About Debbie Ambrous

Debbie is from Opp, Alabama, a unique town that was the setting for her childhood dreams of traveling. Aboard the front porch swing, she imagined she was traveling on a train to the Wild West and thought she was ready to rides horses on the wide-open prairie. Her first travel adventures were underway on "The Opp Express Train". Later a young man, Jim, asked her to marry him as they swayed on the front porch swing, and he took her away on a 1957 Chevy, not the romantic train. Debbie's home has been Florida most of her life along with Jim, who she claims is "directionally" challenged but still finds the important things in life plus most of the places on the map, given enough time. They have three children and a beautiful granddaughter. Debbie began her studies at Enterprise Junior College to become a schoolteacher. She received honors and was a member of Phi Theta Kappa. Detours sent her in another direction. For several years she has worked for a major Construction/Development company in various capacities. Debbie thoroughly enjoys travel with France at the top of her destination list. Photography and gardening are special interests along with baking especially when blackberries, peaches and blueberries are in season. She says: "Writing has always been either a joy or a pain, depending upon which day you ask about it. I knew I wanted to write from the moment my high school English teacher praised me and posted on the bulletin board an essay I had written on the subject of "Simplicity". I'm fond of travel storytelling, sprinkled with humor, a few tears and lined with my southern speaking habit that is stuck in my brain with super glue mixed with Brer Rabbit Molasses.”

“Which Way from Here? – Part I” – by Debbie Ambrous

June 9, 2018 – Saturdayof the Burgundy, France Journal

Published normalement (normally) bi-weekly on Sunday

Husband Jim, the driver at the wheel of our rental car, asked where I wanted to go today.  I had a place in mind, but I volleyed the question back to him.  I should have known better.  Jim had his racquet and racket ready for my volley with this reply, “Why don’t we go to Chateau Beer-belly?”  I made a face and rolled my eyes at his silly suggestion which I had heard more than once since I found a brochure for the Chateau Bourbilly.  Maybe I should have gone there since the fifteenth-century chateau and grounds were only a forty-minute drive, and then it would be done and I wouldn’t hear his suggestion again.  Maybe!  Then it was time for me to put forward my big idea which I presented in competition with Jim’s proposition of a chateau with a big-bellied man at the entrance with the Marquise de Sévigné, a writer, by his side.  I wanted to indulge myself in more memories of the past with a drive to the beautiful house we rented in 2005.  Would it still be a perfect farmhouse?  Could we find it?  I didn’t remember the exact name of the tiny hamlet by a narrow stream, but I knew the general area. Jim agreed since no admission fees, or heavy traffic, were involved. I knew the good points to present.We bumped our way along the cobblestone lanes in Noyers sur Serein, our village for a few more days.  Crossing the bridge with the reflection of ancient buildings on the dark waters of the slow-moving river, a single French blue canoe (What other color would it be?) was waiting for summer.  I noticed a dark-haired lady wearing matching green pants and tank top with a long sleeve white shirt who was copying my fashion style, or so it seemed until I noticed her bright red sandals with high heels.  No, she was out of my league with her pretty, stylish footwear.  She held in her hands a bright geranium, prepared as a gift.  We exchanged smiles when I nodded my approval of the pretty flowers.

We were driving past the fields of grain very soon.  Gold was rapidly replacing the green, and I’m sure the farmers hoped that trend would continue with euros filling their bank accounts.  The patterns in the fields reminded me of the euro, or possibly the pound sign. All was quiet around the farmhouses when I walked past the red tractor, tall blue gates and red roses, blooming abundantly with evidence of abundant manure for fertilizer.  When I was younger, I went to chicken houses and got buckets of manure for my roses and other flowers.  Now, there are big signs warning not to come near the chicken houses in Alabama near our home.  Maybe it’s safer that way for me and the chickens.

There were no big tourism sites along the road, just forests, farm land and ordinary French villages which can be interesting whether they appear in a guidebook, or not. We were driving through a simple village like this when I noticed what could be described as a poor man’s Monet garden and a river flowing alongside with the Saturday wash hanging in the bright sunshine on the other riverbank.  White, yellow, pink and orange roses bloomed on bushes and on an arbor in the flower garden. Blue delphiniums and bright yellow daisies with a dark brown center were blooming with many more varieties happily adding color to the scene worthy of an artist’s brush. I wished I could walk down the pathway to examine closer instead of the narrow edge of the road above the garden.  There’s something about fresh laundry on the line and billowing in the breeze that creates a peaceful picture of happiness to me.  Magenta bed sheets were hung by a Spring-green pillowcase seeming like a perfect place for a sign pointing to the garden.  I leaned for photos of the white calla lilies growing close to the river, hoping I wasn’t overconfident in my footing.  A farmer drove his tractor across the bridge with a trailer-load of wood hitched behind when I walked up the riverbank.  I spotted a Land Rover on a lane behind the main road, and I walked along to get a picture of the brand name on the vehicle.  Jim had been playing this game of collecting pictures of the logos, and I had joined in competition.  Three men were talking cheerfully near the vehicle while I was focusing my camera on a climbing rose bush covered in white blooms.  The shortest gentleman of the group quietly approached and posed in front of the rosebush saying I should take his picture while the other two men burst into laughter at my surprise when a face was growing among the roses.  I can take a joke among the best of them, and this voluntary photo opportunity could not be missed!Further along the road we saw the entry to Abbaye Auberive, but we didn’t have time to visit. 

We saw the best in that category at the UNESCO monastery visit, but a quick stop for a photo of the grand entrance gate was worthwhile.

Remember that I didn’t know the exact name of the hamlet?  We reached the general area and I had to select a turn-off road, so I told Jim where to exit the main road.  The narrow exit road dipped and curved through fields and forest with no familiar landmarks.  Jim’s disposition was turning moody as the road to nowhere swerved and jolted my body with the map perched on knees.  I thought I could still find the house if the driver was cooperative.

We drove through one little community with signs for a watermill, and I was looking around hoping to see it as Jim swept past the ancient cluster of buildings.  The tiny road narrowed with the house windows and doors close enough to reach and touch.  Suddenly, my eyes bulged in amazement when my face in the car window locked briefly with an unforgettable view into a house window.  An elderly lady leaned forward filling the window frame with her wrinkled, sagging body boldly displayed.  Scantily dressed, boobs were forefront and not her best feature!  I gasped and asked Jim, “Did you see that??!”  Jim replied, “Did I see THAT?? Are you kidding?  I think I’m blinded and you may need to drive!!”  Keeping our eyes on the road, we laughed and erased the bad mood we had before, but we couldn’t erase the memory of the view in the window!

I knew I could do it, and sure enough, I found the farmhouse!  We stopped very briefly for a photo and I didn’t see the calico cats, or the chickens, that made the place special when we were there.  Cows were on the hillside each day, quite close to the house, and I wondered how anyone could stay there with open windows in the summer. (The peachy-colored house shown in my photo is next door.  It was also a rental when we were there, wonderful, but more costly.  Isn’t the color richly gorgeous, but faded perfectly?)

