“France for a Day” – by Debbie Ambrous

IMG_7509Jim and I went to France for one day and returned last weekend. Does that sound extravagant, like we are jet-setters, living the life of the rich and famous? Hold the la-te-da comments while I burst the pink champagne bubbles. Our day in France was the Disney version in Epcot. No jet lag was involved. Instead, we had sore backsides and aching joints from the long drive in the Jeep. No custom inspections, or homeland security checkpoints, held us up requiring removal of our shoes and belts.IMG_7512No, nothing of the kind happened. But we had a new experience at the front desk reception at Coronado Springs Hotel where a pretty dark-haired lady from Colombia clamped wrist bands on Jim and me. With a flick of the wrist, and a click of the Mickey Mouse on our bands at the park entry, the happiest place on earth was ours for the day. Click Mickey to Mickey anywhere to buy fun stuff and eat in France. Soar with the best of them until the bill hits the front door. Then, the wrist band could be the ID band for the hospital after a fainting spell from the soaring bill. Aww, it was worth it! We would do it all over again because children and grandchildren met us there! Grandparents all over the world are the same. We will do almost anything for the grandchildren.

My camera was aimed at grandchildren and children almost every minute of the day. They may remember me as the lady with the Canon lens just above her mouth that repeated, “Smile. Big smile!” Oh, but I’m so thankful for the pictures of my beautiful Hanna and adorable Daniel! I’m allowed to brag. I’m a grandmother.IMG_7577IMG_7169-1

First of all, we went for the family and walked until we thought our feet would leave trails of blood, and our knee joints would disintegrate.

 

 

It was so hot that the young crowd in our group left the park and returned to the room to splash in the pool. We considered following their steps, but it wasn’t a good plan for us. We would have relaxed, fell asleep and never had the energy to return for the fireworks display. We stayed to get our money’s worth. I would add a silly LOL to that, but at the moment it was no laughing matter when we sat on an iron bench in the shade listening to Herman and the Hermits. Do you remember this musical group from the sixties? If so, you are admitting to a few years under your belt, and you could join Jim and me on the bench to sing along. Do you remember: I’m Henry the VIII, I Am and Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter? 

Enough of the pain! We had a taste of France. Indeed, France is easily my favorite place on the planet, and it is presented in miniature version in Epcot. We had lunch including escargot and wine in a restaurant that could easily be set in Paris. Cedric was our handsome waiter from France. I was lost in my French dream there in Florida, yet miles away from the real deal. IMG_7517IMG_7232-1Outside, fountains spouted water, flowers bloomed in profusion and a French garden with manicured evergreen shrubs led to the Prince and Cinderella with the clock striking midnight. An Eiffel Tower stands in the distance, lending ambiance to the scene. Shops with perfume, silks, cosmetics and gourmet essentials add to the ambiance and the possibility of clicking the wristband.IMG_7514The movie of France is shown on the 270-degree movie screen in the building which is lavish as any elegant theater. Seated in comfort, the tourist can enjoy without so much as a step: a romantic, intimate wedding in a tiny chapel in Normandy; the majestic snow-capped peaks of the French Alps; candy-colored, hot air balloons drifting above chateaus and winding rivers; bicyclists racing past farmers and startled livestock and so much more. Most tourists break into applause at the conclusion, unlike any other attraction in the park. I wish I had a copy of the film with the musical accompaniment. The exit from the movie steers the tourists directly into shopping and eating. Pastries, coffee and ice cream are served in typical Parisian bistro fashion.IMG_7523 I bought a tee shirt with the Eiffel Tower for my pretty granddaughter. Of course, what else did you expect?

Two comical entertainers dressed as waiters put on a show in the street, and the crowds circled around. One of the men stacked chairs and chatted up the audience while the other climbed to the top of the chairs and incredibly did a hand-stand. I was in the shade behind the performing duo where I could see the audience from the performer’s viewpoint. It was fun to see their amazement when the chairs were stacked higher and higher, and the slender man continued to balance with no net to protect him from crashing to the concrete below. CLICK photos below for larger images:

Children were captivated. Now, this is Disney at its best.

We didn’t spend the day only in France, no matter how much I love it. We added more countries to our weekend passport, touring Canada, England, Morocco, Germany, Japan, China, Italy, Norway, Mexico and the good old U.S.A. Each place has its own special attractions with shops, entertainment, food and drink. Street entertainment is worth stopping to enjoy and possibly become one of the actors selected from the audience. Sampling food and drink in each area is part of the world trekking experience with giant pretzels in Germany, sake in Japan, margaritas in Mexico, fish and chips in England and hamburgers in the U.S.A.IMG_7382-1IMG_7440-1

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Everything was going along just fine until Daniel decided to pour his drink on the floor in Mexico.

 

 

The Mexican pavilion has the appearance of a pyramid from the outside, but inside it is dark with cultural displays behind glass at the entry. This was the area Daniel selected to dump his own cultural display. We didn’t want to move from the wet floor because someone could be injured by slipping in the dark. I alerted one of the cast members, but no one appeared to clean the area. We stayed there talking and laughing, welcoming the cool air conditioning, until the spot was almost dry. Daniel was restless, so my daughter walked further inside with him to the shopping area. A complete Mexican village is presented in a darkened night setting with lights strung above. Mariachi music plays, and in the distance a volcano rumbles, spewing lava and flames.IMG_7358My daughter was on the phone trying to change a dinner reservation when Daniel took the opportunity to race ahead to a tiered table of colorfully painted wooden figurines. I noticed one of the hand-painted items earlier and discovered a $125.00 price sticker.IMG_7350 I could imagine Daniel swishing both arms through the merchandise display and flipping the colorful toucans, iguanas and jaguars to the floor for an automatic charge on my daughter’s credit card. My maternal and grandmotherly instincts voiced a loud: “NO! Nooooo!” I knew I couldn’t run fast enough to stop him, so I sounded the alarm. I broke his heart! He cried and cried. His mother took him away from the crowd quickly. Daniel buried his little face in his mother’s arms and glanced at me with a hurt look on his face. It seemed that he couldn’t believe his adoring grandmother raised her voice in the middle of the Mexican village above the vibrations of the volcano.

