“Romancing the Cube” – by Debbie Ambrous

May 31, 2018 – Thursdayof the Burgundy, France Journal

Published normalement (normally) bi-weekly on Sunday

Like the last licks of a deliciously sweet vanilla ice cream cone with the crunchy cone finally down in one gulp, I was savoring the beautiful garden of our rental house, Au Faubourg Saint Honoré in Arnay le Duc, France, and relishing the last moments of walking the historic streets.  Our departure to a different location was approaching, but I still had time to see the ladies rushing from the boulangerie with long baguettes in their arms and time to inspect the tiny raspberries – still green – that would ripen when I was gone. A brochure of gardens in France from the tourist office, which I had read like a gourmet restaurant’s menu, listed Chateau de Barbirey and its gardens which inspired our agenda for the day.  Lilting, enticing words like “bucolic and rural atmosphere’ and “come and visit one of the most beautiful vegetable gardens of Burgundy” lured us on to the remarkable garden.  Nothing could stop us, except a Ford Fiesta!Question: When is a Ford Fiesta remarkable? Answer: When it’s painted to resemble a Rubik’s cube!   Did you know? The world’s largest Rubik’s cube is three meters (9.8 feet) tall.  The smallest is 10mm (0.39 inches) wide.  Both turn just like a regular cube.

There are more than 43 quintillion ways to scramble the Rubik’s cube!  In fact, there are 43,252,003,274,489,856,000 possibilities!

If you had one cube for each scramble position and laid them all side-to-side, they would stretch 261 light years from Earth.  Or, you could use them to cover the Earth in 273 layers!

If you turn the Rubik’s cube once every second, it will take you 1.4 trillion years to go through all the permutations.

A robot solved the Rubik’s cube in 0.637 seconds!  The first Rubik’s Cube was sold in 1975 in a Budapest toy shop.

Jim will be so jealous that I learned all of these facts about the famous best-selling toy ever that was invented by Ernő Rubik, a professor from Budapest, Hungary.  Jim is impressed by such statistics, and he quotes stuff like this to me while I roll my eyes.  I learned about this characteristic after I had married him when it was too late!  As a pretty newly-wed, adorable and maybe even alluring, I was in bed with him.  Yes, in bed with him – when he said: “Did I ever tell you about Tecumseh?”  I don’t know what marriage manual or love-making expertise he was reading!  However, I’m quite sure that this Shawnee Native American chief was not involved.  Down to this day, Jim and I will quote the words “Did I ever tell you about Tecumseh?” and laugh in memory.  Tecumseh is credited with saying: “A single twig breaks, but a bundle of twigs is strong.”  Wise words indeed, but he named one of his children Mahyawwekawpaese.  What was he thinking?  Now, there was a kid who could probably solve the Rubik’s cube in a New York minute!

Ecclesiastes 4:9,10 – “Two are better than one … For if one of them falls, the other can help his partner up.  But what will happen to the one who falls with no one to help him up?”

We lingered around Vandenesse where we found the stunning car and a rusty old motorcycle before we watched a boat go through the lock in the canal.  Now, that would be fun!  We messed around here and there long enough that it was time for lunch.  A visit to a boulangerie, La Banette in Commarin, provided pizza and a lemon tart for a picnic lunch which we spread under the shade of the trees in the center of the village near the entry to Chateau de Barbirey.We wandered over to the gateway to the gardens and looked for the bathroom facilities.  Now is my opportunity to show a bathroom, or toilet room, which is shared by men and women. (Look closely in the photo where I am standing at the mirror and Jim is posed at a cubicle door.)

Jim and I found our first such toilet at the Chateau Ussé years ago when I was surprised to be in a cubicle next to a gentleman, and then I washed my hands at a sink next to another pretty lady along with Jim.  All of this was civilized, very polite and sanitary.  Toilets like this are still scattered here and there, but most of them are old.  Times have surely changed everywhere.No one was around the office to accept our payment which was only six euros per person, so I happily wandered in the garden and by the old buildings on the grounds in front of the chateau.  A gentleman came toward me from the chateau, and I worried that he would turn us away since a school group was already there with their teachers guiding them past the wheelbarrows through to the flowers and vegetables.  What a wonderful beginning for those youngsters learning about the flowers and vegetables! Thankfully, we were allowed to join them to see the terraced garden, the orchard, ponds and my favorite – peonies!! The gardens were designed in the nineteenth century, and they are located 25 km (15.5 miles) from Dijon and Beaune in Burgundy, France.  You can rent the chateau!  Why not have a wedding, a family reunion or some other special event here?  Honestly, I thought the rates were not that bad for a large group.  CLICK here for more details.

Recently, here at home in Alabama, I have fallen in love with Monty Don, the gardening guru in England.  I know I will have to get in line, a very long line of other adoring gardeners who found him long before I did.  Be sure to see his shows on Netflix, or whatever outlet you may find.  I especially enjoyed Monty Don’s French Gardens.  I just melted away in a dream world listening to the music, seeing the jaunty 2CV on the back roads of France and hearing his warm words of gardening wisdom.  Yet, Monty Don hasn’t told me anything about Tecumseh, so I am very happy to cultivate my garden with the fellow who has taken me to France and back many times over!  I will dance to the music with the handsome fellow who brung me!

I promised a remarkable garden and more of the Burgundy canal, and I did just that along with a fantastic Ford Fiesta! Y’all come back next time for a bonus day, which even I did not expect.  Monty Don may appear on the page again if I am still in gardening mode.   Thanks for coming around to visit the blog!

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.  Would you like to receive an e-mail notification when each story is posted?  Look at the top of the page on the right-hand side for the area to enter your e-mail.

