“The Big Reveal” – by Debbie Ambrous

May 21, 2018 to May 22,2018of the Burgundy, France Journal

Published normalement (normally) bi-weekly on Sunday

Are you ready? The big door with glass panels was open with sunlight brightly dancing on the pristine white tile floor, a brilliant promise of a lovely beginning in the rental house I had chosen.  Would it live up to the reviews? Other renters said it was: “Very stylish and cozy; well equipped kitchen; beautiful house; very well decorated; like a hotel suite”.  True to another reviewer’s comment, we were greeted warmly by the owner, Phillipe, who opened the downstairs of his home Au Faubourg Saint Honoré which has been in his family for several generations.

First inside the door was the all-important French kitchen, decorated in crisp clean white with black accents with modern appliances and a large porcelain white sink.  From the farmhouse style sink I could see the massive tree with its branches shading the garden with pathways edging the flowerbeds.  A big sink with a gorgeous view is an important part of the house to me.

Multi-color feathers printed on the wallpaper kept the room colorful and playful.  A bouquet of white and pink peonies on an antique buffet was heart-warming since peonies are my favorite flower, next to roses.  My eyes must have been as large as the blossoms as they darted from one part of the room to another, taking in the whimsical touches and the practical.

My gushing, excited comments would have been suitable for any television program, and Phillipe seemed very happy with the praise as I admired the massive antique armoire, an elegant black marble fireplace and the comfortable large bed in the master bedroom.  He didn’t know that I had lots of expertise for the big reveal after hours of watching the popular television show Fixer Upper.  Woo-hoo and tears of excitement would have been the televised version, but I kept myself under control, almost.

The popular sliding barn-door found in many remodeled and new houses was installed to separate the bath area from the bedroom. A nice, long shelf with space for my make-up and jewelry was positioned with a comfy seat plus a magnifying mirror.  Lighting automatically turned on when we entered the bathroom area and switched off when we left, a huge help at night so I did not need to fumble for the switch. 

A huge shower with glass door enclosure, more storage and a full-length mirror were in a light and airy room with another tall window.  The toilet was in a separate room with another lavatory and storage, which is very practical when the beloved husband is showering and the pretty wife needs urgently to go!  Take my word, I’ve been there!

The second bedroom had two beds with turquoise and gold decoration, perfect for children with a desk, beanbag and books.  Since we didn’t have children along for our trip, we used the room to store our luggage and my purchases from vide-grenier sales. Crossing the hallway with its beautifully patterned, original tiles, we entered the salon which is almost as large as some individual apartments!  Another decorative black marble fireplace is a stunning feature in the room with a plush, sapphire blue sofa which converts to bedding for more guests.  Now you are wondering why we did not ask you to join us.  Maybe next time, if you’re good!  The decoration is a mix of modern with antiques including hot pink accents and Asian art, guaranteeing no boredom. Au Faubourg Saint Honoré’s crowning glory is the magnificent garden. I am not exaggerating.  Phillipe should win awards for his achievement.

Along the pathways I found new discoveries, something new blooming each day with raspberries, strawberries and other fruit ripening on plants and trees.  A huge vegetable garden, like something lifted from my dreams, was there for me to enrich and enliven my senses each day with the fragrance of new, green vegetables in rich soil.  My big reveal reached its pinnacle point – you know that time in the show when the program switches to a commercial!  The moment before the commercial happened at the far edge of the garden, by the swing set, when I imagined my whole family in this setting, including my mamma and daddy.  Both of my parents, several years ago deceased, were raised on farms and they never lost that attachment.  Although, daddy said he would happily never see the backside of a mule again after plowing fields in his younger days.  I chuckled at the thought of those words.

Dinner was probably ready, so it was time to leave my Secret Garden, my favorite part of the big reveal of the day.  A cool, comfortable breeze swept into the windows when Jim and I gave thanks for our home and garden stay in Arnay-le-Duc.  If you are planning a stay, then be sure to CLICK over to Air B&B’s listing of Au Faubourg Saint Honoré .  The photos on the Air B&B site are professional, so you can see for yourself the comfortable, beautiful home in an atmospheric town.