I think he forgave his GranDeb, at least by breakfast the next morning. He played with me and his adoring aunt, my other daughter, in the Polynesian Hotel for one last time before Jim and I hit the long road home.IMG_7581

We are home now and our children and grandchildren are miles away. We wish they were closer, but as long as they are happy and healthy, we are content. I’m sure parents everywhere around the world understand those feelings.

France for a day was grand with the grandest of all – our grandchildren!!

Have you been to Epcot? Have you tasted your way around the grand lagoon? Did you have children, or grandchildren along for the grand tour? Thank you for joining us. I love to hear from you. I hope you continue to enjoy your summer.

“Yard Sale” – by Debbie Ambrous

Food & Drink is usually available at Antique Sales and Vide-Grenier in France

Food & drink is usually available at Antique Sales and Vide-Grenier in France.  This gentleman had good food at Richelieu for the antique/junk sale.

YARD SALE – Saturday, April 25, 2015 – I should be sitting here with $100.00+ in my pocket, my big bucks reward from a yard sale. But it didn’t happen that way. My pink Capri pants have empty pockets except for lint and a Walmart receipt for my purple petunias and bell pepper plants. All of the stuff piled in my second bedroom plus the bicycle in the shed should be gone with folks who would be bragging about their steal-of-a-deal prices. The plan was an early, early start. Unbelievably, I woke up at dawn. The wailing tornado sirens could have been responsible for jarring me out of my comfortable bed to lightning, heavy winds and thunder, not to mention the heavy rain. No yard sale on Saturday! I shouldn’t count my chickens before they hatch, or order new shoes expecting the wise Ben Franklin on folding money to pay for my pretty new Sketchers. I had to grab the opportunity and place the order before they were gone!
To succeed, jump as quickly at opportunities as you do at conclusions.
Benjamin Franklin

Beware of little expenses. A small leak will sink a great ship.”
Benjamin Franklin

Last night I was pricing two of Jim’s perfectly fine suits at $5.00 each which he could wear if he would give up second helpings of the good food he cooks. Luggage that made it to France and back in the hands of Air France baggage handlers is waiting in the bedroom with no place to go, marked at $5.00 each. I starched and ironed shirts and stuck on 75 cent labels. Normally, no one could pry me from my easy chair to iron a shirt on Friday night for a paltry 75 cents! But people are not normal when they have a yard sale, or when they go to one.
“We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid.”
Benjamin Franklin

I was amused to read about an Englishman who threw a big sale after his divorce. He said his neighbors were suddenly blind and came to him asking stupidly, “How much do you want for this?” despite the fact that a red-lettered sticker plainly stated the price. He kept going on with the hagglers until he was fed up. One customer stood there trying to offer money to him when he announced to the group, “Take it! Take ALL of it!! I don’t want the money. Just take the stuff and leave.” Reading this as preparation for our great sale, I knew not to go completely bonkers, but Jim does not read this helpful information. Why read when there’s always another Star Trek show to watch? That’s his motto. Live long and prosper and arrange a thunderstorm on his wife’s yard sale.IMG_3452

The French yard sales are not usually a single family deal. The vide grenier events could be spread through the center of small villages, or across a field in the country. I check the information on vide grenier (which means empty the attic) on the computer before and during my visits to France. I also look for signs along the road and visit tourist bureaus for the latest information. IMG_3463IMG_3247IMG_3467Some of the happenings have clothing, toys, household goods just like American yard sales, but their junk is different than our junk. Starting with the language difference, what manufacturer would sell a little girl’s bike with the name Pukey in pink letters and glitter? I didn’t keep notes on the exact names on the toys and other goods, so I’m making up the Pukey name, but many of the names had unusual and funny meanings in the English language.IMG_3451 It was great entertainment while I was sampling the cheese and finding bargains! The vide grenier will often have grilled meat, drinks and even dessert for sale.  It’s great fun to take a seat, eat a bite and people-watch.IMG_3454IMG_3458Maybe I could talk Jim into cooking hamburgers and hot dogs on the grill at our yard sale. More money from the food venture could pay for another pair of shoes!

“You might be a redneck if you’ve ever barbequed Spam on the grill.” – Jeff Foxworthy

Good stuff with low sticker prices is cluttering up my second bedroom like the Ann Taylor heels that I wore to my youngest daughter’s wedding. I’m figuring if any of my children get married, or re-married, at this point I will wear Dr. Scholls. Back in our tool shed is a like-new bicycle only used once by a little old man who prefers watching Science Fiction instead of zipping around our neighborhood. I asked Jim, “Could you check the weather for next weekend and see if we can schedule our yard sale again?” He said, “Could I just pay you not to have this sale?” I thought a minute and replied, “How much?” His offer was $50.00, and I turned him down. Upping the amount, he said, “How about $100.00?” Remembering the charge on the credit card for the shoes that would arrive on UPS next week, I gave in and accepted his deal. Thinking about the cash in hand, a minute later I asked, “Wait a cotton-picking minute! Where did you get this money? It didn’t come out of my top drawer, did it? Jim??!! Come back here!!

KindleBen Franklin says: “Get your copy of – CLICK HERE A French Opportunity! –  It’s the best book on France written by a lady from Opp, Alabama.”  Totally conjecture, but after a tall glass of iced tea and a plate of Jim’s barbecue I’m sure he would agree.

