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.
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All photography is the property of Debbie Ambrous.