquet of daisies. Oh, my, I am so glad that they never saw this tragedy. IMG_7825-1The dinner we left behind was waiting, but my appetite was gone. A slice of blackberry cobbler seemed just right, though. I had cooked it earlier in the afternoon, like Mama did when I was little. I put the blackberries and a cup of sugar in a pan and slowly brought them to a boil. I had gradually added strips of pastry, cooking on low heat. Then I put the mixture in a deep dish pan, layered pastry on top and popped it into the oven for about 20 or 25 minutes.

The blackberry cobbler was comfort food, remembering that I always picked the blackberries for Mama’s pies behind the shop. I wonder if the blackberry vines survived the fire. Large fig trees loaded with figs were singed from the heat, but the honeysuckle was blooming like nothing had happened at all. Take a lesson from the honeysuckle and ramble on.

Why did I write this type of story on a page devoted to France and travel? This sad event in my life, here in Opp, Alabama will affect me in my outlook on others as I travel. In France, and all other places Jim and I have been, we have shared Opp and our background with new friends. Telling the story has been a release of my feelings and I hope an insight to the person who loves France and Opp, and sees both as opportunities.

Special thanks to Opp Fire Department, Opp Police Department, Opp Emergency Teams, Onycha Fire Dept., Babbie Fire Dept., Rose Hill Fire Dept., Union Hill Fire Dept. and the many friends, neighbors and family.  A double-thanks to Skip, neighbor and friend, who kept a water hose on the house preventing a fire until the fire department had it under control!  A news article about the fire is shown if you CLICK here.

“France for a Day” – by Debbie Ambrous

IMG_7509Jim and I went to France for one day and returned last weekend. Does that sound extravagant, like we are jet-setters, living the life of the rich and famous? Hold the la-te-da comments while I burst the pink champagne bubbles. Our day in France was the Disney version in Epcot. No jet lag was involved. Instead, we had sore backsides and aching joints from the long drive in the Jeep. No custom inspections, or homeland security checkpoints, held us up requiring removal of our shoes and belts.IMG_7512No, nothing of the kind happened. But we had a new experience at the front desk reception at Coronado Springs Hotel where a pretty dark-haired lady from Colombia clamped wrist bands on Jim and me. With a flick of the wrist, and a click of the Mickey Mouse on our bands at the park entry, the happiest place on earth was ours for the day. Click Mickey to Mickey anywhere to buy fun stuff and eat in France. Soar with the best of them until the bill hits the front door. Then, the wrist band could be the ID band for the hospital after a fainting spell from the soaring bill. Aww, it was worth it! We would do it all over again because children and grandchildren met us there! Grandparents all over the world are the same. We will do almost anything for the grandchildren.

My camera was aimed at grandchildren and children almost every minute of the day. They may remember me as the lady with the Canon lens just above her mouth that repeated, “Smile. Big smile!” Oh, but I’m so thankful for the pictures of my beautiful Hanna and adorable Daniel! I’m allowed to brag. I’m a grandmother.IMG_7577IMG_7169-1

First of all, we went for the family and walked until we thought our feet would leave trails of blood, and our knee joints would disintegrate.



It was so hot that the young crowd in our group left the park and returned to the room to splash in the pool. We considered following their steps, but it wasn’t a good plan for us. We would have relaxed, fell asleep and never had the energy to return for the fireworks display. We stayed to get our money’s worth. I would add a silly LOL to that, but at the moment it was no laughing matter when we sat on an iron bench in the shade listening to Herman and the Hermits. Do you remember this musical group from the sixties? If so, you are admitting to a few years under your belt, and you could join Jim and me on the bench to sing along. Do you remember: I’m Henry the VIII, I Am and Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter? 

Enough of the pain! We had a taste of France. Indeed, France is easily my favorite place on the planet, and it is presented in miniature version in Epcot. We had lunch including escargot and wine in a restaurant that could easily be set in Paris. Cedric was our handsome waiter from France. I was lost in my French dream there in Florida, yet miles away from the real deal. IMG_7517IMG_7232-1Outside, fountains spouted water, flowers bloomed in profusion and a French garden with manicured evergreen shrubs led to the Prince and Cinderella with the clock striking midnight. An Eiffel Tower stands in the distance, lending ambiance to the scene. Shops with perfume, silks, cosmetics and gourmet essentials add to the ambiance and the possibility of clicking the wristband.IMG_7514The movie of France is shown on the 270-degree movie screen in the building which is lavish as any elegant theater. Seated in comfort, the tourist can enjoy without so much as a step: a romantic, intimate wedding in a tiny chapel in Normandy; the majestic snow-capped peaks of the French Alps; candy-colored, hot air balloons drifting above chateaus and winding rivers; bicyclists racing past farmers and startled livestock and so much more. Most tourists break into applause at the conclusion, unlike any other attraction in the park. I wish I had a copy of the film with the musical accompaniment. The exit from the movie steers the tourists directly into shopping and eating. Pastries, coffee and ice cream are served in typical Parisian bistro fashion.IMG_7523 I bought a tee shirt with the Eiffel Tower for my pretty granddaughter. Of course, what else did you expect?

