“Romancing the Cube” – by Debbie Ambrous

May 31, 2018 – Thursdayof the Burgundy, France Journal

Published normalement (normally) bi-weekly on Sunday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can read more about France, including more about Burgundy.  Just click over to purchase your copy of “A French Opportunity” in paperback or KindlePlease feel free to share this website with others.  Would you like to receive an e-mail notification when each story is posted?  Look at the top of the page on the right-hand side for the area to enter your e-mail.

All photography is the property of Debbie Ambrous.

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

“Fractured Fairy Tales”

“Donkeys Never Lie!” – by Debbie Ambrous

May 30, 2018 – Wednesdayof the Burgundy, France Journal

Published normalement (normally) bi-weekly on Sunday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can read more about France, including more about Burgundy.  Just click over to purchase your copy of “A French Opportunity” in paperback or Kindle.

Please feel free to share this website with others.

All photography is the property of Debbie Ambrous.


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

Jim’s Ha-Ha Moment 

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

“Women in Wine” – by Debbie Ambrous

May 29, 2018 – Tuesdayof the Burgundy, France Journal

Published normalement (normally) bi-weekly on Sunday

Designer Armani black ensembles speak a higher currency language compared to a sports shirt with ventilation suitable for lawn-mowing and fishing.  A modish young couple clad in the newest clothing trend was buying wine in grand quantity and receiving attention from a knowledgeable staff.  When the elderly couple stumbled on the scene, the senior fellow was taking the lead wearing baggy jeans, Sketchers suede shoes and a Columbia relaxed-fit shirt, designed with a mesh-lined vent at center back.  The other-half, or better-half, as she is affectionately known, wore black, skinny-leg jeans with a black and pink tee-shirt from Nordstrom Rack, decorated with a sparkly Eiffel Tower in sequins.  The wacky couple thought in unison that they were dressed stylishly, especially the other-half!  All eyes were centered on the Armani duo.  Their commanding presence left the oldsters alone in the shadows. The small-town pair with their small-currency wallet bumbled around the large lobby with the lady snapping photos with her Canon at everything on display including the walls and floor.

Finally, a young sales lady broke loose from admiring and encouraging the flow of euro exchange in the other room and pointed the way for the seniors to the wine caves down the stairs.  After the second time of explanation, the old couple finally got it and made their way without falling, or damaging anything.  No wine barrels were overlooked by the roving, old lady photographer.  She got them all and to record the moment she posed for a photo at the cave entry before ascending the stairs with the old gent following as rear guard.  Eventually, they left the premises of the Chateau Chassagne Montrachet.

Surprisingly, the lady in glitter writes a blog, and the lovable fellow can tell a fine story while he cooks a delicious meal.  Black Armani could learn a thing or two from these travelers.

Continuing on our way after the grand tour of the wine cave – doing it our way – we followed the Route des Grand Crus.  Grand cru wine ranking originates from the Wine Classification of 1855 by order of Emperor Napoleon II who believed that wines of recognition and long-standing should have a certain classification.  This classification of a vineyard is for maintaining a consistent reputation of producing quality wines.  Grand Cru status focuses on the vineyard and the uniqueness of terroir.  In some regions, the Grand Cru status can represent the best of an entire region.Wine production has been primarily dominated by men, but women are entering the scene.  One of those is Amélie de Mac Mahon, the Duchess of Magenta.  You may remember this name from the blog story “On Golden Pond” where I dropped a strong hint that the name would appear again.  The Duchess has a twenty-two acre domaine – the vineyard planted by Cistercian monks in the 1100’s.  Marcia DeSanctis, author of 100 Places in France Every Woman Should Go, shares this interesting information about the Duchess: “It is she who runs the estate and all the operations for producing eight different wines and, in that capacity, belongs to Femmes et Vins de Bourgogne – the Women Winegrowers of Burgundy – now thirty-six members strong, aged twenty-one to sixty, all of whom you may visit with an appointment.  The group formed in 2000, not simply in recognition of their mutual womanhood, but as like-minded professionals who shared the desire to run successful businesses and make the best wines possible.”  Amélie took charge of the vineyard when her husband died.  She says, “As women, I suppose we feel as though we need to look after our grapes and our wines as if they’re our children.”  Considering the stories I have read about producing wine and caring for vineyards, I would say that they require almost as much hard work and attention as child rearing.   Further along the Route des Grand Crus a young woman with expressive hands had the attention of the tour group alongside the road, except perhaps one young man who looked my way quizzically when I snapped a shot of the scene.  The monument at the edge of the vineyard had my attention since it bore the name of a lady vintner who died in 2015.  Anne-Claude Leflaive was 59 when she died from cancer.  An article from 2015 in The New York Times stated: “Anne-Claude Leflaive, who presided over one of Burgundy’s most storied white wine estates and was a fervent, influential advocate for environmentally sensitive forms of farming, died on Monday at her home in Gilly-lès-Cîteaux, France…”  The article went on to explain the importance of good terroir: “In the world of Burgundy, no quality is as prized as much as good terroir, a mystical term that refers roughly to the combination of the soil in which the grapes are grown, the vineyard’s microclimate, altitude, angle of inclination and exposure to the sun, as well as the people who tend the grapes and transform them into wine.  Domaine Leflaive’s holdings represent some of the most precious terroirs in the world for the Chardonnay grape, including legendary grand cru vineyards like Bâtard-Montrachet, Chevalier-Montrachet and Le Montrachet itself, which potentially makes the greatest and most expensive white Burgundy of all.”  Ms. Leflaive had the distinction of being named the best maker of white wines in the world by Decanter magazine in 2006.  Her passion was the land, and she had a great commitment to environmentalism.  She was not the first of the vintners in Burgundy to go biodynamic, but she had a strong conviction and drew much attention for her dedication as a high profile vintner.  In 2008 Ms. Leflaive helped found a school, École du Vin et des Terrors, with the purpose of exploring production of wine from an environmental and humanitarian point of view.Gray clouds were hanging around overhead, threatening to drop a wet blanket on our vineyard tour as we continued to the next town.  Meursault was a beautiful town, a nice stopping place where we were drawn to the Hotel Restaurant Le Chevreuil, formerly known as Restaurant de la Mère Daugier and established in 1866.

The famous La Paulée de Meursault was hosted here at the beginning of the last century.  Originally, the celebration included only winemakers, cellar workers and the surrounding community and in my opinion that would have been the celebration that I would have enjoyed.  Oh, to be a fly on the wall of that cave!  Today La Paulée de Meursault has grown to international fame, and is one of the three key events referred to as Les Trois Glorieuses which take place the third weekend of November to coincide with the Hospices de Beaune auction. The third event is the Confrérie des Chavaliers du Tastevin at the Château du Clos Vougeot.

We peeked into windows from under our umbrellas in the touristic town of Beaune on rainy Monday the previous day, and I said I would return for sun and an open tea shop.  Our next stop on this Tuesday where sunshine had appeared was Beaune with many open shops and delightful window displays.

But my favorite tea was not available in the tea shop, Les Comptoirs Thé Café .  Notice the photo for the name and seller of my delicious tea.  If you are a tea drinker, by all means try it!!  You will need to wait awhile for an explanation of where I finally found this wonderful tea.