One of the most majestic points nearby is the medieval village of Chateauneuf en Auxois situated on high on a hilltop overlooking the plains and the Burgundy canal.  This is one of France’s most beautiful villages with a fairytale turreted castle, like the ones in my childhood storybooks and like I imagined when I heard stories read by my teachers in elementary school.  But this chateau, dating from the twelfth century, is real with extensive renovation including a visitor’s information center with workshops for children and summer events.  The castle’s history includes tragedy, poisoning and many twists and turns.  No history book recitation for today, instead we will just have fun and see the beautiful village.

We were late leaving the house for our chateau adventure and the countryside was so enticing with wildflowers by the road and low-hanging clouds creating a dreamy invitation to stop and soak it up. Contented cows, suitable for a French milk carton, were resting by the fence line with nary a thought of tourists hopping from cars to point cameras in their direction. Jim did a U-turn on the narrow road so I could grab a cow photo, like I would never see another cow, not taking into account that thousands of the white four-legged creatures were lazily munching their way over hill and dale on any given day.  Jim positioned the Volvo alongside the peaceful scene and I approached quietly, but those cows turned on me with evil stares, not contented, but contrary and cantankerous.

They wouldn’t arrange themselves neat and orderly with relaxed expressions according to my directions.  Instead, the lumpy cattle splattered with muck, needing a walk-thru cow-wash, huddled and tried to hide behind the fence posts.  I thought about giving them a lesson about the ostrich hiding its head in the ground, but they didn’t seem interested.  Maybe it was the language difference?!

What was I doing, hanging out with obstinate cows when a humongous chateau was waiting for me high on a hill?  We had our first glimpse of it and had to stop and take the first photo of many to come.  Smelling the cow manure and feeling the lure of pastoral scenes had delayed our short drive to the chateau.  In other words, we were traveling like usual with diversions when we feel like it.  Our form of stops wouldn’t be listed in a travel guide, but they are memorable and fun to us.  Not traveling true to a timetable, we missed the morning visitation of the chateau.  No worries.  Lunch at the Auberge du Marronier and watching a school group noisily and colorfully going uphill was our consolation.  Walking off the calories after a delicious lunch in the cool air, high on the hill, we found logs sculpted into pigs and deer for seating around a table.  No, I’m not kidding.  We saw a vivid, yellow Bic car.  A spy cat followed Jim at a discreet distance, tracking his every move.

Roses in many colors caught my attention at windows and stone walls, creating a big reveal of what I would see in gardens in the coming days.  It is easy to imagine what a prosperous village this once was when you see the houses with pediments and stair turrets. The sun was bearing down when the chateau opened for us, with ancient doors beckoning our tired feet to the cool interior.  Views from the massive windows and doors to the green valley and winding waterway were magnificent, fit for royalty but served to peasants for an entrance fee.  Only a hint of lavish furnishings graces the massive rooms.  One lowly reminder of the primitive life for royalty of the medieval time remains – an indoor privy.

Outside in the hot sun, I hugged the shady edges until I remembered that I was carrying an umbrella and I popped it open for instant semi-shade.  Walking in the vast courtyard under my pink umbrella like a Victorian lady, except for my skinny, blue, denim jeans, I locked eyes with a lovely Japanese lady who smiled in approval of my umbrella.  Do you know who invented the umbrella?  Over 4,000 years ago, umbrellas were invented according to evidence found in Egypt, Greece, Assyria and China.  The Chinese first did a water-proof version.  Umbrellas are also called sunshades, parasol, brolly, parapluie (French), and bumbershoot.

With all of that information under my hat, I strolled with my pink parasol to my next Big Reveal!

Normally the next blog story would appear on August 12th, but Jim and I will be on a short trip on the Alabama and Georgia roads.  Look for me again on AUGUST 19th!    Y’all come back to see the gardens of Chateau Commarin, more of the Burgundy Canal and as usual we will dilly and dally long the way.  I promised and delivered for this week: a chateau, unruly cows and a spy cat!  Thanks for coming around to visit.