Two comical entertainers dressed as waiters put on a show in the street, and the crowds circled around. One of the men stacked chairs and chatted up the audience while the other climbed to the top of the chairs and incredibly did a hand-stand. I was in the shade behind the performing duo where I could see the audience from the performer’s viewpoint. It was fun to see their amazement when the chairs were stacked higher and higher, and the slender man continued to balance with no net to protect him from crashing to the concrete below. CLICK photos below for larger images:

Children were captivated. Now, this is Disney at its best.

We didn’t spend the day only in France, no matter how much I love it. We added more countries to our weekend passport, touring Canada, England, Morocco, Germany, Japan, China, Italy, Norway, Mexico and the good old U.S.A. Each place has its own special attractions with shops, entertainment, food and drink. Street entertainment is worth stopping to enjoy and possibly become one of the actors selected from the audience. Sampling food and drink in each area is part of the world trekking experience with giant pretzels in Germany, sake in Japan, margaritas in Mexico, fish and chips in England and hamburgers in the U.S.A.IMG_7382-1IMG_7440-1




Everything was going along just fine until Daniel decided to pour his drink on the floor in Mexico.



The Mexican pavilion has the appearance of a pyramid from the outside, but inside it is dark with cultural displays behind glass at the entry. This was the area Daniel selected to dump his own cultural display. We didn’t want to move from the wet floor because someone could be injured by slipping in the dark. I alerted one of the cast members, but no one appeared to clean the area. We stayed there talking and laughing, welcoming the cool air conditioning, until the spot was almost dry. Daniel was restless, so my daughter walked further inside with him to the shopping area. A complete Mexican village is presented in a darkened night setting with lights strung above. Mariachi music plays, and in the distance a volcano rumbles, spewing lava and flames.IMG_7358My daughter was on the phone trying to change a dinner reservation when Daniel took the opportunity to race ahead to a tiered table of colorfully painted wooden figurines. I noticed one of the hand-painted items earlier and discovered a $125.00 price sticker.IMG_7350 I could imagine Daniel swishing both arms through the merchandise display and flipping the colorful toucans, iguanas and jaguars to the floor for an automatic charge on my daughter’s credit card. My maternal and grandmotherly instincts voiced a loud: “NO! Nooooo!” I knew I couldn’t run fast enough to stop him, so I sounded the alarm. I broke his heart! He cried and cried. His mother took him away from the crowd quickly. Daniel buried his little face in his mother’s arms and glanced at me with a hurt look on his face. It seemed that he couldn’t believe his adoring grandmother raised her voice in the middle of the Mexican village above the vibrations of the volcano.

I think he forgave his GranDeb, at least by breakfast the next morning. He played with me and his adoring aunt, my other daughter, in the Polynesian Hotel for one last time before Jim and I hit the long road home.IMG_7581

We are home now and our children and grandchildren are miles away. We wish they were closer, but as long as they are happy and healthy, we are content. I’m sure parents everywhere around the world understand those feelings.

France for a day was grand with the grandest of all – our grandchildren!!

Have you been to Epcot? Have you tasted your way around the grand lagoon? Did you have children, or grandchildren along for the grand tour? Thank you for joining us. I love to hear from you. I hope you continue to enjoy your summer.

“Yard Sale” – by Debbie Ambrous

Food & Drink is usually available at Antique Sales and Vide-Grenier in France

Food & drink is usually available at Antique Sales and Vide-Grenier in France.  This gentleman had good food at Richelieu for the antique/junk sale.

