“Almost Forgotten” – by Debbie Ambrous

IMG_8401I can see the days on the calendar marked for our departure just a few weeks away. I feel a shiver of excitement with the prospect of seeing France again in a new area for us to explore, since during other visits we never stepped foot in the idyllic Provence. I’ve read the guidebooks, and the words have built expectations as high as the hilltop villages in the Vaucluse, edged in vineyards reaching far into the distance. The lavender will be gone from the fields with the summer harvest to scent soaps, lotions and perfumes, but other fragrances will beckon to tantalize and linger as memories of a special time for Jim and me in our version of Provence. I hope for a safe experience, meeting new people, savoring new flavors, seeing colorful towns and feeling France in my bones again.  (The books shown in the first picture can be purchased on the French Market page – just CLICK on over and explore.)

But while all of this is brewing I realize that I have never shared many of the stories, pictures and places from my last trip to France! I skipped and bypassed endearing and beautiful times. These forgotten moments in France are like the times I spend chatting with my girlfriends when we enthusiastically catch up on our news, often talking over each other at the same time. Yet, when I am home I remember that I didn’t tell my friends how cute grandson Daniel plays with his new white dog named London, or mention a new scrumptious recipe. With that type of venue in mind, I thought I would show a few of these lost and suddenly remembered souvenirs of last year’s spring in France.IMG_1287Azay-le-Rideau was described by the novelist Balzac as “a many-faceted diamond, set in the Indre.” The chateau is hidden away in the trees, not towering over the village. One of the special features of the chateau is the great staircase crowned with large sculptures. Inside, two pretty young girls danced on the wooden floors of the massive rooms, and we applauded their impromptu performance.  CLICK any of the photos below for larger image.

I hope you visit and see for yourself, fill your eyes and heart with the beauty.  Read the fascinating history.  The chateau is undergoing renovation presently, so check before you go.

Then, a postman making his rounds in a small village noticed that I had snapped his photo. Instead of being upset, he turned around and returned as a good-will-ambassador of tourism.

He posed proud as the Mayor of the village and then went on his way to deliver bills, postcards and packages like it was his pleasure to entertain a couple from Alabama.  Are you willing to stop what you are doing and be patient to help a tourist?  Remember what it is like to be in a strange place and extend a helping hand.

In the small village of Villaines-les-Rochers that features woven baskets as their main item of trade, an unfriendly dog made it clear to the whole neighborhood that I was not welcome.

He barked in his canine language, marking his territory and daring me to cross the line.  I only wanted to see the pretty tree with the unusual trim-job and take a look at the bright blue accessorized yard and house.  I am not that bold with color splashes in my yard unless you count the lavender door, but the cottage with the rock backdrop was beautiful.  Apparently, barks-a-lot the dog had sniffed me out and alarmed the vicinity that a basket-case was loose in the neighborhood.  Durable, finely crafted baskets are for sale in the village. I purchased a pretty bracelet there more than ten years ago which I still wear despite the dog’s “get out of town” attitude.

I filled my camera with pictures of old signs painted on buildings and weather vanes.

At a rather busy intersection, Jim had parked by the road while I ran to the other side to snap a few pictures of an old “Dubonnet” sign when an antique car rolled to a stop just in time. The gentleman smiled and waved at me, another friendly welcome! We followed in his dust for awhile by fields and through tiny villages until he turned on a side road, tooting his horn and waving Au Revoir!

A few miles from the village with woven baskets and the feisty dog, we found an old mill, a perfect place for a picnic at Pont de Ruan.IMG_3401 After a peaceful, lazy mid-day break by the flowing waters, we drove along the narrow road lined with tall trees to another village where an elderly gentleman welcomed me through the white picket garden gate into his beautiful jardin.  Everything was perfectly cultivated, not a weed in sight.  I identified the plants and remembered some of the French names of vegetables.  Pointing to rows of tiny seedlings, he told me what would soon grow and produce delicious vegetables for his kitchen.  I hope he had abundant crops this year and even more, I hope he has many years of happy gardening.  I’m sure he will never know what a precious memory he made for me.

Oh, yes, I just remembered.  I forgot to tell you about the village we found when Jim  wanted to wander around without the map.  It was raining, and he thought I would fall off a cliff.  Oh, and I remember another town with a school situated high on a hill where the children were playing with replicas of ancient toys.  There was lavender in the school yard … I almost forgot!

I’m reading a wonderful book titled 100 Places in France Every Woman Should Go” by Marcia DeSanctis.  It’s filled with delicious descriptions of places to go with insider info on everything from French lingerie to perfume.  You will feel like you’ve been there with the author without the bill on your credit card, or the extra pounds from the chocolate croissants.

Come back to see us.  Next landing could be Provence!  I love to hear from you.  Leave a message below and tell us what you almost forgot.  Thank you kindly!