“A Long Time Ago – In a Land Faraway” – by Debbie Ambrous

Chateau Marcay - a dreamy hotel with 30 wonderful rooms and a gourmet restaurant - "Hold on to your hats! We will visit shortly, but let's go shopping first!"

Chateau Marcay – a dreamy hotel with 30 wonderful rooms and a gourmet restaurant – “Hold on to your hats! We will visit shortly, but let’s go shopping first!

Dressed in our Sunday-best clothes, we were heading to Chinon, France on Dimanche (Sunday) for the Brocante Mensuelle (Monthly Antique Sale) which attracts local people and tourists with colorful displays in the squares and along the ancient streets.  Doesn’t such a festive event deserve equally attractive attire?  We thought so.  Old serving dishes, fragile teacups, pewter pitchers, copper pans, tiny brooches with intricate designs, hand-embroidered cloths and other goodies would be there for me to examine, photograph and possibly purchase.  Other men and women had the same thoughts and drove their cars in a rush to the parking lots and streets, filling every imaginable spot.  I knew this would possibly be beyond frustration for Jim, although he can handle the challenge with the best of drivers. 

A brightly-colored sign pointed to a Vide-Grenier (empty out the attic) on a narrow side road in the small community of Anché.  Hey, Jim, let’s turn on this road.  It could be more fun to shop here for the garage-sale type stuff than in Chinon.  It should be easy to park in the field, and prices are usually lower in the small towns.” This was a French accordion lullaby to Jim’s ears, easy parking and cheap prices. 

Aren't they sooo cute?

Aren’t they sooo cute?

Jim called out, "Come here! I found the perfect thing for you.  See!! That big fan will take care of your worst hot flashes!"

Jim called out, “Come here! I found the perfect thing for you. See!! That BIG FAN will take care of your worst hot flashes!”

We walked in the sunshine, checking out everything from baby booties to the kitchen sink.

Is she thinking about her younger days on a motorcycle?  Or, is she thinking about a trade?

Is she thinking about her younger days on a motorcycle? Or, is she thinking about a trade?

I love those cool fixtures!  However, my plumber might not like the installation.

I love those cool fixtures! However, my plumber might not like the installation.

Not me!!! But she has the right idea for the heat.

Not me!!! But she has the right idea for the heat.

Sausages cooking on a hot grill lured us to a picnic table with a sweet family, sharing laughter and cookies together.  The three-year-old boy had a tiny car in his hand, and he was more interested in playing race car driver than eating his food.  Older sister wanted attention since little brother caught our eyes instead.  She talked loudly, but then fell silent and bashful in front of the camera.  The middle-child was quiet for the entire meal.  Middle-children are often left out, unfair, but it happens.  Sending love to our middle child pronto with that thought. We left the festive group in the sunshine and made our way to the car with no purchases, but our personal bags were packed with the kindness of strangers and memories of a fun morning, our favorite Brocante Mensuelle.

Since we are dressed in our Dimanche-best clothes, maybe it would be a good time to visit the Chateau Marcay.”  With this suggestion to Jim, we drove to Chateau Marcay, a luxury hotel with a gourmet restaurant situated amidst the vineyards in the village of Marcay, just a very short drive from Chinon.  Catching sight of the chateau at the end of a long driveway lined with trees will elicit a gasp and heighten the anticipation of reaching the romantic room.  In other words, when you see that long, long line of trees and the pretty castle, you will whoop and holler, “Heavenly days! Get outta here! Look at that, will you!?  You mean we are gonna stay there!  After you get hold of yourself and park the car, you will be walking across the courtyard with the rocks crunching under your feet, but you won’t notice it because you will be floating in the clouds. 

You might feel as decadently, luxurious as the lady in the painting.

You might feel as decadently, luxurious as the lady in the painting.

