“Happy 50th Anniversary” – by Debbie Ambrous

Today is our 50th wedding anniversary!  Yes, I admit that Jim and I are that old, well Jim is anyway.  Since he will be reading this, I must confess that I am two months older than he is.  I needed those two months to catch up to speed, put up with him and stay cool and collected with Jim as husband in this fifty-year marriage.   We are very happy, but we have had more than our share of troubles, grief, sadness, worries, pain and anxiety!  Patience, a sense of humor, commitment, hope and solid faith kept us together!   Words cannot express the thanks due to family and friends for their help and love.

Now that you know that we are not perfect, I will go on with the story.  You say I am repeating the obvious??!  With the big 50 approaching, I searched for someplace in the mountains, or by the ocean, that didn’t require a ton of money and wouldn’t be crawling with people.  I was getting nowhere in total exasperation with my anniversary travel search, and I whined to Jim:  “Why did we ever get married in July?”  In bewilderment he said, “I don’t know but if it was a bad idea, it must have been mine!”  Jim apparently subscribes to the theory that it is usually best to confess the truth right away.  His mom did a great job!

(Photo left of the words on the reverse of his graduation photo which Jim gave to me in high school.)

 

 

 

Moms and Dads are not fully appreciated by their children until much, much later.  Our middle daughter sent a Hallmark card with very true sentiments:

Children seldom understand the trials their parent’s face, the dreams deferred, or sacrifices made until one day when they are grown with grown-up choices, too, and realize the debt they can’t repay.”

As for Jim and I, we would only hope for strong children following a path of truth and integrity.  (The photos in the collage are quite old, but full of memories.)Now, about that beautiful, peaceful place for our anniversary, I never found the place!  So, we are saving for another cooler, less crowded and less expensive time.  We did find a fun place to visit this week in Birmingham after a doctor visit – the zoo!  Doesn’t that sound like an ideal place for us?  No, they didn’t chase after us with a butterfly net, thinking we were escaping when we rushed to the car.  But here is a surprise, since we arrived at the end of the day our senior rate was only half of the normal priceI don’t know what we will be doing today on our anniversary, but we will try to find fun even though we can’t fly to Paris, Bordeaux, Marseilles or Montreal.  The story below is a re-post of the second story shown on the French Opportunity website, another “Anniversary” story.  The pictures were somehow lost, so I have added a few.  This month is an anniversary for my blog.  I have now written and posted stories and photographs for FIVE YEARS!  The first story was posted on July 18, 2012.

July 24, 2012 – Sleeping later than usual on Sunday, I found Chef Jim in the kitchen with a hot griddle cooking Belgian waffles.  Butter, Nutella and Bonne Maman raspberry preserves, all favorites of mine, were already on the table along with a folded piece of paper beside my plate.  When we were seated for our superb breakfast with hot coffee on the table, I opened the paper and saw it was a “Happy Anniversary” note he had created with different fonts and colors.

I gushed over his note and artwork, and Jim said: “I was worried that you would think it looked more like a graffiti ransom note and expect it to say, ‘Here’s Jim’s right toe.  Leave all you got by the creek bank if you ever want your Chef back.’”  I promised him that it would be worth it to have his cooking.  I noticed a P.S. on the paper: “It isn’t easy to find a card in this little town of Opp unless it’s your birthday, or you’re feeling sickly or recently died.”  Then I knew why I had the artwork/graffiti paper by my plate instead of the usual Hallmark anniversary greeting.

As if this wasn’t enough for a lady on her anniversary, Jim had promised to tag along for some antiquing in Florala, a short drive down the road south from Opp.  I was on a mission to get blue Mason canning jars for my good friend Elizabeth.  We drove on down in our red Jeep with our air conditioner blasting on our hot anniversary day to: Warehouse Market Mall, 23380 Fifth Avenue, Florala, Alabama

An old washtub planted with yellow flowers welcomed us at the doorway, and homemade birdhouses swung on a post.  A gourd birdhouse painted with blue flowers had the most curb appeal. The storefront seems small, but once inside the displays just go on forever. Bored husbands and children can wait in a seating area and play checkers.

Anniversary present suggestion for Chef Jim:  Honey for my Belgian waffles and buttered biscuits.

I knew the display I wanted, so I moved quickly to the shelves of blue canning jars, some with lids and some without their lids that rusted away, or were lost long ago. I found four with lids for Elizabeth, my friend in Florida, and I called to report the happy news to her right away.

Cobalt blue Milk of Magnesia glass bottles were shining under the shop lights on another shelf along with tiny bright blue Vicks jars.  Yesterday’s medicine bottles are today’s designer accessories.  I thought Elizabeth would like the dark blue bottles, and I was considering some for myself when Jim read my mind and said: “Are you really going to buy Milk of Magnesia bottles?”“I think the bright blue will be pretty on the secretary in the bedroom with the blue toile curtains, I explained.”   I wonder, do they have Milk of Magnesia in France?