Women have what it takes to make wine, and in my case the tenacity to find a favorite tea!  I will keep searching for some of the delights in life and all of the important things in life.

Y’all come back next time for goats, a mule, two chateaus and a friendly, warm vintner.  Thanks for coming around to visit.

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.

All photography is the property of Debbie Ambrous.

“Monday in the Rain” – by Debbie Ambrous

May 28, 2018 – Mondayof the Burgundy, France Journal

Published normalement (normally) bi-weekly on Sunday

Dark, threatening skies.  Thick, gloomy, impenetrable, fog.  Crashing, jolting thunder.  Cold, pounding rain.   A creaking, banging shutter.   Writers employ all of these elements to heighten the drama and set the mood of the story.  Monday alone causes distress for many working people without playing with the weather elements.  My Monday had all of the awful weather elements with the exception of the creaking shutter.  The worrisome, impending lack of medicine was pounding repeatedly in my mind like a shutter in a howling wind since the package was still in the post office in Alabama taking a personal holiday on Memorial Day weekend.

I was determined to break out of the gloom and enjoy the day as much as possible.  I would not hole-up in the house when we could surely find fun somewhere, if not blue skiesBeaune, a beautiful town with many shops and restaurants, is a short drive from Arnay-le-Duc.  Surely, I would find enough colorful distractions there to lift my spirits.   Many businesses in France are closed on Monday!  How could I forget?  No blue Mondays, or stressful Mondays for the French workers!  Are you packing to move to France spurred on by that bit of trivia?  I had checked the address of a tea shop where I hoped to find my favorite teas, but they were closed.  At least the streets were less crowded, and I could window shop.  It seemed that a pharmacie was on every corner, reminding me of the urgent medicine issue.  Did you know that the symbol of a green cross is an emblem for the pharmacy in France? The glistening cobblestones, washed clean by the rain, set the stage for my camera.  Restaurants and pastry shops were open.  Jim and I bought sandwiches and luscious pastries, but where would we eat them without the cold, damp ambiance at the street side tables? The answer to that question was a short walk down the street at a shop selling hot tea and coffee.  They sold sandwiches as well, so I felt guilty bringing the outside sandwiches into his shop.   The friendly young man welcomed us and was not bothered by my sandwiches since we were buying our drinks from him.  Wide shelf-like tables at the huge windows, and tall chairs presented the perfect place to linger in warmth and watch the street scene.  I had enjoyed most of my crunchy baguette sandwich and every morsel of my delicious pastry when I haphazardly reached for my tea.

Fully contented with my lunch in a day-dreaming mood, I clumsily knocked over the paper cup of tea which was only half-full.  How can a half-cup of tepid tea cover the table, floor, chairs and my shoes in a few seconds?  What a mess!!  I worked hurriedly with the paper napkins, hoping to clean everything before the shopkeeper noticed.  Finally, I had to ask for a cloth.  To my surprise, he was not bothered except that I had cleaned up instead of him.   We left Beaune for another day, not a Monday, with sun and an open tea shop.  Our next stop was Nuits St. George with more closed shops.  Mother’s Day in France (Fêtes des Mères) is held on a different date compared to the celebration in the U.S.  The big holiday was on May 27th, Sunday, the day before our Monday in the wet weather.  Most of the shop windows featured Bonne Fest Maman! 

Travel France online presents interesting information on Mother’s Day saying it is not a modern concept, but originated in Greek mythology.  The online magazine went on say:  “Ancient Greeks indeed celebrated Rhea, the mother of all gods and goddesses, during spring.  The Romans took over the celebration.  The cult of Cybele, the mother of all the Roman gods, survived until the 4th century AD.  However, the tradition then disappeared until 1806, when Napoleon I tried to implement an official date in order to celebrate motherhood.  That said, the project never materialized! … Fêtes des Mères became an official celebration in 1929, however, more or less fell into oblivion until 1941.  The celebration was very controversial at the time because it had been implemented by the Regime of Vichy.  Many women also thought that it was a sexist concept that denied them emancipation. Like any other French history subject this one is also long and complex.A petite lady statuette with a very generous derriere and bosom stood in a small pond with rain pouring from the edges of her umbrella.  She seemed to be the French version of the Morton salt girl who first appeared on the blue, round package in 1914. 

Jim had a mischievous grin on his face, but somehow he stayed quiet and didn’t utter a word probably remembering that he compared me to an African artifact the day previous, which now that I think about it was Mother’s Day!  We weren’t celebrating Greek, Roman, French or American holidays.  However, it seemed that every self-respecting mother in France was home with feet propped-up on Monday while I was up to my ankles in streams of cold, rain water.

It was Jim’s turn to be distressed.  The rain was heavier on this stretch of road as we went west with a road sign saying we were leaving Bouzy-les-Beaune

What a name!  We were not bouzy, that’s for sure.  More about funny names in France later, but for the moment Jim was not amused.   A massive truck was much too close, hugging the rear of our car.

His face was red and wrinkled into a frown reflected in the rear-view mirror when he said, “Dude, get your big-honking truck off the rear of my little Volvo, or I will report you to the MeToo truck organization!”  I thought, “Where did that come from?”  But I’m only a lady with a camera, what do I know?Driving home along the way we stopped in Bligny-sur-Ouche.  I know the town’s name sounds like something you would possibly expect a polite Frenchman to say when he stumped his toe, but Ouche is the name of the river.  The history of Bligny is ancient as you will notice from some of the dates on door lintels.  Since the twelfth century the village was protected by a regiment of archers, but they remained loyal to the Duke of Burgundy so the regiment was dissolved.  We were attracted to the pretty stream of water with white swans peacefully gliding on the mirror-like surface.  Yellow irises and colorful doorways caught my attention while Jim looked for fish in the lazy-moving waters.

The sun was still hiding when we made our last stop in a small hamlet with blue and white wildflowers in a field.  A gentleman wearing a blue shirt with white polka dots, identical to my favorite polka dot shirt, was walking two frisky, white poodles up the hill.  I followed in hot pursuit with my camera.All in all, it had been a beautiful Monday in the rain.

I had thought of a plan while I was in the front seat of the car watching the wet countryside swish its way past my window.  I would write a polite note to the pharmacist explaining my dwindling medicine supply.  Google translate could convert my English to French, and I would write the results on my note pad.

A few days of desperation later, I did just that and took the medicine bottle with me after I looked up the name of medicine in French.  The first lady at the counter said she couldn’t provide the medicine.  But then an older lady came to the counter, probably noticing the panic and distress in my face, and she directed the first lady to get the medicine.  Relief washed over me.  I could have kissed her!!

Would you believe that the package never was delivered and it was returned a few weeks after we were home in the U.S.!!

Y’all come back next time to go deep into the cave of Chateau de Chassagne Montrachet to see barrels of wine.  Thanks for coming around to visit.

You can read more about France, including more about Burgundy.  Just click over to purchase your copy of “A French Opportunity” in paperback or Kindle.  Please feel free to share this website with others.

All photography is the property of Debbie Ambrous.

