“Rose Sale” – by Debbie Ambrous

May 26, 2018of the Burgundy, France Journal

Published normalement (normally) bi-weekly on Sunday

The morning light was streaming through our bedroom windows, enticing us to venture from our comfortable, cozy bed in our beautiful rental home in Arnay-le-Duc (click to see the gorgeous home).  Each night I would tell Jim that he adjusted the air conditioner perfectly, sharing an inside joke because there was no air conditioning, yet the temperature was always perfect inside the thick stone walls of the old maison.  I miss those blissful nights of sleep in cool comfort when I’m tossing and turning in the Alabama heat at night with air conditioning and a fan.  With a lush garden at our doorstep and creature comforts galore inside, we were totally spoiled! 

On the previous day, I saw an advertisement for a rose sale posted on a community bulletin board near our picnic area.  Jim was lingering by the stream at the table with the tasty lunch while I poked around with my camera, finding climbing roses, an abandoned gateway and a weathered door among other goodies.

I quickly took a photo of the rose sale announcement and mentally posted it on the schedule for May 26th.

Following my Google map directions I told Jim: “Turn right at Reclesne, and then right again at Tavernay and follow the D-978 to La Celle en Morvan.”  Driver Jim had a different suggestion: “Woman, you’re speaking in a foreign tongue.  Say something understandable like right at the big barn and left at the pile of manure on the road.”  He was telling the truth about the manure since there was a horse and wagon in the street at the grand rose sale.  After we turned through a narrow one-way entry and parked our car in a field, I rushed along the road dodging cow patties to the entry. 

Many more flowers and plants were on sale other than roses.  I was admiring large amaryllis bulbs, flowering in pots on shelves when a lady rushed out-of-breath and hurriedly said something in the foreign tongue of Jim’s earlier accusation.  I finally understood that we had to pay and get a ticket.  I didn’t expect to pay to see stuff for sale, but I was glad to help the garden group sponsoring the event at La Celle en Morvan.

With tickets in hand, we were chastened, but at least legitimate.  Back to the amaryllis bulbs, I couldn’t buy them or most of the other garden plants, but it was a joy to see the abundance for the French gardens.  I have enough amaryllis bulbs to have my own sale.  I thought about Beverly P., a sweet friend of mine that we tease about her slip of the tongue in another beautiful garden filled with bright, glorious amaryllis blooms.  She blurted out to the lady owner of the garden, “I adore your armadillos!”  She will never live down that wrong choice of words.  Now her story has traveled to France and on a blog for the world to see.  Sorry, Beverly!!  Blackberry plants, vegetables, succulents, irises and plants I didn’t recognize were there for sale.  I wished that I had a garden in France – not for the first time.  Charming garden ornaments were displayed, such as carved wooden piglets and bird feeders which would be beautiful whether birds flew into the garden, or not.



Around the corner, cotton candy billowed in pink for a sugar high, and rides for the children provided entertainment for the young crowd, while burgers and sausage were sizzling on the grill.  I made a mess of myself with the ketchup and mustard with a burger hot off the grill, a bit later in the day.

Inside the display building we found artwork with imaginative light fixtures by Anne-Marie Gagniere.  She showed me how they were made, but I still wouldn’t know where to start.  The colorful lights would brighten any room with a unique sense of style.A painting of two pears styled as cottages caught my eye and reminded me of cabins I saw on television recently that were styled like a top-hat and a dragon’s eye.  Some people are loaded with talent.   I’ll just hang around with my friend Beverly, accidentally saying the wrong names, often in a foreign tongue and dodging manure clods in the road. Now for the prize attraction, the roses were displayed in rows and wound through the garden and under trees like a colorful, dance troupe.  Nothing like this happens in my area with such a wealth of selections!

Enterprising young men with wheelbarrows were pushing the rose purchases to cars for the visitors, for a tip, of course.  The young fellows wore hats and rushed along with big smiles.  One of the boys had a mustache painted on his upper lip and a smiley sign on his wheelbarrow, a very enterprising entrepreneur!