“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.”
Benjamin Franklin

“My Admirer” – by Debbie Ambrous

A pottery shop, library and bistro in the caves - Turquant, France

A pottery shop, library and bistro in the caves – Turquant, France

I have an admirer. Not a handsome French fellow with an accent that makes me weak in the knees. No, my admirer is a bright-eyed, inquisitive and energetic young girl. She fires questions at me rapidly and seems to enjoy my style of berets and boots. She knows that I have hot flashes, and she noticed the fans that I flip quickly from a handbag when the heat attacks me. With thoughtfulness, she presented a lacy, orange fan as a gift, coincidentally, when I wore jewelry that perfectly matched my frilly fan. You see, I do have an admirer!

My grandchildren live far away. When I think of this, I get teary-eyed. I know that I did the same to my mother, keeping her little loved ones, her grands out of reach for a hug except a few times a year. Maybe she had little admirers. I’m sure that Mama did have little ones to lavish with love since she bought toys and clothing for children with names and faces unfamiliar to me. I purchased a ruler with templates of French words and a cat for my admirer when I last went to France. My lovely little friend listens eagerly when I talk about France. I hear about her travel to many places in the United States, and her knowledge revealed in these stories shows she is much smarter than one would expect from an eleven-year-old.

She is loved, trained and nourished at home, not a needy child. But a child’s development doesn’t stop at home. Do you remember teachers, neighbors, aunts, uncles and other special people from your childhood who took the time to play a role that caused you to admire them? Years later, I remember: Mrs. Nix who first called me Debbie, instead of Deborah, and it stuck; Mrs. Nalls who sewed many of my dresses until I was married; Mrs. Thompson who listened to all of my teenage angst; Mrs. Sasser, a retired schoolteacher, tried patiently to correct my grammar, and spent time with me in a room without air-conditioning during the hot summer; Aunt Faye who told me how a nice, proper lady should be a hostess for a party and many, many other lovely people remain with me in memories.

It takes a village to raise a child.” – African Proverb

My little admirer, Lindee, was traveling in the car with me today. I mentioned that I was considering a rental house in the French Alps for our next trip to France. Her exuberant imagination kicked in, and she said: “Wouldn’t it be fun if you could stay in a cave in the French Alps?” I replied, “I don’t know about cave houses in the Alps, but there were very many cave houses in the Loire valley, the area we last visited.” IMG_3216IMG_2545IMG_3214Her eyes widened and bumper-to-bumper questions bubbled out: “Really!!? People lived in caves? Where is the Loire? What was it like? What city was it near?”

I explained that we saw the houses all over the place in the rock-face of hillsides. People do live in the cave homes, and there were many wineries in the cool caves which we visited. There are hundreds of miles of caves in the Saumur area. Some have been converted into troglodyte homes, restaurants, museums, farms for mushrooms, a rose water distillery, a disco and even a hotel. CLICK here for Demeure de la Vignole, a 4-star hotel with twelfth-century troglodyte rooms and all modern comforts.  (Click here for a unique cave property for rent on your next vacation in the Loire.) I told Lindy about a troglo zoo where large animals live in open quarries and enclosed caves display bats!  Sorry, no, I do not have pictures!IMG_3235IMG_3232CLICK here for Domaine Des Amandiers, our favorite cave winery. (Special thanks to Marc Rideau! We loved our bottles of wine.) The community of Turquant, France near Saumur had their library and a bistro in the caves. Youngsters were coming and going with books and ice cream bars after riding bikes up the hill to the library in the cave. We enjoyed the artwork on display in the cave showrooms.

Lindee was sorting all of this new information in her fast-processing brain. She was on to another subject before we hit the next turn in the road. There will be many turns in the road ahead for her. I hope her journey is a safe and happy one. You see, I am an admirer of Lindee.IMG_3234This story and the pictures of caves in France are dedicated to Lindee. I hope you have admirers like Lindee in your life.  I would enjoy hearing about them in the comments.

“Un Mariage Royal – 1491″ – by Debbie Ambrous

Chateau Langeais and Gardens - Langeais, France

Chateau Langeais and Gardens – Langeais, France

I can’t believe it has been almost a year since we were in France in the Loire valley, eating croissants, baguettes and pastries every morning and finding pretty hamlets and villages to explore each day. We decided we wouldn’t travel to France in April and May this year in favor of watching our own flowers burst into bloom in Alabama. It’s a tough time to leave someone else to mow the grass and tend the plants. We have in mind an autumn trip. Planning is my job. I have peeked into house rental information and travel websites for the Provence, the Rhone Alps and Normandy. Options of budget Ryanair flights to Ireland, Portugal and Norway are possibilities from France or Belgium. I look at all of the travel information to other areas and then I remember how good France has been to me. No final decisions are made yet. What should I do?

If you lived in the Chateau Langeais, this would be your view from the front porch swing.

If you lived in the Chateau Langeais, this would be your view from the front porch swing.

April, 2014 – Langeais, France – Hop on a plane to Paris. Take a train from the airport to Tours. The exact stop is St. Pierre des Corps. It was all very easy, peasey. An Avis car rental place is just outside the station. Then, it was very simple to drive around and get lost a couple of times before we found the right direction. Our destination was Brehemont for our cute rental cottage. Just across the Loire River was the beautiful village of Langeais, brimming over with character, history and one spectacular chateau!

IMG_1131I window-shopped along the cobblestone street looking at trendy outfits, modern eyeglasses (French people wear the coolest glasses!) and bridal outfits for French weddings. Then, I saw a bright banner on Chateau Langeais celebrating the royal marriage that took place in December 6, 1491. Anne of Brittany married Charles VIII before a small audience in the Chateau Langeais. Anne of Brittany agreed to marry the new sovereign if her husband died before she produced a male heir. Her children died, either at birth, or during childhood. Charles VIII died seven years after the wedding in 1498. That is so sad. Are you in tears yet? Anne of Brittany married the cousin of her deceased husband, and the new sovereign reigned as Louis XII. The book “A French Opportunity has more history and memoirs of the chateau.

