“Ducks NOT In a Row” – by Debbie Ambrous

May 23, 2018of the Burgundy, France Journal

Published normalement (normally) bi-weekly on Sunday

Do you have your ducks in a row? Some folks are always organized, and they never get off track.  Nothing distracts these orderly and controlled people; excuse me, I almost said freaks.  Maybe I am jealous.  I actually lay out structured plans, neat and pretty like the colorful ducks.  But somewhere along the line, spontaneity pops up and we waddle off in impulsive, eager diversions like perfect quack-ups!

For instance, on this particular day in May when the peonies were bursting with blooms in the garden at our rental house and Prince Harry had just wed Meghan, the plan was a short drive to tour the magnificent Chateau Commarin.

Roadwork was underway with loud equipment pounding the pavement and shattering the peaceful village street, but when we drove past, I only noticed the cute, young, French guys with their bulging muscles.  Just reporting the news as it happened …

After this very acceptable diversion, I reached for the flip-pad with a leather cover that our friend Larry G. had given to us.   There was nothing on the first page, just a white empty page of paper, but I knew I had written my simple directions to the chateau on the page so I wouldn’t be tied to the atlas.  Immediately I turned to Jim, “Did you remove the directions from the flip-pad?”  Looking grievously injured, he replied, “No, I haven’t touched it!”  My simple plan of turns here and there were gone, and I remembered something else that was gone during the night.  “Jim, why didn’t you replace the roll of toilet paper last night?  It is just a good thing that I could reach the little cabinet, or I would have been in dire straits!”  Again, he pleaded innocent, enough so that I felt sorry for him.  Later, we found the page of directions in the flip-pad on the reverse flip-side of the notebook.  Oh, and we found the roll of toilet paper had slipped off and made its way behind the modern, white commode.  I asked Jim if the toilet scene was tasteful and suitable for the blog, and he said, “Your readers are not so hoity-toity that they would get their panties in a wad about a Charmin on the roll.” We stayed the path with Chateau Commarin in our sights, only a few minutes away.  But we rounded a bend, high on a hill with a glorious view of the village Saint Sabine spread below.  An architectural masterpiece was a splendid attraction, an unbelievable structure in such a tiny village.  Jim had to park in this difficult to negotiate, unplanned spot so I could admire the grand setting.  A few photos were involved as well.  I pointed down below to Chateau Saint Sabine which is a marvelous hotel. 

Jim had other thoughts on the cathedral with the gigantic, towering columns and voiced his thoughts, “It looks like something from Star Wars with those huge pillars that could be big, long legs.  The monstrous thing could stalk around and drag the back end like a trailer.  Yes, for sure, it looks like an Imperial Walker!” I waddled back to the car with my feathers ruffled out of place and muttering, “What in the world of planets did he wake up on this morning?

Back on the road again, we didn’t go very far until I called for a stop to see a yellow rose bush, bright as the sun, heralding a glorious morning by the front door of a stone house. Lace curtains with bicycles in the design were a happy greeting at the door and windows.  Blue birds flew all around the bikes, woven into the fabric so cheerfully that it seemed like I could hear their chirping song.   I have French lace curtains in some of my windows, but nothing like the biker’s lace!  The yellow rose bush reminded me of one I had at the first house we bought in Alabama.  I tested Jim’s memory: “Do you remember the yellow florabunda rose at the back door of our first house in Alabama?”  I don’t think he had a clue, but he put on his game face and said, “Yeah, vaguely.”  I filled in the details for him: “Granny Bryan gave that yellow rose to me as a present when we moved into the house.  I had worked my fingers to the bone already and rain started pouring when I was ready to plant Granny’s yellow rose.  So I heeled-in the rose near the back door.  Do you know what is meant by heeled-in?”  Gardener Jim answered my question complete with gestures involving arms waving in the air and feet tramping up and down on the French soil, “You just dig a hole with a trowel-thing and stick the roots in the ground.  Then you stomp on the ground with your heel.  Nuthin to it!”  I have always heard oldsters use this expression, and now I’m an oldster saying it with young folks not knowing, or caring, what it means.  At least I have Gardener Jim who understands my old memories.Perhaps you are thinking we cannot possibly go astray again, but no, we wobbled off course again at Vandenesse en Auxois, the atmospheric, farming village near the summit of the Burgundy Canal on the river Saone side.    It was here that I found the ducks in a row near the bridge with the magnificent Chateauneuf en Auxois on the distant horizon, above golden fields dotted with white cattle.  We couldn’t wait until later, we had to stop and walk the village and the pathways along the canal.  You would have done the same! Thomas Jefferson wrote to a friend when he was American ambassador to Paris saying, “You should not think of returning to America without taking the tour which I have just taken.”   He was speaking about a voyage along the Canal du Midi in southwestern France, but the region of waterways in Burgundy are equally seductive with medieval villages, fields of yellow and green, vineyards and chateaus like the one above the village that we saw on the preceding day.  Clearly, we stopped on authoritative direction from none other than Thomas Jefferson and allowed the ducks to scatter wherever they may.