I would like to say that I had this type  of arrival experience when Jim and I stayed long ago in this far away land.  No, we arrived at the beautiful chateau, very tired, cranky, totally annoyed with each other and a long way from being romantic, or rich.  Still, we planned to indulge in one night at the splendid hotel.  Our timing was not good since we were not on speaking terms with each other.  (Read more Chateau Marcay and our experiences in the book “A French Opportunity” available in paperback or Kindle by clicking here for the French Amazon site or here for the American Amazon site.)  Have you ever planned a wonderful party, or vacation, and then when the time arrived you felt like screaming instead of laughing?  It happens!  I believe we finally warmed up enough to not totally waste a bedroom with a view of a tower, close enough to touch it, and a room with big bed in a French chateau worthy of romance!

Sending a letter in advance to make arrangements to visit would have been the proper way to enter the chateau, but I had not.  Sorry, Mama, I know that was bad manners, and you raised me better than that!  My business cards were completely gone, so I blundered around telling the nice lady at the front desk, who spoke better English than I, about my book and I scribbled the name of my website on a piece of paper.  Then, we ambled down the ancient hallway past antiques, paintings and a comfortable salon to the sunny terrace, finding a shady corner with an umbrella to enjoy cake and coffee.  At least we were in love and smiling at each other, completely in the moment, enjoying the view and allowing the sumptuous ambience to capture us in that cloud of romance, even though we are not young newly-weds anymore.  Perhaps, even more reason to be here.

Jim is waiting in the shady corner for me, without the "big fan" that he suggested.  I had a better idea of sitting in the shade on a beautiful terrace.

Jim is waiting in the shady corner for me, without the “big fan” that he suggested. I had a better idea of sitting in the shade on a beautiful terrace.

We returned to the front desk to a trio of young ladies.  Of course, Jim was in fine form then with three beautiful young ladies to present with his version of Southern Alabama charm. 

(Left to right) Charline, Laurence and Stephanie - Thank you for a gracious and hospitable visit!

(Left to right) Charline, Laurence and Stephanie – Thank you for a gracious and hospitable visit!

Laurence graciously volunteered to show us around.  She didn’t know what she was getting into, but she did a fine job and she is welcome in Opp, Alabama anytime!  We saw two equally beautiful bedrooms, one much larger than the other.  My favorite was the blue bedroom with the drop-dead beautiful bathroom!  We were not staying this time, but our visit caused us to put another stay at Chateau Marcay on our bucket list.  Perhaps, you should also!!

My personal favorite bedroom!

My personal favorite bedroom!

Taking a photo of myself in the big, gorgeous bathroom.  Laurence is giggling at me in the corner.

Taking a photo of myself in the big, gorgeous bathroom. Laurence is giggling at me in the corner.  Huge jacuzzi tub is behind me.

Massive suite, suitable for a Princess, or a Queen!  Indeed, perhaps royalty slept here.  Hmm.. Probably  quite good that the walls cannot talk!

Massive suite, suitable for a Princess, or a Queen! Indeed, perhaps royalty slept here. Hmm.. Probably quite good that the walls cannot talk!

Come on over to Chateau Marcay.  Tell the good folks here that we sent you.  You will love it here as much as we do.

Come on over to Chateau Marcay. Tell the good folks here that we sent you. You will love it here as much as we do.

Thanks to the readers for coming around to visit us, and special thanks to Charline, Laurence and Stephanie.  Oh, and I must say thanks to the family who shared the picnic table with us. 

Be sure to click over to the Chateau Marcay website for information and beautiful pictures, without me in the bathroom mirror!

“Jardin of Good and Scared!” – by Debbie Ambrous

Peonies and roses at La Maison Perrotin - my bouquet - Peonies are finally blooming!

Peonies and roses at La Maison Perrotin – my bouquet – Peonies are finally blooming! You can call me, but I won’t be answering on this antique phone.

Come on out, please.  I really want to see you.  The sun is shining, and it’s warm most of the time now.  You will be so beautiful and make me very happy.”  I said these words to coax the peonies to bloom, very quietly so no one would hear me and think I was crazy. 