Jim and I paid the entry fee to the chateau. I drifted to the gardens and further up the hill to view the beautiful bridge and river below.IMG_1086 Jim was a kid again, dreaming of his old tree houses in the woods behind his childhood home, which is our present house. But there at the chateau was a tree house worthy of royalty, or even Prince Jim! IMG_1083After all of the exploring and stretching our legs and minds on memory lane, we were hungry! We left the grounds in search of food. Normally, boulangeries are not open during lunch, but we found one around the corner doing a brisk trade with a line at the door. We bought a delicious meal and found a place with benches by the water in the shade. Two French families joined us, parking their bicycles and opening their picnic lunches. One of the adults rushed to the boulangerie for pastries, and I kept my longing glances at the goodies that he brought in a pretty pink box under control, almost. The children played with toys and jumped from the embankment to the benches, especially when they realized they had an audience for their tricks. I asked for permission to take pictures because the children were very cute.IMG_1105The stream was dotted with lily pads and it flowed under a beautiful stone bridge. Perhaps it was there when Anne of Brittany arrived for the wedding. If not, it is there for the modern bride wearing the pretty gown purchased around the corner past the Salon de The.

Enough eating and dreaming… We went to use those tickets, already bought and ready for our own royal entry. We went from one massive room to another seeing the tapestries, large enough to almost cover the front of my small Alabama cottage. Everything was familiar since this was not our first visit to the chateau, but a great presentation of the wedding of Charles VIII and Anne of Brittany was a pleasant surprise.IMG_1169IMG_1156 Figurines were dressed regally to represent the clothing worn during that time period and a slide show of the historic wedding with enormous pictures was presented on the wall above the figurines. IMG_1168The turret walk high above the village has lovely views, but wire mesh covers the open areas to prevent tourists from falling out and spoiling their expensive vacation.  Photos are a bit odd with the wire grids.  I tried a trick I had read about and almost erased the lines in a few of my pictures.IMG_1197IMG_1205 Photography of the wedding presentation was difficult since no flash was allowed and we were in darkness most of the time. I was not an unruly guest of the wedding. Perhaps another invitation will arrive by royal post. The question now is whether the event will occur in Provence, the Rhone Alps, Normandy, Norway, Ireland or Portugal. I need to quit dithering and make up my mind. Any suggestions?

I must apologize for not following my laid-out plan and schedule of a bi-weekly post of the blog. My job that pays for croissants in France occasionally and buttered biscuits in Alabama has kept me away from the fun of writing. Recently, I’ve been in a royal battle with computer programs that were fickle and non-functioning. Computers are miracle machines when they work! They are downright finicky if all of their connections, buttons and sweet spots are not satisfied. Now, you are likely thinking, if not saying: “Sure sounds like computers are female!” Nope! You are wrong. I’ve seen the backside of these computers, and they are not women! Samsung, Dell and Apple may not know this, but from my viewpoint, computers are the MALE of the species!

Let me quickly retract some of my computer nonsense before I get into trouble with the menfolk, especially the one that is married to me.  Jim, the husband and computer repair person that I call most often, understands the inner workings and backside of my computer.  I call Chris, a nice young man in a nearby town to help me with my website.  Santiago is the very knowledgeable fellow who controls the computer world that I live in for my daytime job.  Compliments, hugs, thanks and chocolate cookies to all of these MEN for pulling me out of many jams!  I’m laying it on thick because I want you there for the next time.

That is my valuable input for the week. I may see you next week, or it could be earlier, or later.  I hope everything is fine for you.  Please come again.  You are welcome to enter your e-mail for a free subscription notification.  Just look in the upper corner.  If you don’t get your notice, don’t blame me.  Blame the male computer!

Happy Anniversary to my lovely daughter Jessica and her sweet husband Mark! 

“Fractured Fairy Tales” – by Debbie Ambrous

CHATEAU VILLANDRY - Follow the Fractured Fairy Tale and then read the romantic story of the Spaniard and American who restored the magnificent chateau and gardens.

CHATEAU VILLANDRY – Follow the Fractured Fairy Tale and then read the romantic story of the Spaniard and the American, the restorers of the magnificent chateau and gardens.

A beautiful princess and a dashing prince marry with a lavish ceremony followed by a honeymoon in an exotic locale, then return to live happily in the castle of dreams. We are skeptical of this scenario from the first words spoken. Beautiful princess! How much of her beauty came from the cosmetic surgeon’s office? How long will they live happily until the divorce? Yes, we grew up and learned the truth long before reality television reached popularity.

Back in the early seventies when my two older children were little, they watched Fractured Fairy Tales on television. The cartoon show featured the typical fairy tales, such as Cinderella or Pinocchio, told in a totally wacky style with puns that only the parents would understand. The creators evidently knew that mothers were nearby scrubbing toilets, or sorting the weebles from the wobbles in the toy chest of a mother’s life. Why shouldn’t she have some laughs since she had to endure the cartoon re-runs, sort out the squabbles between the children and clean up the cookie crumbs thereafter?

I thought that my life could be cast in a Fractured Fairy Tale much easier than the sumptuous life in Chateau Villandry. Then again, I don’t have to take in paying visitors to tramp around my house and garden to pay the electric bill and taxes. Perhaps I am exaggerating about the Chateau Villandry’s circumstances since I do not know the bottom-line of their finances. However, the owners of many stately castles and manor homes do require this income from visitors and rentals to cover their expenses. Life behind those magnificent doors is often not cracked up to be as imagined by the mere peasants of common life.

