“A Watched Rose Never Blooms” – by Debbie Ambrous

Roses are finally blooming on Moncrabou, our stone-built house in France for the month of May.  Buds on the rose were fat and contented to stay unfurled for my pleasure for many days when I leaned out the window to check their progress.  Jim told me that a watched rose never blooms, but I paid no attention.  Today while Jim lolled on the sofa watching Star Trek in the late afternoon, I took a stroll down our lane slowly absorbing all of the beauty I will miss when we leave in a few days.  We are near the end of May and already my eyes fill with tears at unexpected moments.

A reader said to post more pictures of ME. Was the reader a handsome young man? No, it was my cousin Gail M. Thanks, Gail!

I’ve watched the season change.  Wisteria covered trellises and hung over walls when we arrived.  Irises and poppies lined the roads with bursts of color.  Some of these remain, but the wisteria is fading in favor of roses.  Suddenly fig trees are covered with leaves; cherry tree blossoms are gone and bright red cherries are shining in the sunlight. Lavender that was dry, brown and ugly when I stepped on the stone pathway is now green and bearing flower buds.  Flowers will arrive after we are gone.  I’m prepared to accept it.

Purple poppies growing on a rock wall. They look almost like tulips.

Poppy covered rock wall that Jim tries to avoid hitting when he drives up the hill.






Our neighbor at the bottom of the hill appeared with firewood in hand when I was walking past his garden gate.

His wife has the most fragrant roses.















Our neighbors have been so kind to us, making us feel very welcome. I would dearly love more of their company!



This month of May at Moncrabou has been all I had hoped for, but I would need many more months to fill my appetite.  Perhaps they will come.

My neighbor across the lane has a gourd birdhouse hanging on her front porch. I just noticed it today.

I have a brilliant idea!  I could sell brightly painted gourd birdhouses like those in Alabama to people here in France.  Do you think I could make enough money to stay?  Or, maybe a million people will click on my link and buy my book “A French Opportunity“.  See more beautiful flowers by clicking here on France – pictures and storytelling.

Thank you for joining me and for your encouraging comments.

“I Told You to Pack the Umbrella!” – by Debbie Ambrous


Did you see that sign?  You just flew past a sign that said DANGER with a big exclamation point, and now you’re hurdling toward a guardrail with arrows!   Acting all innocent and replying in his best “aw gosh” voice Jim said, “You don’t just hang around a place when it’s advertising DANGER! I was just rushing on to safe grounds to protect you.”

That was a few days ago when the world was bright and sunny in France before the rain, storm, dark clouds and hail!  Yes, hail.  We suddenly had hail a few days ago.  Jim took pictures of it which he will gladly share if you would like to see what looks like mothballs mixed with mud and rocks.

We went to Marqueyssac Gardens, and we found glorious sunshine! Yes, he drinks beer, and I drink tea most of the time. French wine is ordered quite often with our meals also, of course.

We left our umbrella at home to keep company with the ones we bought in Japan, England, Belgium and Disney World.  Why bother with a useless thing like that in your luggage when the sun will shine in France?  In our defense, Jim says that Rick Steves says to buy a cheap umbrella wherever you are traveling.  The French word for umbrella is parapluie.  Now, there’s a word that fits the weather condition.  It’s parapluie all over France, and according to the weather predictions it will be that way for at least a decade!

The roses are finally blooming! None of the white roses were blooming at Marqueyssac Gardens. Roses are not the primary garden focus as you will see in other pictures.

Seriously, we apparently were not watching the DANGER sign.  At least 80%, if not even more, scientists are saying that this is our fault.  We are all under the same parapluie together, and it’s getting very uncomfortable!

Gardeners were busy, clipping and using a measuring tape for precise shaping of the plants and the walkways.

The views are incredible in all directions.

Lastly, I would like to apologize for misspelling Shopi (grocery store that we like) in the previous post.   I asked Jim if the name had two “P’s” or only one.  I could have looked it up, but I thought he would know since he had just returned from Shopi.  He is not a winner of any spelling contests.  Reading his writing including his grocery lists can render me speechless in laughter.  I should have known not to ask him.  He can’t spell “peas” on the grocery list much less know the number of “P’s” in Shopi.  However, he can cook them, and that’s more important.

