“Cats, a Chateau and Chablis” – by Debbie Ambrous

June 4, 2018 – Mondayof the Burgundy, France Journal

Published normalement (normally) bi-weekly on Sunday

Cats do not pose for their portrait like a window box of flowers!  Indeed, no!  On a sunny morning in France while Jim was meandering down the lane to buy our breakfast goodies, I was coaxing the neighbor’s cat to come closer and begging the uncooperative subject not to skedaddle through the door’s cat-flap againSpeaking softly like a lover in pursuit of a pretty lady, I cajoled in cat-lover language, but she wasn’t fooled by my masquerade.  She knew that deep inside I was a dog-lover with affection for golden retrievers, and she wasn’t going for a two-timing photographer.   But I got her majesty’s photo anyway!

After the feline photo-shoot, I laid out the ambitious plan for the day as Jim savored his last sips of coffee.   Without proper attention from this subject either, I proceeded:  “I saw tall brick chimney towers off the road a short distance from town.  Could we drive out the country road so I can get some photos?   A hamlet about five miles away has a rental house shown on the internet, not a vacation house, but a cozy stone house with a modern interior for less than $500.00 per month in rent.”  Jim’s ears were perked up in alarm like the gray tabby cat, and his green eyes were suspicious as well.  I knew I could lose Jim through the cat-flap if I didn’t change the subject fast, so I went on: “Do you remember Chateau Tanlay, the one with the tall obelisks at the entry and a moat with water and lily pads?”  While he digested all of that and the strong coffee, I rushed on ahead:  “I’m saving the best for last.  Chablis, the village, the vines and the wine are near the end of our ramble.”  A smile spread across his face, and I suggested that his handsome face would be more appealing without the crumbs and the smidge of raspberry jelly.  I held my finale for the day in secret, not mentioning the tiny village of Beru amidst the grape vines.  Let’s go!

We found the brick chimney towers, and I walked cautiously around the ruins on the look-out for snakes and vicious dogs.  Jim sat in the car, ready to drive the getaway vehicle at any sign of danger, hopefully with me inside. The tiny hamlet with a church, farmhouses with charming windows, more cats, and rambling roses was adorable.  A short distance from Noyers, the rental house was perfect for someone, but sadly not me.  Garden room was sparse, not enough room for all of the flowers I would want.  Back to the internet in days to come, I will dream and plant seeds for the future.Driving further north, the landscape changed entirely.   Jim said, “Toto, we must be in Kansas!”  Grain fields were all around us, uphill and down with vineyards no longer in sight.  The fields were green, but they turned golden in the days to come. CHATEAU DE TANLAY

Through our dirty windshield, our view of Chateau de Tanlay was prominently at the end of a long, narrow lane, lined with plane trees.  We parked near the chateau, and Jim doused the windshield with water that he had poured into an empty Pierrier bottle. Folks walking past didn’t roll their eyes, but the look said, “Rich Americans, or Parisians, cleaning the car window with Pierrier!”  I wanted to rush after them and correct their thoughts, saying we are actually on a slim budget and eco-conscious reusing our plastic bottle, understand?  The magnificent chateau was through the gates after a visit to the toilet, a typical one shared by men and women.  With the necessities out of the way, we walked through the gateway noticing the menacing protective metalwork that prevented anyone from crawling around the gates without multiple punctures in vital parts of the body. I read the guidebook to Jim while he peered into the water looking for fish in the moat.  My words rippled on the water for the tadpoles, “Chateau de Tanlay was built in 1553 by Louise de Monmorency, mother of Gaspard de Coligny, the Protestant leader who was murdered in 1572.  In 1704 Tanlay belonged to the financier Jean Thevenin, and has been in the same family ever since.  The Protestants plotted in the Chateau de Tanlay, the home of their leader, Gaspard de Coligny. The Huguenots were persecuted by the French Catholic government during a violent period in the seventeenth century, and they fled the country, creating settlements in the United States.”  Closer to our home in Alabama, across the state line to Florida, Coligny was the leading patron for the failed French colony Fort Caroline in Spanish Florida in 1562.  One exceptional thing that the reformists did was make an earnest study of the Bible and its original languages – Hebrew, Aramaic, and Koine, or common Greek.  I could have babbled more history, but my words seemed wasted on the frogs in the moat where they were losing interest.Satire and insider jokes are depicted in the witty frescoed ceiling of the corner tower where the Protestant leaders plotted during the Wars of Religion.  The debauched court of Catherine de Medici is painted as an unflattering Juno and elsewhere as a double-faced sphinx.  Diane de Poitiers is a lovely Venus with Admiral de Coligny as Neptune.  Behold a political cartoon on a grand scale!


