“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.

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