“Foggy Mountain Breakdown” – by Debbie Ambrous

img_5071October, 2016 – Our theme song for the drive to Morillon could have been Foggy Mountain Breakdown, the music written by the best known banjo-picker in the world, Earl Scruggs, when I was in diapers.  Whether you know his name or not, you are likely to remember the song as the background for the movie Bonnie and Clyde.  Now, mind you, husband Jim and I were not roving gangsters, but the bluegrass music fit our rambling up, down and around the curving road in the fog with cows appearing in the mist. Bright-colored shutters at windows with trailing red geraniums glowed in the murky fog. img_5073 We could have been in the mountains of North Carolina with our car radio tuned to a country music station, but our true location in fog banks and low clouds was France.  On the road again, like Willie Nelson, we were honing in on Morillon, a one-hour drive from Chamonix, Geneva and Annecy.  Allowing for pit-stops, meandering country music memories and sightings of pastoral beauty, we could be there for a morning visit and return to our rental holiday house in Samoëns for lunch.  That was our plan.

Morillon is in the heart of the Haut Giffre Valley, an authentic village preserved with charm and populated with wooden houses and chalets surrounding the village’s historic church which dates back to the 16th century.  The village consists also of the smaller hamlets, Les Champs and Le Verney.img_5082Jim found a parking place only steps away from the ancient church situated in the center of the village, a much better position for parking compared to our many breathless hikes uphill after parking near the city dump, or something similar in our travels.  The foggy refrain blanketed the mountain views, blocking any pretty backdrops for my photography, except the hazy outlines of distant tiny houses. img_5078 I started at the notice board, the bulletin board outside the church, which posted the going-rates for baptism (free), weddings and funerals.

Since I was already baptized and married at no cost for the services, and surely didn’t want to plan a funeral, I just filed the info for future reference.  Did you know that in France, the legally recognized wedding must take place at the Mairie?

Following the left side of the main street, I walked downhill with Jim on the side with the most colorful buildings.  Jim was up-close and personal with the Alpine traditional buildings painted sunflower-yellow and edged with eye-catching gingerbread trim.  Hearts and flowers decorated the woodwork and windows. img_5097 My camera eyes romanced the scene and found cows painted on a wooden plank over a doorway on my side of the street.  Jim didn’t have all of the good stuff!  While I was busy with my search for the photogenic, on the other side of the street the set-up for a scene suitable for our Foggy Mountain Breakdown theme song was unfolding.  A nice, unsuspecting lady with a long, black ponytail and a hot- pink scarf wrapped around her neck was approaching Jim casually on the sidewalk.  Now, what do you do when you meet a stranger on a narrow sidewalk, especially if the stranger is a lady and you are a gentleman?  Usually, both of the strangers will move aside, keeping eyes averted and avoid bumping into each other.  Perhaps they will say “Pardon”, or “Excuse me”.   Well, that’s ordinary folks, not Jim.  Jim met the lovely lady who was wearing pretty, wedge-heeled shoes.  Of course, I had to check out her shoes even from a distance!  Jim bumbled back and forth in his Sketchers as the two decided which would go right, or left.   He raised his arms and swayed back and forth like he was launching into a do-si-do right there on the sidewalk, and he belted out his personal rendition of the Foggy Mountain Breakdown in a noisy, off-beat performance.  With a face that matched her hot-pink scarf, the good-natured lady burst into laughter. img_5091-1 They both went away chuckling while I kept my face cast down to the sidewalk, quietly walking away, pretending I didn’t know him.  Would you follow the path of non-personal, typical and less colorful conformance?  Or, would you walk on the side with vivid color, silliness, a beat from the norm? img_5094When the lady was safely down the hill, away from her potential do-si-do partner and out of sight, I asked Jim to cross to my quiet side of the street.  We strolled hand-in-hand to a tourist shop and found a gift for our granddaughter Hanna, a small sign perfect for her bedroom, with the wording: Debutante Place.img_5128

Jim bought a postcard that he had promised to send to his buddy Ricky. We found a walking cane with a compass at the top, a perfect souvenir for Jim since I accuse him of having no sense of direction!  The post office and Mairie were just across the street, the colorful side of the road; so we crossed over together.

An ancient fountain was gurgling there near the sidewalk.  I was lured in that direction while Jim was mailing Ricky’s postcard. An elderly gentleman was filling several plastic bottles with the water from the fountain. img_5131 I remember drinking water from a fountain when I was young.  Green moss grew at the edge of my childhood fountain, but the water bubbling up was clear, cold and the sweetest tasting.img_5103  I did not drink any of the water from the beautiful fountain in Morilles since the gentleman was busy.  I didn’t want to interrupt him.  I should have taken my stride from Jim and asked for a taste of that sweet water.  (Earlier, when I first brushed my teeth at the holiday house I noticed that the water actually tasted good!  Incredible!  Ours has so many chemicals added that it tastes awful.)

Before I could think further on the ways of water in France and Alabama, I glanced up into the tree that spread its graceful branches above the ancient fountain.

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There among the golden leaves and attached to the bark of the tall tree trunk was a shocking-pink lizard with indigo polka-dots, sizing up to a few feet in length.   No, it wasn’t a live lizard!  Let’s not go too crazy here.  But why was this neon-colored creature in the tree?  Do they have a party with piñatas and a mariachi band?  Are margaritas with salt and salsa with chips served there under the tree?  This is not Mexico!  What is wrong with this picture?

Truly, I love this whimsy and I love Mexico!

I never knew why the lizard was up the tree.  I didn’t have the nerve to march into the Mairie and ask.  I took the chicken-way out and sent an e-mail to the tourism office.  To this date, I haven’t received a reply.img_5102Hunger pangs signaled time to find the car and head on to our lunch at La Ruche, our holiday rental home.  A short distance from the village of Morillon is one of the hamlets I mentioned earlier.  The front of a large, beautiful rustic home is covered with colorful decoration.  My imagination sees the lady in the vivid pink scarf, who Jim invited to do-si-do, dancing to her own beat in the house with the colorful bric-a-brac. img_6861Ya’ll come back and visit with us again.  Later, I plan to find lots of bric-a-brac, stroll on the colorful side of a few lakes, soak up atmosphere in more villages and follow my heart to Burgundy.  Thanks for your lovely comments of encouragement!  img_6859

Jim loves his old orange Senor Frog’s sweatshirt that we bought in Mexico, but I will not let him pack it for France.  I’ve always said it was too brash for village life in France, but now I stand corrected!

Jim – 1   and Debbie – 0

I was coerced to wear Jim’s loud and proud sweatshirt which I had censored for his trips to France. (The photo was taken today in our backyard with some of my souvenirs from Mexico in the background.)

img_7676-1 In the future, you may see Jim proudly wearing his bright orange sweatshirt on the streets and in the castles of France.  Enjoy reading more of these adventures by checking out (CLICK the link.) the book A French Opportunity.  A big “Merci” and “Thank Ya’ll” to those who purchased a copy!.

img_7693-1 Perhaps you would enjoy reading about some of our adventures in Mexico.  The photo shows Jim with binoculars checking out Lake Chapala with our youngest daughter who is now the Mom of our grandson Daniel.  Daniel would probably like the koala back-back she is wearing.  For the blog story,(if you missed it or want to re-read) Just CLICK to “Mexico from A to Z”

2 thoughts on ““Foggy Mountain Breakdown” – by Debbie Ambrous

  1. Such wonderful story telling, as usual! I have to admit that I love the story telling as much as I admire the woman behind them.

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