Since we couldn’t load a wheelbarrow with purchases, we walked along the street to the parking lot following a grandmother with her grandchild.  Old brick at the edge of the narrow lane caught my attention, so we paused at the one-way entry for a few pictures.

A flashing light notified the drivers when they could go with cars in line on each side.  As we stood at the entry, a lady rolled down her window and asked about the parking, thinking we were staff members, someone in charge.  I answered in my foreign tongue and she laughed all the way to the other side of the field.

On our way home we saw a pasture with sheep grazing and sweet little lambs scampering around.  The mother seemed to be warning me to point my camera away from her babies.

Further along the road we saw colorful rhododendrons in bloom and USA sheets flapping on the clothesline.  I wonder what they thought about the woman who stopped to snap photos of their laundry.  I hope the tomatoes and marigolds were plentiful.Did you like the Rose and Garden Sale? Y’all come back next time to read about my emergency and see the ancient town of Arnay-le-Duc where we lived for a short time.  Thanks for coming around to visit.

You can read more about France, including more about Burgundy.  Just click over to purchase your copy of “A French Opportunity” in paperback or KindlePlease feel free to share this website with others.

All photography is the property of Debbie Ambrous

“Beyond Golden Pond” – by Debbie Ambrous

May 25, 2018of the Burgundy, France Journal

Published normalement (normally) bi-weekly on Sunday

Henry Fonda and Katharine Hepburn weren’t along for the ride when we found the Golden Pond along a narrow country road leading to the Chateau Sully in the Burgundy region of France.  Husband Jim and I had no problem mimicking the cantankerous couple, Norman and Ethel, from the movie On Golden Pond, starring Fonda and Hepburn.  Jim drove along an embankment by the pond, like a blue lagoon ringed in gold, glowing in the morning light.  My enthusiasm for the pond was equally matched with Ethel’s love for the idyllic Golden Pond in New England.  I pleaded, perfectly in character, to my husband, more handsome than Henry Fonda: “Jim, please stop so we can walk around the near the boat.”   “I can’t stop right here!  There’s no place to park the car and wide farm tractors are taking up the road, and then some!” I pointed to a parking place by an old stone farm building, so he stopped for me, especially since I added that part about him being more handsome than Henry Fonda The deep blue pond embellished in gold may be an ordinary view for farmers and other local folks, but I have never seen anything like it around our area in Alabama.  When I walked carefully to the car, trying not to sink up to my ankles in mud and muck, Jim said, “It was awfully nice of you to compliment me with a comparison to Henry Fonda, but you could’ve selected a handsome dude that isn’t dead! And, I believe your suggested parking place is next to a pig-pen.”  Don’t say we can’t do a good impression of Norman and Ethel!

Chateau de Sully was just around a few more curves and bumps in the road. Travel guide entries stated: “Chateau de Sully is the largest stately home in Burgundy.  And a home it still is, for although on a grand scale, the smell of beeswax, bowls of fresh flowers, books and family portraits bring a touch of reality to the scene.” We walked from the parking lot to the majestic gated entry.  The gates were open, so we entered along the wide pathway looking for the proper door to pay for a ticket.  A slim, pretty lady came toward us and pointed further along the road to the gift shop/entry building.  She apologized and said the gates were only open for construction equipment to enter for repair/remodeling work.  Norman and Ethel were not amused.    A busload of students and a few other tourists joined us for the tour.  Heavy construction equipment went through the bright blue gates where carved animal heads which date from 1803 protruded, quite a contrast of the new and old.  The central courtyard was a scene of construction with a John Deere tractor and dirt tracks instead of stonework and fountains.  I was a bit disappointed, but I thought the inside would compensate. An article from a 2015 edition of House and Garden (UK edition) tells a fairytale story of the Scottish-born Amelie, Duchesse de Magenta, who remains at the helm of the Chateau de Sully in Burgundy: “In 1985, 21-year-old Amelie Drummond, dressed in a crinoline gown spangled with gold, was leaning against the wall of a ballroom in a vast house in Germany when she spotted someone staring at her.”  The someone across the room staring at her was Philippe Maurice de Mac Mahon, the 4th Duc de Mangenta.  Amelie returned home to reveal to her parents that she was leaving university at once to live with him in his chateau in France.  Her parents supported her.  Norman and Ethel probably would have consented as well.