YARD SALE – Saturday, April 25, 2015 – I should be sitting here with $100.00+ in my pocket, my big bucks reward from a yard sale. But it didn’t happen that way. My pink Capri pants have empty pockets except for lint and a Walmart receipt for my purple petunias and bell pepper plants. All of the stuff piled in my second bedroom plus the bicycle in the shed should be gone with folks who would be bragging about their steal-of-a-deal prices. The plan was an early, early start. Unbelievably, I woke up at dawn. The wailing tornado sirens could have been responsible for jarring me out of my comfortable bed to lightning, heavy winds and thunder, not to mention the heavy rain. No yard sale on Saturday! I shouldn’t count my chickens before they hatch, or order new shoes expecting the wise Ben Franklin on folding money to pay for my pretty new Sketchers. I had to grab the opportunity and place the order before they were gone!
To succeed, jump as quickly at opportunities as you do at conclusions.
Benjamin Franklin

Beware of little expenses. A small leak will sink a great ship.”
Benjamin Franklin

Last night I was pricing two of Jim’s perfectly fine suits at $5.00 each which he could wear if he would give up second helpings of the good food he cooks. Luggage that made it to France and back in the hands of Air France baggage handlers is waiting in the bedroom with no place to go, marked at $5.00 each. I starched and ironed shirts and stuck on 75 cent labels. Normally, no one could pry me from my easy chair to iron a shirt on Friday night for a paltry 75 cents! But people are not normal when they have a yard sale, or when they go to one.
“We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid.”
Benjamin Franklin

I was amused to read about an Englishman who threw a big sale after his divorce. He said his neighbors were suddenly blind and came to him asking stupidly, “How much do you want for this?” despite the fact that a red-lettered sticker plainly stated the price. He kept going on with the hagglers until he was fed up. One customer stood there trying to offer money to him when he announced to the group, “Take it! Take ALL of it!! I don’t want the money. Just take the stuff and leave.” Reading this as preparation for our great sale, I knew not to go completely bonkers, but Jim does not read this helpful information. Why read when there’s always another Star Trek show to watch? That’s his motto. Live long and prosper and arrange a thunderstorm on his wife’s yard sale.IMG_3452

The French yard sales are not usually a single family deal. The vide grenier events could be spread through the center of small villages, or across a field in the country. I check the information on vide grenier (which means empty the attic) on the computer before and during my visits to France. I also look for signs along the road and visit tourist bureaus for the latest information. IMG_3463IMG_3247IMG_3467Some of the happenings have clothing, toys, household goods just like American yard sales, but their junk is different than our junk. Starting with the language difference, what manufacturer would sell a little girl’s bike with the name Pukey in pink letters and glitter? I didn’t keep notes on the exact names on the toys and other goods, so I’m making up the Pukey name, but many of the names had unusual and funny meanings in the English language.IMG_3451 It was great entertainment while I was sampling the cheese and finding bargains! The vide grenier will often have grilled meat, drinks and even dessert for sale.  It’s great fun to take a seat, eat a bite and people-watch.IMG_3454IMG_3458Maybe I could talk Jim into cooking hamburgers and hot dogs on the grill at our yard sale. More money from the food venture could pay for another pair of shoes!

“You might be a redneck if you’ve ever barbequed Spam on the grill.” – Jeff Foxworthy

Good stuff with low sticker prices is cluttering up my second bedroom like the Ann Taylor heels that I wore to my youngest daughter’s wedding. I’m figuring if any of my children get married, or re-married, at this point I will wear Dr. Scholls. Back in our tool shed is a like-new bicycle only used once by a little old man who prefers watching Science Fiction instead of zipping around our neighborhood. I asked Jim, “Could you check the weather for next weekend and see if we can schedule our yard sale again?” He said, “Could I just pay you not to have this sale?” I thought a minute and replied, “How much?” His offer was $50.00, and I turned him down. Upping the amount, he said, “How about $100.00?” Remembering the charge on the credit card for the shoes that would arrive on UPS next week, I gave in and accepted his deal. Thinking about the cash in hand, a minute later I asked, “Wait a cotton-picking minute! Where did you get this money? It didn’t come out of my top drawer, did it? Jim??!! Come back here!!

KindleBen Franklin says: “Get your copy of – CLICK HERE A French Opportunity! –  It’s the best book on France written by a lady from Opp, Alabama.”  Totally conjecture, but after a tall glass of iced tea and a plate of Jim’s barbecue I’m sure he would agree.

“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.”
Benjamin Franklin

“My Admirer” – by Debbie Ambrous

A pottery shop, library and bistro in the caves - Turquant, France

A pottery shop, library and bistro in the caves – Turquant, France

I have an admirer. Not a handsome French fellow with an accent that makes me weak in the knees. No, my admirer is a bright-eyed, inquisitive and energetic young girl. She fires questions at me rapidly and seems to enjoy my style of berets and boots. She knows that I have hot flashes, and she noticed the fans that I flip quickly from a handbag when the heat attacks me. With thoughtfulness, she presented a lacy, orange fan as a gift, coincidentally, when I wore jewelry that perfectly matched my frilly fan. You see, I do have an admirer!