It is neither wealth nor splendor; but tranquility and occupation that give happiness.” – Thomas Jefferson

Jim and I began our fractured fairy tale of tranquility and occupation in a 528 square ft. (49 sq. meters) new mobile home which we owned and located on a wooded lot in the countryside in Alabama. I planted azaleas, roses, dogwood trees and flowers from Granny Bryan’s flower beds. We had a beautiful rusty-colored Irish setter that roamed through the woods with us behind our new home. Inside, everything was new and cozy with Early American furniture reproductions, white ruffled curtains at the kitchen windows, braided rug on the floor, imitation brick flooring and green appliances. No, I am not referring to eco-green, energy saving appliances. The range, sink, refrigerator, washing machine and the bathtub were green. Do you remember those times? We had art on the wall like any respectable chateau fit for a princess in a fractured fairy tale. A woodsy scene with mountains, waterfalls and streams was laminated to cardboard and stapled into a wood frame. Positioned above the Early American style, over-stuffed sofa the faux painting was inspiration for tranquility, if not splendor.

Joachim Carvallo and his wife, Ann Coleman, were passionate collectors of old paintings.  "I enjoyed the paintings.  The lady on the left could star in a Fractured Fairy Tale with that hairstyle!"

I enjoyed the painting collection. The lady on the left could star in a Fractured Fairy Tale with that hairstyle!”

The ceiling comes from the Maqueda ducal palace, built in the 15th century in Toledo, Spain.  The palace was dismantled in 1905 and Joachim Carvallo brought one of the ceilings back to Villandry.

The ceiling comes from the Maqueda ducal palace, built in the 15th century in Toledo, Spain. The palace was dismantled in 1905 and Joachim Carvallo brought one of the ceilings back to Villandry.

Napoleon's youngest brother was the owner of Villandry for several years during the Empire period.  This room's furniture and design, therefore, is in the Empire style: mahogany furnture and red watered silks.

Napoleon’s youngest brother was the owner of Villandry for several years during the Empire period. This room’s furniture and design, therefore, is in the Empire style: mahogany furniture and red watered silks.

The mobile home would fit in the foyer of the Chateau Villandry with room left to form a small trailer park. My trailer flower garden would be laughable in comparison, but it was my own version of the “Love Garden” found at Villandry. Happiness grew, and I learned how to nurture my plants along with my marriage. From the narrow viewpoint of some people we may have appeared as trailer park trash. I have no problem with poking fun at myself. At the same time, I will hold my head up and say that we were honest, hard-working young people starting a life together modestly. Jim was a part-time college student working an auto parts counter at a GM dealership, and I worked full-time at an insurance agency.

If you own a home with wheels and several cars without, you might be a redneck!” – Jeff Foxworthy

We had great fun with our friends on camping trips and doing simple stuff. Thinking back, some of it was little more than a continuation of some of the same fun from our childhood, such as playing cards and watching the guys play Saturday afternoon football.

The Marquis de Castellance redesigned this room in the 18th-century style: Louis XV paneling replaced the old tapestries, while parquet replaced the marble flooring.  The salmon pink walls and fountain hint at the Provencal origins of the Marquis.  In 1934, this room was listed as a historic monument.

The Marquis de Castellance redesigned this room in the 18th-century style: Louis XV paneling replaced the old tapestries, while parquet replaced the marble flooring. The salmon pink walls and fountain hint at the Provencal origins of the Marquis. In 1934, this room was listed as a historic monument.

Notice the upside-down fork.  By turning the fork in this position the displayed family crest would show the family's social status.

Notice the upside-down fork. By turning the fork in this position the displayed family crest would show the family’s social status.

The rich, sweet smell of the hayricks rose to his chamber window; the hundred perfumes of the little flower-garden beneath scented the air around; the deep-green meadows shone in the morning dew that glistened on every leaf as it trembled in the gentle air: and the birds sang as if every sparkling drop were a fountain of inspiration to them. ~ The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens

“The rich, sweet smell of the hayricks rose to his chamber window; the hundred perfumes of the little flower-garden beneath scented the air around; the deep-green meadows shone in the morning dew that glistened on every leaf as it trembled in the gentle air: and the birds sang as if every sparkling drop were a fountain of inspiration to them.” ~ “The Pickwick Papers” by Charles Dickens

The size of our accommodation didn’t hold us back from entertaining. Don’t envision any Martha Stewart decorations and dining. I’m going to tell on myself and let you know my true colors with redneck running rampant. Jim and I invited our friends over for a pizza party at our mobile home. See, already we were cooking up foreign Italian dishes with no grits or gravy involved. I was the cook with boxes of Chef Boyardee pizza mix in the kitchen and Jim in control of the entertainment. Can you imagine mixing up the ingredients and shoving the pizzas in the oven to feed a crowd? I thought nothing of it, and I declare that Jim must have put a sign outside saying “Ya’ll come on in, FREE food and entertainment here!”, or he was down at the 7-11 inviting all the customers to drive south to the green and white mobile home on the right. The Statler Brothers were singing good old country music while pepperoni-topped pizza was popping out of the oven in shifts. A dozen, or more, people were standing inside talking and laughing when we heard a loud BANG!! at the backside of the trailer. We had clearly exceeded our load limit, and one of the concrete blocks that leveled our mobile home had shattered from the weight of our multiple guests.

If your wife weighs more than your refrigerator, then you might be a redneck.” – Jeff Foxworthy

I probably weighed less than 110 pounds at the time, so it wasn’t me!! Honest. Now, who can say they had a party that brought the house down like this one? I’m sure that Chateau Villandry never threw a shindig like ours. A fractured fairytale, indeed!

Photo displayed in the drawing room.

Photo displayed in the drawing room.

Chateau Villandry’s love tale is a splendid one. A young doctor from Spain, Joachim Carvallo, came to France in 1893. Doctor Carvallo studied with a medical research group in Paris, and there he met the American intern, Ann Coleman. Ms. Coleman was the daughter of a master blacksmith in Lebanon, Pennsylvania. They were married in Paris, and three children were born there. Then, some seven years later they sunk all of their savings to restore their dream home: Chateau Villandry and the gardens. They transformed the romantic park to the stunningly beautiful gardens we see today. Now that is a love story to inspire and endear any romantic soul. Not a fractured story at all!

