Published normalement (normally) bi-weekly on Sunday
Fog billowed and swept densely across the horizon, covering like a plush, down comforter, layering a dreamy landscape over the ordinary roads and buildings. Framed by the huge glass window in the new Ibis hotel in Sens, France, a scene of hazy, ethereal beauty greeted me while I waited for Jim to shower. Instead of peaceful meditation and incredible photo opportunities, I thought about crashes on the highway with poor visibility. I hoped the blinding fog would lift after breakfast.
Now, there’s a good thought – breakfast! Our first real breakfast in France for this trip! Warm, flaky croissants and crunchy baguettes with Normandy butter. Hot coffee! The fog was lifting. The view was clear and fine. Jetlag had disappeared, replaced by smiles and optimism. What a gorgeous day! The first day of vacation is always the best when all of the excitement is ahead, a ribbon-wrapped package waiting to be opened. It’s all out there just waiting to be found and explored: narrow cobblestoned lanes with climbing roses and honeysuckle fragrance at the blue-shuttered windows; tawny-colored cats at the kitchen doorway; children walking to school; an elderly gentleman wearing a beret and buttoned cardigan with a baguette in his hand and laundry fluttering in the breeze under the warm sun. Yes, it was all there waiting for me, now that the fog had lifted. Perhaps your first day is different, but for me and that husband of mine, we had some fine adventures ahead, starting with a vide-grenier.
Vide-grenier basically means empty out the attic, and you can expect everything that implies with goods spread everywhere from professionally arranged stalls to odds and ends scattered on blankets on the ground, or a car hood. People come from all of the homes in town and from miles around, so it is smart to be there early enough to find a parking place. We were not early enough to easily find a parking place, but we were not discouraged. Our optimism on the first day of vacation was burning brightly. The prize parking lot areas were full, but Jim skillfully drove around to the other side of town near the river and found what we considered a gem of parking place since it was peaceful and in the shade. Jim is not a novice at the wheel!We walked along the riverbank of the Yonne, enjoying the brilliant reflections of the buildings under the blue skies. Pleasure boats and barges were tied-up along the calm waters, some with bicycles secured on top, ready to ride the pathways by the river, or into town. We would see many scenes like this in the days to come. Cruising rivers is probably not my way of life, but climbing aboard for a week or more occasionally with someone capable at the helm would be enjoyable. If this interests you at all, you should read: “Just Imagine: A New Life on an Old Boat” by Michelle Caffrey. CLICK on the book’s name to connect to my page of books and items for sale where I can make a few pennies, or if you prefer just look for it (in paperback or Kindle) on the Amazon page. Michelle and her husband, both Americans, quit their jobs when they were in their fifties, sold everything and bought a 1906 Dutch barge and started a B&B of a different kind – Barge and Breakfast! She tells her tales with a wonderful sense of humor, reminding me at times of the way Jim and I travel, but I must admit that she is much braver than I am. I believe you will love the book. See, I direct you to books other than mine!Jim coaxed me away from the water, saying I couldn’t have a cute houseboat and if I wanted any of Granny’s attic treasures I needed to get a move on because we needed to hit the roads soon. He knew the right words to get my legs in motion. Yet, it would be fun to be Michelle Caffrey for a week on a leisurely river, stopping at the cutest villages and riding bikes under the towering shade trees that line many stretches of the Burgundy canals. I would want my friends and family along with me!
People-watching is almost as much fun, unless I am seriously searching and then I have eyes only on the tables and ground. I wasn’t quite ready for my serious shopping since the car was full of luggage and I just didn’t feel settled yet. But what’s the harm in looking?
Something could grab my attention, and it did. A small framed print of a child with a toy would be perfect on the wall of my guest bedroom, next to the framed, embroidered linen piece from Germany with a young lady on a boat.
My embroidered maiden on a rowboat was on a table at a flea market in a field in 1989 before she graced the wall in my French Alabama cottage.
Michelle Caffrey mentioned in her book that the comedian George Carlin once said, “Home is where the stuff is.” For sure, that is the truth. I kept my new purchases of stuff to a minimum, saving room in the suitcase for future days. The Sens vide-grenier was a super-size sale though because we discovered that almost all of the tree-lined streets had tables wedged together with a super-abundance of goods. Parisians may travel here for a bargain or two. My adorable vintage framed print of the child from another era was four euros.We maneuvered our shopping to a manageable circle and walked the street with the ancient buildings to the square. This particular Monday was a national holiday – Whit Monday – Lundi de Pentecôte. People were off from work, businesses were closed with all of France on vacation with us. Compared to the day before when we walked the square, there was a department store of people unloaded under the tents with shoppers enjoying their day off.
I grabbed a few photos from the entry of the quiet cathedral. Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse under the incredibly high arches. Perhaps they were visiting the famous mouse at Disneyland Paris (an hour away), or the golden arches of McDonalds down the road.
Can you guess what is inside the nineteenth-century beautiful brick building, just a short walk from the cathedral? I promised last week that I would present a masterpiece of produce better than any Whole Foods.
Well, this is it!! You will hardly believe your eyes, considering the fortunate people have this covered market as a regular shopping area! We wanted to fill our bags, but unloading our luggage and settling into the rental house would be quite enough without wilting lettuce and smelly cheese. I couldn’t resist a basket of strawberries though. We walked along a narrow lane past windows with wooden shutters, decorated with hearts, carved by an artisan, a sweet farewell to Sens after the fog lifted.
Jim joined the French drivers on holiday driving in the mad frenzy of the superhighway. We stuck to the roads with our destination in mind except for a short stop at one of the exits to fuel and food. This area was clean compared to yesterday’s stop, but the main attraction for me was a field of wind turbines spread across the horizon. We counted twelve, and there were probably more. Jim went to buy sandwiches, and I rushed anxiously with my camera to capture photos of the wind turbines, like a modern-day Ms. Don Quixote rushing to tilt a few turbines on her camera. If Quixote thought his windmills were huge, he should see these monsters!! A high fence was ruining my aim, but fearless and undaunted I spied a sturdy picnic table and climbed on top of it with my Canon aimed on high! I came down from my high, so to speak, with a grin from ear to ear. A fellow was watching me from his position leaning on his car, and he gave me a thumbs-up and laughed at my victory dance.I don’t believe that I took any other photos of the wind turbines, but believe me we saw dozens and dozens of them in action and being built during our trip! A Reuters article, dated January 18, 2018 stated: “The French government on Thursday announced a ten-point plan which will simplify administrative procedures and accelerate the development of wind power projects in order to double its installed generation capacity by 2023. The government said the proposed reforms will cut in half the average time it takes for wind power projects to be completed and connected to the French electricity grid.”
The hi-light of the day was reaching our beautiful rental home in Arnay-le-Duc. I looked at the photos of our selected home on the website many times and showed the pictures of the house to friends. Yet, you never know for certainty if the house is everything as shown until you are there and see it for yourself. A flood of relief swept over me as I saw the large house with green shutters, and the stone steps with a collection of many flower pots lining the sides, just like my own steps at home where I have little remaining space to step to the door. Red roses swept above the door and across the stone walls of the house. That was only the beginning. Yes, indeed, the fog had lifted for M. et Mme Ambrous!
Y’all come back next time to see inside the house and around the garden. And, WOW, what a garden! A chateau, cows and cats are also on the agenda. Thanks for coming around to visit.
You can read more about France, including more about barging in France.
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All photography is the property of Debbie Ambrous.