My grandchildren live far away. When I think of this, I get teary-eyed. I know that I did the same to my mother, keeping her little loved ones, her grands out of reach for a hug except a few times a year. Maybe she had little admirers. I’m sure that Mama did have little ones to lavish with love since she bought toys and clothing for children with names and faces unfamiliar to me. I purchased a ruler with templates of French words and a cat for my admirer when I last went to France. My lovely little friend listens eagerly when I talk about France. I hear about her travel to many places in the United States, and her knowledge revealed in these stories shows she is much smarter than one would expect from an eleven-year-old.

She is loved, trained and nourished at home, not a needy child. But a child’s development doesn’t stop at home. Do you remember teachers, neighbors, aunts, uncles and other special people from your childhood who took the time to play a role that caused you to admire them? Years later, I remember: Mrs. Nix who first called me Debbie, instead of Deborah, and it stuck; Mrs. Nalls who sewed many of my dresses until I was married; Mrs. Thompson who listened to all of my teenage angst; Mrs. Sasser, a retired schoolteacher, tried patiently to correct my grammar, and spent time with me in a room without air-conditioning during the hot summer; Aunt Faye who told me how a nice, proper lady should be a hostess for a party and many, many other lovely people remain with me in memories.

It takes a village to raise a child.” – African Proverb

My little admirer, Lindee, was traveling in the car with me today. I mentioned that I was considering a rental house in the French Alps for our next trip to France. Her exuberant imagination kicked in, and she said: “Wouldn’t it be fun if you could stay in a cave in the French Alps?” I replied, “I don’t know about cave houses in the Alps, but there were very many cave houses in the Loire valley, the area we last visited.” IMG_3216IMG_2545IMG_3214Her eyes widened and bumper-to-bumper questions bubbled out: “Really!!? People lived in caves? Where is the Loire? What was it like? What city was it near?”

I explained that we saw the houses all over the place in the rock-face of hillsides. People do live in the cave homes, and there were many wineries in the cool caves which we visited. There are hundreds of miles of caves in the Saumur area. Some have been converted into troglodyte homes, restaurants, museums, farms for mushrooms, a rose water distillery, a disco and even a hotel. CLICK here for Demeure de la Vignole, a 4-star hotel with twelfth-century troglodyte rooms and all modern comforts.  (Click here for a unique cave property for rent on your next vacation in the Loire.) I told Lindy about a troglo zoo where large animals live in open quarries and enclosed caves display bats!  Sorry, no, I do not have pictures!IMG_3235IMG_3232CLICK here for Domaine Des Amandiers, our favorite cave winery. (Special thanks to Marc Rideau! We loved our bottles of wine.) The community of Turquant, France near Saumur had their library and a bistro in the caves. Youngsters were coming and going with books and ice cream bars after riding bikes up the hill to the library in the cave. We enjoyed the artwork on display in the cave showrooms.

Lindee was sorting all of this new information in her fast-processing brain. She was on to another subject before we hit the next turn in the road. There will be many turns in the road ahead for her. I hope her journey is a safe and happy one. You see, I am an admirer of Lindee.IMG_3234This story and the pictures of caves in France are dedicated to Lindee. I hope you have admirers like Lindee in your life.  I would enjoy hearing about them in the comments.

“Un Mariage Royal – 1491″ – by Debbie Ambrous

Chateau Langeais and Gardens - Langeais, France

Chateau Langeais and Gardens – Langeais, France

I can’t believe it has been almost a year since we were in France in the Loire valley, eating croissants, baguettes and pastries every morning and finding pretty hamlets and villages to explore each day. We decided we wouldn’t travel to France in April and May this year in favor of watching our own flowers burst into bloom in Alabama. It’s a tough time to leave someone else to mow the grass and tend the plants. We have in mind an autumn trip. Planning is my job. I have peeked into house rental information and travel websites for the Provence, the Rhone Alps and Normandy. Options of budget Ryanair flights to Ireland, Portugal and Norway are possibilities from France or Belgium. I look at all of the travel information to other areas and then I remember how good France has been to me. No final decisions are made yet. What should I do?

If you lived in the Chateau Langeais, this would be your view from the front porch swing.

If you lived in the Chateau Langeais, this would be your view from the front porch swing.