 

Jim threatened, “Wait till your mama hears that you paid $5.00 for a Milk of Magnesia bottle!”        “Now, just a minute here!  My mama is not hearing anything about this!  Besides, she would only be puzzled as to why I paid $5.00 for an empty Milk of Magnesia bottle.” 

Thanks for joining us!  We love y’all!

“Quirky and Odd” – by Debbie Ambrous

November, 2016Quirky photo opportunities and odd stories are always on my list when we travel through towns and villages.  I hit the jackpot in Taninges, a small town in the heart of the Giffre valley on the Route des Grandes Alpes north of Cluses, France.  Traveling from Samoëns, at the edge of Taninges, Jim and I found one of the most unusual brocantes we have ever experienced.  Old cable cars lined the rear of the property and the warehouse interior was crammed with oddities and quirky objects with a capital “Q”. Do you need an antique bicycle, a Royal Butterbean jar or a sign for Pile Wonder? What about mounted heads of antelope, water buffalo, boar or pheasant, enough to claim you went on safari?  It’s all there including a creepy-looking, huge ceramic Snow White.

The photos should tell the story, but a visit there could leave your head spinning.

We traveled through Taninges on our way to other areas of interest with frequent stops at their nice, modern grocery on the west side of town.  But the turn at the center of town to the north with a curving, narrow road had the next point of interest for me.  The tourism office information said I should look for the Sainte-Anne chapel and hear the merry tinkling of the 40 bells of the carillon, but there was no mention of Batman on top of a cable car When our car swept along the winding road with the village houses and church below, we were amazed to see the sunlight gleaming on the superhero, protector of Gotham City – Batman!  Taninges has its own Dark Knight, caped crusader at the northern side of town on a red polka-dot cable car.  I wonder if Adam West knew about this.  I grabbed quick shots through the car window and then returned later on foot.  You must thank me for trekking up the hill with no sidewalk!  I stood by the guardrail shooting photos as motorcycles roared uphill. Jim, my famous good guy, stood safely by the barn on the other side waiting to rescue Cat Woman from any danger.  Yeah, you can see that, can’t you?  Signs pointed to the Chartreuse de Mélan. In 1285, Beatrix de Faucigny chose Mélan to found the convent that would house her tomb and that of her son.  She gave the property to a community of Carthusian nuns.  For 500 years the nuns maintained Mélan, but after the turmoil of the Revolution it was turned into a school which continued under other directors until 1806.  In 1923 it became an orphanage which was destroyed by fire in 1967.  The remaining buildings are the church in Gothic style and the adjoining cloisters built in 1530.

The two buildings are strikingly severe with no ornamental carving.  However, the contemporary art fills the surrounding park with quirkiness and oddity, refreshing and uplifting for any traveler. 

I was amused to see the statue with the outstretched hands seeming to greet visitors with a big “Hi” despite the indignity of being cleaned when I was there.

Instantly, I remembered the French movie Bienvenue à Marly-Gomont (The African Doctor) which we watched a few days earlier (movie is available on Netflix, sub-titled in English).  The giant friendly hand of the statue reminded me of the gracious doctor’s wife.  The Congolese doctor, Seyolo Zantoko, had turned down the opportunity to be the physician to the President in his own country.  He wanted to avoid corruption and consequently moved his family to a small French village.   Dr. Zantoko’s wife Anne and the children struggle in the rural village which is lacking the excitement of city life, far from their Paris expectations.  Anne reaches out to the locals with a big smile and friendly greetings and they gape and laugh at her like she has three heads and say in French what translates to “Holy Kamoley” in the sub-titles on our television screen.  Afterward, she rushes around saying “Holy Kamoley” in greetings to everyone, but they continue to stare at her like she just landed from another planet .  The movie was good entertainment and it had some excellent lessons in it as well.  You will feel compassion especially for their children.

The bench built for giants had an even more expansive view, and the skaters reminded us to go easy on the French pastries!More red polka-dots were on display on the street just past the bicyclist with a begonia sweater.  Totally quirky stuff popped up around every corner, but past all of this was a cemetery without entertaining objects.  I was near to tears when I saw an elderly gentleman walking from one grave site to another, no doubt remembering his friends and family.  We found one grave marker for the family Ambroise, which we believe is the name in part of Jim’s ancestry.

 

Taninges is worth a visit for more than the grocery store.  I hope you have an opportunity to find its charm and interesting culture.

However, we never found a way to use the telephone in the center of town.  Let us know if you find any other quirkiness when you visit.

 

 

Keep your hand outstretched in friendliness with a big “Hole Kamoley” or a better greeting wherever you go.  You never know what quirky experiences you may have!

I enjoy hearing from you! Thanks for your comments.  Perhaps you travel with me like Ava does in the morning before her reality begins.  I loved your descriptive message, Ava!

You can read more about France in the book “A French Opportunity” during your warm summer days.  Perhaps you would like to CLICK over to check it out.