“Soaring above Saignon” – by Debbie Ambrous

IMG_0290Soaring high above Saignon came years before the actual close view of the medieval village perched along a ridge on the Luberon massif in France.  Saignon, not to be confused with the Saigon in Asia, is poised high above the valley like a signpost; hence the name comes from signum, Latin for sign.  Now that the name game is clarified, I would like to lull you into the dreamy vision of Saignon, sited notably as a stopping point for religious pilgrims since the Middle Ages.  You say you are not transported yet?

Visions of France”, a Public Television presentation available on disks, and possibly other media, is the ticket to glide above France.  Music matches the mood when the camera is high above rocky crags, or drifting above the lavender fields where the purple flowers seem to yield their fragrant scent.  I bought the package of beauty as a present to myself, and I’ve soared ever since like a bird, homing my way back to each village with the melody both soothing and enticing my yearning for an actual taste of the scene playing below me.

Yes, I soared over Saignon and added it to my list of beauties to be seen despite the fact that it did not appear in my guidebook.  I could observe with my keen, birdlike view as the scenes played on my television that Saignon was the real thing, like a step back in time, closed to traffic, peaceful and distant from the modern world.IMG_0273  Ancient stone buildings studded the hilltop, aligned at the crest and spread over the edges, clinging together with impregnable architecture.  Winding, narrow lanes lead to squares with fountains.  The wealth from hundreds of years ago is apparent even from afar with buildings that I was able to pinpoint on the screen when the aerial photographer flew above this distinctive site.  Oh, yes, soaring above Saignon while seated on my sofa cushions instead of an airplane seat lured me, and the music lingered in my head!

A good book, or movie, can transport you to a different place like Saignon.  The imaginary vision may create disappointment when one is confronted with reality, but Saignon did not disappoint.  The movie production could only hover and show the skeleton of the colorful medieval village.  The doorways with flowery entrances seemed to welcome me inside, where I was comfortable as snuggling on my sofa.IMG_0220 Stress and any notion of rushing around melted away at the center of the village where three roads meet by the graceful fountain with the water playing a melody of restfulness and well-beingThe lingering sound of the music from the movie had followed me to France.  Beginning on the flutter of butterfly wings, the notes in my head soared and built to a crescendo when I was fully immersed in the panoramic view from the rocky crags.

Soaring above Saignon, I could not see the rich colors of the vines on the ancient buildings.  I could not see the mailbox decorated with a delicate bouquet.  I couldn’t find the artist with the red hair and the coat edged in white fur. IMG_0233 I couldn’t smell the bread in the boulangerie, or enjoy the warm soup on a cold day.  I could not see the tile with the two birds mating, or hear my little girl voice asking my mother long ago: “Mama, why are the birds fighting?IMG_0219

I did not know that three whimsical chairs held flowering plants in the seats. I could not imagine a tiny window with a bulldog’s face painted to surprise and amuse. I did not see creeping vines, bright as chili peppers and yellow begonias soft as butter.

 

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IMG_0261I did imagine a view of me with my smile spread wide lingering by the fountain with the emerald water.   IMG_0243Jim and I walked from one side to the other and back again, trying to cover every nook and cranny.  I saw one youngster waiting around the corner of an arch planning to surprise his mom when she walked through.  I thought of Jim’s incident in the borie with the French lady, and I had a private laugh in remembrance.  (CLICK here for “Lavender or Stones?” if you have not read the story.)  Jim admired the old cars in the village, and we drove to our rental home a few miles away near Roussillon. IMG_0280

Later I realized for a certainty that the distinctive hill in the distance from the hillside, staked as ours for our short time in Provence, was indeed Saignon!  In the morning light, I peered across the fields of grape vines, beyond the sycamore trees lining the road to the village of Saignon.

At that moment with the cool morning air on my face, I realized I knew the lovely village from a face-to-face meeting, shaking hands with her and introducing myself, not soaring by in the distance. While I was sitting in the car with my eyes romancing Saignon, Jim was tossing away our garbage into the separate containers for glass, plastic and ordinary garbage creating a smash and splatter band of his own.  Provence vibes recycled by Alabama Jim!

That’s life for you with garbage on the left, beauty on the right and the road stretching ahead with a generous amount of tedium.

Keep on soaring.  I am thankful for every day.

Please come and stumble around with us again. I love hearing from you.  Just leave a message below where everyone’s comments are on view. You may also like to have a free notification when new stories are posted.  Just enter your e-mail above.  If you would like to read a book and soar with an old Alabama gal, just CLICK her to view “A French Opportunity” available in paperback and Kindle.