Chablis was our next destination, where we hoped to clear our heads of political and religious intrigue.  Farm tractors led the way, swerving around corners and darting into fields like fat bumblebees in pursuit of the sweetest wisteria blossoms. Chablis is a lovely stone town with attractive alleys and waterways.  A young fisherman with flaming red hair was positioned on the riverbank in the sunshine as we entered town. I found the pretty flowering window box, the lead photo for the blog, on a side street. You must admit that the owner is not timid with the paint color on his house.  We met a lady delivering advertisement brochures as we explored here and there, checking the wine shops and searching for a place to have lunch.  The guidebook said: “Chablis is the quintessential vin de luxe and, as such, restaurateurs feel emboldened to over-charge.”  Amen, brother! A recommendation of gougeres, crusty cheese pastries, sounded perfect.  We were content to sit by the river at a bistro table at Marguerite’s, watching the village employees move the heavy flower boxes for the street with a forklift.  Jim was quietly observing this activity while I was engrossed in a recent issue of a decorator’s magazine.  We had a meal and a show with wonderful ambiance.Cistercian monks first planted Chardonnay on the steep slopes beside the Serien river in the twelfth century.  The popularity of Chablis soon spread to the royal courts on the Loire and on to Bruges.  Its elegance and breeding make it a most sought-after wine.  After lunch, carrying a few bottles of wine from our shopping, we walked across the bridge watching carefully for huge farm tractors on the road and checking on our young fisherman to see if he made a catch.  Nothing yet.  Finding our car parked along the riverbank, we discovered it was guarded by an emergency vehicle driver who had his lunch by the water and checked his phone messages.


The petite village of Beru was on our right a few miles from Chablis on our way home.  We had enough time to add it to our jaunt and enjoy the view of wildflowers and rows of vines that encircle the village.  We parked by an enclosed vegetable garden with roses dripping from stone walls, their blooms like scarlet velvet.  I took a picture of the car’s position and street name so we could find it later, just in case.  That is definitely a hint for you since Jim and his sister lost their car in Majorca, just ask him for the story.  I was not involved!  A sweet elderly lady was seated in front of her house with rows of flower pots.  Another younger lady joined her and seemed to be protecting her, not friendly at all.  Beru was not in my guidebook, but there is plenty to see with colorful windmills and rare medieval sundials A slender lady was working in her garden with a stance that I recognized from my weed-pulling and flower-planting.  I asked permission for photos and we talked gardening and the weather. We drove home looking for odd signs through our dirty windshield, finding the town names of Censy and Cusy.  The red slash through Censy means you are leaving Censy, and we laughed each time and said we were entering familiar territory – Non-Censy!    I thought about sharing another short walk with you, but there is beauty in knowing when to shut-up!  I will leave you with thoughts of Non-Censy until next time.

In the last blog story I promised that Jim and I would have a big day with several destinations.  We crammed a lot of sites and history in this day with 233 photos downloaded. 

Next time, we will go to Montreal, not Canada, but France.  Semur-en-Auxois is part of the agenda, an amazing day!  Thanks for coming around to travel with us.

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.

6 thoughts on ““Cats, a Chateau and Chablis” – by Debbie Ambrous

  1. Thank you for my trip back to France. Once again I am longing to be at your side as as you explore these beautiful cities.

    • Ava, I always like the travel stories where I feel like I’m on the journey with the writer. I try my best to do the same, sharing many of the small moments along with the big. I’m very happy that you joined us for this blog story! Thank you very much for your comment! All the best, Debbie

  2. What beautiful pictures!!! I even saw a FRENCH KITTY! I especially enjoyed the story of the Chateau De TanLay. Very nice!

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