April, 2014 – Langeais, France – Hop on a plane to Paris. Take a train from the airport to Tours. The exact stop is St. Pierre des Corps. It was all very easy, peasey. An Avis car rental place is just outside the station. Then, it was very simple to drive around and get lost a couple of times before we found the right direction. Our destination was Brehemont for our cute rental cottage. Just across the Loire River was the beautiful village of Langeais, brimming over with character, history and one spectacular chateau!

IMG_1131I window-shopped along the cobblestone street looking at trendy outfits, modern eyeglasses (French people wear the coolest glasses!) and bridal outfits for French weddings. Then, I saw a bright banner on Chateau Langeais celebrating the royal marriage that took place in December 6, 1491. Anne of Brittany married Charles VIII before a small audience in the Chateau Langeais. Anne of Brittany agreed to marry the new sovereign if her husband died before she produced a male heir. Her children died, either at birth, or during childhood. Charles VIII died seven years after the wedding in 1498. That is so sad. Are you in tears yet? Anne of Brittany married the cousin of her deceased husband, and the new sovereign reigned as Louis XII. The book “A French Opportunity has more history and memoirs of the chateau.

Jim and I paid the entry fee to the chateau. I drifted to the gardens and further up the hill to view the beautiful bridge and river below.IMG_1086 Jim was a kid again, dreaming of his old tree houses in the woods behind his childhood home, which is our present house. But there at the chateau was a tree house worthy of royalty, or even Prince Jim! IMG_1083After all of the exploring and stretching our legs and minds on memory lane, we were hungry! We left the grounds in search of food. Normally, boulangeries are not open during lunch, but we found one around the corner doing a brisk trade with a line at the door. We bought a delicious meal and found a place with benches by the water in the shade. Two French families joined us, parking their bicycles and opening their picnic lunches. One of the adults rushed to the boulangerie for pastries, and I kept my longing glances at the goodies that he brought in a pretty pink box under control, almost. The children played with toys and jumped from the embankment to the benches, especially when they realized they had an audience for their tricks. I asked for permission to take pictures because the children were very cute.IMG_1105The stream was dotted with lily pads and it flowed under a beautiful stone bridge. Perhaps it was there when Anne of Brittany arrived for the wedding. If not, it is there for the modern bride wearing the pretty gown purchased around the corner past the Salon de The.

Enough eating and dreaming… We went to use those tickets, already bought and ready for our own royal entry. We went from one massive room to another seeing the tapestries, large enough to almost cover the front of my small Alabama cottage. Everything was familiar since this was not our first visit to the chateau, but a great presentation of the wedding of Charles VIII and Anne of Brittany was a pleasant surprise.IMG_1169IMG_1156 Figurines were dressed regally to represent the clothing worn during that time period and a slide show of the historic wedding with enormous pictures was presented on the wall above the figurines. IMG_1168The turret walk high above the village has lovely views, but wire mesh covers the open areas to prevent tourists from falling out and spoiling their expensive vacation.  Photos are a bit odd with the wire grids.  I tried a trick I had read about and almost erased the lines in a few of my pictures.IMG_1197IMG_1205 Photography of the wedding presentation was difficult since no flash was allowed and we were in darkness most of the time. I was not an unruly guest of the wedding. Perhaps another invitation will arrive by royal post. The question now is whether the event will occur in Provence, the Rhone Alps, Normandy, Norway, Ireland or Portugal. I need to quit dithering and make up my mind. Any suggestions?

I must apologize for not following my laid-out plan and schedule of a bi-weekly post of the blog. My job that pays for croissants in France occasionally and buttered biscuits in Alabama has kept me away from the fun of writing. Recently, I’ve been in a royal battle with computer programs that were fickle and non-functioning. Computers are miracle machines when they work! They are downright finicky if all of their connections, buttons and sweet spots are not satisfied. Now, you are likely thinking, if not saying: “Sure sounds like computers are female!” Nope! You are wrong. I’ve seen the backside of these computers, and they are not women! Samsung, Dell and Apple may not know this, but from my viewpoint, computers are the MALE of the species!

Let me quickly retract some of my computer nonsense before I get into trouble with the menfolk, especially the one that is married to me.  Jim, the husband and computer repair person that I call most often, understands the inner workings and backside of my computer.  I call Chris, a nice young man in a nearby town to help me with my website.  Santiago is the very knowledgeable fellow who controls the computer world that I live in for my daytime job.  Compliments, hugs, thanks and chocolate cookies to all of these MEN for pulling me out of many jams!  I’m laying it on thick because I want you there for the next time.