Jim says the plastic Shopi grocery bag that I’ve been using to cover my head from the rain is perfectly suitable.  We are off to search for a parapluie!  Possibly Shopi has one!

Final note…  We outsmarted the weather experts and found sunshine with occasional clouds.  No parapluies in hand yet.  Read Chapter 18 “Peacocks Rule!” in my book “A French Opportunity” for more about the gardens and the peacocks.  See the France – pictures and storytelling page for more pictures of our rainy/sunny day in France.

“Hope Floats in France” – by Debbie Ambrous

It’s raining today, and we can’t go outside to play.  I suppose we could, but I did that already yesterday when I thought I had to go to an antique sale in Daglan while it was raining.  Now my throat is sore.  I’m taking better care today.

There were bright moments yesterday with a few treasures purchased at the sale, although I probably angered a French vendor with my dealing for one item.  Jim says he will get over it.

Petit Paris Restaurant in Daglan

Another bright moment was our wonderful lunch at Petit Paris in Daglan.  I’ve wanted to dine at this small, intimate restaurant that is highly recommended, but it seemed to never work into our plans.  The meal and service were exceptional, creating a wonderful memory for us.  We will certainly return.  Enjoy their website and plan to visit when you are here.  A reservation is a good idea.  We found a table by dropping by unannounced, just fortunate for us since it was lunch on a rainy day.

We had an unexpected invitation from our dear friend Louise at La Prairie to move into The Kestrel for a week.  The pleasure of staying in this beautiful house and being coddled by its charm caused the gray clouds to dissipate in my mind at least.

Comfort, function and beauty

We smiled our way through the sweet house, and Jim built a fire in the wood burner.   He cooked a delicious beef roast, purchased at Shoppi, our favorite little grocery store.  I sang praises to Shoppi in my book, A French Opportunity.  Jim’s roast was possibly the memorable meal instead of Petit Paris.

Children love Pocahontas in the kitchen corner. Jim likes her too!

Our bedroom and bathroom are upstairs in The Kestrel.  No problem about this except it seems that every time I climb upstairs in need of the bathroom, Jim is there!  We need one of those signs from the airplane showing when the bathroom is occupied.

Looking for clouds as blue as the beautiful bedroom

1816 is carved into the stone lintel above the doorway to The Kestrel

Later in the day we chanced playing outside.  The sun made an appearance occasionally, but cold winds were blowing.  As weather gal of the Dordogne I will give a forecast.  Will it be sunny? Yes.  Will it rain? Yes.  Will it be hot? Yes.  Will it be cold?  Yes.  All of this in one day! Yes.

The view from our kitchen window in The Kestrel. The view from The Farmhouse includes the Chateau, but The Farmhouse, my favorite, was filled this time.

I will finish with the most memorable meal.  We went to Espère which means hope. Espère, or hope, carried us through the day with winds, rain and sun.  A vide-grenier was held in the city of hope, spread around the community parking grounds.  I parted with a few euros and found many smiling faces.  Our memorable meal?  A ham and cheese Panini with frites were purchased from a vendor at the sale when the tall bell tower rang out twelve o’clock loudly.  We laughed and dined in the car after we had rushed from dark clouds rolling into the valley.  Rain poured, but we had Espère and frites!

More pictures of Daglan on the France – pictures and storytelling page.  I will share more pictures from La Prairie later, but for now, “Baby, it’s cold outside!”

Could you share the link and story with friends?  What is your weather like?  I would like to hear from you.

All pictures and stories on this website are the property of Debbie Ambrous.

“Heart of the Lion” – by Debbie Ambrous

I asked Jim to stop the car when I saw this, but there was so much more …

Two nights away from the house seemed like a great idea.  We could see a different section of France and perhaps run away from rain and clouds advancing toward us.  Moving along to the south seemed like the best direction.  Provence is too far away with six hours of driving, so we decided on the Tarn- Garonne and Auvergne regions.

