“100,000 Flowers” – by Debbie Ambrous

Powerful pink peony bush is like 100,000 flowers in its glorious impact.

Powerful pink peony bush is like 100,000 flowers in its glorious impact.

“Saint-Fraimbault is a true village fleurie. Each Spring, 100,000 flowers swamp the village in color as villagers try to outdo each other’s displays.” I read these words from my travel guidebook when Jim and I were hurrying along the road in the rain in the Lower Normandy region of France in April of this year. Pointing to the suggestions in the book, I told Jim, “This lovely village with four stars for its flowers is just a short distance off the main road. Could we turn off and see the flowers?IMG_1525With 100,000 flowers dancing in my head, like a Disney production of fleuries on parade, we drove into the small town. Workers were digging into the soil and planting the flower beds at the entry, surely a direction sign for beauty in the village. Up the hill in the center of town was a rather average place with a church, a few businesses and houses. We parked and searched for the 100,000 flowers. Wisteria vines of old growth clung to ancient stone walls with purple clusters perfuming the air and enticing bumblebees. Beautiful, yes, but this was not the ecstasy of flowers that lured me from the main highway.IMG_1534We searched the streets and found humble flower gardens, all beautiful in their own simple manner, but not the 4-star-extravaganza I envisioned.IMG_1537-1 Gradually, we were won over by the village and the smiling ladies who spoke to us when we snapped our cameras at their flower gardens.

I read a sentence about the grand flower show that I had overlooked in the guidebook later when I was seated in the car: “It all culminates in a mid-August festival.” Ah, we were too early! The blooms were still sleeping and waiting for the big days in the summer. Perhaps some of the simple buildings were hiding away the full production like Disney has the parade floats under cover until it is show time. In the summer sun the bands will play, the children will laugh and old ladies will be happy with the production in the lovely village in France. I was happy with the giant, pink peonies and the promise of more to come.

Saint Céneri le Gérei, France
“The ravishing village has a memorable setting. Crowned by a fine Romanesque church, its stone houses overlook the gentle River Sarthe as it flows around a rocky promontory on the edge of the Alpes Mancelles.” IMG_1929These words in my Eyewitness Travel guidebook lit passion in my Francophile heart for yet another idyllic beauty to store in my camera with the other 2000 photos. I was not disappointed. With this short description, I will leave the pictures to speak their words.IMG_1944IMG_1937IMG_1910IMG_1920As for my current plans, I will be taking advantage of this warmer weather while today is gorgeous and hoping I will have a modest fleurie garden this coming spring.IMG_1916




I hope you enjoyed the short visit to the villages. I thought I would be quiet about the reason for my brevity for the blog, but I will own up to the truth. As I sit here today, I have a shoulder and a knee with bandages from skin biopsies after my dermatology appointment. This isn’t the best company for writing!

It does provide the perfect time to give a reminder to protect your skin from the sun and see a dermatologist regularly. I’ve had a number of skin cancers removed including two that were close to the danger zone. I am very careful and I appreciate the excellent Dr. Boni Elewkski’s (University Medical Center – Birmingham, AL) thorough exams.

Yes, that’s Jim between the two lovely ladies on the left – proving his unbelievable chick magnetism  again!

I will be away from my keyboard most of the coming days with no blog entries until 2015.

See you next year! Be safe, happy, healthy and please come to visit again!


Thank you for all of your generous kindness during this year! Ya’ll are the best of the best!!

“Wednesday or Tuesday Night” – by Debbie Ambrous

The well-trained dog waited patiently for his croissant. Now, this is the real France!

The well-trained dog waited patiently for his croissant. Now, this is the real France!

Tell them about the morning when we had breakfast with the dog.” That was Jim’s suggestion when I was pondering my next story for the blog. He thought it was great fun to drink his coffee and share his croissants with the friendly black dog in France while local people gathered at the counter for their morning choice of drinks. No fancy restaurant, or touristy place, to start our day. We were there for the French breakfast of champions. I agreed with Jim saying, “That’s a good idea. I should have written it several days ago instead of playing around and lazing around here. Why don’t I have it ready ahead of time instead of waiting until the last minute?

Painted sign on the pavement a few yards from our morning coffee & croissants

Painted sign on the pavement a few yards from our morning coffee & croissants

Neighborhood house a few doors away

Neighborhood house a few doors away from early morning coffee

Colorful houses lining the next street below

Colorful houses lining the next street down below

With those energetic, ambitious words floating around in the air, I settled into my soft, down-filled cushions on the sofa to continue reading “A House Somewhere”, a Lonely Planet compilation of tales of life abroad. The stories of Paris and Provence were finished quickly, and I was concentrating on the piece titled “Digging Mr. Benny’s Dead Uncle” by Rolf Potts. The plot was rolling out with Mr. Benny, Potts’ barber, who had dug up the grave site of his uncle in the darkness of night in Burma in 1993. Mr. Benny smuggled the bones across the border to Thailand in a sack, bribing the border police with whiskey. Deep into the story, I was anxious to see what happened next but annoyed at a continuous noise sounding like a motor outside. It was Wednesday night of this week, or maybe it was Tuesday – one of those lazy days.
In annoyance, I asked Jim, “What on earth is going on outside?
It’s an airplane.”
An airplane!? No way! I’ve heard the noise for 30 minutes, or more. Our neighborhood isn’t exactly JFK runway!