Strolling along the canal we saw the backyards of the village houses with toys in the sandbox, cats scampering by lily ponds, multi-color clothes pins in neat rows on the line waiting for the next load of laundry, ducks doing their daffy thing in the water with the reflection of a tile roof glistening in the sunshine and bikers zipping past, wearing their finest gear.  Along one stretch, walking toward the chateau, we saw an old lockkeeper’s cottage surrounded by beautiful flowers with a large birdcage near the front door.  I thought of our friends, Wally and Dianna, who love the water and have birdcages at their waterside home.  They would probably enjoy the cozy cottage for a visit.I thought I could cross to the other side of the canal, but it wasn’t possible.  I expressed my disappointment to Jim, “Do you see the wild-colored pajama bottoms flapping on the clothesline?  I wanted to get a photo from closer range for a blog story, if I write again when we are home.” At that time I had not written for several months, and I felt very much out of touch.  Jim put his arms around my shoulders and assured me, “Oh, honey, you will write again!  I know you will.  Just wait and see.  You will have all of these stories in your head and enough pictures crammed in that camera, so much that you will be bubbling over with enthusiasm to share it with folks.”  I smiled and felt that the ducks were in formation for this beautiful moment to savor.    We finished our short drive to Chateau Commarin, arriving at lunch time when there were no tours inside.  But we could picnic behind the entry at tables with umbrellas.  Jim purchased picnic food and we sat leisurely enjoying the view of the regal surroundings with not a soul around.  This was not our first time to picnic royally.  We visited around 2005, a good guess, but I think I’m right about the date.

The photo below shows a now and then of me.  

The garden has many artistic displays that were not there in 2005, so we had fun, acting silly with the statues for the camera.   Time just flew while we admired the moat, the woods and the incredible architecture of the chateau.



When the guide returned to the gate and people walked to the entry, I checked my watch and realized that we did not have time for the tour since I wanted to make another stop on our return.  I asked if we could see inside the chateau and take the tour on the following day.  The manager thought for a minute, agreed and wrote a note on our tickets.  Many thanks to the considerate manager!! My important stopping place was in a hamlet near Arnay-le-Duc, or at least not very far away.  Not everyone would consider this hamlet important, but I did because there was a cluster of barns filled with bric-a-brac, antiques, linen, toys, copper and other goodies.  The opening hours were only twice a week in the afternoon, and I had plans for most of the future days with my ducks out there in perfect configuration.  I was anxious to get my shopping underway.  I filled a few bags and I’m happy to say that all of my purchases made it home to Alabama safely.  My bedroom windows have new (old) French curtains that I simply adore!

A curtain of rain soaked the customers rushing from the exit to their cars, including Jim who was such a gentleman, offering to bring the car to the door for meI know.  He does spoil me sometimes.  While I was waiting, a petite young lady, about three or four years old, with curly blonde hair, was playing at the doorway.  I showed the colorful, acrylic jewelry rings that I had bought to her.  She giggled and ran away up a ramp and down again.  We had a game going then when she ran toward me and I pretended to grab her.  More squeals of laughter filled the air with each round and increased in volume when I jumped from behind the door with a “Boo!” in her direction.  When my knight in the Volvo arrived, I had to leave my playmate, waving bye to her smiling face, still giggling.

We may never have our ducks in correct alignment, but we covered most of the plans for the day and we strategically arranged for our next day.  Did you have fun?

Y’all come back to see inside Chateau Commarin, and learn more about the history of the beautiful home.  Be prepared for a few surprises. Thanks for coming around to visit.

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