“Distress in France” – by Debbie Ambrous

May 27, 2018 – Sundayof the Burgundy, France Journal

Published normalement (normally) bi-weekly on Sunday

Only eleven days of medicine was left!  There should have been a second bottle, but it was nowhere to be found in our luggage.  That was an emergency for me! The owner of our rental house had given a bowlful of freshly-picked cherries to me, but my day was far from a proverbial bowlful of cherries!

Jim had called his sister Virginia, who lives only a short distance from our house in Alabama, and she agreed to use her key to our house and send the medicine in our cabinet by express mail.  Virginia was coming to Jim’s rescue, not the first time, since she is his older sister who is always reliable.  I felt better with this urgent request in her hands.  This 911 call to the big sister, who is actually little in size but a giant package in love, strength and compassion, happened on Saturday, the day of the “Rose Sale”. 

On Sunday, May 27th, my panic had settled to “3” on a scale of one to ten.  The story wasn’t over for me, but ignorance is bliss.  We should be exuding bliss!  Counting our blessings, we went for a walk in Arnay-le-Duc when fewer cars were on the streets.  Starting at La Maison Bourgogne, which houses the tourist office, sculpted lion heads greeted us in the morning light.  The growling, frowning lions matched our faces since we weren’t picture-perfect models of radiance and joy.  Hoping to lift our spirits I teased Jim, “You can pose by the lion face as its long lost twin brother!”  A slight, up-turned grin spread across his cloudy face, but he wasn’t quick with a jab in reply since he was also under the weather about the medicine mix-up.

La Maison Bourgogne – Tourist Office


La Maison Bourgogne was built at the end of the fifteen century with a decorative turret, and it was purchased in 1850 by Mr. Bourgogne who gave his name to the building and turned it into a confectionery and a biscuit (cookies) factory.  The shop was closed in 1971, and then forty years later the city hall acquired it. The tourist office opened in the building in 2012.

Jim and I continued down the lane past the many flowers from the florist shop displayed for customers to examine and purchase.


Past the tempting, pretty flowers that I could only plant in an imaginary garden, an interesting doorway presented B. Frey’s gallery of African art

Jim was apparently returning to his old self because he dared to suggest, “Stand to the right of the doorway, the far right by the picture of the woman with the baby on her back.  Yes, that’s the one!  Stand in profile and I’ll take your picture!

What a set-up!!  If I could have found an African poison dart gun, I would have shot him right there in front of the other African sculptures with the heavy eyelids!  They wouldn’t speak a word to the gendarme


Our next destination was the tall tower that we could see from our garden at the rental house.  We walked along a lane past a bed and breakfast with the cutest ideas for flowers at her window boxes.  The pansies reminded me of our lovely white-haired friend, Mable, who still has a huge garden in the country despite her age of 80+ years.

I have bought pansies for her flower garden by her front porch when I purchase mine, but she always has one request saying, “Now, I want pansies with the ‘faces’, not solid colors.”  If you look closely at the pansies, you will see the bright, cheerful faces, enough to cheer any worry-faced person, even the stone-faced, grouchy lions.

Around the corner, Jim said, “You know I don’t think you look like the saggy-chested African woman by the gallery door.  I just thought you would be extra pretty standing next to her, a contrast, like standing a peacock next to a buzzard.”  I walked on ahead of Jim up the hill toward the tower thinking that we rarely have a dull moment and feeling very thankful for it.  When Jim caught up with me I told him, “I get the picture.  I’m not a beautiful Victoria Secret lingerie model. But at least you don’t think I look like an old buzzard!” That husband of mine really has a way with words.

La Tour de la Motte Forte

La Tour de la Motte Forte:  Arnay-le-Duc became a fortified city in the Middle-Ages.  The castle was built on a natural mound of earth.  When the last capetian duke died in 1361, the lieutenant gave the castle to the residents of Arnay.  They had to maintain the castle and pay the castle tax, but they didn’t respect the pact and used the castle as a stone quarry.  The last vestige of the castle is the Tower.

Now, I only hope you don’t use a poison dart gun on me for inserting so much history.   Or, hopefully, you enjoy digging into the past as much as I do.

La Plus Ancienne Maison – The oldest house in Arnay-le-Duc

The last building for this day on the walking tour of Arnay is La Plus Ancienne Maison: This is the oldest house in Arnay, built at the end of the fifteenth century. It is a typical house from this age with visible beams, a first floor which overhangs the ground floor.  It was a shop which can be recognized by the typical shop windows for display of goods.

We walked past this old building every day on our way to the boulangerie which has a sign showing Sophie and Jeremie as the owners.  Heather and Jeremy are our good friends at home, so we laughed about whether Heather knew about Jeremy’s boulangerie.

We finished our walk and rushed to a vide-grenier (large community yard sale) after we bought our picnic lunch at a boulangerie near Gevrey-Chambertin.

With camera in hand, I wandered around and found murals, ornate gateways and a maison’s front yard filled with poppies.  Jim suggested that we could do the same at home and he wouldn’t have to mow the grass.  We located the sale in a smaller village where I found two adorable little dresses for Royce, a precious, beautiful girl at home.  Spice jars with colorful lids went into my shopping bag for my sister-in-law Virginia.

On our way home we drove through a tunnel and I snapped photos since I wanted to add tunnels to my list.  What do you think about the results? We drove along the Burgundy canal in a new area, and Jim stopped at a hamlet with lovely scenery.  A couple of older gentlemen joined us and I asked permission to snap photos of his colorful flowers.  He showed the vegetable garden to us where the tiny plants were growing in rows with promise of many good meals in the future.  I identified the vegetables, calling out the names in English.  The gardener understood and seemed impressed that I knew my veggies!  I smiled as one gardener to another, where we had soil, seeds and a love for all growing things in common.

Back at our rental house in Arnay-le-Duc, my emergency story continued.  Jim’s sister broke the news to Jim in a phone call.  She had rushed to the post office on the previous day, Saturday, but it had closed early since Monday was a holiday, Memorial Day!  The package could not even begin its journey until Tuesday!  With that situation, my medicine in the bottle was dwindling to a very narrow gap!  What could I do?  My days in France should not be filled with such distress!!Y’all come back next time to read how my emergency was solved and see our rainy Monday.  Thanks for coming around to visit.

You can read more about France, including Burgundy.  Just click over to purchase your copy of “A French Opportunity” in paperback or KindlePlease feel free to share this website with others.

All photography is the property of Debbie Ambrous.

“Rose Sale” – by Debbie Ambrous

May 26, 2018of the Burgundy, France Journal

Published normalement (normally) bi-weekly on Sunday

The morning light was streaming through our bedroom windows, enticing us to venture from our comfortable, cozy bed in our beautiful rental home in Arnay-le-Duc (click to see the gorgeous home).  Each night I would tell Jim that he adjusted the air conditioner perfectly, sharing an inside joke because there was no air conditioning, yet the temperature was always perfect inside the thick stone walls of the old maison.  I miss those blissful nights of sleep in cool comfort when I’m tossing and turning in the Alabama heat at night with air conditioning and a fan.  With a lush garden at our doorstep and creature comforts galore inside, we were totally spoiled! 