Have you ever checked out the France-storytelling and pictures page of this website?  This page has been updated to match the current story, featuring some the “left-over” photos which I was unable to include. CLICK to see France-storytelling and pictures page if you would like …

You can read more about France, including more about Burgundy.  Just click over to purchase your copy of “A French Opportunity” in paperback or Kindle.  Please feel free to share this website with others. See upper-right corner of the page to enter your e-mail for notification when each blog story is posted if you do not currently receive a message.

All photography is the property of Debbie Ambrous.

“The Fog is Lifting” – by Debbie Ambrous

May 21, 2018 (Monday – National Holiday) of the Burgundy, France Journal

Published normalement (normally) bi-weekly on Sunday

Fog billowed and swept densely across the horizon, covering like a plush, down comforter, layering a dreamy landscape over the ordinary roads and buildings.  Framed by the huge glass window in the new Ibis hotel in Sens, France, a scene of hazy, ethereal beauty greeted me while I waited for Jim to shower.  Instead of peaceful meditation and incredible photo opportunities, I thought about crashes on the highway with poor visibility.  I hoped the blinding fog would lift after breakfast.

Now, there’s a good thought – breakfast!  Our first real breakfast in France for this trip!  Warm, flaky croissants and crunchy baguettes with Normandy butter.  Hot coffee!  The fog was lifting.  The view was clear and fine.  Jetlag had disappeared, replaced by smiles and optimism.  What a gorgeous day!  The first day of vacation is always the best when all of the excitement is ahead, a ribbon-wrapped package waiting to be opened.  It’s all out there just waiting to be found and explored: narrow cobblestoned lanes with climbing roses and honeysuckle fragrance at the blue-shuttered windows; tawny-colored cats at the kitchen doorway; children walking to school; an elderly gentleman wearing a beret and buttoned cardigan with a baguette in his hand and laundry fluttering in the breeze under the warm sun.  Yes, it was all there waiting for me, now that the fog had lifted.  Perhaps your first day is different, but for me and that husband of mine, we had some fine adventures ahead, starting with a vide-grenier.

Vide-grenier basically means empty out the attic, and you can expect everything that implies with goods spread everywhere from professionally arranged stalls to odds and ends scattered on blankets on the ground, or a car hood.  People come from all of the homes in town and from miles around, so it is smart to be there early enough to find a parking place.  We were not early enough to easily find a parking place, but we were not discouraged.  Our optimism on the first day of vacation was burning brightly.  The prize parking lot areas were full, but Jim skillfully drove around to the other side of town near the river and found what we considered a gem of parking place since it was peaceful and in the shade.  Jim is not a novice at the wheel!We walked along the riverbank of the Yonne, enjoying the brilliant reflections of the buildings under the blue skies.  Pleasure boats and barges were tied-up along the calm waters, some with bicycles secured on top, ready to ride the pathways by the river, or into town.  We would see many scenes like this in the days to come.  Cruising rivers is probably not my way of life, but climbing aboard for a week or more occasionally with someone capable at the helm would be enjoyable. If this interests you at all, you should read: “Just Imagine: A New Life on an Old Boat” by Michelle Caffrey. CLICK on the book’s name to connect to my page of books and items for sale where I can make a few pennies, or if you prefer just look for it (in paperback or Kindle) on the Amazon page.  Michelle and her husband, both Americans, quit their jobs when they were in their fifties, sold everything and bought a 1906 Dutch barge and started a B&B of a different kind – Barge and Breakfast!  She tells her tales with a wonderful sense of humor, reminding me at times of the way Jim and I travel, but I must admit that she is much braver than I am.  I believe you will love the book.  See, I direct you to books other than mine!Jim coaxed me away from the water, saying I couldn’t have a cute houseboat and if I wanted any of Granny’s attic treasures I needed to get a move on because we needed to hit the roads soon.  He knew the right words to get my legs in motion.  Yet, it would be fun to be Michelle Caffrey for a week on a leisurely river, stopping at the cutest villages and riding bikes under the towering shade trees that line many stretches of the Burgundy canals.  I would want my friends and family along with me!