Photos from 2005

Our stay in the house was in the fall when it was cooler and the windows were closed.  Inside the lovely farmhouse, there are three beautifully decorated bedrooms, a dreamy kitchen with blue and white tile, a big farmhouse table, a large fireplace and an old wooden staircase leading upstairs.  Around the corner from the kitchen is a large living room with comfy seating including a sofa with rosy fabric and a perfect chair for reading with an ottoman in red-checked gingham facing a fireplace which we enjoyed almost every evening.  I was so happy there!   CHECK IT OUT by CLICKING here for a link to the HomeAway listing.  You can see 18 photos which the owners have included.  I believe the owners are different than the ones we dealt with in 2005, but the home looks exactly the same. (If you prefer not to use the link, just search HomeAway site using Langres, France as the search town.  The property number is 455093.  The lovely home is also shown on AirBNB.

Photos from 2005

You can ask about the cats and the chickens which made me happy each day.  I can vouch for the kitchen where I baked an apple pie!

We returned on the same roads, stopping for a picnic a short distance away.  Along the road further, we saw the small gas station where we bought our fuel almost fifteen years ago from an elderly lady.  She came from the back of the large building next door with her dog by her side each day.  We bought a few vegetables from her and enjoyed our visit each time.  The station and the building next door are for sale now like many other small businesses everywhere.  Everything is impersonal now with very little customer service.  Piles of rotting leaves accumulated in the area where the elderly lady kept it raked and swept clean previously.  No smiling face to greet us.  Across the road another business with imaginative painting seemed to be rotting away with no creative energy to keep it alive.Leaving this sad scene behind, we went on to Chatillon sur Seine to enjoy a livelier vista.  Right away, Jim spotted a store advertising beer, and he couldn’t resist saying, “Chateau Beerbelly must be their best customer!”  Good gracious!  I can’t take him anywhere.  We found a table at the café on the corner where we could watch young and old by the soaring waterworks in the center.  A young mother on her cell phone was there with her two youngsters on one bench, and two elderly couples sat on a bench on the opposite side.  Along the street I found an extraordinary pedicure possibility.  I saw a show on television with tiny fish nibbling away on cuticles, but I never expected to see this strange venture in a small town in France!

Jim kept quiet.  He must have been tired, or worried that I might suggest having his toes nibbled.

It was time to head back to our rental home in France, so we walked along the pretty waterway by the ancient houses to our car.

The clock was ticking figuratively since we had only a handful of days left on this trip to France.  The sundial in this photo was on the building above our parking place where we saw it each day as we came and went. 

In the last blog story I promised a trip through golden grain fields to a beautiful house and we traveled just so with more on view than expected.

Next time, we may say good-bye to Noyers. I have a “decision” to make as you will see in the next story. Thanks for coming around to travel with us.

I could definitely use some book sales so I can keep my website and the blog!!  The invoice is due for the website.  You can read more about our 2005 visit in the book and much more including my solo trip to France.  Why not suggest the book to a friend?

Just click over to purchase your copy of “A French Opportunity” in paperback at Amazon 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.

My mention of the atmospheric farmhouse rental is voluntary and unsolicited.

All photography is the property of Debbie Ambrous.

“Keeping it Covered” – by Debbie Ambrous

June 8, 2018 – Fridayof the Burgundy, France Journal

Published normalement (normally) bi-weekly on Sunday

A grimace of pain settled among the wrinkles on the elderly, white-haired lady’s face as she stooped to adjust the strap on her white sandals. She continued slowly, gripping a younger man’s arm.  The open sandals were flat with no cushioning for her feet, and no protection for her toes from the stones on the pathways.  What if a torrential rain appeared suddenly, and streams of water rush and gush on the narrow lanes? The sweet lady’s feet would be soaked, and she would need to grip the young man’s arm even closer, or possibly slip in her flimsy sandals.  I thought that a good pair of sneakers, or boots, would be perfect for the occasion, but she probably wanted to look her loveliest with pretty, new shoes.  Sophia Loren said it best in an old beauty book that I read years ago where she advised that painful shoes are not attractive enough to erase the excruciating look of hurt on the face. Another piece of Ms. Loren’s advice for elderly ladies is to keep covered, not exposing flabby arms and blue-veined legs. Well, she didn’t say the last part which I added for imagery.  I will suggest that ladies of certain age keep their feet covered, knowing from personal experience that feet do not age well either.  All of the years of wearing the latest toe-pinching fashion are revealed on the feet in ways that are only pretty to a podiatrist’s bank balance.   Let’s walk, or hobble on from this subject in whatever state of dress, or shoes, that you prefer.

ABBEY OF FONTENAY

Entering the Abbey of Fontenay, wearing my black Sketchers, blue cotton pants, polka-dot long sleeve shirt and polka-dot hat, I was keeping under cover, following Sophia’s beauty counsel.  The classification as a UNESCO World Heritage site was enough to draw us through the doors, but quite honestly I was there primarily for the photography of the ancient cloisters, archways and painted tiles.  The play of light and darkness is a photographer’s dream – even for a non-professional.  (The intro picture above is my favorite with the man and his dog in the ancient setting.)The Abbey of Fontenay was founded in 1118.  The abbey was very wealthy from the twelfth century to the fifteenth century, but it went into decline in the sixteenth century.  Sold as a state property in 1790, the abbey was bought in 1820 by Elie de Montgolfier, a descendant of the inventors of the hot-air balloon.  In 1906, Edouard Aynard bought the abbey and undertook massive restoration works.  The Abbey of Fontenay still belongs to the Aynard family. The first building we entered was the forge (53 meters long) which was built by the monks at the end of the twelfth century.  Iron ore was mined on a hill that overlooks the abbey, and thanks to the water power generated by the stream of Fontenay that had been diverted by the monks, the hydraulic hammer activated by the water wheel could work and beat iron. The innovative industrial plant produced bars, tools and other implements that were sold in more or less nearby areas.  The Insight Guide says: “The self-sufficient monks had vegetable gardens, a dovecote and trout-filled ponds.  Curiously, most manual work seemed to fall to the frères convertis, the lay brethren… Fontenay has no belltower, tympanum or colored glass … The capitals are only decorated with natural foliage, acanthus leaves and aquatic symbols inspired by the marshy setting.”

I thought of tagging along with my daddy to Mr. Boles’ blacksmith shop where metal pieces were crafted for use at my daddy’s woodwork business. The smoky smell and black soot in the forge was the same as the blacksmith’s building which was like an old barn, nothing to compare to the elaborate stone building at the abbey.  I liked standing by my daddy, listening to the men laugh at corny jokes and watching the sparks of fire fly into the air.  I was allowed to run across the sandy road to see a red-haired friend, Lillian, where we played with hula-hoops and then I asked my daddy to give me money for ice cream at the small community grocery store. Those were good times!

The last scenes of the 1991 movie Cyrano de Bergerac were filmed by a fountain at the abbey.  In the romantic twilight, Roxanne cries, “C’est vous …” to Cyrano.”  Jim could have cried the same for me, but he knew I was in the gift shop.  I found a heavy book that I wanted, but I knew it would tilt the scales on our baggage weight limit.  I checked Amazon for “l’armoire de Mamie” when we were home in Alabama, but I didn’t find it.  I decided to check again a few days ago, and I found it.  I should have the heavy book, filled with wonderful photos of French ambiance within a few days!