Lace, crochet and embroidery drying in a protected place

We didn’t drive very far until I spotted something I had to aim my camera toward.  Then I discovered there was much more to this village – Saint Front sur Lemance – than I realized.  We’ve dashed past many times, not knowing what beauty was along the little lanes leading from the main road.

Just think, I could sit on this bench every day if I could find a house here at my poverty level budget.

The sun was shining beautifully and had apparently put in its best performance in the Lot region compared to the Dordogne since the rose bushes were covered in blooms.

We entered our destination area, driving on high roads with towering walls of stone surrounding a valley and river far below.  We decided to spend the night at St. Antonin Noble Val, a beautiful town with a tree-lined road leading through the center and narrow lanes winding among its ancient buildings.  Our hotel was selected at the tourism office.  This is a good plan if you are not familiar with an area since it saves driving or walking to many undesirable or fully-booked places.  Now I’m sounding like Rick Steves.  We were very fortunate with our choice, the small Auberge Lion D’Or that oozes charm and atmosphere in an ancient building from the 1600’s updated with modern comforts without losing the old character.

As you can see from the picture we had the honeymoon suite, or so the door seems to indicate.  The chamber is named Au Coeur du Lion – heart of the lion.  Perhaps they thought we were newlyweds, mistaking our lost and bewildered appearance for romantic bliss.  Apparently they missed the fact that I walked 10 paces ahead instead of behind the noble husband, and they didn’t know that we had no problem with their rule of not drinking red wine in the matrimonial bed.  I favored reading the big stack of interior design magazines instead.  Jim trimmed his finger and toe nails.  Not sure what else he did since I was in a state of bliss.

An open window to the view from our “Heart of the Lion” room in the auberge.

Before we indulged in these delights, we walked the ancient streets snapping a few pictures.  The sun was disappearing with very little light, so I held back thinking the morning light would be best.  We found a sandwich-burger place on the corner and ate our burgers and frites at street-side tables with children entertaining us.

A view of the honeymoon bed from the mirror above the fireplace. No red wine spills – guaranteed!

Breakfast was wonderful with fresh bread, sliced ham, cheeses, coffee, tea, orange juice and a nice selection of Bonne Maman jelly.  The friendly couple from the Netherlands who own the auberge gave us a tour of the present kitchen and the new kitchen they are building.  He is an expert craftsman, building beautiful cabinets and stairways and restoring the old buildings.  We were very fortunate to find them, and I would very highly recommend a stay in this lovely place.

The talented and charming innkeepers, Jan & Bojourna van Schaik

Unfortunately, it was raining the next morning so we didn’t visit Cordes sur Ciel, our next planned stop.  Actually, we visited about seven times as we hunted for the road sign we needed, turning around and coming back and looking from every possible angle.  Jim pulled into a ninety-degree angled driveway and backed into a blind-cornered road with a drop off to infinity on my side of the car to turn around.  Well almost.  He was putting me in the mood for the next honeymoon hotel.

Just click and don’t miss seeing more pictures on the France – pictures and storytelling page.   Have you read “A French Opportunity”?   If not, you can check out the details by clicking on the picture below.

Click here for details and to purchase “A French Opportunity”

“Sunday Lunch” – by Debbie Ambrous

Jim’s pork roast is arranged in the oblong pan. Gayle’s delicious salad is in the beautiful bowl. Her artwork is in the background. The meal was wonderful, and the conversation even better.

A pork roast for Sunday lunch and a walnut tart for dessert purchased at the boulangerie were packed up for a short ride to Ray and Gayle’s place.  In case you didn’t read about them, they are the new friends we met who are from California.  I had planned to bake peach upside down cake, but I couldn’t understand the ingredient list on the flour to determine whether it was self-rising or not, and I gave up on that idea.  Gayle said it was puzzling to her also, and she has lived in France for seven years.  I didn’t feel quite as badly after I heard her admission, although she is just sweet anyway and would say such a thing to make me feel better.