On the previous day, I saw an advertisement for a rose sale posted on a community bulletin board near our picnic area.  Jim was lingering by the stream at the table with the tasty lunch while I poked around with my camera, finding climbing roses, an abandoned gateway and a weathered door among other goodies.

I quickly took a photo of the rose sale announcement and mentally posted it on the schedule for May 26th.

Following my Google map directions I told Jim: “Turn right at Reclesne, and then right again at Tavernay and follow the D-978 to La Celle en Morvan.”  Driver Jim had a different suggestion: “Woman, you’re speaking in a foreign tongue.  Say something understandable like right at the big barn and left at the pile of manure on the road.”  He was telling the truth about the manure since there was a horse and wagon in the street at the grand rose sale.  After we turned through a narrow one-way entry and parked our car in a field, I rushed along the road dodging cow patties to the entry. 

Many more flowers and plants were on sale other than roses.  I was admiring large amaryllis bulbs, flowering in pots on shelves when a lady rushed out-of-breath and hurriedly said something in the foreign tongue of Jim’s earlier accusation.  I finally understood that we had to pay and get a ticket.  I didn’t expect to pay to see stuff for sale, but I was glad to help the garden group sponsoring the event at La Celle en Morvan.

With tickets in hand, we were chastened, but at least legitimate.  Back to the amaryllis bulbs, I couldn’t buy them or most of the other garden plants, but it was a joy to see the abundance for the French gardens.  I have enough amaryllis bulbs to have my own sale.  I thought about Beverly P., a sweet friend of mine that we tease about her slip of the tongue in another beautiful garden filled with bright, glorious amaryllis blooms.  She blurted out to the lady owner of the garden, “I adore your armadillos!”  She will never live down that wrong choice of words.  Now her story has traveled to France and on a blog for the world to see.  Sorry, Beverly!!  Blackberry plants, vegetables, succulents, irises and plants I didn’t recognize were there for sale.  I wished that I had a garden in France – not for the first time.  Charming garden ornaments were displayed, such as carved wooden piglets and bird feeders which would be beautiful whether birds flew into the garden, or not.



Around the corner, cotton candy billowed in pink for a sugar high, and rides for the children provided entertainment for the young crowd, while burgers and sausage were sizzling on the grill.  I made a mess of myself with the ketchup and mustard with a burger hot off the grill, a bit later in the day.

Inside the display building we found artwork with imaginative light fixtures by Anne-Marie Gagniere.  She showed me how they were made, but I still wouldn’t know where to start.  The colorful lights would brighten any room with a unique sense of style.A painting of two pears styled as cottages caught my eye and reminded me of cabins I saw on television recently that were styled like a top-hat and a dragon’s eye.  Some people are loaded with talent.   I’ll just hang around with my friend Beverly, accidentally saying the wrong names, often in a foreign tongue and dodging manure clods in the road. Now for the prize attraction, the roses were displayed in rows and wound through the garden and under trees like a colorful, dance troupe.  Nothing like this happens in my area with such a wealth of selections!

Enterprising young men with wheelbarrows were pushing the rose purchases to cars for the visitors, for a tip, of course.  The young fellows wore hats and rushed along with big smiles.  One of the boys had a mustache painted on his upper lip and a smiley sign on his wheelbarrow, a very enterprising entrepreneur!

Since we couldn’t load a wheelbarrow with purchases, we walked along the street to the parking lot following a grandmother with her grandchild.  Old brick at the edge of the narrow lane caught my attention, so we paused at the one-way entry for a few pictures.

A flashing light notified the drivers when they could go with cars in line on each side.  As we stood at the entry, a lady rolled down her window and asked about the parking, thinking we were staff members, someone in charge.  I answered in my foreign tongue and she laughed all the way to the other side of the field.

On our way home we saw a pasture with sheep grazing and sweet little lambs scampering around.  The mother seemed to be warning me to point my camera away from her babies.

Further along the road we saw colorful rhododendrons in bloom and USA sheets flapping on the clothesline.  I wonder what they thought about the woman who stopped to snap photos of their laundry.  I hope the tomatoes and marigolds were plentiful.Did you like the Rose and Garden Sale? Y’all come back next time to read about my emergency and see the ancient town of Arnay-le-Duc where we lived for a short time.  Thanks for coming around to visit.

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.

All photography is the property of Debbie Ambrous

“Beyond Golden Pond” – by Debbie Ambrous

May 25, 2018of the Burgundy, France Journal

Published normalement (normally) bi-weekly on Sunday

Henry Fonda and Katharine Hepburn weren’t along for the ride when we found the Golden Pond along a narrow country road leading to the Chateau Sully in the Burgundy region of France.  Husband Jim and I had no problem mimicking the cantankerous couple, Norman and Ethel, from the movie On Golden Pond, starring Fonda and Hepburn.  Jim drove along an embankment by the pond, like a blue lagoon ringed in gold, glowing in the morning light.  My enthusiasm for the pond was equally matched with Ethel’s love for the idyllic Golden Pond in New England.  I pleaded, perfectly in character, to my husband, more handsome than Henry Fonda: “Jim, please stop so we can walk around the near the boat.”   “I can’t stop right here!  There’s no place to park the car and wide farm tractors are taking up the road, and then some!” I pointed to a parking place by an old stone farm building, so he stopped for me, especially since I added that part about him being more handsome than Henry Fonda The deep blue pond embellished in gold may be an ordinary view for farmers and other local folks, but I have never seen anything like it around our area in Alabama.  When I walked carefully to the car, trying not to sink up to my ankles in mud and muck, Jim said, “It was awfully nice of you to compliment me with a comparison to Henry Fonda, but you could’ve selected a handsome dude that isn’t dead! And, I believe your suggested parking place is next to a pig-pen.”  Don’t say we can’t do a good impression of Norman and Ethel!

Chateau de Sully was just around a few more curves and bumps in the road. Travel guide entries stated: “Chateau de Sully is the largest stately home in Burgundy.  And a home it still is, for although on a grand scale, the smell of beeswax, bowls of fresh flowers, books and family portraits bring a touch of reality to the scene.” We walked from the parking lot to the majestic gated entry.  The gates were open, so we entered along the wide pathway looking for the proper door to pay for a ticket.  A slim, pretty lady came toward us and pointed further along the road to the gift shop/entry building.  She apologized and said the gates were only open for construction equipment to enter for repair/remodeling work.  Norman and Ethel were not amused.    A busload of students and a few other tourists joined us for the tour.  Heavy construction equipment went through the bright blue gates where carved animal heads which date from 1803 protruded, quite a contrast of the new and old.  The central courtyard was a scene of construction with a John Deere tractor and dirt tracks instead of stonework and fountains.  I was a bit disappointed, but I thought the inside would compensate. An article from a 2015 edition of House and Garden (UK edition) tells a fairytale story of the Scottish-born Amelie, Duchesse de Magenta, who remains at the helm of the Chateau de Sully in Burgundy: “In 1985, 21-year-old Amelie Drummond, dressed in a crinoline gown spangled with gold, was leaning against the wall of a ballroom in a vast house in Germany when she spotted someone staring at her.”  The someone across the room staring at her was Philippe Maurice de Mac Mahon, the 4th Duc de Mangenta.  Amelie returned home to reveal to her parents that she was leaving university at once to live with him in his chateau in France.  Her parents supported her.  Norman and Ethel probably would have consented as well.