MORE SHOPPING

Next on our agenda was a chateau which we found closed, but an interesting diversion was across from our parking space.  An enterprising lady had antiques and junk, a brocante, in her stone out-buildings.  I love these places crammed with fun stuff to rummage through. Jim talked with the lady while I examined everything from old linen to wooden clogs.  I finally settled on an old thé (tea) container.  The price shown by the canister set with four pieces was three euros per piece.  When I didn’t want the whole set, she changed the price to five euros for the one item.  Enterprising, indeed!  She had two rusty sel (salt) containers, planted with flowering pansies on the barn door, but I forgot to ask about them after I encountered the inflated high price of tea containers.  I would have loved the one with blue lettering to pair with the sel container on my kitchen wall.  I’m only teasing about the high price, especially since we met in the middle at four euros.

FLAVIGNY-SUR-OZERAIN

Flavigny has been described as a fairytale setting with a sweet center.  But there’s more to this village than a pretty face and a box of candy.  Julius Caesar, so it is thought, set up one of his military camps on the hill before defeating the Gallic army at Alesia.  In 1590, King Henri IV set up a parliament here to counter hostility in the assembly at Dijon. The guidebook spoke of a recent controversial right-wing order fighting for changes within the religious ranks, but I say: “Take me to the candy store!”  The abbey at Flavigny is the only place where the famous Anis de Flavigny sweets are made, and it boasts the Site Remarquable du Goût status. The candies are available in many flavors including cassis and café!  If you are there at the right time, which we were not, you can tour and see the process with a culinary tradition which dates back to the time of King Louis IX.  (A school group was touring when we were there.) The recipe for this natural product has remained unchanged since the sixteenth century.  I was drawn to the ice cream instead of candy, so we sat at a nice table by the window and rested under cover away from the sun.

While I was enjoying my citron sorbet, I noticed an absinthe dispenser with the perforated spoons atop the glasses.  I’ve read that the glass is filled with about two fingers of the liquid, and a sugar cube is placed on the perforated spoon.   Then water from the tap drips on the sugar cube through the spoon into the glass of absinthe. This concoction is a highly alcoholic (110 to 140 proof) drink which is distilled from wormwood, bitter anise and fennel.  Legendary artists and writers believed absinthe induced creativity, leading to heavy consumption in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.  This explains why the drink was known as the “green fairy” and the “green muse.”  Van Gogh was known to drink three liters a day.  Advertising posters at the time showed women marveling at the wonders of absinthe saying it cured every problem from indigestion to menstrual cramps.  The wormwood used in absinthe contained a substance known as thujone which was believed to have mind-altering properties.  France outlawed absinthe in 1915.  In 2011, the country lifted the ban, and distilleries have brought a modern day revival.  They won’t have me as a customer.  I will continue to use a strong glass of Luzianne iced tea to induce creativity.  Although, the tag on my last tea bag said it was specially blended for putting your feet upThe charming narrow streets wind past shops and homes with beautiful roses and window boxes overflowing with colorful flowers. The house numbers are matching, designed in black in the same fashion for each home.  While I was angling my camera for a shot down the street, I noticed a lady on the balcony on the opposite side of the street.  Except, it wasn’t a real person, just a realistic painting of a lady! As we made our way around the village with only a handful of other visitors, we saw other paintings of people from the village on the stone walls.

What a clever idea!  Did you know that Flavigny-sur-Ozerain and its vineyards were used as the location for the film “Le Chocolat” in 2000, starring Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp?

PINK HOUSESLike I said, I was not under the influence of absinthe.  However, the owners of these two houses in the photos are apparently very creative.  Would you like to live in a pink house covered in pink roses?  I know that I would love it, especially if the rosy, dreamlike house is in France!  I asked Jim if he would buy a pink house in France for me.  He said, “Yes!! Sure, as long as I don’t have to wear matching pink pants and a pink hat.”  Do you believe him?We didn’t meet Johnny Depp, but we walked the same streets in our own version of “Le Chocolat” allowing the lure of sweet flavors to have its way with us at our own pace and personality.

In the last blog story I said we would see another UNESCO site and find a village with anise candy. We found the candy and I surprised even Jim with the absinthe history.

Next time, we will travel through golden fields of grain to a beautiful house where we stayed in 2005. Thanks for coming around to travel with us.

You can read more about France, including my solo trip when I walked that steep hill in Vezelay without Jim.  Just click over to purchase your copy of “A French Opportunity” in paperback or Kindle.  If you prefer you can simply order the book directly from Amazon.  Please 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.

“Looking Back” – by Debbie Ambrous

June 7, 2018 – Thursdayof the Burgundy, France Journal

Published normalement (normally) bi-weekly on Sunday

The village of Vezelay, one of the most beautiful villages of France, is approximately twenty-four miles from Noyers-sur-Serein where we were staying in an atmospheric restored village house. Jim and I are not strangers to Vezelay since we have visited a number of times over the years.  In fact, we arranged to meet a realtor fifteen years ago who showed a house to us in a nearby village, and another in country hamlet.  (Be sure to look for the link below to see old photos from that time.)   I couldn’t remember the name of the village with the stone house which could have been purchased for less than most new cars.  Then, as we were driving to Vezelay I saw familiar landmarks that jolted my memory into gear.  I asked Jim to turn around, and we drove into the village looking slowly along each street until we found the house which is still in good condition, seeming like it was only yesterday, except the fence had a fresh coat of paint. (Upper right photo shown below with surrounding village photos.) Jim parked across the street so I could capture photos of the house and relive moments from the past.  I redecorated the house in my mind and dreamed of living there when we returned home after the viewing with the realtor, but I worried about leaving the house empty since we were several years from retirement, and what about my mama who was still living at that time?  Hopping on a plane in France to fly to Alabama if she needed help would be costly.  That along with other reasons stopped my dream from becoming reality.  Did I make the right choice?

I was standing by the house, camera in hand, by a grape arbor belonging to the next-door neighbor when a gentleman hidden under the vines spoke to me in French.  Or, maybe I spoke to him first.  I don’t remember.  I was trying to use my few words of French, and he replied the same until one of us said something in English.  Then we realized that English was our common language.  I explained about my interest in the house next door and how we missed out on the purchase years ago.  He was friendly and on impulse he invited us to join him in his courtyard under the grapevines with the sun filtering though and casting shadows which drifted like the images from the past in my mind. The polite gentleman, Bryan, is a writer of military history.  His wife, Margaret, who was probably puzzled by the appearance of strangers at her table did a quick recovery and welcomed us like she was expecting a couple from Alabama to come through her garden gate.  I wrote quick notes when I was in the car with the words “red shirt and blue & white (hat for sun)” scribbled in my pad, and now I don’t know who wore what, but either way they were charming.  The petite courtyard was filled with flower pots and an antique sewing machine frame with tabletop added in the corner creating character among the trailing vines and flowers.  I found a similar cast iron Singer sewing machine frame and used it as a bedside stand, but after accidentally stubbing my toes on the iron frame a dozen or more times, the pain-inducing antique found itself by the road again!

Bryan and Margaret were expecting company, just not us!  Chantal and Johnny, a younger couple, arrived and we were introduced like we were meant to be part of the morning get-together.  Our more or less impromptu group enjoyed coffee and cookies at the table with its lovely decoration.  The local couples shared stories about their village life with lots of laughter, and we added a few stories of our travel adventures.  Chantal wore a pretty blue shirt with matching earrings which I admired.  I didn’t ask to take a photo of the group since I thought we had invaded their privacy quite enough.  (I have not included the name of the village for the same reason.)  We are tremendously grateful for their nice hospitality to us since we dreamed years ago of being their next-door neighbors without knowing them.  I believe we would have been very happy with Bryan and Margaret just steps away.