I loved her kitchen with its gorgeous cabinets.  My brother is a cabinet maker, and I grew up next to the cabinet shop.  Naturally I notice woodwork wherever I go.  Beautiful armoires stood grandly in Gayle’s bedroom. My roving camera wanted to wander, but I held it back to stay within bounds as a polite guest.

Gayle painted all of these. She is like my friend Quail who is so modest about her artwork. My photography doesn’t do it justice.

Two other guests joined us at the table, Piet and Nelly from the Netherlands.  They said we are welcome to visit.  I replied that they were welcome to Opp, Alabama anytime also, like that would be on the top of their destination list.

We drove home, at least it’s home to us for now.  We stopped for me to take pictures along the way.

Mom would have loved this window framed in wisteria in Cenac.

Looks like something Jim would buy for our flower garden to surprise or shock me.

Saint Cyprien – our town for the month of May. It is a cloudy Sunday with rain on the horizon.

We met our neighbor at the bottom of the hill. She is the one with the view of the chateau that I mentioned in the first post about Moncrabou, the tiny hamlet we are living in presently. Adorable dog, don’t you agree?

Totally sweet. I must invite them for a visit.

My brother called after we arrived.  He wanted me to know that he had cut roses from Mama’s rosebush to place on her grave.  He lives in Mom’s house with the red rosebush at the front window.  I have a rosebush at my front doorsteps that Mama rooted from a cutting taken from the same bush.  I don’t recognize a specific day as Mother’s Day on the calendar.  I know I must honor my parents everyday.  Some days bring stronger memories than others. Today I planted flowers in flower pots for the terrace.  I know I am just renting, but putting my hands in the black soil and tamping in the begonias and verbena felt like a good way to spend the afternoon of a beautiful day.

Purple petunias are planted, and two empty pots are waiting.

I’m thankful for another day in France.  I’m thankful for friends, my family, my husband and especially my parents who taught me to be thankful.

“A Donkey, Peonies and a Chateau” – by Debbie Ambrous

“Stop the car!  He is so cute!”  Jim heard the words bubbling from my mouth and pulled over.  I hurriedly took my camera from its case and ran down the side of the country road with cows watching my matronly jog. A farmer was on his tractor with his eyes only on the field ahead.  Jim waited in the car while I found my photogenic, lovable friend who patiently turned his head in each direction and held the pose with as much grace as a fashion model.

Speaking to my donkey friend I said, “You are adorable, but if we are going to be close friends you must do something about the nose hair.”

I walked slowly to the car with a big smile on my face, and Jim greeted me through an opened window saying, “I thought you might run away with a Frenchman over here.  What happened?  Didn’t he want a South Alabama lady for his farmhouse?  I slammed my door and told him, “No, he resembled you too much.  I already have a look-alike American husband.  I’ll show you the pictures I just took later as the proof.”  I smiled even bigger!

Further along the road we found the Chateau de L’Herm.  We had the place to ourselves.  A private tour of a chateau with no other tourists crowding around was totally wonderful.

The chateau is in ruins, and reconstruction is underway but it didn’t seem that any work had taken place recently.

We found beautiful peonies on our way home.  They are one of my favorite flowers!

Jim took me to see a donkey, a carnival, peonies and a chateau. Wonderful! He’s quite wonderful also.

Just click for more pictures on the France pictures and storytelling page.  Thank you for joining us along the way.

“Just Plain Lazy” – by Debbie Ambrous

Writing isn’t exactly flowing like wine here in France like I expected.  I usually have a theme for the story, hopefully sticking to it with only a few surprise curves and perhaps even a moral to the story.  Now it seems that I have only plugged in pictures with comments like a doddering great-aunt would leave on her vacation photos to the seaside.  Forgive me but the sumptuous meals, dreamy landscapes and tempting antiques have filled my brain to overflowing.  Then again, I am working almost full-time for the construction company while I am here with my work day running from 2:30 PM to 10:30 PM (France time).  Those details can run over into the other part of the day as well.