Since the 4th Duke’s sudden death in 2002, the stately home and estate have been run by his widow.  The Duchesse lives in the Chateau all year round with their two children, Pélagie and Maurice.  Maurice is the 10th Marquis of Mac Mahon and 5th Duke of Magenta.

The website for the Chateau de Sully includes a “Diary of a Scottish Country Lady” with a highlight for seasons of the year.  I particularly enjoyed the entry for summer at Sully:

Summer heat is coming!  The Chateau sits serene above the moat against a brilliant blue backdrop, and the fish in the moat are growing larger on the bread fed to them by visiting children.The kitchen garden is filled with flowers and vegetables, and there will soon be lots of blackcurrants waiting to be tasted (at their best straight off the bush).  Most of the redcurrants, green and red gooseberries will soon be eaten or made into jam – on sale in the shop.   There will again be hens resident at the bottom of the garden, sleeping in the Dovecote (doocot to the Scots), and laying well (we hope!). .. A German couple said it was the most alive Chateau they had ever been to.”

I would agree with the German couple, but I was tremendously disappointed that I could not use my camera inside!  The guide explained that we could not take photos since it was occupied by the owner. A warm description of the proprietress, the Duchess of Magenta, is included in 100 Places in France Every Woman Should Go by Marcia DeSanctis.  DeSantis says that the Duchess bellowed, “Welcome!” and the writer continued saying, “She is youngish, with a bob of honey-colored hair and appears distinctly unroyal this morning, clad in earth cords and scuffed boots, despite the fact that her home is the Chateau de Sully (whose Renaissance courtyard is considered one of the most magnificent in France), which she has inhabited since marrying Philippe, the 4th Duke of Magenta in 1990.

The Duchess sounds lovely and warm natured to me.  You will see her name once again in a future story.

We drove on to the city of Autun passing woods, streams and scattered farms.  Autun is described as the Roman heart of Burgundy.  As a window on Rome, it commanded monumental architecture and the greatest Greek scholars.  “The ruined Roman theatre once resounded to the acclaim of 15,000 spectators.  But to see Roman Autun rise from the ashes, attend Augustodunum, a summer spectacle held in the Roman theatre.  Valiant Gauls, Roman legions and chariot races are presented by 600 eager citizens.”  Unfortunately, it was a quiet day in the stadium when we stood in the shade of the tree canopy with no crowds roaring on the hillside.We found our way into the city, winding through narrow streets to a central parking area.   I had a certain shop in mind, once again looking for bargains, but we had time for window shopping.

Under the trees, shaped uniformly in rows, reminding me of push-up ice cream bars, people were relaxing in the shade at tables. 

Students from the Lycee Bonaparte were coupled intimately under the trees. (Faces are deliberately blurred.)  Norman would not approve! Then again he did ask Ethel, “You wanna dance or suck face?”   I reminded Jim that Ethel said, “You know, Norman, you are the sweetest man in the world, but I’m the only one who knows it.”   You can figure out Jim’s reply, that he thinks he is the sweetest man instead of Norman.  Edna called Norman an “old poop”.  I’ll save that quip for a very appropriate time in the future!

I found a beautiful hand embroidered cloth at the store when it opened, and much more!  The beautiful, linen, embroidered handwork is perfect in my guest bedroom now.

Y’all come back next time to see a Rose Show and more.  Thanks for coming around to visit.

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.

All photography is the property of Debbie Ambrous.

“Kodak Moment” – by Debbie Ambrous

May 24, 2018of the Burgundy, France Journal

Published normalement (normally) bi-weekly on Sunday

What more could I desire for a Kodak Moment?  A landscape of golden yellow fields as far as the eye could see, contented milky-white cows, lazily visiting together like an old-fashioned family reunion and a stone building that could be listed as a fixer-upper with a million dollar view were all waiting for me when I cried out for Jim to stop.  Traffic was whizzing past on the busy road, but patient Jim pulled over for me to dash across for the Kodak Moment.  Years ago, I bought 15 or more rolls of Kodak, or Fuji film, for our trips to France and other countries.  The advertisement on the stone building possibly dates back to the time when I would run out of film at the worst moments.  Thankfully, I could click away on this gorgeous day until the cows grew restless and started swishing their tails and sharpening their horns on the fence posts.  Or, was that husband Jim swishing his tail in the driver’s seat and sharpening his car horn, growing tired of waiting for me?

No horn-blowing, gestures or words were required since my internal detection is more sensitive than Homeland Security in such instances, after years of traveling with the man at the wheel.  We had a generous extended ticket to tour the interior of the magnificent Chateau Commarin, and we did not intend to miss the entry time!

We were following La Route Des De Ducs Bourgogne, visiting chateaus with plus de 1000 ans d’histoire.  The brochure instructed us to keep our tickets and present them at each chateau on the route for a reduced price.  We saw seven of the thirteen shown on the map.

The blurb on the brochure had this description of Chateau Commarin: “In the same family for over 8 centuries, the Chateau de Commarin was reworked during the 18th century by the Marquise d’Antigny, grandmother of the well known bishop, the Prince de Talleyrand, minister for Foreign Affairs and today houses an exceptional decorative art collection.  The unique early 16th century heraldic family tapestries, together with the beauty of its works of art, furniture and rich 17th century decoration are a living testimony of the generations who have lived here.Stone lions guard the entryway with towers, moats and statuary promising an opulent interior.  Our first room for the tour was the kitchen, like the side-door to my house which leads to the kitchen which is usually the favorite for friends and family.  I don’t have as much copper in my Alabama-French cottage as the massive kitchen in the chateau, but I’m working on it When I lingered in the kitchen for more photos, our sweet guide teased that the kitchen must be my favorite since I liked to cook.  I started to tell her that Jim was the cook at home, but I decided to go along with her conclusion since the kitchen is one of my favorites in chateaus and I can whip up a delicious pie!

Across the courtyard from the kitchen is the horse stable and next in line is the chapel.  The grand salon is upstairs, a great distance from the kitchen.  None of this open, airy plan, all in one room, modern living is found in ancient chateaus!  The colors and decoration of the ceiling in the chapel were amazing!We paused in the foyer before we climbed the wide, grand stairway to the beautiful rooms filled with grandeur.  Protection from the hordes of tourists is of utmost importance, so we had to wear covering over our shoes.  Bright blue covers like the bonnets that doctors, nurses and patients often wear in surgery were slipped over our dirty shoes.  I didn’t mind except I was worried about slipping and falling on the marble foyer, or even worse the massive stone steps. 