The fun around the bend was seemingly endless displays of old stuff and new to be examined and possibly an irresistible treasure to be purchased. 

People-watching is almost as much fun, unless I am seriously searching and then I have eyes only on the tables and ground.  I wasn’t quite ready for my serious shopping since the car was full of luggage and I just didn’t feel settled yet.  But what’s the harm in looking?

Something could grab my attention, and it did.  A small framed print of a child with a toy would be perfect on the wall of my guest bedroom, next to the framed, embroidered linen piece from Germany with a young lady on a boat. 

 

 

 

 

My embroidered maiden on a rowboat was on a table at a flea market in a field in 1989 before she graced the wall in my French Alabama cottage.

Michelle Caffrey mentioned in her book that the comedian George Carlin once said, “Home is where the stuff is.”  For sure, that is the truth.  I kept my new purchases of stuff to a minimum, saving room in the suitcase for future days.   The Sens vide-grenier was a super-size sale though because we discovered that almost all of the tree-lined streets had tables wedged together with a super-abundance of goods.  Parisians may travel here for a bargain or two.  My adorable vintage framed print of the child from another era was four euros.We maneuvered our shopping to a manageable circle and walked the street with the ancient buildings to the square.  This particular Monday was a national holiday – Whit Monday – Lundi de Pentecôte.  People were off from work, businesses were closed with all of France on vacation with us.  Compared to the day before when we walked the square, there was a department store of people unloaded under the tents with shoppers enjoying their day off.

I grabbed a few photos from the entry of the quiet cathedral.  Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse under the incredibly high arches.  Perhaps they were visiting the famous mouse at Disneyland Paris (an hour away), or the golden arches of McDonalds down the road.

Can you guess what is inside the nineteenth-century beautiful brick building, just a short walk from the cathedral?  I promised last week that I would present a masterpiece of produce better than any Whole Foods.

Well, this is it!!  You will hardly believe your eyes, considering the fortunate people have this covered market as a regular shopping area!  We wanted to fill our bags, but unloading our luggage and settling into the rental house would be quite enough without wilting lettuce and smelly cheese.  I couldn’t resist a basket of strawberries though.  We walked along a narrow lane past windows with wooden shutters, decorated with hearts, carved by an artisan, a sweet farewell to Sens after the fog lifted.

Jim joined the French drivers on holiday driving in the mad frenzy of the superhighway.  We stuck to the roads with our destination in mind except for a short stop at one of the exits to fuel and food.  This area was clean compared to yesterday’s stop, but the main attraction for me was a field of wind turbines spread across the horizon.  We counted twelve, and there were probably more.   Jim went to buy sandwiches, and I rushed anxiously with my camera to capture photos of the wind turbines, like a modern-day Ms. Don Quixote rushing to tilt a few turbines on her camera.  If Quixote thought his windmills were huge, he should see these monsters!!   A high fence was ruining my aim, but fearless and undaunted I spied a sturdy picnic table and climbed on top of it with my Canon aimed on high!  I came down from my high, so to speak, with a grin from ear to ear.  A fellow was watching me from his position leaning on his car, and he gave me a thumbs-up and laughed at my victory dance.I don’t believe that I took any other photos of the wind turbines, but believe me we saw dozens and dozens of them in action and being built during our trip!  A Reuters article, dated January 18, 2018 stated: “The French government on Thursday announced a ten-point plan which will simplify administrative procedures and accelerate the development of wind power projects in order to double its installed generation capacity by 2023.  The government said the proposed reforms will cut in half the average time it takes for wind power projects to be completed and connected to the French electricity grid.

The hi-light of the day was reaching our beautiful rental home in Arnay-le-Duc.  I looked at the photos of our selected home on the website many times and showed the pictures of the house to friends.  Yet, you never know for certainty if the house is everything as shown until you are there and see it for yourself.  A flood of relief swept over me as I saw the large house with green shutters, and the stone steps with a collection of many flower pots lining the sides, just like my own steps at home where I have little remaining space to step to the door.  Red roses swept above the door and across the stone walls of the house.  That was only the beginning.  Yes, indeed, the fog had lifted for M. et Mme Ambrous!

