“I Bought a Bear” – by Debbie Ambrous

The saleslady in the background knows she has a customer, and she is waiting for the right moment to clinch the deal.  I was drawn to the peppermint-colored rose on the left, but my pocketbook wasn’t.

On May 8th there was a flower sale in Villefranche-du-Périgord, a bastide town with arcades, a central covered market and narrow lanes.    My calendar was marked, and I was ready to go.  I always consult the brocobrac website for antique and junk sales when we visit France, and we usually find much more than we expected.

It took a fair amount of coaxing to convince Jim to sniff the roses for my camera.

Jim fortunately found a parking place, and we walked uphill directly into the row of rose plants – all of them for sale!  Yellow, red, pink and white roses vied for my attention with fragrance luring me to each one.  My eyes went immediately to a peppermint-stripe, climbing rose since I had fallen in love with a rose exactly like this one in California when we went to see grandson Daniel.  The price was 35 euro!  That was too many euros to indulge my idea of planting a rose in France.  At the moment I didn’t even know where I would plant it!

Outdoor lingerie market under the cathedral bell tower

Moving on to the lingerie vendor, I found a simple, white cotton nightgown with just a touch of embroidery.  I can’t seem to find anything like it when I shop at home.  My hot flash triggered body doesn’t need heavy knit or silky material at night.  Sheer cotton is perfect.  I will remember this shopping center in front of the cathedral.

Should I buy one for Daniel?

We looked through a long row of displays in the square and along the narrow road through town with no special interest for any of the items.



Among the flow of people I saw a cute little girl, all dressed in pink with a matching hat, and a soft smile lit her rosy face. The proud mom consented for a picture of her beautiful daughter for my blog. Then the perfectly adorable, petite miss was camera shy.  No smiles for me.  No worries. Her smile is captured in my memory.

Louise Mansen bears

The pink chapeau and little girl playfulness must have influenced my thoughts more than I realized.  The last vendor displayed a table of teddy bears which I normally would have passed with only a glance.  She had sleeping bears, twin bears, a bear in a bathrobe and a lady bear in a big hat with a bow.  Then I made a mistake that led to commitment.  I picked up a little, soft bear.  It seemed to cuddle in my arms, and its face had a “take me home” smile.  I looked at Jim with a “can I keep it?” smile.  My teddy bear named Dawn was hand-crafted by Louise Mansen, and her handiwork can be found on E-bay and Pinterest.  The little tag on Dawn’s ear said she is an authentic and engaging friend who will accompany you with the passing of time. She lives up to expectations, unlike the loud, crash advertisement for some modern toys and entertainment.  Dawn snuggles on my bedside in her pansy cross-stitched pinafore each day, always with the same smile reminding me of the day I bought a bear in France. 

The story continues when you click here.

More adorable animals, but I had my limit.

Not on the Delta Airlines acceptable list

Each night I touch Dawn’s cuddly softness when I remove her from her resting place on the pillow on our bed.  I’m extra generous, but two females in the bed with Jim is too crowded.  Dawn is out in the cold for the night.

Could you leave a reply below? Would you keep walking and resist the cute bears?  Have you bought an irresistible, irrational purchase? Were you happy that you did so?

“A French Opportunity” is a good bedtime companion. Just click on Dawn’s picture. Isn’t she cute?  Could you share Dawn’s story with a friend?

“Mexico from A to Z” – by Debbie Ambrous

We stayed here on a hillside above Morelia many years ago. My camera held film in those days. Negatives are lost, so these are scanned pictures for the blog.

Jim caught me searching for a colorful, Mexican vacation rental home in San Miguel Allende on the Homeaway website.  Looking over my shoulder he said, “I thought we were going to France again this coming year.  Are we flying to SMA via Paris?”  “Shush!  I’m only thinking ahead for a future time.  We are still on for France!”  He rubbed his head and rolled his eyes, but he hung around to hear me out.

Partial view of Morelia down below. We wanted to stay at VILLA MONTANA but it was totally booked. We stayed in the lovely, less expensive place,  across the street. Unexpected good surprises do happen while traveling.