I walked further examining the tiny fruit on the trees and the petite green raspberries gradually maturing in the sunshine.  The strawberries are ripening; we had a few with ice cream for dessert last night.  Further, at the back of the garden on the adjoining property in the rear, is an old stone house in ruins.  I thought of the many houses like this that I’ve seen for more than ten years on the internet for sale.  I skipped any thought of these tumbled-down houses and searched for one with a roof in good shape and functioning plumbing and electricity in place.  Dreamers like me often think that it would be easy to remodel.  I stood quietly, not coaxing the peonies for several minutes, and then moved a few steps along the stone wall.  A long object that resembled rebar (a rusty-colored metal building material) except thicker was on the rock-covered walkway.  Then I noticed the curve at the end.  Snake!!!  I was shocked at how perfectly camouflaged the snake was with the rusty-brown colored rocks blending around it.  When I regained my breath, I told my feet to move fast and I rushed to the house – this time watching the ground for more snakes!  Breathlessly, I told my snake story to Jim, and he laughed at my fright.  I don’t think that he believed a snake was in the garden, but we grabbed our cameras like good tourists and rushed to the scene of the snake-sighting.   The snake was not there!  See, I told you so!  It was a snake!” 

I searched on the internet and learned that there are only two poisonous snakes to watch for – vipers or adders – with slit-shaped pupils and grey or reddish-brown skin.   Sounds like my rebar snake, but I didn’t look him in the eyes since he seemed to be using the rock pathway as a tanning bed.  They are apparently more aggressive during the spring – mating season.  Spring!?  This is spring!  The article said the poisonous snakes are usually not deadly, but one should remain calm and head to the hospital if bitten.  Taking a picture was suggested, but one should not kill the snake since they are protected in France.  Just keeping you informed. 

Warning sign near an Alabama lake

Warning sign near an Alabama lake

I watch very carefully for snakes on our Alabama property and other outdoor areas since poisonous snakes are prevalent and deadly. 

It had not even crossed my mind here in France when I’ve wandered through the woods, by the roads, on farm property and stepped on cow, horse, sheep and chicken manure.  I only thought of the smelly stuff on my boots, not the poison potential in the area.  The good news is that a tourist will rarely even see a snake, so look at how fortunate I was!  Very special, indeed!

Painters below reminded me of Stephan, Mele and Dominika with Prime Beluskov Painting

Painters below reminded me of Stephan, Mele and Dominika with Prime Beluskov Painting

Later in the day we visited Loches and I was enjoying the view below from a high vantage point.  Painters with ladders were painting shutters a bright red color on a house below.  I was thinking about the many, many days that I worked at the main office for a major construction company and talked with subcontractors daily.  The painters reminded me of a subcontractor, Prime Beluskov Painting; they have a European background and appreciated hearing about my trips to France.  I was smiling at the workers below as I remembered my friends in Florida.  I heard Jim suddenly say, “Look out for the tree snake!  I turned quickly and saw his prank. 

NOT a snake, just a tree limb without leaves.  Sneaky Jim's trick!

NOT a snake, just a tree limb without leaves. Sneaky Jim’s trick!

 I suggested an antidote to his snake prank. “Do you want to take the fast way back to the car – head first over this wall?

We drove on to Montresor, one of the Plus Beaux Villages in France.  It was lunchtime when we arrived on a Monday with the boulangerie closed, so we couldn’t buy a sandwich.  Boulangeries close on Monday in most instances, and many are closed during the lunchtime.  We see many changes in France compared to earlier days.  Stores are open during lunch and Sunday in some instances, which was unheard of during earlier times when we visited.  Honestly, I would like to see the old ways continue.  I respect the way of life with more time for workers to be with their families and enjoy life. 