Fractured Fairy Tales are lived and told in every land and every language. I hope I didn’t ruffle any feathers, or rattle any armor, with my silly story while featuring the beautiful chateau on the page. You will find serious and interesting facts by CLICKING here for the website and CLICK here for the book A French Opportunity which includes more history of the chateau.
Praise for Fractured Fairy Tales (CLICK to check it out) may entice you to read the book.  I should hire them to promote my book!
It’s a great book, no lie. – Pinocchio
I couldn’t lay it down – The Golden Goose
These stories really cook. – Hansel & Gretel
Ribbit! – The Frog Prince

Ya’ll come back for more adventures, out of the ordinary and slightly cracked!  Thank you visiting and sharing the link with friends.

“Almost Paradise” – by Debbie Ambrous

IMG_2881What inscription would appear on the gold plaque below an oil portrait in an ornate gold frame, displayed at the grand chateau staircase, if the splendid image peering back was my face? Oh, that is an easy one! Let the engraving begin: “Francophile and Passionate Garden Lover – Debbie Ambrous

The Love Garden - Later as the flowers mature, bright colors will burst within the hearts and other shapes.

The Love Garden – Later as the flowers mature, bright colors will burst within the hearts and other shapes.

I couldn’t help it. I grew as the flowers grew in Granny Bryan’s garden, following in her footsteps and snipping begonias to root in clay flower pots. Seed catalogs arrived in the mail, and they were just as much fun to read and feed my imagination as the Sears Roebuck catalog. I was learning to transplant, propagate, mulch, fertilize and prune before I reached my teens. While I’m still not an expert, the language of flowers and plants is deeply instilled.

Terraces provide many viewpoints of the gardens.

Terraces provide many viewpoints of the gardens.

People of the same persuasion are drawn to Chateau Villandry and the immense gardens, and others immediately fall under its spell. This landscape is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Villandry was built in 1536 by Jean Le Breton, Minister of Finance for Francois I. Only the keep remains of a medieval castle that was razed in order to make way for the chateau. In 1754, the Marquis de Castellane, who came from a noble Provencal family, purchased the chateau and had it redesigned to meet 18th-century standards of comfort. In 1906, the chateau was bought by Joachim Carvallo, the great-grandfather of the present owner. He created 16th century-style gardens that were in perfect harmony with the architecture of the chateau. Each room enjoys its own unique view, particularly of the gardens.

Doesn't this scene touch your heart?

Doesn’t this scene touch your heart?

Jim and I arrived mid-day on a sunny day, better than a rainy one, in mid-May. A gray-haired lady was seated on a bench with a gentleman, and his arm rested tenderly on her shoulders – a scene of love for each other and for the gardens. I understood and shared those feelings. My heart beat faster when my eyes were filled with the beauty of the gardens, lakes and the chateau. I needed my own bench to sit and reflect.

Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine for the soul. – Luther Burbank

Like-minded tourists were stooping to admire the flowers and their cameras were clicking away. We smiled and talked with a few including two pretty ladies from Thailand. I promised to include their pictures in the blog. I hope they didn’t lose their notes, like I lost mine.

Notice the people on the tower on the background - a soaring view of the gardens.

Lovely young lady who modeled her gardening hat on the shady terrace – Notice the people on the tower on the background – a soaring view of the gardens.

The young women were dressed prettily with sunhats poised as UV protection.
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Children played on the lake banks and skipped along the pathways.

We saw a family playing together at the tennis court and thought it could be family members from the chateau since the grounds were private. A happy dog was petted and pampered in the sunshine. IMG_2862

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Since we didn’t have an invitation to join them, we moved along to drink in the rich beauty of the magnificent garden.

"Honey, will you watch the children while I go to the bathroom?"  Dads are in control.

“Honey, will you watch the children while I go to the bathroom?” Dads are in control!

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Swans played daredevil at the edge

Swans played daredevil at the edge

Then it was time for lunch.

We didn’t bring a picnic lunch, so we left to eat at an outdoor café along the Loire River, a short distance away. After a leisurely, peaceful meal in the breeze, imagining how wonderful it would be if I could live there and follow this routine every day, I forced myself to return to the gardens – almost paradise!

IMG_2872IMG_2981IMG_2875I couldn’t possibly include the pictures of the interior of the chateau in this one post. Another time, we can walk inside to see the paintings (no portraits of me inside) and climb the circular staircase in the tower for a birds-eye view of the gardens. Ya’ll come back!
I anticipate a few very busy months, so I will only post every two weeks instead of weekly. I wish I could say that I will be spending all of my time, busily gardening at Chateau Ambrous. I do hope to fit in some of that personal joy.IMG_2978What are your plans for your flower gardens? Do you enjoy the planning and planting almost as much as the flourishing finale? Let’s hope the weather cooperates. Agreed? Don’t forget to leave your comments for others to enjoy and perhaps a few suggestions for me.

The history and commentary for the gardens and chateau were derived from the tourist brochure.  All photos are the personal property of Debbie Ambrous.

“A Bell is Ringing” – by Debbie Ambrous

The village of Villandry beyond the walls is enticing.

The village of Villandry beyond the walls is enticing and beckoning us to come along its narrow winding lanes.

A simple procedure without complications, uneventful, I must admit. Yes, that was the truth of the matter. Telling the story of my minor surgery in comical, whimsical words was as silly as a cat chasing a ball with a bell inside. The soft ball bounces hither and thither, and the bell rings, luring the cat to pounce again. Smile, we must. Simple pleasures often fill our needs as much as the deep and rich.IMG_1995-2

The bell kept ringing. My story was not weighty or serious, but it was an expression of how I felt through a minor ordeal. Sharing the ups and downs with others provided an outlet of relief for me. Yet, when I had scarcely finished the last words, I heard that a dear friend had serious heart surgery and another was due for intensive surgery on her neck. IMG_1996-1The bell sounded louder, no playful jingling. Their stories are more important and must be heard compassionately by those who love them, and possibly by strangers who will benefit from their experiences. In the telling of their stories, there is healing.