“Athletic Activity” – by Debbie Ambrous

IMG_0164No one has ever praised me for my athletic ability.  I detested physical education class in high school, getting sweaty and ruining my hairstyle.  Later, I enjoyed camping with husband Jim and the children, cooking out with a campfire in the Smoky Mountains, but no extreme sports.  Jim played a little high school football, but he would never be mistaken for a former NFL star.  So, how did the two of us land in the middle of a group of mountaineers in France?  (I hope the mountain pictures are not too fuzzy since I didn’t have the tripod in the car with me to steady my camera.)IMG_0181Do you see the climber just below the trees on left side?

Jim had spotted a sign pointing to a fort when he was driving in the heavy fog on our way to Lourmarin a few days past.  I’m the self-appointed travel planner and Jim usually follows the agenda without too much fuss and even less suggestions.  If he volunteers an idea of his own, first of all I’m shocked, but at least if it’s a failure he can’t blame me.  CLICK photos below for larger view.

I couldn’t find any information in the guidebooks about a fort in the area, but I was game to search for it since I could see that his little boy memories of playing in a fort were kickin’ in.  He was thinking that a big fort in the mountains would be more fun than looking at French knick-knacks, especially in any town where finding a parking space was an issue.  IMG_0168He imagined that he had a fool-proof man’s plan for the day.  Sure enough, we found that sign pointing to a fort and took a left on a typical road.  The easy, uneventful beginning was misleading since it led to a narrow, winding road where we were praying that we would not meet any cars.  Trees blocked most of the side views, but occasionally I saw quick glimpses of mountains with one spectacular peak in the distance.  I gasped and told Jim, “There’s an incredible site to your left, but don’t take your eyes off the road!  It’s like the Devil Mountain dropped down in France.  And, to think, we wouldn’t be here unless you made this suggestion.”  Jim didn’t say anything as we kept going in this Jurassic Park landscape.

Oh, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit, the foliage wasn’t palm trees and tree ferns, but it was wild and exotic compared to anything we had encountered, so far.  Finally, we found a place to pull over and that is where we found the mountaineers.  The average age of the young, muscular, athletic folks sticking their heads out of campers and climbing the rock face of the mountains was a huge dip below ours.  Somehow,  I didn’t think that any of them qualified for an AARP discount on their hotel rates.  They probably wondered what brought us to this neck of the woods where we were the old dinosaurs of the pack. IMG_0179

They were friendly and didn’t mind my camera.  Only Jim got upset when I was at the edge of the narrow road, kneeling on the moist ground to take a picture of a mushroom.  A truck rumbled along and stopped, waiting patiently until Jim jerked me out of the way.  The French have a healthy respect for mushrooms, more than Jim, apparently.  I didn’t know my backside was taking up so much room that a truck couldn’t pass me.  Pardon! After a moment of dusting my dirty knees and readjusting my bruised dignity, I realized that Jim was only concerned for my personal safety when he pushed me from the road with the ferocity of an Auburn linebacker.

Now about that fort attraction that Jim had his heart set on, a huge gate crossed the pathway and a sign stated that it was CLOSED, or French words to that effect.  Jim was disappointed. IMG_0171 I pointed out some colorful glass on the utility poles, amazed that electric poles were to be found in the Jurassic Park with a Devil’s Mountain.  Jim wasn’t interested, but the cute young ladies climbing the mountains consoled his disappointment.

 

We went to Buoux on our return and enjoyed the petite community with its old community laundry. IMG_0199 Buoux was the setting where two of the characters in Peter Mayle’s book “Anything Considered” hid their loot – a million dollars – in a sack in a borie!   We didn’t find the borie, or any money.  But I found an adorable cottage at the edge of the road and a colorful character walked past the ancient buildings in perfect timing for my camera.

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Thanks Jim, for a beautiful day!  You may not be a sports hero, but you are my hero! Thanks for all of the wonderful years together since we married on July 22nd on a hot day in the deep south of Alabama.  I hope we travel many more years together.  HAPPY ANNIVERSARY, Jim!IMG_0212Please come and ramble around with us again.  This is short story without much in-depth information.  I hope you will excuse me while I party a little with my guy.  Take care!  Thank you kindly.

"Maybe you don't need the whole world to love you. You know? Maybe you just need one person." - Kermit the Frog

“Maybe you don’t need the whole world to love you. You know? Maybe you just need one person.” – Kermit the Frog

Perhaps you would like to read the book CLICK “A French Opportunity and enjoy seeing how it all began with the Alabama dinosaurs.  This is the 4th anniversary for the blog which started in July, 2012!!