I smiled at a very distant memory as I carefully held the handrail and advanced up the stairs in my blue slippers.  When my mama was elderly and no longer as sharp as she used to be, she developed some odd habits.  She always enjoyed being outside in the flowers, and old age didn’t stop her.  She carried a plastic stool and she positioned it by the flowerbed, so she could plant and weed.  Nothing strange about this, I suppose.  But here is the oddity.  She wore plastic bread sacks over her shoes to protect them from the dirt and stuff.  She saved the plastic bread bags and put them over her shoes with a large rubber band at the top to keep the whole arrangement in place.  No, she would not wear any pretty gardening shoes.  She didn’t care that she looked odd, or unfashionable.  Only her uppity daughter Debbie was embarrassed.  I was hundreds of miles away most of the time when Mama weeded her flowerbeds wearing Holsum bread sacks on her feet.  But there was one time when I was home and Mama needed something from the store.  Standing on the front porch in her plastic shoe accessories, she said she would ride with me to pickup whatever she needed.  I insisted that she remove the plastic gear!  She would have none of that and she was going with me!  No amount of reasoning penetrated La Maman’s mind.  Once we were there at Fred’s, she had multiple coupons for bargains, and she went up and down every aisle.  I followed at a distance, and I noticed a teenage boy laughing and pointing at Mama.  He was telling his friends about the bread-sack lady, watching from around the corner.  I felt like warning him that his day was coming when his elderly parents would embarrass him. Then, suddenly they are gone and you will realize they are much wiser than you ever knew.  Mama was always thrifty, but she always dressed beautifully when she was younger.  She was as pretty, even prettier, than the ladies on the walls of the chateau!Most bread in France comes with a minimal paper wrapping, no plastic bags.  So I couldn’t recommend a savings in the budget for the chateau owners for their garden gear.  The opulent interior of Renaissance tapestries and imperial busts wouldn’t remind anyone of bargain-hunting.  The floor is covered with glazed tiles, dating from the second half of the 15th century.  Over the chimney is a huge portrait of King Louis XV.  Imagine lounging on the blue chaise by the grand piano.  Several family photos from more recent times were displayed on the piano.

The dining room with more paintings and tapestries is equally grand with unusual serving pieces in the shape of a boar’s head, a rooster and vegetables.

I liked the yellow bedroom dating from 1725 with a bed covered in 18th century silks.  On the fireplace mantel is a clock from around 1780, called a skeleton clock which shows the months, the days, the moon quarters and zodiac signs.  A small library is through the next door, but no photography was allowed here.  The books in the library show the taste of the noble lady with prayer books, history, encyclopedia, philosophy and work of the authors from Burgundy, such as Marquise de Sevigne and Bussy-Rabutin.  I wondered what anyone would think of my reading selection.

Desks positioned at windows drew my attention.  What would I write with such a grand view?  I must have a window near my computer when I write.  Words are formed on the clouds, among the blooms of my hydrangea, or out on a limb when I’m a risk-taker, shortly before they are typed on the keypad.


A Kodak Moment was forming at the gates of Chateau Commarin when we exited.  Porsche, Austin Healey and Jaguar were represented in the classy line of the best automobiles to grace the roadway.  We didn’t miss this opportunity for a close-up view.  I selected the baby blue Austin Healey as my favorite, and Jim seemed to agree.


They decided to leave much too soon, probably because the chateau was closing for lunch.  Then, when the beautiful cars came to life on the open road, the bright red Porsche would not crank!  Oh, the mortification of it all!!  At least he didn’t have a Mama in the gift shop wearing bread sacks on her feet!

After the automotive Kodak Moment, we had lunch at the Restaurant de l’Auxois at Vandenesse, the village with the Burgundy canal which was a grand star in the last blog story.  I grabbed this opportunity to get a close-up shot of the Chateauneuf Chateau and laundry on lines by the canal.Since we were making good time with our plans for the day, we added a short jig up to Saulieu which has a gastronomic reputation.  On this particular day we were entertained by the artistic creations displayed through the town on street corners and in front of shops.  My first view was a massive whale head appearing through the shrubbery by a polar bear.  A gorilla covered in colors like a snow cone with all flavors, greeted me at the car park.

I must mention the artist for these creation is Olivier Courty. That was only the beginning.  We wished that we had enough time to see the Musee Francois Pompon.  With a name like Pompon, how could it be boring?  Another time, for sure, we must return.  More Kodak Moments are out there waiting.  We just need to look.

For further information on Chateau De Commarin see: Facebook & twitter: ChateauCommarin   Instagram: chateaudecommarin

Y’all come back next time to see Chateau De Sully, owned by a Scottish Duchess.  Thanks for coming around to visit.

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.


More photography from this story and others can be seen on the page France-storytelling and picturesCLICK here or just look for the tab at the top of this page.    

All photography is the property of Debbie Ambrous.

“Ducks NOT In a Row” – by Debbie Ambrous

May 23, 2018of the Burgundy, France Journal

Published normalement (normally) bi-weekly on Sunday

Do you have your ducks in a row? Some folks are always organized, and they never get off track.  Nothing distracts these orderly and controlled people; excuse me, I almost said freaks.  Maybe I am jealous.  I actually lay out structured plans, neat and pretty like the colorful ducks.  But somewhere along the line, spontaneity pops up and we waddle off in impulsive, eager diversions like perfect quack-ups!

For instance, on this particular day in May when the peonies were bursting with blooms in the garden at our rental house and Prince Harry had just wed Meghan, the plan was a short drive to tour the magnificent Chateau Commarin.

Roadwork was underway with loud equipment pounding the pavement and shattering the peaceful village street, but when we drove past, I only noticed the cute, young, French guys with their bulging muscles.  Just reporting the news as it happened …

After this very acceptable diversion, I reached for the flip-pad with a leather cover that our friend Larry G. had given to us.   There was nothing on the first page, just a white empty page of paper, but I knew I had written my simple directions to the chateau on the page so I wouldn’t be tied to the atlas.  Immediately I turned to Jim, “Did you remove the directions from the flip-pad?”  Looking grievously injured, he replied, “No, I haven’t touched it!”  My simple plan of turns here and there were gone, and I remembered something else that was gone during the night.  “Jim, why didn’t you replace the roll of toilet paper last night?  It is just a good thing that I could reach the little cabinet, or I would have been in dire straits!”  Again, he pleaded innocent, enough so that I felt sorry for him.  Later, we found the page of directions in the flip-pad on the reverse flip-side of the notebook.  Oh, and we found the roll of toilet paper had slipped off and made its way behind the modern, white commode.  I asked Jim if the toilet scene was tasteful and suitable for the blog, and he said, “Your readers are not so hoity-toity that they would get their panties in a wad about a Charmin on the roll.” We stayed the path with Chateau Commarin in our sights, only a few minutes away.  But we rounded a bend, high on a hill with a glorious view of the village Saint Sabine spread below.  An architectural masterpiece was a splendid attraction, an unbelievable structure in such a tiny village.  Jim had to park in this difficult to negotiate, unplanned spot so I could admire the grand setting.  A few photos were involved as well.  I pointed down below to Chateau Saint Sabine which is a marvelous hotel. 

Jim had other thoughts on the cathedral with the gigantic, towering columns and voiced his thoughts, “It looks like something from Star Wars with those huge pillars that could be big, long legs.  The monstrous thing could stalk around and drag the back end like a trailer.  Yes, for sure, it looks like an Imperial Walker!” I waddled back to the car with my feathers ruffled out of place and muttering, “What in the world of planets did he wake up on this morning?

