“Monday in the Rain” – by Debbie Ambrous

May 28, 2018 – Mondayof the Burgundy, France Journal

Published normalement (normally) bi-weekly on Sunday

Dark, threatening skies.  Thick, gloomy, impenetrable, fog.  Crashing, jolting thunder.  Cold, pounding rain.   A creaking, banging shutter.   Writers employ all of these elements to heighten the drama and set the mood of the story.  Monday alone causes distress for many working people without playing with the weather elements.  My Monday had all of the awful weather elements with the exception of the creaking shutter.  The worrisome, impending lack of medicine was pounding repeatedly in my mind like a shutter in a howling wind since the package was still in the post office in Alabama taking a personal holiday on Memorial Day weekend.

I was determined to break out of the gloom and enjoy the day as much as possible.  I would not hole-up in the house when we could surely find fun somewhere, if not blue skiesBeaune, a beautiful town with many shops and restaurants, is a short drive from Arnay-le-Duc.  Surely, I would find enough colorful distractions there to lift my spirits.   Many businesses in France are closed on Monday!  How could I forget?  No blue Mondays, or stressful Mondays for the French workers!  Are you packing to move to France spurred on by that bit of trivia?  I had checked the address of a tea shop where I hoped to find my favorite teas, but they were closed.  At least the streets were less crowded, and I could window shop.  It seemed that a pharmacie was on every corner, reminding me of the urgent medicine issue.  Did you know that the symbol of a green cross is an emblem for the pharmacy in France? The glistening cobblestones, washed clean by the rain, set the stage for my camera.  Restaurants and pastry shops were open.  Jim and I bought sandwiches and luscious pastries, but where would we eat them without the cold, damp ambiance at the street side tables? The answer to that question was a short walk down the street at a shop selling hot tea and coffee.  They sold sandwiches as well, so I felt guilty bringing the outside sandwiches into his shop.   The friendly young man welcomed us and was not bothered by my sandwiches since we were buying our drinks from him.  Wide shelf-like tables at the huge windows, and tall chairs presented the perfect place to linger in warmth and watch the street scene.  I had enjoyed most of my crunchy baguette sandwich and every morsel of my delicious pastry when I haphazardly reached for my tea.

Fully contented with my lunch in a day-dreaming mood, I clumsily knocked over the paper cup of tea which was only half-full.  How can a half-cup of tepid tea cover the table, floor, chairs and my shoes in a few seconds?  What a mess!!  I worked hurriedly with the paper napkins, hoping to clean everything before the shopkeeper noticed.  Finally, I had to ask for a cloth.  To my surprise, he was not bothered except that I had cleaned up instead of him.   We left Beaune for another day, not a Monday, with sun and an open tea shop.  Our next stop was Nuits St. George with more closed shops.  Mother’s Day in France (Fêtes des Mères) is held on a different date compared to the celebration in the U.S.  The big holiday was on May 27th, Sunday, the day before our Monday in the wet weather.  Most of the shop windows featured Bonne Fest Maman! 

Travel France online presents interesting information on Mother’s Day saying it is not a modern concept, but originated in Greek mythology.  The online magazine went on say:  “Ancient Greeks indeed celebrated Rhea, the mother of all gods and goddesses, during spring.  The Romans took over the celebration.  The cult of Cybele, the mother of all the Roman gods, survived until the 4th century AD.  However, the tradition then disappeared until 1806, when Napoleon I tried to implement an official date in order to celebrate motherhood.  That said, the project never materialized! … Fêtes des Mères became an official celebration in 1929, however, more or less fell into oblivion until 1941.  The celebration was very controversial at the time because it had been implemented by the Regime of Vichy.  Many women also thought that it was a sexist concept that denied them emancipation. Like any other French history subject this one is also long and complex.A petite lady statuette with a very generous derriere and bosom stood in a small pond with rain pouring from the edges of her umbrella.  She seemed to be the French version of the Morton salt girl who first appeared on the blue, round package in 1914. 

Jim had a mischievous grin on his face, but somehow he stayed quiet and didn’t utter a word probably remembering that he compared me to an African artifact the day previous, which now that I think about it was Mother’s Day!  We weren’t celebrating Greek, Roman, French or American holidays.  However, it seemed that every self-respecting mother in France was home with feet propped-up on Monday while I was up to my ankles in streams of cold, rain water.