Authentic French atmosphere inside and excellent food

Authentic French atmosphere inside and excellent food – CAFE DE LA VILLE

We found only one restaurant in the village and wasn’t sure it would be very good.  We were very pleasantly surprised!  Great service and very good food! 

Just leave everything in her hands - You will feel right at home!

Just leave everything in her hands – You will feel right at home!

I had the beef and Jim had fish.  We chose from the specials of the day that included salad bar, a main dish and dessert for twelve euros.  The small dining room and porch area were filled with local people and a few other tourists.

Jim had the view of the television, and I could people-watch from my side.

Jim had the view of the television, and I could people-watch from my side.

 

The UK couple were selecting from this cheese board

The UK couple were selecting from this cheese board

Handwritten on the shirt:

Handwritten on the shirt: July 2013 plus a thank you note

Our table on one side had a Canadian in their group, and to the other side a couple from the UK was happily enjoying their meal.  It was nice to talk with them and exchange stories.  I forgot to tell them about the snake.  Maybe just as well.

Along another road, far from Montresor, I saw an artsy collection of rebar trees.  I was mouthing my lack of admiration for the rusty metal decor when Jim said, “Well, you know you gotta have a rebar forest for your rebar snakes!”

Rebar trees?  Who is head of city planning?

Rebar trees? Who is head of city planning?

A nice pathway runs along the waterway below the chateau, a  wonderful place for a walk after lunch. 

Isn't this a peaceful, lovely place?  See CHATEAU MONTRESOR

Isn’t this a peaceful, lovely place? See CHATEAU MONTRESOR

SNAKE-14Come walk with us again.  Merci!   ORDER THE BOOK “A FRENCH OPPORTUNITY” IN FRANCE EASILY, BY CLICKING HERE.

 

 

“Rabbit Stew” – by Debbie Ambrous

Knock! Knock! Is anyone home? Could you direct me to Isaac and Florence's home?

Knock! Knock! Is anyone home? Could you direct me to Isaac and Florence’s home?

Lunch was waiting for us in Villeperdue with lapin (rabbit) stew, rice, beets, carrots, olives, cheese and fried plantain on the menu.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Fried plantain (bananas)! 

Plantain - cooking hot and sweet in the frying pan!

Plantain – cooking hot and sweet in the frying pan!

I’ve loved them since I acquired the taste in the Caribbean, and it was further cultivated in Miami.  Isaac and Florence invited us to lunch, and their son Manoah came home from school to be with us, also.  Priscillia, their lovely daughter, couldn’t join us, but she will be at our house next for a meal.

How did all of this happen?  I will only suggest that one should grab at each safe opportunity to speak with local people.  Many English-speaking groups are here in France including clubs, church groups, sports groups and much more.  Speak to people in the markets.  With a few of your French words, gestures and their English, perhaps much better than your French, you can create a memory and possibly the beginning of a friendship.  We stopped at a market in a nearby town earlier in the morning, but we didn’t find any extra guests for the dining table today.

Meet Manoah - such a helpful and polite young man!  I will get Priscillia's picture next time.

Meet Manoah – such a helpful and polite young man! I will get Priscillia’s picture next time.

 

Manoah and Priscillia - the children - folded the napkins in the attractive design.

Manoah and Priscillia – the children – folded the napkins in the attractive design.

Jim waited in the car while I took pictures of the chateau and got directions at the boulangerie.  He struck out at the bar/tabac and the gas/feed store.  Both places said, "right of the chateau" with many gestures.

Jim waited in the car while I took pictures of the chateau and got directions at the boulangerie. He struck out at the bar/tabac and the gas/feed store. Both places said, “right of the chateau” with many gestures.

Villeperdue is a very small community with an extravagantly beautiful, private chateau on the main street at the edge of the village.  I snapped pictures the best that I could while Jim waited in the car ready for a get-away in case the owners didn’t appreciate paparazzi in their bushes and trees.  When I hopped in the car, Jim said the gendarme had driven by.  He sounded serious, but you never know with the kid who was voted “Wittiest” in high school.