Since the 4th Duke’s sudden death in 2002, the stately home and estate have been run by his widow.  The Duchesse lives in the Chateau all year round with their two children, Pélagie and Maurice.  Maurice is the 10th Marquis of Mac Mahon and 5th Duke of Magenta.

The website for the Chateau de Sully includes a “Diary of a Scottish Country Lady” with a highlight for seasons of the year.  I particularly enjoyed the entry for summer at Sully:

Summer heat is coming!  The Chateau sits serene above the moat against a brilliant blue backdrop, and the fish in the moat are growing larger on the bread fed to them by visiting children.The kitchen garden is filled with flowers and vegetables, and there will soon be lots of blackcurrants waiting to be tasted (at their best straight off the bush).  Most of the redcurrants, green and red gooseberries will soon be eaten or made into jam – on sale in the shop.   There will again be hens resident at the bottom of the garden, sleeping in the Dovecote (doocot to the Scots), and laying well (we hope!). .. A German couple said it was the most alive Chateau they had ever been to.”

I would agree with the German couple, but I was tremendously disappointed that I could not use my camera inside!  The guide explained that we could not take photos since it was occupied by the owner. A warm description of the proprietress, the Duchess of Magenta, is included in 100 Places in France Every Woman Should Go by Marcia DeSanctis.  DeSantis says that the Duchess bellowed, “Welcome!” and the writer continued saying, “She is youngish, with a bob of honey-colored hair and appears distinctly unroyal this morning, clad in earth cords and scuffed boots, despite the fact that her home is the Chateau de Sully (whose Renaissance courtyard is considered one of the most magnificent in France), which she has inhabited since marrying Philippe, the 4th Duke of Magenta in 1990.

The Duchess sounds lovely and warm natured to me.  You will see her name once again in a future story.

We drove on to the city of Autun passing woods, streams and scattered farms.  Autun is described as the Roman heart of Burgundy.  As a window on Rome, it commanded monumental architecture and the greatest Greek scholars.  “The ruined Roman theatre once resounded to the acclaim of 15,000 spectators.  But to see Roman Autun rise from the ashes, attend Augustodunum, a summer spectacle held in the Roman theatre.  Valiant Gauls, Roman legions and chariot races are presented by 600 eager citizens.”  Unfortunately, it was a quiet day in the stadium when we stood in the shade of the tree canopy with no crowds roaring on the hillside.We found our way into the city, winding through narrow streets to a central parking area.   I had a certain shop in mind, once again looking for bargains, but we had time for window shopping.

Under the trees, shaped uniformly in rows, reminding me of push-up ice cream bars, people were relaxing in the shade at tables. 

Students from the Lycee Bonaparte were coupled intimately under the trees. (Faces are deliberately blurred.)  Norman would not approve! Then again he did ask Ethel, “You wanna dance or suck face?”   I reminded Jim that Ethel said, “You know, Norman, you are the sweetest man in the world, but I’m the only one who knows it.”   You can figure out Jim’s reply, that he thinks he is the sweetest man instead of Norman.  Edna called Norman an “old poop”.  I’ll save that quip for a very appropriate time in the future!

I found a beautiful hand embroidered cloth at the store when it opened, and much more!  The beautiful, linen, embroidered handwork is perfect in my guest bedroom now.

Y’all come back next time to see a Rose Show and more.  Thanks for coming around to visit.

You can read more about France, including more about Burgundy.  Just click over to purchase your copy of “A French Opportunity” in paperback or KindlePlease feel free to share this website with others.

All photography is the property of Debbie Ambrous.