CLICK HERE TO SEE PHOTOS FROM OUR VISIT WITH THE REALTOR (2005)

VEZELAY

One long, steep street lined with interesting shops, galleries and cafes rises upward to Vezelay’s basilica at the top of the hill.  Vezelay and the basilica are listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.  The most notable event in the history of the basilica took place when Richard the Lionheart and Phillippe Auguste embarked on the 3rd crusade from this basilica.  If you dislike history lessons, you will be happy since I do not plan to write about all of the relics and sobering, dark events of the past.

Right away, I won the car-spotting prize of the day with a knock-your-eyes-out, bright yellow Sports Matra!  Matra was a small company that won Le Mans more than once in a car using their own V12 engine, and again the Formula One title and other major road race events. The Matra Murena is a mid-engine, rear wheel drive sports car that was produced from 1980 to 1983 by the French engineering group Matra.  The factory was located in Romorantin-Lanthenay in the Loir-et-Cher department in central France.  Jim should be proud of me for locating this rare vehicle and the info on the stunning car.

Further along the street, I was anxious to find the ancient doorway where I aimed my old camera many years ago.  The photo hangs in our home in the hallway where I walk past each day and only occasionally think about the moment I found the faded blue doorway with the basket of cheerful daisies suspended above.  Sadly, the cheerfulness is gone, and the building seems to be falling into deep disrepair.  I posed with my sunhat, encouraging Jim to take several pictures since I am not photogenic and maybe one out of twelve would work.  I was sorry that I hogged so much time when I realized that another lady who was inspired by my performance in the doorway was waiting patiently while I smiled with hat and without hat, with sunglasses and without.  You get the picture.Our leisurely viewing of silk-screen designs, galleries, candy shops, sidewalk cafes and wine shops came to a halt when rain pelted down like a faucet opened full-force.  Conveniently, a café with windows and doorway opened to the street was a few steps away.  We went through the ancient door under the thick wisteria vines, past many green glass bottles along the walls on the old stone floor.  Cabalus was the name of the small restaurant with rooms to rent upstairs.  We sat on wooden bistro chairs under high stone arches watching the cats reclining on the windowsill, or doing their regal catwalk across the floor like they owned the place Water rushed along the edges of the street.  Teachers rushed their students back to class.  Tourists waited in doorways.  We enjoyed our petite meal and waited out the mini-storm.

Leaving the main street and wandering to the crest of the hill there are far-reaching views over the Monts de Morvan and to the edge of the Morvan Regional Park.  Strolling along the narrow, winding streets away from the crowd we found peace and quiet with views of gardens, ancient houses and a bench to contemplate it all.  Dark clouds were still lingering around, so I suggested that we drive to a chateau for an inside tour.  When we stopped at the bottom of the hill for a view of Vezelay, I noticed that someone had left their laundry outside to dry.  Somehow, I think that their clothing got an extra rinse cycle.VAUBAN, CINCINNATI AND WOODEN CLOGS

We were driving along country roads with hedgerows, fields and dark green forest beyond.  Chateau de Bazoches was our destination, a chateau with forty successive owners from twenty different families, but always with two main roots: Chastellux and Vauban.  Meanwhile, as the navigator of our vehicle I was checking the route in my atlas and the GPS map displayed in our car.  Giggling at the screen, I told Jim we were driving along Rue de l’Abbé Pissier.  Jim replied, “Say what??!” Very often the French words has a much different meaning in English, but in this instance it is quite the same since Pissier is just what you would think it is, from what I understand.  Now, that’s enough potty-talk for me.

We reached the small village below the chateau which has an exhibit of special interest for anyone from Ohio in the U.S.  A large model of a 74-cannon ship from 1780 is displayed in one of the rooms of the chateau.  The ship under command of Count de Grasse left Brest for America during the War of Independence.  King Louis 16th and President George Washington created in December, 1783, the hereditary order of Cincinnati.  The Society of Cincinnati still gathers its descendants. I am sorry to say that we never made it up the hill to see the chateau and its sumptuous furnishings since we lingered around the village and explored other narrow roads like the Rue de l’Abbé Pissier.  We saw the burial place of the French military engineer Marquis de Vauban.  He was first buried there but the grave was destroyed during the French Revolution.  In 1808, Napoleon Bonaparte ordered his heart to be reburied in the church of Les Invalides.Now that wasn’t too much history for you, was it?  After seeing where Vauban was buried after he popped his clogs and hoping no one is offended by that description, we zipped along to see one of the last clog-makers and wood sculptors in the region. 

Romain Doré carves everything from a boar’s head to a wooden goblet.  We found the giant yellow “sabotier” sign, but no one was around.  I thought the brilliant yellow clogs would be perfect for the Matra’s owner!

 

What a nice day with a yellow car, yellow clogs and yellow pants on a friendly fellow strolling downhill! Our tour was bright as sunshine, or a giant sunflower despite the rain clouds.  We were happy to explore new things and relish our re-acquaintance of the old.

In the last blog story I said we would take a trip down memory lane and meet new people in a village where we considered buying a house many years ago.  Now you know about Bryan and Margaret, the gracious couple who invited us to their table.

Next time, we will see another UNESCO site and visit an adorable village where anise candy is made. Thanks for coming around to travel with us.

You can read more about France, including my solo trip when I walked that steep hill in Vezelay without Jim.  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.

“Celtic Lady Secrets” – by Debbie Ambrous

June 6, 2018 – Wednesdayof the Burgundy, France Journal

Published normalement (normally) bi-weekly on Sunday

In a land faraway, many centuries ago, lived a young lady of mystery, a Celt Princess, bedecked with jewels. Imagine finding a grinning Medusa among the stones of a field on the banks of a river, not yet knowing that this was the beginning of a major archaeological discovery of the twentieth century.On January 5, 1953, when I was a young child, playing with my dolls in Alabama, a startling discovery was made by Maurice Moison near Châtillon-sur-Seine, France.  An excavation of the site below the Mont Lassois oppidum (a Gallo-Roman fortified town) near Vix was led by René Joffroy continuing in the snow and cold and ending in February with the unearthing of a large, magnificent 24-carat gold necklace, or torque, within the tomb of a woman now called the Lady of Vix.  Her burial took place around 500 B.C. with the body laid in cart, or chariot, with many items of jewelry leaving no doubt of her high status.  She was between 30 and 35 years old at the time of death.  Who was the Lady of Vix?  There is no clear answer since the Celts living on Mont Lassois were a people with an oral tradition (no writing) and they left no written evidence of her.  Celtic tribes then controlled a trade route leading from the Seine to the Mediterranean and lived by barter, trade and patronage.  The imagination easily takes flight.  In 1953, Paris Match portrayed her as a fair-haired princess with her head adorned with the torque.  In fact, the torque is worn around the neck.