Mexico is an old flame.  She ignited our love before we were captivated by La Belle France.  We touched her tender and rough spots, traveling to Ajijic, Cancun, Valladolid, Chichén-Itzá, Merida, Mexico City, Puebla, Morelia, Patzcuaro, Guadalajara, Guanajuato, San Miguel Allende, Zacatecas, Tlaquepaque, Aguascalientes, Isla Mujeres, Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta, Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo.  From A to Z, our eyes savored the beauty of Mexico.   If the old flame doubts the depth of my feelings, I will tell a story to stifle any suspicions.  Sometime during our journeys I had minor surgery with a light anesthesia.  The nurses who had never met me before the surgery said I talked about Mexico while I was under!  Does that give you goose-bumps?   Passion ran deep.

Children playing at a fountain in San Miguel de Allende

Lady with her child waits in the shadows hoping to sell her hand-made dolls. Of course, I bought one!

Jim was still leaning and peering at the computer screen.   I whetted his appetite for Mexico, pointing to the features of the rental house on the screen. “Look at the red bougainvillea climbing the stone walls and the massive columns dripping with orange flowering vines at the secluded terrace with a gurgling fountain centered with two playful statues frozen in frolicking nakedness.  Imagine yourself in a hammock or lounging on the soft recliners.”  Jim’s eyes almost closed as he thought about a siesta.

Flowers in the courtyard of a B&B in San Miguel de Allende

I lured him on inside the house and pointed to the boveda ceilings, thirty-foot in height! I mentioned the warmth of the coral paint on the walls brightened by the huge crystal chandelier and a crackling fireplace.  Moving on to the dining room with gorgeous paintings on the aqua-painted walls, we imagined Mexican food served by the cook. Yes, of course, it has a cook!  Another chandelier hung from thirty feet above, and candelabras decorated the table.

We stayed at Mansion del Bosque, a B&B in SMA. It was a simple place but lush with plants and flowers on the terraces.

I dragged Jim on to the vacation home kitchen promising him that he would thank me.  His eyes popped when he saw the blue and white tiled, huge kitchen with a dozen copper pots hung above the professional range.  It was just too atmospheric and beautiful for words.  From there on it was easy.  He was hooked.  Upstairs on the roof terrace, a built-in grill curved his mouth into a big smile; the rosy glow of the sunset and the twinkling lights of the city were icing on the torta.

We stayed at the QUINTA REAL for a couple of days and then moved to this beautiful inn for our last night. Be sure to click on THIS PICTURE to see the Quinta Real that is a hotel built surrounding a bullring that was used for a concert when we visited.

Scenes like this stole my heart. Such lovely people!

I am quite sure this was in Puebla, but my pictures were a bit mixed at this point.

I suggested with a flutter of my eyes that he could see the bedroom next.  Antique mirrors brightened one wall in the bedroom fit for a royal sovereign, and the glow of the chandelier enhanced the pure white, cloud-like king-size bed.  The headboard had two wood-carved, white angels, with gold twinkling on their outspread wings.  Jim startled me when he said: “I am not sleeping there!  Whoa!  Oh, no! Not me!”  I admitted that I was not sure about the bedroom either and asked why he was so adamant about his feelings.

Mural in Aguascalientes

He spouted out this mouthful in a chili-pepper-minute!  “If I curled up in that bed and slept under those angels and had a heart attack, the Mexican 911 guys would rush into the bedroom and see me at the foot of the angels with my pretty, sad wife by my side weeping.”  Taking a breath he rushed on saying the EMT crew’s dark eyes would open widely at the golden glow on the angel’s wings.  Jim said one of the men would say to the other, “Carlos, we done come too late for this poor, old fellow.  Pitiful as he is, it’s a dog-gone, crying shame that he’s up and left behind that mighty pretty wife.”  Jim claimed that, “Juan Carlos, a handsome Antonio Banderas look-a-like, would sidle up with his condolences, like a  buzzard on road-kill!”  Lastly, he said that I, his loving wife, would run away to France with Juan Carlos!

My face was twisted and contorted, a face beyond a Botox fix,  when I asked Jim: “I have two questions.  First, did you have tequila shot for your viewing pleasure of Homeaway?  Second, why on earth wouldn’t the Mexican EMT crew speak Spanish, or at least English with a Spanish accent?”