That is my valuable input for the week. I may see you next week, or it could be earlier, or later.  I hope everything is fine for you.  Please come again.  You are welcome to enter your e-mail for a free subscription notification.  Just look in the upper corner.  If you don’t get your notice, don’t blame me.  Blame the male computer!

Happy Anniversary to my lovely daughter Jessica and her sweet husband Mark! 

“Fractured Fairy Tales” – by Debbie Ambrous

CHATEAU VILLANDRY - Follow the Fractured Fairy Tale and then read the romantic story of the Spaniard and American who restored the magnificent chateau and gardens.

CHATEAU VILLANDRY – Follow the Fractured Fairy Tale and then read the romantic story of the Spaniard and the American, the restorers of the magnificent chateau and gardens.

A beautiful princess and a dashing prince marry with a lavish ceremony followed by a honeymoon in an exotic locale, then return to live happily in the castle of dreams. We are skeptical of this scenario from the first words spoken. Beautiful princess! How much of her beauty came from the cosmetic surgeon’s office? How long will they live happily until the divorce? Yes, we grew up and learned the truth long before reality television reached popularity.

Back in the early seventies when my two older children were little, they watched Fractured Fairy Tales on television. The cartoon show featured the typical fairy tales, such as Cinderella or Pinocchio, told in a totally wacky style with puns that only the parents would understand. The creators evidently knew that mothers were nearby scrubbing toilets, or sorting the weebles from the wobbles in the toy chest of a mother’s life. Why shouldn’t she have some laughs since she had to endure the cartoon re-runs, sort out the squabbles between the children and clean up the cookie crumbs thereafter?

I thought that my life could be cast in a Fractured Fairy Tale much easier than the sumptuous life in Chateau Villandry. Then again, I don’t have to take in paying visitors to tramp around my house and garden to pay the electric bill and taxes. Perhaps I am exaggerating about the Chateau Villandry’s circumstances since I do not know the bottom-line of their finances. However, the owners of many stately castles and manor homes do require this income from visitors and rentals to cover their expenses. Life behind those magnificent doors is often not cracked up to be as imagined by the mere peasants of common life.

It is neither wealth nor splendor; but tranquility and occupation that give happiness.” – Thomas Jefferson

Jim and I began our fractured fairy tale of tranquility and occupation in a 528 square ft. (49 sq. meters) new mobile home which we owned and located on a wooded lot in the countryside in Alabama. I planted azaleas, roses, dogwood trees and flowers from Granny Bryan’s flower beds. We had a beautiful rusty-colored Irish setter that roamed through the woods with us behind our new home. Inside, everything was new and cozy with Early American furniture reproductions, white ruffled curtains at the kitchen windows, braided rug on the floor, imitation brick flooring and green appliances. No, I am not referring to eco-green, energy saving appliances. The range, sink, refrigerator, washing machine and the bathtub were green. Do you remember those times? We had art on the wall like any respectable chateau fit for a princess in a fractured fairy tale. A woodsy scene with mountains, waterfalls and streams was laminated to cardboard and stapled into a wood frame. Positioned above the Early American style, over-stuffed sofa the faux painting was inspiration for tranquility, if not splendor.

Joachim Carvallo and his wife, Ann Coleman, were passionate collectors of old paintings.  "I enjoyed the paintings.  The lady on the left could star in a Fractured Fairy Tale with that hairstyle!"

I enjoyed the painting collection. The lady on the left could star in a Fractured Fairy Tale with that hairstyle!”

The ceiling comes from the Maqueda ducal palace, built in the 15th century in Toledo, Spain.  The palace was dismantled in 1905 and Joachim Carvallo brought one of the ceilings back to Villandry.

The ceiling comes from the Maqueda ducal palace, built in the 15th century in Toledo, Spain. The palace was dismantled in 1905 and Joachim Carvallo brought one of the ceilings back to Villandry.

Napoleon's youngest brother was the owner of Villandry for several years during the Empire period.  This room's furniture and design, therefore, is in the Empire style: mahogany furnture and red watered silks.

Napoleon’s youngest brother was the owner of Villandry for several years during the Empire period. This room’s furniture and design, therefore, is in the Empire style: mahogany furniture and red watered silks.