We didn’t find the house with the rabbit stew baking and plaintain bubbling in the frying pan just right away, so we stopped at the boulangerie for directions.   I know you are wondering why we went to the bakery for information and thinking why we didn’t go to a tourist information office instead.  It worked!  The owner of the boulangerie knows everyone in the village.  She looked at the address and asked who we were looking for and immediately knew Isaac and Florence.  The madame called Isaac, and he was there before you could say chocolate croissant.   So very nice and helpful!  See!  You can find more good stuff, even non-fattening, in a boulangerie.

Such a lovely couple! We think that Isaac looks like Sydney Poitier.  Sounds like him too!

Such a lovely couple! We think that Isaac looks like Sydney Poitier. Sounds like him too!

We talked and learned more about each other.  Isaac is in construction, so we had something in common.  Florence works also, assisting children with special needs.  Just like the United States, both parents often work in France to meet the budget.  We enjoyed the meal of rabbit stew, and it was a familiar dish since Alabama kitchens serve it up also. Chocolate dessert with coffee came next.  Then, we enjoyed a tour of their garden to see lettuce, tomatoes, parsley and Swiss chard growing in the dark soil. 

Fresh eggs!  Can we stay for breakfast?

Fresh eggs! Can we stay for breakfast?

Chickens were clucking away in the corner and pecking the ground, looking for their lunch. Florence has canned many jars of vegetables, ready to feed the family, and the children have their own little garden with radish and pepper plants. The family has fun camping together with a caravan (camper trailer).  I was a little envious.  I could see Jim and me warming by a campfire along the river.  Then I remembered my bad knee and Jim’s bad back and knew that La Maison Perrotin was the right choice for us.  Further around their yard, we saw fruit trees, apple and peach were coming along with tiny fruit appearing on the branches.  Jim admired their fine barbecue area that Isaac built.  Grape vines will soon cover the seating area with a nice canopy of shade in the summer.  I don’t know what they were cooking at the chateau down the road, but the atmosphere couldn’t possibly be as warm compared to what we enjoyed just a short hop away at Isaac and Florence’s home.  Merci!  Thank ya’ll!

“La Maison Perrotin” – by Debbie Ambrous

Streetview of La Maison Perrotin

Streetview of La Maison Perrotin – top window is our bedroom

Hopeful expectations fill our minds along with a few worries when we approach our vacation destination whether it is a rental home, or a camping spot.  Our few days of escape from our everyday work and routine are usually planned with research on the internet and poring over brochures until we reach a decision to open our pocketbook, pack our suitcases and hit the road for fun and new experiences.

Entry area from the garden and courtyard

Entry area from the garden and courtyard – La Maison Perrotin

Our first rental cottage stay began a couple of weeks ago on the site of the larger home that created so much love and warmth in my heart ten years ago.  It felt like home to us already, although we had never entered the smaller cottage.  I wasn’t sure it would work for a long stay, but to my surprise I believe we could be comfortable there for much longer than I had arranged, especially since the owner is making improvements with no impact to its charm and character. 

I think they are watching us.

I think they are watching us.

We packed and moved on Saturday to our next rental house for the month of May in Crouzilles, a true French village with not a sign of tourists.  The green gate to La Maison Perrotin on Rue de la Maison Sainte was open to a driveway lined with purple irises, espaliered pear trees and other shrubbery with yellow and purple flowers along a stone cottage.  I held my breath hoping the home was just as lovely.  The garden was filled with roses, fruit trees, a kitchen garden with fresh herbs for our use, and my heartthrob flower – peonies! cr19 Peonies are not blooming yet, but fat buds are bulging and ready to burst open.  I may finish my vacation sitting beside them in admiration. Tiny touches of character appeared around the garden such as little statues and benches.  Three seating areas with bistro chairs were scattered in shade and sun.  I could imagine and almost see our grandson Daniel when he is older enjoying the thrill of swinging high into the air on the children’s swing set.