We drove to Urval and Ville-Franche-du-Perigord yesterday for vide-grenier (like a yard sale – literally means “Empty out the attic”) and flower sale.   As we were driving along I suddenly saw the sign for Urval.  I told Jim that it must not be the main exit since we had not been through Siorac yet, and he said, “Oh, yes we have.  Where were you?  Didn’t you see that big grocery store we went to on Friday?”  My mind had been on work.

Those are the reasons that my inkwell for writing is dry, or maybe I am just plain lazy.  Whatever the cause, I will try to shape up.

We’ve met new friends already. Ray and Gayle, on the left, are from California and they’ve lived here for seven years. The nice ladies on the right are French. Ray and Gayle stayed busy with translation during our Sunday lunch.

Etouffee de joue de boeuf confit au vin de Domme, Petits oignons glaces a brun
(my selection for the main dish)

Ray’s dessert selection – They were all hoping I would rush with the photo shoot, or he would have charred remains.

Tatin aux pomme, caramel laitier, et sa glace vanille Bourbon
My dessert selection

Douceur de fraises, riz au lait senteurs Cumbawa, sorbet du meme fruit
Do you have room for more dessert?

We dined here at La Treille at Vitrac, France Just click on the picture for their website

The view from the restaurant terrace

When we leave the restaurant, this road and others like it take us home to our house in France – Moncrabou – Just click on the picture to see Chef Jim’s cooking over on the France pictures and storytelling page.

More pictures are on the France Pictures and Storytelling page.  Just click on over.  Thank you very much for your support.  Ya’ll come back to visit.  I hope to post often during this Month of May in France at Moncrabou.

“Bonjour and Hi Ya’ll” – by Debbie Ambrous

Yahoo says “Bonjour Debbie” when I log-in for my e-mail now.  Jim and I have escaped to Southwest France in the Dordogne region.  I promised a surprise for the next post, and I gave a distant hint saying it related to goats.   Moncrabou, the name of our rental house, means “Mountain of Goats” in an old dialect.  It seems that goats grazed on this hill many years ago.  No goats graze in the fields now, but the Ambrous couple are feeling right at home in the lovely neighborhood.

I must tell you from my heart that I’ve wanted this for a very long time.  I’ve wished and hoped to stay long enough to just “live here” doing the routine things that we normally do instead of spending all of my time as a tourist.  Jim turned on the leaf blower and blew the leaves and debris from the terrace today.  I planted purple petunias in a flower pot.  Jim cooked while I worked.  None of this is typical touristic activity. My days from 2:30 PM are spent at my laptop.  I take my dinnertime hour from work instead of a lunch time break.  I was very nervous that the Wi-Fi might not work, but everything is running smoothly.  Yes, this is work as usual, except I can visit a castle in the morning when Florida and Alabama are still sleeping.

Some days will be “vacation” days while we explore, but for the month of May, we are just living in France.  It would be lovely to see questions and comments.  Just type away in the “Reply” area.  I do hope to hear from you!!

Our living room is on the second level with wonderful views of the village and countryside. It’s warm during the day, so our windows are wide open.


Jim is in the window watching a deer nibbling away in the field across from our house.  The quilt from our bed is soaking up the sunshine in the last window

Our neighbor just three doors down has the view to die for! We can see the castle turrets from the field beyond our terrace and when we drive into the hamlet.

Jim hasn’t lost his touch. He is still turning out food that would possibly beat the French chefs’ cuisine. He is in the kitchen at the moment coaxing a dying coffee maker to work one more time before it goes to coffee maker heaven.

My laptop with its French connection is in the far corner, my work area for now. A tiny birdcage is at the window ledge with an artificial bird inside. A real bird took flight from the window and shocked me silly when I was working today. I was deep in thought…that’s my alibi anyway for mixing real with artificial.

I hunted carefully for an atmospheric house with a fireplace since it was cold in May when we were here previously. We haven’t used it once! It isn’t cold enough, but that’s good news too.

“A French Opportunity” is a nice book for a comfortable chair like this. If you don’t have your copy yet, just click the picture for details.

I don’t have any new pictures on the French Pictures and Storytelling page, but I promise to add some during the month.  Thank ya’ll for visiting.  Come back often!