“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.

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