"Push me higher, Grandeb!"

“Push me higher, Grandeb!”

Florent and Juanella (I hope I spelled the names correctly) welcomed us with a bottle of wine from our village Crouzilles from Earl Charbonnier Christian, in the center of the town (children played in their courtyard today as we walked past later).  Juanella had a pretty gift package with fig preserves that she had prepared and tiny sachets of herbs and lavender from the garden.  Such a kind and welcoming reception!  Inside we found a living room with a tall ceiling and massive beams overhead.  A comfortable leather sofa faced a Godin wood burning heater, ready to light with the wood stacked inside perfectly; central heating is also in the home.  The wide-screen television was set to play music and jazz filled the room.  I mentally did a Bill Cosby dance from an old television episode; at least my sweater didn’t match his.  Don’t mind me; I’m just giddy with excitement over this cute, sweet cottage.

cr9The living room opened to the dining area with typical French chairs surrounding the table covered with a pretty tablecloth.  A glass-fronted cabinet was filled with nice china and a teapot.  An antique sewing machine from Juanella’s family was positioned at the window.  Windows! Each room has abundant windows with gorgeous views. 

Kitchen is larger than it appears in the picture and opens to an area with closet space, a washer and toilet room.  A small table with coffeemaker is not shown.

Kitchen is larger than it appears in the picture and opens to an area with closet space, a washer and toilet room. A small table with coffeemaker is not shown.

Next the kitchen was one step up into a cozy, cute, functional area with coffee pot, electric kettle, microwave, counter top oven (on a wall shelf area) and a two-burner gas cook top. CR3Juanella had bouquets of roses to welcome us and rosebuds by the beds.  Water glasses were also on the nightstand; she must have heard about my hot flashes. 

We spent a comfortable night in a bed with clean, beautiful linens.  Tiny sachets of lavender were in the drawers, and all of the rooms were clean and naturally fragrant.  Comfortable, charming, super-clean, and adorable are good tag lines for La Maison Perrotin.

CR6

Door opens to a nice bathroom with deep bathtub and a closet with shelves for all of your bathroom necessities.

Door opens to a nice bathroom with deep bathtub and a closet with shelves for all of your bathroom necessities.

Downstairs bedroom - Two more bedrooms with either twin or single beds are upstairs along with our master bedroom with bathroom. The twin bedroom has white duvets and cute furnishings for children along with many storybooks.

Downstairs bedroom – Two more bedrooms with either twin or single beds are upstairs along with our master bedroom with bathroom. The twin bedroom has white duvets and cute furnishings for children along with many storybooks.

My new work desk.  Good internet connection here also.

My new work desk. Good internet connection here also.

After a comfortable night’s sleep and a nice breakfast, I had to hang our washing on the line to dry. cr17 I could imagine some tourist – like me – pushing a camera through the gate to take a picture of the quaint lady with the black leggings, white socks and a funky peach-colored hat with ribbon and flowers – hanging her laundry by the cute stone house with bright red roses and purple irises.  Tourists!! Such a nosy bunch of folks.

Warm up your crochet hooks.  The lovely lady owner crocheted the pretty window covering inside.

Warm up your crochet hooks. The lovely lady owner crocheted the pretty window covering shown inside this blue-shuttered window.

Downtown Crouzille - more pictures of the village and house later on Facebook

Downtown Crouzilles – more pictures of the village and house later on Facebook

cr23You can find La Maison Perrotin on Homeaway.  cr26 I know this seems like an advertisement, but it is only information I would like to share since this home is truly delightful.  I will be happy to discuss if you have any questions. Don’t forget to leave a message.  Now is the time for Alvin, Lena and Jintae to send us e-mails.  Looking for other messages also.  Hope to hear from you.  What do you think of this cottage?