“Kodak Moment” – by Debbie Ambrous

May 24, 2018of the Burgundy, France Journal

Published normalement (normally) bi-weekly on Sunday

What more could I desire for a Kodak Moment?  A landscape of golden yellow fields as far as the eye could see, contented milky-white cows, lazily visiting together like an old-fashioned family reunion and a stone building that could be listed as a fixer-upper with a million dollar view were all waiting for me when I cried out for Jim to stop.  Traffic was whizzing past on the busy road, but patient Jim pulled over for me to dash across for the Kodak Moment.  Years ago, I bought 15 or more rolls of Kodak, or Fuji film, for our trips to France and other countries.  The advertisement on the stone building possibly dates back to the time when I would run out of film at the worst moments.  Thankfully, I could click away on this gorgeous day until the cows grew restless and started swishing their tails and sharpening their horns on the fence posts.  Or, was that husband Jim swishing his tail in the driver’s seat and sharpening his car horn, growing tired of waiting for me?

No horn-blowing, gestures or words were required since my internal detection is more sensitive than Homeland Security in such instances, after years of traveling with the man at the wheel.  We had a generous extended ticket to tour the interior of the magnificent Chateau Commarin, and we did not intend to miss the entry time!

We were following La Route Des De Ducs Bourgogne, visiting chateaus with plus de 1000 ans d’histoire.  The brochure instructed us to keep our tickets and present them at each chateau on the route for a reduced price.  We saw seven of the thirteen shown on the map.

The blurb on the brochure had this description of Chateau Commarin: “In the same family for over 8 centuries, the Chateau de Commarin was reworked during the 18th century by the Marquise d’Antigny, grandmother of the well known bishop, the Prince de Talleyrand, minister for Foreign Affairs and today houses an exceptional decorative art collection.  The unique early 16th century heraldic family tapestries, together with the beauty of its works of art, furniture and rich 17th century decoration are a living testimony of the generations who have lived here.Stone lions guard the entryway with towers, moats and statuary promising an opulent interior.  Our first room for the tour was the kitchen, like the side-door to my house which leads to the kitchen which is usually the favorite for friends and family.  I don’t have as much copper in my Alabama-French cottage as the massive kitchen in the chateau, but I’m working on it When I lingered in the kitchen for more photos, our sweet guide teased that the kitchen must be my favorite since I liked to cook.  I started to tell her that Jim was the cook at home, but I decided to go along with her conclusion since the kitchen is one of my favorites in chateaus and I can whip up a delicious pie!

Across the courtyard from the kitchen is the horse stable and next in line is the chapel.  The grand salon is upstairs, a great distance from the kitchen.  None of this open, airy plan, all in one room, modern living is found in ancient chateaus!  The colors and decoration of the ceiling in the chapel were amazing!We paused in the foyer before we climbed the wide, grand stairway to the beautiful rooms filled with grandeur.  Protection from the hordes of tourists is of utmost importance, so we had to wear covering over our shoes.  Bright blue covers like the bonnets that doctors, nurses and patients often wear in surgery were slipped over our dirty shoes.  I didn’t mind except I was worried about slipping and falling on the marble foyer, or even worse the massive stone steps. 