Y’all come back next time to see inside the house and around the garden.  And, WOW, what a garden!  A chateau, cows and cats are also on the agenda.  Thanks for coming around to visit.

You can read more about France, including more about barging in France.

Please feel free to share this website with others. 

All photography is the property of Debbie Ambrous.

“Dusty Keys” – by Debbie Ambrous

May 19 & 20, 2018 (Saturday & Sunday) of the Burgundy, France Journal

Published normalement (normally) bi-weekly on Sunday

A dusty keyboard is waiting for my fingers to weave new stories and just simply function once again.  Almost daily our friends and family have asked, “Are you going back to France?”  Ever tactful, they didn’t say: “When are you going to write a story again??”  Well, maybe a few nudged me in that direction.  Thanks to all of the family of readers who have supported me with their kind words and interest.  My trembling fingers are finding their way on the dusty keys and gathering strength after their inactivity and after another energy-sapping reason.  I am gradually recovering from an illness with flu-like symptoms of initial high fever and then a pro-longed, severe cough.  Husband Jim had it first and then I was sick one day later.  Our illness began about four days after we returned from France.  Now some would blame the sickness on France, but where can anyone travel, or stay at home for that matter and be free from exposure to disease?  On the first day of our joint illness, I called a mini-summit of the Ambrous Health Board and asked Jim among other questions, “Do you think we have ebola?”  He answered without reservation, “No, I think I have escargot.”  I knew right away there was nothing wrong with his brain.  It was working like usual.

Writing in journal-type format, I hope to share our experiences in the Burgundy region of France in a diary-like format with the events from each day.  Previously, I have written blog stories focusing on certain castles, towns, celebrations etc.  With this explanation out of the way, I will begin the story-telling of the Burgundy journey.

We had been in New York with our friends Jeremy and Heather for a few days, enjoying their plush bed while they slept on the sofa.  (Thanks again for your sweet hospitality!!) On the rainy, cool day of May 19th I was ready early in the day and Jeremy teased me about my eagerness to leave and fly to France.  He was right since my enthusiasm was building with the thoughts that we would be in France the very next day!  After quick hugs and a teary-eyed farewell to our friends at the airport terminal we were on our way to walk many long corridors and sit long hours to reach our destination.  How can you endure the annoyance, tiredness and general lack of creature comforts?  Keeping focus on the enjoyment that lies ahead, almost like a personal movie drowning out the ilk around might just do the trick.  Otherwise, resort to an in-flight movie and a big bag of M&M’s.For the flight over to Paris we had reserved window seats with Jim in the row behind me, allowing each of us room to cocoon against the wall for more potential of sleep during the long flight.  I heard Jim settling in behind me with a mother and daughter returning to Paris, their home-town.  Now, how about claiming the City of Lights as your personal stomping ground?  The ladies were laughing at Jim’s Alabama humor, comfortable with him after chatting in the airport departure lounge.   On my row of three seats there was an empty seat between me and the comfortably, but stylishly dressed young lady in the aisle seat.  I spend more time planning my airport departure clothing than any other outfit, hoping to feel like I’m lounging at home by the television, but not look like a wrinkled, old sweat suit.  I wore a pair of black, light-weight knit Michael Kors pants (outlet store bargain) with no metal zipper and a heavier weight navy blue sweater over a cotton shirt with my vintage blue Vera scarf, inherited from my mother-in-law.  I broke the ice and introduced myself to the seatmate that would accompany me on the flight, the first leg of my journey to France.  She surprised me by saying she was from Birmingham, Alabama, which wouldn’t have been surprising if this was a connecting flight in New York, joining an originating flight in Alabama, but that was not the case.  So, by coincidence I sat with a lady with a common thread.  She indicated that we could share the seat between us for more lounge area and personal items.  I liked her already.  She was on a business trip to Russia, a much larger venture than mine!  We weren’t as chatty and lively with laughter compared to Jim and his ladies behind me, but we shared our space together in companionable silence, thankfully, sleeping for part of the flight.We arrived at Charles de Gaulle airport around 5:00 AM, Sunday, May 20th.  But according to our previous time zone we felt it was 11:00 PM, Saturday, May 19th.   My short nap helped and I felt fine.  While we were waiting for passengers up the aisle to gather their belongings, I decided I would go ahead and get my carry-on suitcase from the overhead bin.  Usually, this is Jim’s chore but I like to pull my own weight when I can.  I reached for the case and started bringing it down, not realizing that Jim had packed this case with the laptop and both of our cameras including other equipment.  In other words, it was HEAVY!  Usually, when I bring down a case from the overhead bin I carry the weight to seat-level and then to the floor.  But this was in a space with no seats directly below, so I was taking the weight beyond my ability.  Suddenly, I had sharp pain in my wrist, and I knew I had to allow the case to drop or risk serious injury.  Someone offered to help at this point, but it was too late.  There was no damage to items in the case since the drop was very close to the floor, but the pain in my wrist was another matter.  I had insurance coverage, but thoughts of finding medical care and what would happen if I had to wear a cast and all of those thoughts rushed through my mind.  The pain continued for awhile and then there was a numb-feeling that spread through the area.  I wasn’t sure whether that was good or bad, but it helped for the moment.  I knew that Jim would scold me for attempting this task by myself, so I ignored him while I pushed the suitcase up the aisle.  He was distracted enough with gathering the other luggage at the carousel at the lower floor and finding our way through the airport to the Avis counter.  So I missed my scolding narrowly.