All photography is the property of Debbie Ambrous.

If you enjoyed this story, perhaps you would like to read about the gorgeous Chateau Villandry and its magnificent gardens.  Just CLICK the link below:

“Fractured Fairy Tales”

“Donkeys Never Lie!” – by Debbie Ambrous

May 30, 2018 – Wednesdayof the Burgundy, France Journal

Published normalement (normally) bi-weekly on Sunday

A reminder for a blog story was scribbled on a page in the flip pad when I was in France among other memory-joggers such as: buy coffee at the store.  There was only one problem, many days later at home in Alabama I didn’t have a clue what ridiculous event could have prompted me to jot down:  “U gotta lotta experience controlling a jack***.”   Jim was the only one who could have said it.  I knew it was him because those words didn’t roll off my tongue!  In the interest of fair play, I confided that I would use this quote in my story and asked if indeed he had spoken this bit of wonky wisdom.  He hemmed and hawed and said, “I must have said it if you say so. I know that you want another one of my famous sayings to quote in your blog.  It’s gonna cost you, but remember – Donkeys Never Lie!”  Donkeys never lie?!

The photos from the grounds of the Chateau Germolles jolted my memory of the situation that prompted Jim’s unique observation.  Finally, I knew what had happened.   A donkey, or jackass, was grazing in the field, a bucolic scene with birds chirping and flowers in bloom along the pathway.  A perfect country scene was in my camera lens, but the stubborn animal would not move from a pile of manure which disturbed the feng shui immensely!  Jim sidled up next to me and asked why I was having a conniption fit.   Laying my troubles on his shoulder, I said, “This stupid beast won’t shift his ugly self from that pile of smelly manure so I can get a pretty farm scene photo!” Grinning at his own supposed smartness, Jim said he didn’t understand why I had a problem because after all U gotta lotta experience controlling a jack***.   Now you have the whole story except for the part where I Googled the question: “What is the difference between a donkey and a jackass?”  Apparently, they are the same.  If you want more in-depth information on this subject, I would suggest that you speak to Jim since he apparently believes that donkeys never lie!  I would challenge that statement, but I just don’t want to go there.  I hope no one ever investigates all of the questions that I have Googled, or they will think that I am bonkers!Goats were walking on top of the wall by the stream when we ambled over the bridge and past the stone buildings along the path to visit the chateau.  I lingered in the shade of a massive plane tree, finding spring flowers and a large shrub with delicate blooms like spun pink cotton candy.    Workers were busy in towers near the courtyard.  When I walked below, one of the men dropped some of the debris to the ground far enough away that there was no harm.  I called out to them with a big smile, “Oops! You missed!”  I heard talking amongst them, probably one of them translated since hearty laughter and friendly waves came my way.

Chateau Germolles is the only country estate (demeure de plaisance) of the Dukes of Burgundy that has been preserved so extensively.  In 1380, Philip the Bold (Philippe le Hardi), Duke of Burgundy bought the estate for his wife Margaret of Flanders (Marguerite de Flandre).  I was disappointed initially because I wasn’t allowed to use my camera inside, but then I was granted permission to use it for part of the tour, and I am very grateful that I could do so. The painted and sculptured decors, including the floor tiles demonstrate the quality of the chateau.

Rully, a medieval fortress built onto a 12th century keep was on our route, but it was closed for touring until July.  We have seen the chateau situated in the heart of a vineyard at least once before, if not more, but our timing has never been right for a visit except for the grounds.  The Renaissance chateau is still owned by the original family.

Clos Salomon was an enjoyable visit.  We love the vineyards with a personal touch like this one with the children’s play slide by the grapevines, old work shoes on the old well and the old house by the wine cave.  We bought a few bottles with no pressure, and we would definitely return if we are in the area.  The known history of the estate goes back for at least 700 years when a fellow named Hugues Saloman put their Givry vineyard on the map by making it a favorite wine of the Pope of Avignon and Henry IV.  Today, the Clos Salomon is a partnership between the most recent heir to the estate, Ludovico du Gardin and his winemaker, Fabrice Perrotto.  They do not use insecticides or herbicides.  All of the work is done by hand.  You will be very pleased if you purchase wine produced here which has been described as: “proudly endowed with structure and full-throttle flavors from its gifted terroir.”    You will notice that he kindly promoted A French Opportunity by displaying my card in the photo!  Thanks again, we felt very fortunate! Click for further information on Clos Salomon.

Chateau de Couches was our last visit for the day.  Built on a rock peak, between the vineyard and the rolling panorama, the chateau is listed as a historical monument and demonstrates several architectural phases.  Restoration was underway, and we were admitted with a reduced rate since most of the buildings were closed. Notice the colorful tile, typical of Burgundy, which is being used in the renovation.  I’m sure it will be magnificent when completed.  The setting alone with beautiful views from the grounds and a topiary garden makes the visit worthwhile.    Jazz concerts and other events are scheduled here throughout the year.  Be sure to click on Chateau de Couches to read more about the restoration and see the aerial views.

I promised two chateaus in my comments in the last blog, but I delivered three here for you to visit plus the charming vintner at Clos Salomon! Y’all come back next time for a remarkable garden, more of the Burgundy canals and possibly more inscrutable notes from my flip pad.  Thanks for coming around to visit the blog where – Donkeys Never Lie!

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.


If you enjoyed reading this blog story, perhaps you would enjoy reading more like it, just CLICK on the title below:

Jim’s Ha-Ha Moment 

The ha-ha is of French origin. A city in Canada is named Saint-Louis-du-Ha! Ha! It is the only city name with two exclamation points!!