Back on the road again, we didn’t go very far until I called for a stop to see a yellow rose bush, bright as the sun, heralding a glorious morning by the front door of a stone house. Lace curtains with bicycles in the design were a happy greeting at the door and windows.  Blue birds flew all around the bikes, woven into the fabric so cheerfully that it seemed like I could hear their chirping song.   I have French lace curtains in some of my windows, but nothing like the biker’s lace!  The yellow rose bush reminded me of one I had at the first house we bought in Alabama.  I tested Jim’s memory: “Do you remember the yellow florabunda rose at the back door of our first house in Alabama?”  I don’t think he had a clue, but he put on his game face and said, “Yeah, vaguely.”  I filled in the details for him: “Granny Bryan gave that yellow rose to me as a present when we moved into the house.  I had worked my fingers to the bone already and rain started pouring when I was ready to plant Granny’s yellow rose.  So I heeled-in the rose near the back door.  Do you know what is meant by heeled-in?”  Gardener Jim answered my question complete with gestures involving arms waving in the air and feet tramping up and down on the French soil, “You just dig a hole with a trowel-thing and stick the roots in the ground.  Then you stomp on the ground with your heel.  Nuthin to it!”  I have always heard oldsters use this expression, and now I’m an oldster saying it with young folks not knowing, or caring, what it means.  At least I have Gardener Jim who understands my old memories.Perhaps you are thinking we cannot possibly go astray again, but no, we wobbled off course again at Vandenesse en Auxois, the atmospheric, farming village near the summit of the Burgundy Canal on the river Saone side.    It was here that I found the ducks in a row near the bridge with the magnificent Chateauneuf en Auxois on the distant horizon, above golden fields dotted with white cattle.  We couldn’t wait until later, we had to stop and walk the village and the pathways along the canal.  You would have done the same! Thomas Jefferson wrote to a friend when he was American ambassador to Paris saying, “You should not think of returning to America without taking the tour which I have just taken.”   He was speaking about a voyage along the Canal du Midi in southwestern France, but the region of waterways in Burgundy are equally seductive with medieval villages, fields of yellow and green, vineyards and chateaus like the one above the village that we saw on the preceding day.  Clearly, we stopped on authoritative direction from none other than Thomas Jefferson and allowed the ducks to scatter wherever they may.

Strolling along the canal we saw the backyards of the village houses with toys in the sandbox, cats scampering by lily ponds, multi-color clothes pins in neat rows on the line waiting for the next load of laundry, ducks doing their daffy thing in the water with the reflection of a tile roof glistening in the sunshine and bikers zipping past, wearing their finest gear.  Along one stretch, walking toward the chateau, we saw an old lockkeeper’s cottage surrounded by beautiful flowers with a large birdcage near the front door.  I thought of our friends, Wally and Dianna, who love the water and have birdcages at their waterside home.  They would probably enjoy the cozy cottage for a visit.I thought I could cross to the other side of the canal, but it wasn’t possible.  I expressed my disappointment to Jim, “Do you see the wild-colored pajama bottoms flapping on the clothesline?  I wanted to get a photo from closer range for a blog story, if I write again when we are home.” At that time I had not written for several months, and I felt very much out of touch.  Jim put his arms around my shoulders and assured me, “Oh, honey, you will write again!  I know you will.  Just wait and see.  You will have all of these stories in your head and enough pictures crammed in that camera, so much that you will be bubbling over with enthusiasm to share it with folks.”  I smiled and felt that the ducks were in formation for this beautiful moment to savor.    We finished our short drive to Chateau Commarin, arriving at lunch time when there were no tours inside.  But we could picnic behind the entry at tables with umbrellas.  Jim purchased picnic food and we sat leisurely enjoying the view of the regal surroundings with not a soul around.  This was not our first time to picnic royally.  We visited around 2005, a good guess, but I think I’m right about the date.

The photo below shows a now and then of me.  

The garden has many artistic displays that were not there in 2005, so we had fun, acting silly with the statues for the camera.   Time just flew while we admired the moat, the woods and the incredible architecture of the chateau.



When the guide returned to the gate and people walked to the entry, I checked my watch and realized that we did not have time for the tour since I wanted to make another stop on our return.  I asked if we could see inside the chateau and take the tour on the following day.  The manager thought for a minute, agreed and wrote a note on our tickets.  Many thanks to the considerate manager!! My important stopping place was in a hamlet near Arnay-le-Duc, or at least not very far away.  Not everyone would consider this hamlet important, but I did because there was a cluster of barns filled with bric-a-brac, antiques, linen, toys, copper and other goodies.  The opening hours were only twice a week in the afternoon, and I had plans for most of the future days with my ducks out there in perfect configuration.  I was anxious to get my shopping underway.  I filled a few bags and I’m happy to say that all of my purchases made it home to Alabama safely.  My bedroom windows have new (old) French curtains that I simply adore!

A curtain of rain soaked the customers rushing from the exit to their cars, including Jim who was such a gentleman, offering to bring the car to the door for meI know.  He does spoil me sometimes.  While I was waiting, a petite young lady, about three or four years old, with curly blonde hair, was playing at the doorway.  I showed the colorful, acrylic jewelry rings that I had bought to her.  She giggled and ran away up a ramp and down again.  We had a game going then when she ran toward me and I pretended to grab her.  More squeals of laughter filled the air with each round and increased in volume when I jumped from behind the door with a “Boo!” in her direction.  When my knight in the Volvo arrived, I had to leave my playmate, waving bye to her smiling face, still giggling.

We may never have our ducks in correct alignment, but we covered most of the plans for the day and we strategically arranged for our next day.  Did you have fun?

Y’all come back to see inside Chateau Commarin, and learn more about the history of the beautiful home.  Be prepared for a few surprises. Thanks for coming around to visit.

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.

More photography from this story and others can be seen on the page France-storytelling and picturesCLICK here or just look for the tab at the top of this page.    

All photography is the property of Debbie Ambrous.

“The Big Reveal” – by Debbie Ambrous

May 21, 2018 to May 22,2018of the Burgundy, France Journal

Published normalement (normally) bi-weekly on Sunday

Are you ready? The big door with glass panels was open with sunlight brightly dancing on the pristine white tile floor, a brilliant promise of a lovely beginning in the rental house I had chosen.  Would it live up to the reviews? Other renters said it was: “Very stylish and cozy; well equipped kitchen; beautiful house; very well decorated; like a hotel suite”.  True to another reviewer’s comment, we were greeted warmly by the owner, Phillipe, who opened the downstairs of his home Au Faubourg Saint Honoré which has been in his family for several generations.

First inside the door was the all-important French kitchen, decorated in crisp clean white with black accents with modern appliances and a large porcelain white sink.  From the farmhouse style sink I could see the massive tree with its branches shading the garden with pathways edging the flowerbeds.  A big sink with a gorgeous view is an important part of the house to me.

Multi-color feathers printed on the wallpaper kept the room colorful and playful.  A bouquet of white and pink peonies on an antique buffet was heart-warming since peonies are my favorite flower, next to roses.  My eyes must have been as large as the blossoms as they darted from one part of the room to another, taking in the whimsical touches and the practical.