I smiled at a very distant memory as I carefully held the handrail and advanced up the stairs in my blue slippers.  When my mama was elderly and no longer as sharp as she used to be, she developed some odd habits.  She always enjoyed being outside in the flowers, and old age didn’t stop her.  She carried a plastic stool and she positioned it by the flowerbed, so she could plant and weed.  Nothing strange about this, I suppose.  But here is the oddity.  She wore plastic bread sacks over her shoes to protect them from the dirt and stuff.  She saved the plastic bread bags and put them over her shoes with a large rubber band at the top to keep the whole arrangement in place.  No, she would not wear any pretty gardening shoes.  She didn’t care that she looked odd, or unfashionable.  Only her uppity daughter Debbie was embarrassed.  I was hundreds of miles away most of the time when Mama weeded her flowerbeds wearing Holsum bread sacks on her feet.  But there was one time when I was home and Mama needed something from the store.  Standing on the front porch in her plastic shoe accessories, she said she would ride with me to pickup whatever she needed.  I insisted that she remove the plastic gear!  She would have none of that and she was going with me!  No amount of reasoning penetrated La Maman’s mind.  Once we were there at Fred’s, she had multiple coupons for bargains, and she went up and down every aisle.  I followed at a distance, and I noticed a teenage boy laughing and pointing at Mama.  He was telling his friends about the bread-sack lady, watching from around the corner.  I felt like warning him that his day was coming when his elderly parents would embarrass him. Then, suddenly they are gone and you will realize they are much wiser than you ever knew.  Mama was always thrifty, but she always dressed beautifully when she was younger.  She was as pretty, even prettier, than the ladies on the walls of the chateau!Most bread in France comes with a minimal paper wrapping, no plastic bags.  So I couldn’t recommend a savings in the budget for the chateau owners for their garden gear.  The opulent interior of Renaissance tapestries and imperial busts wouldn’t remind anyone of bargain-hunting.  The floor is covered with glazed tiles, dating from the second half of the 15th century.  Over the chimney is a huge portrait of King Louis XV.  Imagine lounging on the blue chaise by the grand piano.  Several family photos from more recent times were displayed on the piano.

The dining room with more paintings and tapestries is equally grand with unusual serving pieces in the shape of a boar’s head, a rooster and vegetables.

I liked the yellow bedroom dating from 1725 with a bed covered in 18th century silks.  On the fireplace mantel is a clock from around 1780, called a skeleton clock which shows the months, the days, the moon quarters and zodiac signs.  A small library is through the next door, but no photography was allowed here.  The books in the library show the taste of the noble lady with prayer books, history, encyclopedia, philosophy and work of the authors from Burgundy, such as Marquise de Sevigne and Bussy-Rabutin.  I wondered what anyone would think of my reading selection.

Desks positioned at windows drew my attention.  What would I write with such a grand view?  I must have a window near my computer when I write.  Words are formed on the clouds, among the blooms of my hydrangea, or out on a limb when I’m a risk-taker, shortly before they are typed on the keypad.


A Kodak Moment was forming at the gates of Chateau Commarin when we exited.  Porsche, Austin Healey and Jaguar were represented in the classy line of the best automobiles to grace the roadway.  We didn’t miss this opportunity for a close-up view.  I selected the baby blue Austin Healey as my favorite, and Jim seemed to agree.


They decided to leave much too soon, probably because the chateau was closing for lunch.  Then, when the beautiful cars came to life on the open road, the bright red Porsche would not crank!  Oh, the mortification of it all!!  At least he didn’t have a Mama in the gift shop wearing bread sacks on her feet!

After the automotive Kodak Moment, we had lunch at the Restaurant de l’Auxois at Vandenesse, the village with the Burgundy canal which was a grand star in the last blog story.  I grabbed this opportunity to get a close-up shot of the Chateauneuf Chateau and laundry on lines by the canal.Since we were making good time with our plans for the day, we added a short jig up to Saulieu which has a gastronomic reputation.  On this particular day we were entertained by the artistic creations displayed through the town on street corners and in front of shops.  My first view was a massive whale head appearing through the shrubbery by a polar bear.  A gorilla covered in colors like a snow cone with all flavors, greeted me at the car park.

I must mention the artist for these creation is Olivier Courty. That was only the beginning.  We wished that we had enough time to see the Musee Francois Pompon.  With a name like Pompon, how could it be boring?  Another time, for sure, we must return.  More Kodak Moments are out there waiting.  We just need to look.

For further information on Chateau De Commarin see: Facebook & twitter: ChateauCommarin   Instagram: chateaudecommarin

Y’all come back next time to see Chateau De Sully, owned by a Scottish Duchess.  Thanks for coming around to visit.

You can read more about France, including more about Burgundy.  Just click over to purchase your copy of “A French Opportunity” in paperback or KindlePlease feel free to share this website with others.


More photography from this story and others can be seen on the page France-storytelling and picturesCLICK here or just look for the tab at the top of this page.    

All photography is the property of Debbie Ambrous.