Catastrophes, on a global scale and personal, have deep and emotional stories to be told by those who have survived and endured. Sounding sharp and clear as a bell, the hurt is uttered in agonized words, repeated to anyone who will listen. “He just went to the store for bread and eggs. I set the table and started the coffee. I thought he would be back in just a few minutes …” “The roar of the wind was like a freight train. It was so dark and she wasn’t moving…” Painful stories, ones we want to end with happiness, but sadly that is not yet.

Careful!  Hold my hand!

Careful! Hold my hand!

Jim and I saw a documentary about a typhoon in the Pacific. A young Father stood in a structure with little except the frame remaining. He pointed to a corner and said, “We huddled in this corner together, the whole family praying, and the building ripped apart around us.” With a big smile, he said, “We are so thankful that all of us are alive!” I know he and his family will tell that story many times over! The bell will peal out in happiness!

Yes, there is a time for a whimsical story like a silly cat chasing a ball with a dinging bell. With this image in mind, I remembered a cat in Villandry, France, with a “Don’t mess with me!” attitude. He would probably annihilate a toy ball and dare you try that again! I met the cat with the tiger personality on a narrow street leading to the corner gourmand café, and with quick movements I proudly captured his picture. He is a fitting mascot and representative for today’s tale.

What flowers blossom, hidden in the gardens beyond this gate?

What flowers blossom, hidden in the gardens beyond this gate?

Jim and I walked the streets in the village and peeked through a gate to the magnificent Chateau Villandry and Gardens – my most anticipated visit! (If you read a previous story, you already know that Jim’s favorite in all of France is Mont St. Michel.) IMG_1989-1IMG_1999-5IMG_2000-3IMG_1980-1We had arrived in France in mid-April and planned to stay until the first of June. I was biding my time, waiting for the perfect profusion of flowers in the massive gardens.IMG_2004-2

Were the flowers ready for me yet? We waited a little longer, but the time was coming for my sunhat and camera.

I thought of the old Beatles song “Till There Was You” when bells were ringing and flowers were blooming and not even noticed. Not at all, till there was you.

There were bells on a hill
But I never heard them ringing
No, I never heard them at all
Till there was you
There were birds in the sky
But I never saw them winging
No, I never saw them at all
Till there was you
Then there was music and wonderful roses
They tell me in sweet fragrant meadows
Of dawn and dew
– Till There Was You – The Beatles

Ya’ll come back!   Don’t forget to leave a comment.  Tell us about your cats!  What do they chase?  Does your cat have a personality like a lamb, or a tiger?  Are you inspired by survival stories?  I know that I am.   On another day, we will return for a wander in those beautiful gardens and a royal tour of the chateau.  We will notice those flowers and possibly hear bells chiming in the enchanting village of Villandry.

Where do we go next?  These are very old Michelin sign posts.

Where do we go next? This is a very old Michelin sign post.  Lignieres is 9 kilometers that way

 

 

“Get Low” – by Debbie Ambrous

IMG_5134-1Promises of travel appear on these pages with France as the prime destination. Variety is the spice of life, so other journeys with their high and low points are presented for your enjoyment, or occasionally sympathy for me. Visits to dermatologists, gynecologists, ophthalmologists and even a colonoscopy specialist were voyages beyond the ordinary. Puzzling over a title for a doctor, I asked: “Jim, what is the name for a doctor who performs a colonoscopy?” Quick on the spot, Jim answered: “Glad to be of help. He’s an anal-ologist!” On that note, Jim backed the Jeep from the driveway and asked me to look at the walkway to view some droppings of manure pellets, scattered here and there. He said, “I think some type of wildlife was here during the night.” Seeing only a few black dots of stuff on our cracked concrete, I told him: “Probably possum poop. My coffee wasn’t strong enough for this type of conversation early in the morning.”

We continued on the road to Dothan, Alabama for my final appointment with the doctor after the surgery on my eyelids. I can see much better and friends tell me that I look prettier. Aren’t friends the best of all? With that checkup behind me, we had a nice lunch and headed back home. My camera was on the backseat, ready for any good shots for the blog and especially for the Google Photo Challenge that I mentioned earlier. The subject for the week is: “Get Low”. Now, I don’t know if I need to get low in position to take the photo, or if the subject of the photo should be low. I had a couple of ideas. I thought it would be cool to catch a photo of cows from a lower perspective of the legs with the udders in good focus.  We passed fields with cows far away in the distance.

Come back.  Don't run away!  I want to make you FAMOUS!

Come back. Don’t run away! I want to make you FAMOUS!

How do you call a cow? None of the brown-eyed, black and white bovines posed for an udderly-fastastic photo. Didn’t they know their beauty could appear around the world on I-pads and smart phones, possibly singing: “Selena Gomez, will you go to the prom with me?

Around the half-way mark on our drive home is the community of Level Plains, Alabama. A produce stand with big banners advertised boiled peanuts, fresh strawberries, turnips and collard greens. Cattycorner to the veggies and fruit is a junkyard crammed full of old Volkswagens. I’ve noticed the old rusting cars and wanted to snap away with my camera, but the yard was always closed when we passed. Somehow, there’s something lacking in the beauty of the picture when a chain-link fence topped by razor wire is front and center. Jim replied to my suggestion of a quick right-hand turn: “Now let me try to understand this. You’re all dressed up pretty and the fine doctor said your surgery is perfectly good, so you want to celebrate by going to a junkyard!!IMG_5146-1Outside the yard an old tractor and a bright red antique car was parked. I was absorbed in focusing on the old tractor with my camera when a big dog raced through the entry, scaring me out of my wits. I froze while Jim did his friendly, dog-decoy act. As it turned out, we had no worries since the only danger we faced was being licked to death. However, around midnight when the gate is closed, any foolish person expecting a friendly greeting would be sadly disappointed!