Jim waited at the Avis Preferred counter forever despite his elite status.  A lady ahead of us had a large family or group with her and she was renting a van.  I didn’t know what was happening, but there seemed no end to her questions including repeated returning to the counter, jumping ahead of Jim to insert herself in front of the Avis employee who had remained polite, but finally was losing patience.  Jim eventually had his paperwork completed, and I learned that the Avis computer system was down, so they were doing everything in written format with communication a big problem.  I already knew that a railway strike was causing trouble in France and realized that many people could be switching to rental cars.  I was thankful that our paperwork was in order.  Our car was a Volvo, a first-time rental of this type vehicle for us.  I didn’t like the side windows that seemed too narrow for maximum sight-seeing, but considering the situation at the counter Jim didn’t think it would be wise to try for an upgrade.  We had GPS with this car but another vehicle might not have it.  We were not paying the extra for capability of programming the GPS, but it still showed our location and much more helpful information.  I am the navigator, telling Jim almost every twist and turn of our trip, and I prefer old-style with my trusty Michelin atlas in my lap.  I do refer to the GPS and the Google map on Jim’s tablet at times, especially within cities when I am searching for a location and need street names etc. We were traveling south from the airport on a route that was previously shown to us by the owner of Ferme de Vert Saine Père, a wonderful B&B on a farm.  We have stayed with them several times previously on our return home. (The photo collage below shows photos from the farm from one of our visits years ago. The way to the airport was still marked on my atlas and I knew it was peaceful, a road through fields, wide-open green spaces and clumps of woods, much easier on the nerves compared to the super highways.  We stuck with our more peaceful road the D471 as far as we could until we ventured on to the A5 with Jim ramping up his driving style to the fast lane.  He seemed right at home, as he should with his experience of driving French-styleMaybe the peaceful road was more for my acclimation, not his.  It was somewhere near this time that I reminded Jim, “I don’t know if you want me to say this or not, but it is around 1:00 AM according to our body clock’s current time.”  Jim punched in his reply like a punching into work on a time clock, “No, I don’t need reminding.  Do you want me to fall asleep at the wheel?”  We decided to stop at one of the convenient roadside off-ramps with good facilities, at least they always have been.  We decided on soft drinks and a sub to share which we ate at a small table near the window.  I noticed that the floor was unclean with crumbs and bits of litter, the windows smudged and streaked and a general unkempt appearance.  I went to the ladies’ room and found that the toilets had no seats or lids!    Now, who would steal a toilet seat?  Maybe the less I know about this is for the best.  We were awake, not falling asleep in the sunshine.  We had accomplished our mission for this pit stop, so it was back on the road for us.

