“All Shook Up” – by Debbie Ambrous

June 5, 2018 – Tuesdayof the Burgundy, France Journal

Published normalement (normally) bi-weekly on Sunday

I spotted Elvis in the Chateau Époisses dovecote!  Does that shake, rattle and roll your bones?  I lured Jim inside the dovecote saying Elvis – the King – was inside.  He knew from my sneaky grin that something suspicious was up.  Inside the tower, surrounded by over 3,000 nesting places for the doves, he didn’t see Elvis perched anywhere.  Before Jim could ask me where Elvis flew away to, I pointed to the picture of Elvis de Montreal’s sculpture by her husband, but Jim was more interested in the bird nests above not an ancient historic Elvis without a guitar.  I thought I would impress him with the photo of Queen Elizabeth II who visited the chateau, but Jim said, “This place must have been smelly as all git-out with a ton of bird-droppings from 3,000 birds swarming in and out!”  I wonder what song lyrics Elvis would write on this subject.ÉPOISSES

Époisses became a seigneurial house in the twelfth century with the family of Montbard. It belonged from 1237 to 1421 to the family of Mello who received Philip the Bold, duke of Burgundy, in 1377.

Époisses is known for a different type of smell, referring to the Époisses cheese.  One article said, “There’s no way of putting this mildly – Époisses is a stinker.  According to a BBC story from 2004, Époisses has been banned from French public transportation systems because its odor is so strong.” We bought some when we were in Arnay-le-Duc, and I would say if you cooked cabbage in the kitchen and opened a package of this cheese, you could have an explosion of odor!  Époisses is a strongly flavored, slightly salty, slightly nutty, very creamy, 50% fat, cow’s milk cheese which is washed in brine and Marc de Bourgogne, the local brandy.  It had its beginning in the sixteenth century within a community of Cistercians, and local farmers inherited the recipe two hundred years later.  Napoleon was a big fan of the cheese.  But I would say that Elvis of Memphis, Tennessee probably would not have liked it on his favorite peanut butter and banana sandwiches!Continuing our tour of the grounds since the chateau interior was not open until July, we admired the Tower of Conde with its beautiful masonry with alternating layers of differently hewn stones, a rarity in Burgundy.  According to a local legend, the Prince had admired the countryside seen from his window and regretted that no balcony was there to enjoy such a beautiful view in comfort.  Upon returning from the hunt on the same evening, he found the balcony had just been built according to his wish.  The view from the upper windows must be glorious with gardens of 500 roses and my other favorites such as lavender, tulips, peonies, hydrangea and magnolia. The property has been owned by the same family since 1661; the descendants of Guillaume de Guitaut devote the best of their energy to maintain the old house by continuing the conservation of this exceptional site. The library contains many letters written by Madame de Sévigné, a regular seventeenth century visitor.  I was amused to read some of the quotes.  Madame de Sévigné begins: “At last I left Époisses, but I have not left the master of this beautiful castle.  He came to drive me here.  There is nothing so easy as to love him… He is very wise, this man.  However, I said to him now, seeing him awake like a hotpot of mice: ‘My poor Monsieur, it is still early morning to go to bed, you are still very green, my friend.”  I must remember the quote of being like a hotpot of mice.

We found a place for sandwiches a short distance from the chateau and decided to eat outside since it was a lovely day.  I lowered myself into a plastic chair and my personal hind-quarters met a soggy, water-saturated foam cushion.  An overnight rain had left a wet booby-trap for me.  At least no one was around to laugh at my wet pants except Jim.  I had one more surprise ahead when I asked the owner for directions to the toilet, and she pointed upstairs.  The stairs led to her personal home through the living area to a nice bathroom.  Since I had wet pants, she may have deduced that I needed the facilities in an emergency!