VIX KRATER

The grave of the Lady of Vix had never been disturbed, and it contained remarkably rich offerings known in French as the Trésor de Vix.  The treasure includes a large amount of jewelry and the Vix Krater, the largest metal vessel from Western classical antiquity with a height of five feet, four inches and 450 lbs. in weight.  Kraters were used for mixing wine and water, common in the Greek world, and this krater could hold over 1,000 liters of liquid!  The vase proper was made of a single sheet of hammered bronze.  The three handles are decorated with a grimacing gorgon, a common motif on contemporary Greek bronzes. Notice the neck of the vessel which is made of a bronze ring inserted into the main vase.  Eight chariots are shown which are drawn by four horses each and conducted by a charioteer.  Notice the braiding of the human hair and the horse’s maneNotice the snakes on the vase!  It has been suggested that the krater, the largest known Greek bronze vessel, should be seen as a high-status gift exchange connected with the trade of wine from the Mediterranean for raw materials from Northern Europe.

We admired the vase in the Museum of the Pays Châtillonnais-Treasure of Vix in Châtillon-sur-Seine, a city which is classified among “the most beautiful detours in France”.   I did the best that I could with the photos since the objects on display were protected behind thick glass, or other substance, that reflects light and other images, not a good photography setting. The museum contains specimens of bird-life collected in the early 1900’s.  Ex-votos (statuettes presented as thanks of healing to the deities) and statuary of the ancient and medieval times were on display in many other rooms of the museum. It was in one of those rooms of silence with a solitary lady dressed properly for the occasion that I accidentally flipped my camera’s plastic lens cover across the room.

It hit the floor, whizzed past the lady’s legs, bouncing and rolling, echoing blim, Blam, rattle-rattle, blip!  The pretty lady in the yellow dress kept reading the display while I turned red with embarrassment and my internal giggle-box turned upside down.  I clamped my hand over my mouth to force the laughter inside so hard that my eyes were bulging.  Jim looked at me with an expression that said, “Let’s get out of here before they throw us out!

RUGBY and the RIVER

Traveling in France is always a journey of discovery with interesting things to see in unexpected places.  On our return trip from the museum we drove through a wonderful leafy tunnel with plane trees towering overhead on each side of the road and just ahead a beautiful water feature with a children’s playground in the distance. I wished I could stay and see the youngsters on the merry-go-round, but I could only satisfy myself with a photo of an old rusty, rugby sign I searched for info on this sporting event, evidently worthy of a sign and monument for the village.  It was probably the 2004 Six Nations ChampionshipFrance won the competition, also winning the Grand Slam.  Ireland won the Triple Crown, sweeping their matches against Wales, England and Scotland.  I just never know what I will find when I ask Jim to stop the car!

ANCY LE FRANC

A rural road winds through woodland and farms to Ancy-le-Franc, a village with a Renaissance chateau modeled on an Italian palazzo.  However, I wouldn’t want to fool you.  We didn’t go this route on this particular day in May.  We took this jaunt on an earlier day, and in fact I mentioned in a previous blog that I would save it for later.  Just wanted to see if you are paying attention!?    Considering the classic, restrained, symmetrical forms of the exterior, you would never expect the over-the-top interior.  Ancy has the most opulent décor in Burgundy, rivaled only by the Chateau de Bussy-Rabutin.  It was likely decorated by Primaticio, a Bolognese artist working at Fontainebleau.  It is virtually a royal palace: French kings from Henri II to Louis XIV slept in the gilded chambre du roi.As I walked through the glorious rooms, I was most impressed by the flooring underfoot which is incredible when you consider the walls and ceilings covered with Olympic gods.  The arched ceilings are decorated with grotesque figures, mythical monsters and satyrs.  I captured a photo of Jim looking upwards after he said, “I surely wouldn’t want to wake up in the middle of the night and see all of that weird stuff on my ceiling!We will finish with the beautiful paneled chambre des fleurs which is a riot of pansies, roses and tulips.  Views of gardens were beautiful.  I’m leaving with a promise to show photos of this chateau from a visit years ago with a much younger Jim and Debbie lurking in the background.In the last blog story I said we would tour an incredible museum in Châtillon-sur-Seine.  I followed through and grabbed the ball and ran with rugby. Then, I went for extra points with an Extra-Fancy chateau in Ancy-le-Franc.

Next time, we will take a trip down memory lane and meet new people in a village where we considered buying a house many years ago. 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 Kindle.  (I apologize since I forgot to add the link for the book in the last blog.  You can always simply search for “A French Opportunity” on Amazon if you prefer instead of the link.) Please 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.

“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!

MONTREAL

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!

SEMUR EN AUXOIS

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.

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.

“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

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.

BERU

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.

“First Day” – by Debbie Ambrous

June 3, 2018 – Sundayof the Burgundy, France Journal

Published normalement (normally) bi-weekly on Sunday

Kitchens sell houses more than any other room, just ask any smart realtor.  Whether they feature mansions, or tiny houses, the kitchen is top of the list.  I was ecstatic to see our rental home that I had searched the internet world to locate was perfect, especially la cuisineLa Renaissance has a large modern kitchen which is fresh, bright and airy. Yet, it has kept the French character with doors from an antique armoire that open into efficient storage shelving.  Typical Burgundy tiles covered the kitchen floor as they were from hundreds of years ago in this region.  The old kitchen sink is still at the front window, another remnant from the past that would have drained to the outside years ago.  Jim was happy in his element with a superbly efficient modern range, and I loved the view over the tile roofs from the kitchen sink.  The pretty white cabinets held all of the pots, pans, dishes and utensils that we could possibly need.  Since we had shopped at the markets in Avallon and Saulieu the previous day we had our groceries stocked away including coffee for breakfast.  Wandering downstairs, happy to begin our first full day in our new house in Noyers, we had a meeting of the minds immediately.  Sweaters and jackets from the coat rack at the front door were slid on quickly, and we were on our way to buy flaky croissants and a crunchy baguette to enjoy with coffee for our breakfast.

Wait!  It’s Sunday and the boulangerie is not open!  No need for alarm since we inquired about this crucial situation when we shopped at our local grocery store Vival for necessities on our arrival in Noyers on the previous day.   The nice lady at the store kindly divulged the information that she would have our bread on Sunday.  She knew what would really matter on Sunday morning when sleepy tourists awakened.  But back to our short stroll to the Vival which was only a little more than the walk from our house in Alabama to the top of the circle, but definitely much more interesting.  No offense intended to our Alabama neighbors!Turning the corner from our house onto Rue de l’Eglise we passed the neighbor’s house across the street which I would see more than any other during our stay.  The friendly lady was on her front porch watering the stunning, red geraniums when we walked in the direction shown on the sign pointing to Centre Historique Commerces.  The sign is accurate about the history in abundance, but the commerce is far from the definition you may expect.  However, this small village has an abundance of what you really need!  On the peaceful street to the right, a bicycle with a Vival sign on the basket was parked in front of a house. I thought that I would want one like it if I could live in this village so I could feel the rush of riding on the colorful streets, feeling the fresh air and smelling the scent of honeysuckle and roses.  Could you see me on a turquoise bike with a baguette and a bouquet of flowers peeking from the straw basket at the handlebars?   Honeysuckle vines were covered in fragrant, yellow flowers, and pink climbing roses wound their way up the old stone walls of the houses reaching out to the blue skies.