It was Jim’s turn to be distressed.  The rain was heavier on this stretch of road as we went west with a road sign saying we were leaving Bouzy-les-Beaune

What a name!  We were not bouzy, that’s for sure.  More about funny names in France later, but for the moment Jim was not amused.   A massive truck was much too close, hugging the rear of our car.

His face was red and wrinkled into a frown reflected in the rear-view mirror when he said, “Dude, get your big-honking truck off the rear of my little Volvo, or I will report you to the MeToo truck organization!”  I thought, “Where did that come from?”  But I’m only a lady with a camera, what do I know?Driving home along the way we stopped in Bligny-sur-Ouche.  I know the town’s name sounds like something you would possibly expect a polite Frenchman to say when he stumped his toe, but Ouche is the name of the river.  The history of Bligny is ancient as you will notice from some of the dates on door lintels.  Since the twelfth century the village was protected by a regiment of archers, but they remained loyal to the Duke of Burgundy so the regiment was dissolved.  We were attracted to the pretty stream of water with white swans peacefully gliding on the mirror-like surface.  Yellow irises and colorful doorways caught my attention while Jim looked for fish in the lazy-moving waters.

The sun was still hiding when we made our last stop in a small hamlet with blue and white wildflowers in a field.  A gentleman wearing a blue shirt with white polka dots, identical to my favorite polka dot shirt, was walking two frisky, white poodles up the hill.  I followed in hot pursuit with my camera.All in all, it had been a beautiful Monday in the rain.

I had thought of a plan while I was in the front seat of the car watching the wet countryside swish its way past my window.  I would write a polite note to the pharmacist explaining my dwindling medicine supply.  Google translate could convert my English to French, and I would write the results on my note pad.

A few days of desperation later, I did just that and took the medicine bottle with me after I looked up the name of medicine in French.  The first lady at the counter said she couldn’t provide the medicine.  But then an older lady came to the counter, probably noticing the panic and distress in my face, and she directed the first lady to get the medicine.  Relief washed over me.  I could have kissed her!!

Would you believe that the package never was delivered and it was returned a few weeks after we were home in the U.S.!!

Y’all come back next time to go deep into the cave of Chateau de Chassagne Montrachet to see barrels of wine.  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 Kindle.  Please feel free to share this website with others.

All photography is the property of Debbie Ambrous.

“Distress in France” – by Debbie Ambrous

May 27, 2018 – Sundayof the Burgundy, France Journal

Published normalement (normally) bi-weekly on Sunday

Only eleven days of medicine was left!  There should have been a second bottle, but it was nowhere to be found in our luggage.  That was an emergency for me! The owner of our rental house had given a bowlful of freshly-picked cherries to me, but my day was far from a proverbial bowlful of cherries!

Jim had called his sister Virginia, who lives only a short distance from our house in Alabama, and she agreed to use her key to our house and send the medicine in our cabinet by express mail.  Virginia was coming to Jim’s rescue, not the first time, since she is his older sister who is always reliable.  I felt better with this urgent request in her hands.  This 911 call to the big sister, who is actually little in size but a giant package in love, strength and compassion, happened on Saturday, the day of the “Rose Sale”. 

On Sunday, May 27th, my panic had settled to “3” on a scale of one to ten.  The story wasn’t over for me, but ignorance is bliss.  We should be exuding bliss!  Counting our blessings, we went for a walk in Arnay-le-Duc when fewer cars were on the streets.  Starting at La Maison Bourgogne, which houses the tourist office, sculpted lion heads greeted us in the morning light.  The growling, frowning lions matched our faces since we weren’t picture-perfect models of radiance and joy.  Hoping to lift our spirits I teased Jim, “You can pose by the lion face as its long lost twin brother!”  A slight, up-turned grin spread across his cloudy face, but he wasn’t quick with a jab in reply since he was also under the weather about the medicine mix-up.

La Maison Bourgogne – Tourist Office

 

La Maison Bourgogne was built at the end of the fifteen century with a decorative turret, and it was purchased in 1850 by Mr. Bourgogne who gave his name to the building and turned it into a confectionery and a biscuit (cookies) factory.  The shop was closed in 1971, and then forty years later the city hall acquired it. The tourist office opened in the building in 2012.

Jim and I continued down the lane past the many flowers from the florist shop displayed for customers to examine and purchase.