Now, let’s turn around and go to Montreal and see if we find any of Elvis’ relatives since the ancient Elvis originated there.  Actually, we started our day in Montreal and went to Époisses as our second stop.  But I decided to begin the story at the dovecote.  Montreal is a small medieval village with the main portion for pedestrians only.  This area is entered through an imposing gateway with several arches through the fortified walls.  The gateway is called the Porte d’en Bas (Lower Gate).  Many old streets wind up the hill past historic houses and colorful gardens.  A lady rushed home, up the old stone steps, greeted by her tiny dog.  Across the street an elderly woman watched every move that I made when I grabbed photos of old wells, a rusty blue tractor and charming houses with white shutters.  This village atmosphere reminded me of our street at home that forms a circle with a garden of sorts in the center and neighbors who watch out for each other, inquisitive about what is happening.  The neighborhood-watch-lady finally was bored with my activity, or decided I wasn’t a threat to the community. There are six French municipalities that bear the name Montreal, and they are part of The Montreal Association of France and Europe.  Representatives meet each year and a trip to Canada and the United States will be organized in September, 2019.  I would select this Montreal in the Yonne department of Burgundy as the most beautiful.After covering every nook and cranny of the petite village, we found a toilet at the parking lot.  The light switch wouldn’t work, so I left Jim on guard duty while I left the door open and went inside.  After using the facilities so I wouldn’t wet pants on the road, I quickly reached to turn on the water to wash my hands.  In the semi-darkness, water gushed out like a fire hydrant, soaring upward after hitting a shallow sink and showering my face and chest.  I flew out the door like a hotpot of mice!  

Across the street, a rusty sign with two gentleman dining and drinking together had the wording Les Deux Comperes.  I thought that the description of two long-term partners fit Jim and me, through thick, thin and unexpected showers!


Once we were on the road to Semur-en-Auxois, we discovered the road that we wanted to take was closed.  A quick session with the map and we were on a different road with fun sights along the way like the cute garden characters at the edge of a village, the saxophonist mural on the wall of a café and an ancient bridge spanning the river Serein. Two men consulted in the street, like Jim and our neighbor who comes over to teasingly tell Jim he is doing something wrong in our yard, planting a shrub too deep, or using the wrong fertilizer.  Jim matches the neighbor with a comeback, but he definitely isn’t as skinny as the fellow in France with the striped shorts.  Jim brought to my attention that the police station (Gendarme) was closed for the day in one of the villages.  Wonder what would happen if our local protection took a day off. Finally at the entry to Semur-en-Auxois after our detour, another photographer had the prize position for a photo of the turret bastion perched above the River Armancon.  That was totally alright with me since I am not that fool-hardy!  Semur is stacked around the four towers of its castle keep. Once again, Madame de Sévigné has her say about this beauty spot and beats me to the punch.  Madame called Semur and the farmland “a delicious valley”.  We went in exploration in the late afternoon heat with less joy than what we had in the dovecote looking for Elvis. 

A couple wandered the hot streets ahead of us with “Love” written as a lyric on the pretty lady’s shirt.  Elvis would approve.

“My hands are shaky and my knees are weak

I can’t seem to stand on my own two feet

Who do you thank when you have such luck?

I’m in love

I’m all shook up!

Mm mm oh, oh, yeah, yeah!”   All Shook Up – by Elvis Presley (portion of the lyrics)

I was feeling all shook up, but the cause was too many up and down cobbled streets in the hot weather, instead of L-O-V-E!   I feel like I am letting you down since Semur is a treasure trove of history, gorgeous scenery on the rampart walk, towers and architectural gems to discover and more!  We returned on another day and hopefully I can add more in the future.Knowing when to go home and rest is as important as looking for the next delicious valley and hotpot of mice!  And, as Elvis always said in his Southern drawl: “Thank you. Thank you very much!”

In the last blog story I promised that Jim and I would go to Montreal and Semur-en-Auxois.  We added the capitol of stinky cheese to the itinerary.

Next time, we will see an incredible museum in Chatillon-sur-Seine. Thanks for coming around to travel with us.

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All photography is the property of Debbie Ambrous.

One thought on ““All Shook Up” – by Debbie Ambrous

  1. Loved your story again Debbie. I just wish when I was reading it that I could actually speak French and not fumble over pronunciations of characters and towns. Lol totally enjoyed the read though…

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