Large red arrows directed cars to turn left with the street blocked for pedestrians only on this Sunday morning.  A few vendors were setting up their displays on the cobblestone streets, and my inquisitive mind and itchy shopping instinct kicked into gear with a reminder to come back later.  We turned left along the lane under the archway where multiple ancient wooden carvings decorated the building walls.  The tourism brochure description says: “Under each saint there is an angel, one holding a shield and the other holding a scroll.  In the center there is an empty recess under a gothic gable and underneath an angel with a shield.  In the corner of the house stands the sculpture of a bearded bourgeois holding a shield in his right hand and an axe in his left hand who might have been a militiaman.  The house is also called the house of the “Compagnonnage” as Companions used to do their apprenticeship in this house.”   I couldn’t believe that I would have the pleasure of walking here each day with new treasures to find and savor.  A long rose cane loaded with beautiful blooms had fallen and arched into the lane, not that it would ever matter to me except to love the rambling beauty.  We continued under another archway into a square with tables and umbrellas surrounded by ancient timbered buildings.  There across the street was Vival – open for hungry tourists – after we waited for the motorcyclist to zoom past.   Warm bread was wrapped in paper for our eager hands.Should I describe the breakfast scene?  Oh, you’ve heard me tell-all about the Normandy butter for our warm, crunchy bread and the flaky croissants with melting chocolate inside.  We can skip over that part and you will miss the calories.

Now with the dishes cleared, let’s rush back to the pedestrian-only section of the village where vendors must surely be ready for me and my shopping bag.  Sunday was not a market day for Noyers, so I was curious about what was happening and didn’t want to miss out.  I made a bee-line to the sunny square, leaving Jim in my dust.  This square is called Place du Marché au Blé (The Square of the Corn Market) where fairs and markets used to take place attracting merchants from the whole of the Burgundy region.  Due to its fine geographical location on the border of three provinces the city became very prosperous.  The most important market was the corn market that took place every third Thursday in the month.  No corn was on sale on Sunday, but a white panel van with triangular hot-pink canopies was the feature, and no other tables were loaded with goodies that women love.    A couple of white-haired gentlemen were selling beehives and other items for the beekeepers and their honey production.  I explained that my cousin Pam and her husband Joe have beehives and the tastiest honey in the U.S.  I added that Pam makes wonderful soap, also.  I knew most of the French words for this conversation, and maybe they understood.  One of the white-haired gentlemen, elegant and convincing with clipboard in hand asked me to sign a petition about some environmental issue concerning the bees.  He is right to be concerned.  They were disappointed that we were not in the market for buying beehives.

We walked on through the Place de l’Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall Square) where the town hall with a long history of destruction, renovation and two fires still stands.  The foundations date from the fourteenth century with the main building from the fifteenth century and the front from the eighteenth century.   After the second fire which destroyed only the front part of the building it was rebuilt in a Louis 15th or pure baroque style.  A bust of Louis 14th was placed above the door but it was removed during the French Revolution.  You should also notice the fifteenth century “Yellow House” with carved beams and corbels.  In 1830 the square was called the Square of Lafayette.

We drove through this beautiful square each day when it wasn’t closed to traffic.  Imagine driving through Ponte Peinte au Ponte d’Avallon (The Painted Gate or the Gate of Avallon) daily, bumping along the cobblestones, watching for cars and people.  This gateway entry into the village was built with limestone dating from the first half of the thirteenth century.  The side facing the town was originally covered with the Lords of Noyers’ coat of arms.  On each side of the gate there is access to the watchman’s room on the upper floor and from there to the rampart walkway on the walls. We walked on through and around to the left so we could ramble along the Serein River.  In 1778 the city walls were knocked down, and the stones were used to fill up the moats and to cover part of the river bed where the Serein was flowing alongside the city, thus creating a path along the river.  The filling up of the moat and river has buried the lower parts of the thirteenth century towers except for the last tower.  Charles-Louis Pothier, a Burgundian composer and lyric writer, lived in the 5th tower known as the Old Tower where he found his inspiration for writing popular French songs.  It is easy to understand why this area would be inspirational for an artist.  Jim and I felt lulled under a spell of peacefulness as we walked in the sun and shade by the water, stopping to admire the intricate woodwork on the houses, or the brilliant blue flowers growing by the tall metal fences.  Across the waterway, we saw farm land and birds swooping and landing on the old wooden fencing.  A mother in jeans with two baguettes in the crook of her arm rushed along with two children and a dog by her side. Joggers were out for their daily run.  At the edge of his property with a weed-eater in hand, a gentleman was busy keeping up the curb appeal.  Half-hidden by branches, a fisherman was tucked away by the riverbank. I located the house with green timbering and stone that I saw in a painting in a window.  Climbing high above, a jet soared into the clouds unaware of the peaceful scene I was enjoying by a small garden, fenced along a stone wall. Leaving the river walk, I turned right to stride uphill toward Ruelle du Four.  Another lady was ahead of me wearing pants that should have never left the closet, a reminder to never wear baggy pants no matter how comfortable they are.  The exclamation point at the top of the street seemed to punctuate baggy pants off the fashion list.

Near the pharmacy, a dispensing machine for les préservatifs (condoms) was on the wall of a building.  Quite often, I’ve seen the machines in France.  But they are not found on the street in our town, or any other in our area to my knowledge.  I was all set for a photo of this unique item in another larger French town.  While I was standing on the sidewalk in the larger city, I raised my camera and just as it flashed a pudgy arm reached to the dispenser in front of me.  As I lowered my camera, I locked eyes with a short, balding middle-aged man.  He quickly averted his eyes and went away as fast as his feet would carry him.  Jim and I laughed at the memory of this incident.  While we were walking back to our rental house I told Jim, “I read about a man who went to buy sausages in one of the travelogues of France that I enjoy reading while you do your thing, whatever it may be.  I could just see him in the market with other men hanging around, probably sampling the sausage like we so often do under the big umbrellas in the market.  Well, he announced to the vendor that he would like to buy sausage, but they must have no preservatives!  The men had a great laugh at the weird American who asked for no préservatifs (condoms) in his sausage!”   Jim replied, “What do you want for lunch?  You killed my appetite for sausage, so what will we have?”

In the last blog story I promised that Jim and I would spend our first day in Noyers.  We did as planned, but we were even more ambitious and went to tour a castle which I will include in a future story since I had too much story from this one day!! 

Next time, we will go to Tanlay, Chablis and Beru. 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.

“Moving Day” – by Debbie Ambrous

June 2, 2018 – Saturdayof the Burgundy, France Journal

Published normalement (normally) bi-weekly on Sunday

We flew the coop like two chickens on the loose with Jim as the crowing rooster, and I was the cackling hen.  Moving day was underway with our stuff packed into suitcases and the refrigerator cleared and cleaned.  We were leaving town, happy with our home in Arnay-le-Duc, but ready to mosey on up the road to different pastures to strut and crow about new treasures.

Noyers, France was our next town and our next rental home, our comfortable nest was The Renaissance, but more about this later.  Meanwhile, you could CLICK The Renaissance for details on the adorable house rental.

SAULIEU, FRANCEWe covered less than twenty miles before I asked Jim to stop in Saulieu where a big market was underway.  It seemed that everyone within a fifty-mile radius was in town.  Parking spots were scarce as hen’s teeth.  I heard the old folks use this expression when I was growing up.  Apparently, hens do not have teeth and while this hen still has her teeth, I was feeling sad with my chance of shopping disappearing if we couldn’t park.  Persistence paid off and soon we hit the bricks and old cobblestones, following the folks with shopping baskets.