Leaving Mr. Benny’s dead uncle’s bones, I joined Jim on our tiny porch to look up into the sky for an airplane. Sure enough, a small airplane, not a helicopter, was flying back and forth overhead under the bright moon, circled in a wide halo.
Grinning at me, like the silly person he is, Jim said, “I think we’re under attack.”
Right! This is Opp! Remember? Aliens in an UFO would be more likely!

What did we do? Call the Opp Police Department, or Homeland Security? No, we waved to the Alien UFO so they could get a good shot of me in my cuddly, pink pj’s and Jim in his Auburn sweatshirt (like it did the football team any good). Jim’s departing words were, “If they’re looking for intelligent life in our house, they won’t find any!” Speak for yourself, Jim!

I rejoined my tale of the grave robbery just at the time when Mr. Benny grew worried about dogs attacking him for the bones. In fear, he threw them into the sea and got pig bones from a butcher to send to the cousin. The cousin was very angry and accused him of tricking her for money. Mr. Benny said a scientist reported that her grandfather was a pig. Mr. Benny said he didn’t know anything about NDA testing. The man listening to the barber’s story replied, “Oh, right. DNA testing.”

Interrupting my thoughts about the amusing, old man in faraway Thailand, while the background drone of the airplane continued in the night air, Jim said,
What about those giant, pink flowers in the old lady’s yard that you liked so much?
Holding my place in the book, I turned and asked, “What?! What are you talking about?
You asked me what to write about. Ex-cuuse me. Forget I ever said anything! I just thought you could write about those pretty flowers you liked by the road.”
Oh, o.k. Sorry. Thanks for the idea.”

The sweet lady in Normandy reminded me of my Granny Bryan and her beautiful flower garden.

The sweet lady in Normandy reminded me of my Granny Bryan and her beautiful flower garden.

The smiling, gray-haired lady cultivated some of the most beautiful rhododendrons I’ve ever seen. Her house was beside a highway with busy traffic. The mature tree-sized bushes lined both sides of the road with a fantasy world of large, pink flowers.IMG_1846 IMG_1833I planned to snap a few photos from the road and move along, but I was stopped in my tracks by the sweet lady’s insistence that I come into her flower garden.IMG_1817 Azaleas in many colors and other dazzling flowers grew in the well-tended garden. The French lady didn’t know what Jim was saying, but she thought he was hilarious. I knew she was intelligent when I first laid eyes on her. She pegged Jim right away.

Returning to Wednesday, or maybe it was Tuesday night, the noise of the plane had drifted away. I had enjoyed the unbelievable tale of the barber in Thailand. However, barbers in Thailand don’t have a monopoly on tales that will curl your hair. Alabama barbers and beauticians have their own yarns to tell. A suggestion from Jim in the easy chair reached my ears, “What about a science fiction story about the UFO over Opp, Alabama?
I rolled over and flipped my page to a new chapter and knew in my heart that I would have strange dreams on that Wednesday, or Tuesday night.

IMG_467711:30 PM (Wed. or Tues. night) Fluffy, pink Easy Spirit slippers padded to the king-size sleigh bed, moving like an older Pink Panther to a saucer of warm milk. Pink Panther stopped near the soft mattress and said:
“Jim, I still don’t have a title for the story. How does “Evening in Opp” hinting at “Evening in Paris” sound? Or, I could headline it with “The Dog Who Came for Breakfast”. Husband Jim sleepily said, “No, Honey, come on to bed. Sleep on it. You’ll come up with something, but don’t tell your readers about the bones buried under our house!

Could you leave a note in the comments box and tell me if you like Jim’s story suggestions? Naturally, he suggests “A French Opportunity” for everyone including UFO Aliens in Alabama airspace and beyond. Jim tried his hand at science fiction writing in a previous story. If you didn’t see it when it was posted earlier, you must click below and take a look.








Or, you might like the Alabama beauty shop tale “Off the Top” if you haven’t read it – no pig bones involved!








Happy Anniversary to our friends, John and Mary Moyer! Their love story is one of the sweetest.  Read about what follows their wedding in a story from last year if you missed it.

Thank ya’ll for joining us. Come see us again!