Our destination was the city of Sens, where I had reserved a new, contemporary-styled Ibis hotel room for one night, hoping we could check in early to shower and catch a nap.  Jim loved the name of the city, saying we would be “living in sins” for the day.  Sens may appear like sins in English, but it is actually pronounced more like sawns, at least to our ears anyway.  There are also cities named Senlis in France.  I think we shouldn’t arrange any reservations in sinless – we need not apply!  We reached the hotel and it was as modern as I had hoped.  The young lady at the counter quickly located our reservation and sharply told us that we could not check into our room until noon.  Actually, we were very happy since we expected much later.  So much for dampening our spirits, and even better she was gone when we returned later, replaced by a friendly employee.

We went to explore Sens which sits on the banks of the Yonne at the edge of Champagne.  Leafy boulevards trace the line of the old city walls and the cathedral sits at the medieval heart.

(Some who know me personally may puzzle at my interest in a cathedral since it isn’t my religion, but the architecture of the buildings can be of great interest plus the history associated with it.  I believe you will see what I mean as you read and see for yourself.)

The cathedral built in the 12th century from 1130 onward is the first gothic cathedral built in France and acted as a role model for others in France and elsewhere in Europe.  The transepts, added in the 16th century are in the later flamboyant gothic style and also have impressive entrances.  Magnificent stained glass windows which date from the 13th-19th century are impressive in the light.  We didn’t tour the Bishop’s Palace next to the cathedral, but I have read that the dungeons have walls covered in graffiti by prisoners from the medieval period.

Sens was a major ecclesiastical centre, welcoming St Bernard, Pope Alexander III and Thomas à Becket.  Louis IX was married in the cathedral in 1234. The Archbishop of Sens held sway over northern France leading the Gothic revolution.  Sens lost its primacy in 1622 when Paris became an archbishopric.

Moving along to the modern day, if you are there at the right time you will be stunned at nightfall when a magnificent, hi-tech, twenty-minute light show brings 850 years of history to life.  Imagine standing in the square with the brilliant lights on the towering cathedral and surrounding ancient buildings!  (June 28th to Sept 13 on Friday, Saturday and public holidays)  Sounds like Disney, but Cinderella probably won’t slide from the top of the cathedral, twinkling fairy dust.

We missed another wonderful feature of the city.  Le Parc du Moulin à Tan has been awarded the designation of “remarkable garden” with 10 hectares by the river offering tropical plants, a wild area and a rose garden!  I would have loved a long stroll in the rose garden, but not after hours in a plane and tension on A5!We didn’t miss the ancient carvings on the medieval half-timbered buildings and we stumbled around the Place Victor Hugo, trying to decide if we should take a seat in the colorful, captivating surroundings.  This oh-so-French setting was what we endured an ocean crossing to enjoy.  Scenes like this were in that personal movie that kept pushing me forward, building my endurance for the trip.  Yet, we had to admit that our eyelids were too heavy to sit in the warmth of the sun and the lull of the soft breeze even for die-hard French enthusiasts like us.  We went to our Volvo and stopped at a McDonald’s, with dirty floors and sticky seats, just like home, but we knew what to expect and it was served quickly.  French fries would fortify us until we could get a real meal after 40 winks, or more, at our clean, modern Ibis.

Yes, that is my pretty pedicure with new color, for me anyway, that I had before our departure. 

The comforter felt heavenly as we drifted off to sleep.  I reminded Jim that I saw an advertisement for a vide-grenier in town for the next day.  I think he only answered with snoring, or was that fake snoring?

My fingers are limbered-up now and maybe the juices are flowing. My confidence isn’t very strong after leaving the keys idle for months.  Do you like the journal style?  I know that much of this is just a jet lag story, much of the tedium of travel, but I do promise more fun ahead now that the dust is clearing.  Y’all come back!

Next time we will see the vide-grenier in Sens, explore inside a giant brick covered market with goods better than any “Whole Foods” and travel to our rental holiday home in Arnay-le-Duc, France!

You can read more about France including the history of Ferme de Vert Saine Père, at Crisenoy, France.  Just click over to purchase your copy of “A French Opportunity” in paperback or Kindle.