My gushing, excited comments would have been suitable for any television program, and Phillipe seemed very happy with the praise as I admired the massive antique armoire, an elegant black marble fireplace and the comfortable large bed in the master bedroom.  He didn’t know that I had lots of expertise for the big reveal after hours of watching the popular television show Fixer Upper.  Woo-hoo and tears of excitement would have been the televised version, but I kept myself under control, almost.

The popular sliding barn-door found in many remodeled and new houses was installed to separate the bath area from the bedroom. A nice, long shelf with space for my make-up and jewelry was positioned with a comfy seat plus a magnifying mirror.  Lighting automatically turned on when we entered the bathroom area and switched off when we left, a huge help at night so I did not need to fumble for the switch. 

A huge shower with glass door enclosure, more storage and a full-length mirror were in a light and airy room with another tall window.  The toilet was in a separate room with another lavatory and storage, which is very practical when the beloved husband is showering and the pretty wife needs urgently to go!  Take my word, I’ve been there!

The second bedroom had two beds with turquoise and gold decoration, perfect for children with a desk, beanbag and books.  Since we didn’t have children along for our trip, we used the room to store our luggage and my purchases from vide-grenier sales. Crossing the hallway with its beautifully patterned, original tiles, we entered the salon which is almost as large as some individual apartments!  Another decorative black marble fireplace is a stunning feature in the room with a plush, sapphire blue sofa which converts to bedding for more guests.  Now you are wondering why we did not ask you to join us.  Maybe next time, if you’re good!  The decoration is a mix of modern with antiques including hot pink accents and Asian art, guaranteeing no boredom. Au Faubourg Saint Honoré’s crowning glory is the magnificent garden. I am not exaggerating.  Phillipe should win awards for his achievement.

Along the pathways I found new discoveries, something new blooming each day with raspberries, strawberries and other fruit ripening on plants and trees.  A huge vegetable garden, like something lifted from my dreams, was there for me to enrich and enliven my senses each day with the fragrance of new, green vegetables in rich soil.  My big reveal reached its pinnacle point – you know that time in the show when the program switches to a commercial!  The moment before the commercial happened at the far edge of the garden, by the swing set, when I imagined my whole family in this setting, including my mamma and daddy.  Both of my parents, several years ago deceased, were raised on farms and they never lost that attachment.  Although, daddy said he would happily never see the backside of a mule again after plowing fields in his younger days.  I chuckled at the thought of those words.

Dinner was probably ready, so it was time to leave my Secret Garden, my favorite part of the big reveal of the day.  A cool, comfortable breeze swept into the windows when Jim and I gave thanks for our home and garden stay in Arnay-le-Duc.  If you are planning a stay, then be sure to CLICK over to Air B&B’s listing of Au Faubourg Saint Honoré .  The photos on the Air B&B site are professional, so you can see for yourself the comfortable, beautiful home in an atmospheric town.

One of the most majestic points nearby is the medieval village of Chateauneuf en Auxois situated on high on a hilltop overlooking the plains and the Burgundy canal.  This is one of France’s most beautiful villages with a fairytale turreted castle, like the ones in my childhood storybooks and like I imagined when I heard stories read by my teachers in elementary school.  But this chateau, dating from the twelfth century, is real with extensive renovation including a visitor’s information center with workshops for children and summer events.  The castle’s history includes tragedy, poisoning and many twists and turns.  No history book recitation for today, instead we will just have fun and see the beautiful village.

We were late leaving the house for our chateau adventure and the countryside was so enticing with wildflowers by the road and low-hanging clouds creating a dreamy invitation to stop and soak it up. Contented cows, suitable for a French milk carton, were resting by the fence line with nary a thought of tourists hopping from cars to point cameras in their direction. Jim did a U-turn on the narrow road so I could grab a cow photo, like I would never see another cow, not taking into account that thousands of the white four-legged creatures were lazily munching their way over hill and dale on any given day.  Jim positioned the Volvo alongside the peaceful scene and I approached quietly, but those cows turned on me with evil stares, not contented, but contrary and cantankerous.

They wouldn’t arrange themselves neat and orderly with relaxed expressions according to my directions.  Instead, the lumpy cattle splattered with muck, needing a walk-thru cow-wash, huddled and tried to hide behind the fence posts.  I thought about giving them a lesson about the ostrich hiding its head in the ground, but they didn’t seem interested.  Maybe it was the language difference?!

What was I doing, hanging out with obstinate cows when a humongous chateau was waiting for me high on a hill?  We had our first glimpse of it and had to stop and take the first photo of many to come.  Smelling the cow manure and feeling the lure of pastoral scenes had delayed our short drive to the chateau.  In other words, we were traveling like usual with diversions when we feel like it.  Our form of stops wouldn’t be listed in a travel guide, but they are memorable and fun to us.  Not traveling true to a timetable, we missed the morning visitation of the chateau.  No worries.  Lunch at the Auberge du Marronier and watching a school group noisily and colorfully going uphill was our consolation.  Walking off the calories after a delicious lunch in the cool air, high on the hill, we found logs sculpted into pigs and deer for seating around a table.  No, I’m not kidding.  We saw a vivid, yellow Bic car.  A spy cat followed Jim at a discreet distance, tracking his every move.

Roses in many colors caught my attention at windows and stone walls, creating a big reveal of what I would see in gardens in the coming days.  It is easy to imagine what a prosperous village this once was when you see the houses with pediments and stair turrets. The sun was bearing down when the chateau opened for us, with ancient doors beckoning our tired feet to the cool interior.  Views from the massive windows and doors to the green valley and winding waterway were magnificent, fit for royalty but served to peasants for an entrance fee.  Only a hint of lavish furnishings graces the massive rooms.  One lowly reminder of the primitive life for royalty of the medieval time remains – an indoor privy.

Outside in the hot sun, I hugged the shady edges until I remembered that I was carrying an umbrella and I popped it open for instant semi-shade.  Walking in the vast courtyard under my pink umbrella like a Victorian lady, except for my skinny, blue, denim jeans, I locked eyes with a lovely Japanese lady who smiled in approval of my umbrella.  Do you know who invented the umbrella?  Over 4,000 years ago, umbrellas were invented according to evidence found in Egypt, Greece, Assyria and China.  The Chinese first did a water-proof version.  Umbrellas are also called sunshades, parasol, brolly, parapluie (French), and bumbershoot.

With all of that information under my hat, I strolled with my pink parasol to my next Big Reveal!

Normally the next blog story would appear on August 12th, but Jim and I will be on a short trip on the Alabama and Georgia roads.  Look for me again on AUGUST 19th!    Y’all come back to see the gardens of Chateau Commarin, more of the Burgundy Canal and as usual we will dilly and dally long the way.  I promised and delivered for this week: a chateau, unruly cows and a spy cat!  Thanks for coming around to visit.

Have you ever checked out the France-storytelling and pictures page of this website?  This page has been updated to match the current story, featuring some the “left-over” photos which I was unable to include. CLICK to see France-storytelling and pictures page if you would like …

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. See upper-right corner of the page to enter your e-mail for notification when each blog story is posted if you do not currently receive a message.

All photography is the property of Debbie Ambrous.