 

Past the tempting, pretty flowers that I could only plant in an imaginary garden, an interesting doorway presented B. Frey’s gallery of African art

Jim was apparently returning to his old self because he dared to suggest, “Stand to the right of the doorway, the far right by the picture of the woman with the baby on her back.  Yes, that’s the one!  Stand in profile and I’ll take your picture!

What a set-up!!  If I could have found an African poison dart gun, I would have shot him right there in front of the other African sculptures with the heavy eyelids!  They wouldn’t speak a word to the gendarme

 

Our next destination was the tall tower that we could see from our garden at the rental house.  We walked along a lane past a bed and breakfast with the cutest ideas for flowers at her window boxes.  The pansies reminded me of our lovely white-haired friend, Mable, who still has a huge garden in the country despite her age of 80+ years.

I have bought pansies for her flower garden by her front porch when I purchase mine, but she always has one request saying, “Now, I want pansies with the ‘faces’, not solid colors.”  If you look closely at the pansies, you will see the bright, cheerful faces, enough to cheer any worry-faced person, even the stone-faced, grouchy lions.

Around the corner, Jim said, “You know I don’t think you look like the saggy-chested African woman by the gallery door.  I just thought you would be extra pretty standing next to her, a contrast, like standing a peacock next to a buzzard.”  I walked on ahead of Jim up the hill toward the tower thinking that we rarely have a dull moment and feeling very thankful for it.  When Jim caught up with me I told him, “I get the picture.  I’m not a beautiful Victoria Secret lingerie model. But at least you don’t think I look like an old buzzard!” That husband of mine really has a way with words.

La Tour de la Motte Forte

La Tour de la Motte Forte:  Arnay-le-Duc became a fortified city in the Middle-Ages.  The castle was built on a natural mound of earth.  When the last capetian duke died in 1361, the lieutenant gave the castle to the residents of Arnay.  They had to maintain the castle and pay the castle tax, but they didn’t respect the pact and used the castle as a stone quarry.  The last vestige of the castle is the Tower.

Now, I only hope you don’t use a poison dart gun on me for inserting so much history.   Or, hopefully, you enjoy digging into the past as much as I do.

La Plus Ancienne Maison – The oldest house in Arnay-le-Duc

The last building for this day on the walking tour of Arnay is La Plus Ancienne Maison: This is the oldest house in Arnay, built at the end of the fifteenth century. It is a typical house from this age with visible beams, a first floor which overhangs the ground floor.  It was a shop which can be recognized by the typical shop windows for display of goods.

We walked past this old building every day on our way to the boulangerie which has a sign showing Sophie and Jeremie as the owners.  Heather and Jeremy are our good friends at home, so we laughed about whether Heather knew about Jeremy’s boulangerie.

We finished our walk and rushed to a vide-grenier (large community yard sale) after we bought our picnic lunch at a boulangerie near Gevrey-Chambertin.

With camera in hand, I wandered around and found murals, ornate gateways and a maison’s front yard filled with poppies.  Jim suggested that we could do the same at home and he wouldn’t have to mow the grass.  We located the sale in a smaller village where I found two adorable little dresses for Royce, a precious, beautiful girl at home.  Spice jars with colorful lids went into my shopping bag for my sister-in-law Virginia.

On our way home we drove through a tunnel and I snapped photos since I wanted to add tunnels to my list.  What do you think about the results? We drove along the Burgundy canal in a new area, and Jim stopped at a hamlet with lovely scenery.  A couple of older gentlemen joined us and I asked permission to snap photos of his colorful flowers.  He showed the vegetable garden to us where the tiny plants were growing in rows with promise of many good meals in the future.  I identified the vegetables, calling out the names in English.  The gardener understood and seemed impressed that I knew my veggies!  I smiled as one gardener to another, where we had soil, seeds and a love for all growing things in common.

Back at our rental house in Arnay-le-Duc, my emergency story continued.  Jim’s sister broke the news to Jim in a phone call.  She had rushed to the post office on the previous day, Saturday, but it had closed early since Monday was a holiday, Memorial Day!  The package could not even begin its journey until Tuesday!  With that situation, my medicine in the bottle was dwindling to a very narrow gap!  What could I do?  My days in France should not be filled with such distress!!Y’all come back next time to read how my emergency was solved and see our rainy Monday.  Thanks for coming around to visit.

You can read more about France, including 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.