Then the street was filled with a dozen or more ladies dressed in black and red wearing red devil horns on their heads.  Laughter spread along the way as they called to each other and the people heading to the market.  I thought they were perhaps a group of bridesmaids throwing a bridal party in the street, a hen party.  We laughed along with the group not really knowing what was up, and then surprisingly one of the ladies asked Jim if he would like to buy a condom.  Puzzled and a little shocked, Jim declined.  Maybe they were promoting safe sex, and in that case we could assure the fun-loving group that we are as safe as it gets!  I have photos of the whole episode, but Jim wouldn’t agree for me to show him with a bunch of women wearing devil horns.  Does the devil have horns?  Hmm?  We will leave that question alone for now, like we left the women in France.Since we had a new refrigerator to fill in Noyers, fresh vegetables and fruit were on our shopping list.  Jim was caught sampling the goat cheese, licking his fingers, when a little boy holding his pretty, young mother’s hand saw him and seemed to question Jim’s manners.  I decided to buy a pretty pink hat to wear instead of my black and white polka-dot number which seemed to attract attention wherever I went.  Live chickens were not on our list, but we watched as people bought the poultry, stuffing the flapping birds into boxes for the ride to their new home.  Some of the pretty chickens, fluffy and colorful, reminded me of a show on Netflix with a lady who raised show chickens.  She was bathing a hen in what seemed to be her kitchen sink.  Not sure I want to eat at her house!  She explained that all layers of the feathers should be cleaned with the sudsy water while the contented hen was enjoying her bath like a spa treatment.  The full salon prep with a blow dryer to fluff the feathers was the next step before show time, and possibly the grand prize.  I am gently mocking the show chickens, but I am sure it would be fun.  I checked for names of the poultry varieties and found one named Dominique, a black and white chicken.  I’ve heard the older folks talk about Dominicker chickens which is the same breed, considered the oldest in the United States, brought from England during colonial times.  Have you heard this name?  I must tell my friend Mabel – something new to cackle about!

AVALLON, FRANCELunchtime found us in Avallon where the crowd was much larger and the town as well.  Our main purchase was spices, and I wish we had bought more!  We bought a spice for chicken that was totally delicious.  Our lunch was at a street-side table, and we watched the people in the sunshine.  You could buy everything from lingerie to mattresses.  More about this lovely town later…NOYERS, FRANCE

Initially, I wanted to spend our entire time for our trip to France in Noyers, but the house was not available for all of our days.  We decided to rent the house in Arnay-le-Duc and then move to Noyers for the remainder of the time.  It was a good choice since we could cover a larger area with day trips from each house.  Noyers is one of the plus beaux villages, but I will save the history and interesting tidbits for later.  When we parked our car across the street from our house, we discovered that we were neighbors to a museum with very unusual artwork.  The curator may have thought that Jim and I fit right into the mix of strange creations.

Our new home, The Renaissance, was just as lovely as I had hoped.  Even now, I find myself remembering the comfortable, bright bedroom, my table with laptop at the front window, the modern kitchen with the old flooring and so many extra touches that made our stay perfect. Moving day was fun and the beginning of a new chapter. Did you enjoy the poultry lesson?  I wish I could say that the couple in the picture below is Jim and me, but we are not that young anymore.  But we are still like two chickens on the loose, and that’s not bad at all!In the last blog story I promised that Jim and I would move from Arnay le Duc to Noyers, further north in Burgundy, a new region to explore.  But I didn’t mention that the story would be very short, composed more of pictures than words. 

I had a behind-the-scene episode.  I ate something yesterday that did not agree with my stomach.  Jim says he tried to poison me and I felt like it!  Next time, if I survive, we will spend our first day in Noyers. Thanks for coming around to visit the blog!

P.S.  Did you notice that I skipped from May 31st to June 2nd?  Hey, now I understand why I had an extra May 31.  The photos and events from the last story, Extra Day in May, were actually June 1st!  I thought we moved on June 1st, but when I checked my rental records I found it was June 2nd.  It still doesn’t explain why the photo download date was May 31st.  Life is too complicated to worry about it.

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.  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.

“Extra Day in May” – by Debbie Ambrous

May, 2018 – EXTRA dayof the Burgundy, France Journal

Published normalement (normally) bi-weekly on Sunday

The leap day in February is coming next year in 2020, with no extra day this year, or last year.  Who wants an extra day in the wintry cold with dreary gray skies and frozen walkways?  What were the timekeepers thinking when they gave us 24 extra hours of frigid weather?  Why not give an extra day in May with warm sunshine, blue skies and fragrant flowers in the garden? Forget the thoughtless timekeepers!  I hereby proclaim this extra day in May as officially open for your enjoyment!

How did an entire extra day appear at the end of May, 2018?  Blame it on my Canon camera which downloaded evidence of an extra May 31st with photos from the far south of Burgundy.  I know that I didn’t go there on the same day as the garden visit north of Beaune.  The following day, June 1st, was moving day to Noyers, so no match there either.  I’m surely not ignoring this day of 150 photos, and I’m not worrying about how it happened.  I will just bask in an extra day of May and tell you what happened.

Here’s the plan.  We will leave the house immediately after breakfast, promptly, not dilly-dallying over coffee, or stopping to admire the new blooms in the garden.  We will drive south to Chateau Cormatin with apartments described as the grandest Louis XIII (1628) remaining in France, with painted, sculpted and gold-leafed paneling and ceilings.  The chateau is fully furnished with tapestries, a vast stone staircase (1623), picturesque kitchen and drawing-room decorated in 1900 for an Opera director.  Surrounding the architectural masterpiece are 25 acres of ground, flower borders, extensive box maze and an old-fashioned kitchen garden.  Are you excited?  There’s no time to stop at any charming villages, amazing chateaus, vineyards growing up hillsides or farmhouses with roses at the front door.  Got that?

Here’s what really happened.  We were in the car driving from the rental house almost on time, about three blocks from the house when this conversation happened.  We rounded the corner in front of Chez Camille where big trucks compete with mad French drivers, and on this day road repair equipment was part of the traffic circus.  In the midst of this confusion, I said, “Jim, please find a place to park.  I need to get photos of the atmospheric Chez Camille and the cute murals on the outside walls.  This is my last chance since we leave tomorrow!”  I heard groans and muttering coming from driver Jim as he negotiated through the monster truck noises and waving flags of the repairmen, but my almost-French Jim parked in true French fashion on the curb.

Considering my risk of life and limb, be sure to notice the cute, bright red Caravelle, a sports car manufactured by Renault from 1958-1968.  Pietro Frua used the floor plan and the engine of the Renault Dauphine to design the rear-engine, rear-drive natty car.  Returning to our non-sporty rental car before anyone took issue with our parking place, I chatted away about the elegant lady with hat and gloves in the mural, asking Jim if he remembered how women always dressed in their best for Sunday, trips to the doctor, luncheons and all of that.  I described a pastel pink batiste cotton dress with a full, swishy skirt that I wore when the Caravelle was on the road.  On my wrist a Caravelle watch kept the time with a gold bangle bracelet.  Jim was quiet over there on my left-side, driving down the long road stretching along past the wide-open fields of white cows and yellow flowers.  Maybe he was listening, or perhaps he had his own memories playing out like the colorful murals on the wall.