The mobile home would fit in the foyer of the Chateau Villandry with room left to form a small trailer park. My trailer flower garden would be laughable in comparison, but it was my own version of the “Love Garden” found at Villandry. Happiness grew, and I learned how to nurture my plants along with my marriage. From the narrow viewpoint of some people we may have appeared as trailer park trash. I have no problem with poking fun at myself. At the same time, I will hold my head up and say that we were honest, hard-working young people starting a life together modestly. Jim was a part-time college student working an auto parts counter at a GM dealership, and I worked full-time at an insurance agency.

If you own a home with wheels and several cars without, you might be a redneck!” – Jeff Foxworthy

We had great fun with our friends on camping trips and doing simple stuff. Thinking back, some of it was little more than a continuation of some of the same fun from our childhood, such as playing cards and watching the guys play Saturday afternoon football.

The Marquis de Castellance redesigned this room in the 18th-century style: Louis XV paneling replaced the old tapestries, while parquet replaced the marble flooring.  The salmon pink walls and fountain hint at the Provencal origins of the Marquis.  In 1934, this room was listed as a historic monument.

The Marquis de Castellance redesigned this room in the 18th-century style: Louis XV paneling replaced the old tapestries, while parquet replaced the marble flooring. The salmon pink walls and fountain hint at the Provencal origins of the Marquis. In 1934, this room was listed as a historic monument.

Notice the upside-down fork.  By turning the fork in this position the displayed family crest would show the family's social status.

Notice the upside-down fork. By turning the fork in this position the displayed family crest would show the family’s social status.

The rich, sweet smell of the hayricks rose to his chamber window; the hundred perfumes of the little flower-garden beneath scented the air around; the deep-green meadows shone in the morning dew that glistened on every leaf as it trembled in the gentle air: and the birds sang as if every sparkling drop were a fountain of inspiration to them. ~ The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens

“The rich, sweet smell of the hayricks rose to his chamber window; the hundred perfumes of the little flower-garden beneath scented the air around; the deep-green meadows shone in the morning dew that glistened on every leaf as it trembled in the gentle air: and the birds sang as if every sparkling drop were a fountain of inspiration to them.” ~ “The Pickwick Papers” by Charles Dickens

The size of our accommodation didn’t hold us back from entertaining. Don’t envision any Martha Stewart decorations and dining. I’m going to tell on myself and let you know my true colors with redneck running rampant. Jim and I invited our friends over for a pizza party at our mobile home. See, already we were cooking up foreign Italian dishes with no grits or gravy involved. I was the cook with boxes of Chef Boyardee pizza mix in the kitchen and Jim in control of the entertainment. Can you imagine mixing up the ingredients and shoving the pizzas in the oven to feed a crowd? I thought nothing of it, and I declare that Jim must have put a sign outside saying “Ya’ll come on in, FREE food and entertainment here!”, or he was down at the 7-11 inviting all the customers to drive south to the green and white mobile home on the right. The Statler Brothers were singing good old country music while pepperoni-topped pizza was popping out of the oven in shifts. A dozen, or more, people were standing inside talking and laughing when we heard a loud BANG!! at the backside of the trailer. We had clearly exceeded our load limit, and one of the concrete blocks that leveled our mobile home had shattered from the weight of our multiple guests.

If your wife weighs more than your refrigerator, then you might be a redneck.” – Jeff Foxworthy

I probably weighed less than 110 pounds at the time, so it wasn’t me!! Honest. Now, who can say they had a party that brought the house down like this one? I’m sure that Chateau Villandry never threw a shindig like ours. A fractured fairytale, indeed!

Photo displayed in the drawing room.

Photo displayed in the drawing room.

Chateau Villandry’s love tale is a splendid one. A young doctor from Spain, Joachim Carvallo, came to France in 1893. Doctor Carvallo studied with a medical research group in Paris, and there he met the American intern, Ann Coleman. Ms. Coleman was the daughter of a master blacksmith in Lebanon, Pennsylvania. They were married in Paris, and three children were born there. Then, some seven years later they sunk all of their savings to restore their dream home: Chateau Villandry and the gardens. They transformed the romantic park to the stunningly beautiful gardens we see today. Now that is a love story to inspire and endear any romantic soul. Not a fractured story at all!

Fractured Fairy Tales are lived and told in every land and every language. I hope I didn’t ruffle any feathers, or rattle any armor, with my silly story while featuring the beautiful chateau on the page. You will find serious and interesting facts by CLICKING here for the website and CLICK here for the book A French Opportunity which includes more history of the chateau.
Praise for Fractured Fairy Tales (CLICK to check it out) may entice you to read the book.  I should hire them to promote my book!
It’s a great book, no lie. – Pinocchio
I couldn’t lay it down – The Golden Goose
These stories really cook. – Hansel & Gretel
Ribbit! – The Frog Prince

Ya’ll come back for more adventures, out of the ordinary and slightly cracked!  Thank you visiting and sharing the link with friends.