With irritation he replied, “Ms. D.A., I refuse to answer the first question.  Your second interrogatory question is easy, I ran the Spanish through Google Translation to convert to South Alabama so as you would understand and get my drift.  Now, I have a question for you, Missy D.A.  As I recall, you also said you were not sure about sleeping in that bed either.  Now, proceed to explain yourself.”

I would choose this headboard, but not my old hairstyle. In all fairness, I was “on the road” in a VW with no air conditioning.

That’s simple.  I don’t feel worthy of a bed with the angels.  Since I have a husband with an angelic disposition, I don’t need a fancy bed like that.  Furthermore, I would not run away with a stranger even if he was an Antonio Banderas look-a-like!  Jim grinned and gave no further rebuttal.  My eyes lingered on the luxurious Mexican rental house.

Click on “Colorful as Mexico” to see the France – storytelling and pictures page.

Jim drove this VW from Guadalajara to Zacatecas and back, with Morelia, San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato and more along the route. He deserves a golden headboard in my opinion!

Mamá sabe major! Click para comprar “Una Oportunidad Francesca”

Come to Opp, Alabama for the best, authentic Mexican food. You will not be disappointed! I am not kidding. Jim recommends with 5 stars!
Rancho Grande Grill on Main Street in downtown Opp, Alabama

“Behind the Barn” – by Debbie Ambrous

Master Card approved the euros for our admission to Marqueyssac Gardens, but instead of following the pathway uphill I veered to the right toward a barn filled with old, dusty farm equipment.  Jim followed along to see what we would get into this time, not saying: “Why are you going this way? Didn’t you see the sign?  “What in the world are you doing? If you’re looking for the bathroom, it’s the other way!” I had taken a detour instead of plowing ahead on the fast lane to a gorgeous chateau and verdant gardens.  It was like passing through the turnstiles to Disney World and suddenly deciding to check what is behind the gift shops instead of racing with a fast pass to Space Mountain.

Delaying our entry to the magnificent gardens, I was interested in knowing what photo opportunities might be hidden down the quiet pathway completely void of tourists.  Stepping inside the old barn to investigate the sturdy, wooden wagons, I suddenly saw a brilliant peacock on a picnic table outside the opposite open door.  I quietly aimed and shot a picture hoping I would not startle him.  I gradually edged closer and closer for pictures.  The peacock swooped from the picnic table and went into total performance mode, better than any Disney character.  We stood within a few feet of the glowing colors while the non-stop lilting and swirling of vibrant feathers held us as audience to a solitary, silent momentous event.

Stunning pre-show! Notice the ripple in the feathers as he begins to unfold for the performance. Just the warm-up.

I felt privileged especially since the male peacock usually struts his stuff for the female audience, showing off his tail feathers.  He props up the long train and unfolds the fan of feathers, and if the female peahen is interested he quivers and shimmies better than the best dancer on “Dancing with the Stars”.  I must have been his intended unless he had very bad eyesight and aimed his tantalizing tango for Jim.

Technically speaking, the male is the peacock and the female is the peahenNational Geographic and San Diego Zoo websites enlightened me, but I’ve lived with peacocks outside my front door – literally – when Coconut Grove was our home.  Did you know they can fly?  You don’t want to hang around under the tree branches when they’re building a tree house above, considering the likelihood of smelly poop landing on your head.  Loud screams in the early morning were not welcome or pleasurable when the peacocks sounded out their communication.  In India and Sri Lanka the peafowl are likely to be the first to spot a predator, such as a tiger, and call out a loud alarm!  Most houses in the Grove had burglar alarms.  Now, if only they could train the peafowl to sound an alarm for ugly predators.  People would stand up and notice the lowly peahen!The humble peahen is lacking in a designer wardrobe compared to the flashy male.  She raises the chicks by herself, sitting on the eggs for around four weeks in a lowly pile of sticks, like a ghetto squatter.  I will have to admit that the peacocks in France at Marqueyssac have some fancy quarters. Visit them when you can. You will love it even without a solo, private peacock performance.  Jim and I walked away from the peacock, silently in awe of the harmony and beauty of these birds.  And, you know it must take a lot to silence Mr. Jim!

Just click here for more of the gardens at France – storytelling and pictures.

Just click the picture to read more about France and the begonia-loving peacocks in Coconut Grove!

Are you are a bird lover?  Do you have pet birds?  I would love to hear your bird stories.  Just leave a comment in the “reply” section below.