Silence reigned on the road past vineyards with red poppies and roses at the end of the rows.  In the interest of truth-telling, I did require one photo shoot of vines in the valley with one workman diligently doing whatever they do.  Can you find the fellow in the vines?  It was just a quick stop, like I promised.  Honest.CHATEAU SERCY

In the middle of nowhere, a chateau appeared like a vision in a dream, something only a romance novelist could create.  This was a chateau that the driver Jim could love since it only required a pull over by the road with a convenient place to park in front of the lake.  Weeping willows gracefully edged the mirror-like surface of the lake with a rowboat at the edge, seeming ready for me to step inside wearing finery like the ladies from the past.  I quickly found that the Chateau Sercy is privately owned and only on rare occasions can one get any closer.  Chateau Sercy dates from the twelfth century.  My eyes were drawn to the wooden palisade and I discovered that its openwork oak frame resting on stone corbels is from the fifteen century and it is probably the only example from this period still intact in France.  The palisades were designed to send projectiles through the gaps. The Sercy family owned the chateau from the time it was built until the sixteenth century when Philibert Sercy died accidentally during a wedding in Lyon.  From that time it did not fare well with disrepair and sacked during the French Revolution and a major fire.  Thankfully, despite this long, sad history, it is truly easy on the eyes and stamina for two travelers with weary bones, but adventurous plans.

Have you referred to the plan for the day?  Apparently, plan “A” was slipping further and further away.  I had already deviated 3 times!

BUXY, FRANCE

Another big digression was ahead.  Jim was driving south according to the plan when the road crested above the town of Buxy.  I could see the charming, medieval town spread below with a very tall building with cylindrical towers, ascending into the sky.  A tiny bridge was suspended between the towers.  I felt scared out of my wits at the thought of walking from one side to the other.  But I had to see this incredible structure close-up.  Jim turned off the road without grumbling or referring to plan “A”.  He parked in the town parking lot making a quick note that we were next to the karate training place.  A bathroom and food were next on our agenda.  We purchased sandwiches at the boulangerie by the florist and passed on the chocolate stilettos in the pastry case.

 

Walking uphill we met two little friendly, scruffy dogs at the front of a narrow house with what seemed to be a picture of a matador in the upper window. The friendly dogs couldn’t tell us where to find the tall towers with the scary bridge.  I don’t know how you can hide two soaring towers, but they were out of sight for awhile.  Eventually, we hit the mother lode with winding streets, flowers at doorways with ancient lintels and a sundial with words that seem to mean: “I do not mark the time with beautiful days.” I do love the beautiful days, but I’m just thankful for life itself.  Scruffy dogs, velvety chocolate high-heels and a very patient husband are the beautiful bonus!

Are you still with me?  I hope so.  This is a fairly long blog story.  Maybe I should have warned you.

CHATEAU CORMATIN

Finally, we arrived at Chateau Cormatin which was the last to be built (1620-25) by Jacques de Blé, a favorite of Marie de Medicis and a regular attendant at the Queen’s palace (the Luxembourg in Paris), he commissioned from Salomon de Brosse, the royal architect, the designs for three monumental doorways, two of which survive to this day. The family motto: “du Blé forever” Do you have a family motto?I was anxious to see the garden which is created in the spirit of the baroque period, with approximately thirty acres of parterres of flowers, a box-wood maze with belvedere and aviary, a potager, open-air theatre, water features and outstanding trees.  The topiary animals and shrubbery bordering the garden, like the outline of dragon’s back captivated me, along with the many flowers in the potager.  When the bell rang for our tour, I didn’t want to leave the remarkable garden.I’m sure you would like to know some of the scandalous history as an insider before we enter the chateau.  Notice closely:  “The long avenue of lime trees was particularly favored by the poet Lamartine, who was a frequent to the chateau – so frequent indeed that Jacque’s daughter, the Comtesse de Pierreclos, bore him a son of this dalliance.”  Now you know.  Here’s another bit of intrigue: “To preserve his memory a statue representing the Second French Republic was erected in the courtyard in 1849.  It has survived but – decapitated!”  Whoa!!

Inside the monumental doorway, our sizable group listened to the guide explain that “the building contract specified that the walls were to be whitewashed with no sculpture, no painted decoration.  This is vastly different from the apartments that were so richly decorated only five years later.  This decision in lack of decoration was linked to philosophical theories of neo-platonic philosophy with metaphysical virtues assigned to numbers and geometrical shapes.  A staircase born from mathematical calculation was therefore understood as a simile for the universal order.  Plato taught that superior beauty is expressed only in abstract and pure forms.”  Therefore, this area of the staircase has only the interplay of lines, colors and light.”

Step inside the grandeur of the apartments and you are in a different world of luxury. In 1896, Raoul Gunzbourg, director of the Monte-Carlo opera, bought the chateau and entertained in sumptuous style with such stars as Caruso and Sarah Bernhardt.

Do you entertain your guests in the bedroom?  In the early seventeenth century, the bedchamber was the main room in an apartment.  It was public, or private, according to the time of day.  Once the marquise was up, friends, children and servants would enter freely without knocking.  People would gather in the bedchamber as if it was a drawing room, and they would eat there!  Maybe it was the warmest room in the house.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“The décor makes use of many symbols since the right choice of symbols was valued as a proof of culture and moral elegance.  The ceiling is painted blue, the color of faithfulness.  On it are depicted cut flowers which symbolize good deeds.  To please God, good deeds must be renewed constantly like cut flowers, which wilt rapidly.  So, you see the symbolism which was thought to bring harmony into the room.  The lower wall panels depict baskets of flowers and fruit, symbols of fertility.”

“The walls are covered in textiles which were changed according to the season with silk in summer for coolness and woolen in winter to insulate the cold walls.  In winter, it was necessary to have tapestries all around the room and even over the doors and the bed.”

I was ready for a bathroom, but not the privy closet for the royals!  However, it had one thing going in its favor.  Privacy!  This was the only truly intimate room: only the houses of important people had them.  “Here one could escape from the company of others.  Hence the later term “boudoir”, or sulking room.  This was a room for reading, resting, taking a bath or taking meals when it was very cold in the bed-chamber. These rooms should have had an even more sumptuous décor, but work ceased upon the death of Jacques du Blé who was killed during the Protestant revolt.  His wife decided to adopt deep mourning.  By this she hoped to help her husband’s soul to leave purgatory and enter paradise.  She had four children to look after, but she had a mourning room furnished in the south wing which was hung with black cloth, even the bed had black hangings.”  How sad!

The kitchen lifted my spirits, in fact so much that I didn’t want to leave as quickly as the guide requested. Then, in the last area I saw something unexpected.  There was a table just like mine at home!  I tried to tell the guide that I had a small table just like it.  No joke!  No one seemed interested.  Compare the two below and tell me what you think!  Which one is from a chateau and which one was purchased at a thrift store forty years ago?  (You must admit there is some similarity.  My table is on the left.)When we were leaving and I was rushing to the bathroom, Jim asked if saw the painting of the “Father of Botox” in the chateau.  You can always count on Jim for fractured culture!!

Our tour is finished and our extra day in May is at an end.  We packed it full of treasures and surprises.  I loved having you along while the minutes of the extra day ticked along.

I promised a bonus day, totally unexpected.  I hinted that Monty Don might appear on the page again, and while that didn’t happen I can imagine him chuckling at the fun of the garden at Chateau Cormatin.  I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that he took a private tour.  Next time, Jim and I will move from Arnay le Duc to Noyers, further north in Burgundy, a new region to explore.  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 “Heart of the Lion”  Just CLICK the link to read this much shorter story from 2013.

“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”