“Almost Paradise” – by Debbie Ambrous

IMG_2881What inscription would appear on the gold plaque below an oil portrait in an ornate gold frame, displayed at the grand chateau staircase, if the splendid image peering back was my face? Oh, that is an easy one! Let the engraving begin: “Francophile and Passionate Garden Lover – Debbie Ambrous

The Love Garden - Later as the flowers mature, bright colors will burst within the hearts and other shapes.

The Love Garden – Later as the flowers mature, bright colors will burst within the hearts and other shapes.

I couldn’t help it. I grew as the flowers grew in Granny Bryan’s garden, following in her footsteps and snipping begonias to root in clay flower pots. Seed catalogs arrived in the mail, and they were just as much fun to read and feed my imagination as the Sears Roebuck catalog. I was learning to transplant, propagate, mulch, fertilize and prune before I reached my teens. While I’m still not an expert, the language of flowers and plants is deeply instilled.

Terraces provide many viewpoints of the gardens.

Terraces provide many viewpoints of the gardens.

People of the same persuasion are drawn to Chateau Villandry and the immense gardens, and others immediately fall under its spell. This landscape is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Villandry was built in 1536 by Jean Le Breton, Minister of Finance for Francois I. Only the keep remains of a medieval castle that was razed in order to make way for the chateau. In 1754, the Marquis de Castellane, who came from a noble Provencal family, purchased the chateau and had it redesigned to meet 18th-century standards of comfort. In 1906, the chateau was bought by Joachim Carvallo, the great-grandfather of the present owner. He created 16th century-style gardens that were in perfect harmony with the architecture of the chateau. Each room enjoys its own unique view, particularly of the gardens.

Doesn't this scene touch your heart?

Doesn’t this scene touch your heart?

Jim and I arrived mid-day on a sunny day, better than a rainy one, in mid-May. A gray-haired lady was seated on a bench with a gentleman, and his arm rested tenderly on her shoulders – a scene of love for each other and for the gardens. I understood and shared those feelings. My heart beat faster when my eyes were filled with the beauty of the gardens, lakes and the chateau. I needed my own bench to sit and reflect.

Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine for the soul. – Luther Burbank

Like-minded tourists were stooping to admire the flowers and their cameras were clicking away. We smiled and talked with a few including two pretty ladies from Thailand. I promised to include their pictures in the blog. I hope they didn’t lose their notes, like I lost mine.

Notice the people on the tower on the background - a soaring view of the gardens.

Lovely young lady who modeled her gardening hat on the shady terrace – Notice the people on the tower on the background – a soaring view of the gardens.

The young women were dressed prettily with sunhats poised as UV protection.

Children played on the lake banks and skipped along the pathways.

We saw a family playing together at the tennis court and thought it could be family members from the chateau since the grounds were private. A happy dog was petted and pampered in the sunshine. IMG_2862


Since we didn’t have an invitation to join them, we moved along to drink in the rich beauty of the magnificent garden.

"Honey, will you watch the children while I go to the bathroom?"  Dads are in control.

“Honey, will you watch the children while I go to the bathroom?” Dads are in control!


Swans played daredevil at the edge

Swans played daredevil at the edge

Then it was time for lunch.

We didn’t bring a picnic lunch, so we left to eat at an outdoor café along the Loire River, a short distance away. After a leisurely, peaceful meal in the breeze, imagining how wonderful it would be if I could live there and follow this routine every day, I forced myself to return to the gardens – almost paradise!

IMG_2872IMG_2981IMG_2875I couldn’t possibly include the pictures of the interior of the chateau in this one post. Another time, we can walk inside to see the paintings (no portraits of me inside) and climb the circular staircase in the tower for a birds-eye view of the gardens. Ya’ll come back!
I anticipate a few very busy months, so I will only post every two weeks instead of weekly. I wish I could say that I will be spending all of my time, busily gardening at Chateau Ambrous. I do hope to fit in some of that personal joy.IMG_2978What are your plans for your flower gardens? Do you enjoy the planning and planting almost as much as the flourishing finale? Let’s hope the weather cooperates. Agreed? Don’t forget to leave your comments for others to enjoy and perhaps a few suggestions for me.

The history and commentary for the gardens and chateau were derived from the tourist brochure.  All photos are the personal property of Debbie Ambrous.