I sneaked this photo when he wasn't looking so he wouldn't pin me to the ground and wash my face with his tongue.

I sneaked this photo when he wasn’t looking so he wouldn’t pin me to the ground and wash my face with his tongue.

I hoped to find a good camera angle at a low level of the old Volkswagens, but they were packed tightly together like rusted toys. I wedged my way between the metal bodies of the vehicles, hoping my bright coral, long skirt wouldn’t catch and rip apart. The cars were parked on rusted sheets of metal roofing. I worried that rattlesnakes could be under the cars, or in the driver’s seat waiting to strike faster than greased lightning! A psychedelic snake could have claimed a VW for its winter home instead of a hole in the Alabama clay soil. I squatted on the ground to center my camera in front of a Karmann Ghia VW and heard Jim shout: “Watch out!” Suddenly, the rusty red muscular dog hit me full-force when I was kneeling on the ground. I was already spooked by the snakes, but I didn’t have much time to gear up my fright level since he quickly sent me sprawling on the hot tin roofing. The rusty red dog thought I wanted to play! I laid down some rules, “Listen dog, you don’t show appreciation by licking the photographer and slobbering on her camera lens!” I dusted and buffed the old cars with my swirling skirt and bumbled around on the tin sheets underfoot. We never spoke to the manager since he was busy talking with others in the far corner of the yard. I could imagine the junkyard owner telling his customer, “Oh, I get folks like that around here all the time. Did you see that woman with the swirly, ruffled orange skirt and the glittery purple shirt? She’s a flower child if I’ve ever seen one! She and her honey were probably reminiscing about the The Love Bug, and all of the times they spent at the drive-in theater. “IMG_5140IMG_5145

"The Hood & The Doors" -  sounds like a name for a musical group.

“The Hood & The Doors” – sounds like a name for a musical group.

I told Jim that I still wasn’t sure that I had any photos suitable for my Google venture. With no cows flashing their udders for me, I hesitantly mentioned another idea. “Now, don’t think I’m crazy. I was thinking about taking a picture of an old grave site with a rusted iron fence and a tall green cedar as a background. The name on the tombstone would be hidden, and I could shoot the picture late in the afternoon shadows. What do you think? You have to admit, that’s as close to low as you can go!” Jim looked at me like I had lost my marbles.

Somewhere inside a big plastic storage container bought at the Bed Bath and Beyond store, photos of old Bermuda graveyards, are hidden away. Why did I take those pictures? I saw the juxtaposition of the present with a remembrance of the past through my camera. Did the men buried there build the pastel pink, blue and yellow cottages surrounded by red hibiscus? Did the young children build sandcastles in the pink sand by the crystal clear waters? The picture was intended to capture the moment and honor the people who came before and left their mark. Facing the facts, I asked myself, “Would I want a picture of a graveyard on my wall or a sunny yellow cottage a few steps from a pink sand beach?

We got home before dark and Jim was studying the poop droppings on the sidewalk like Indiana Jones on an Egyptian exploration amid the pyramids. I unloaded my camera bag from the car and he called out, “I really think these are deer pellets. Can’t believe they came as far as the front yard! Bring your camera over here and you can Get Low” for Google.

I had to beg, plead and cajole these few pictures to download into my story.  I will be calling for support next week and following the same routine.  I apologize for fewer pictures than usual.  Do you have an old Volkswagen beetle in your past, or do you drive one presently? I would love to hear about it. Thank you for your comments.

If you would like to see France instead of Alabama jaunts, just CLICK to France-Storytelling and Pictures page.

“Choo-Choo” – by Debbie Ambrous

IMG_4858Prominent among the important gems of instruction to Jim, with a bullet-point alongside, was this statement: “If ever I’m lingering at death’s door and you want me to live a little longer, put a camera in my hands. That will jolt me to life better than any heart defibrillator.” I came to this conclusion when I regained my energy with camera in hand after a dermatology surgery (removal of pre-cancer cells) on my shoulder in Birmingham, Alabama. Shortly after the procedure, I ate cheese crackers chased by grape juice, not the grown-up drink of fermented grape juice. For the long drive home, sleep in the front passenger side of the Jeep was a good possibility.IMG_4846-1But somewhere near the thirty- mile mark, I saw a sign for the Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum and asked Jim to take the exit so we could see the old railroad cars.IMG_4852 Surprised at the surge of stamina, I was excited to see the beautiful faded colors of the old engines, cabooses and passenger cars. IMG_4864-1The museum was closed when we were there, and the rides on the trains are not scheduled until warmer weather. I have an appointment again in Birmingham in April, so that should be a winner combination to ride the rail and see the white dogwood flowers and fresh green leaves. IMG_4877IMG_4894Yes, that camera nourished my body and brought me back to life with plans for the future and bright colors to fill my dreams as I slept for the remainder of the journey home.

Our little town of Opp, Alabama has an interesting history based on the railroads. The following is an excerpt from the town’s website:

The City of Opp is named after Henry Opp, a lawyer of German descent who worked for the L & N Railroad. Opp lived and practiced law in Andalusia, Alabama in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s and also served as Mayor of Andalusia from 1899 to 1906. In 1901, the Central of Georgia Railroad tried to prevent the L & N Railroad from surveying a right-of-way into Covington County; however, Mr. Opp successfully defended the L & N’s case in court, thereby enabling the railroad to complete the survey and ultimately establish the railroad line which now passes through the City of Opp.

The railroad forked, with one arm traveling south and the other continuing east. Because this provided a good “turning around” place for trains, and because it was already inhabited to a small degree, a little town was laid out on the site with the encouragement of the railroad. In appreciation to Mr. Henry Opp for being directly responsible for the railroad’s existence through the area, the L & N encouraged the people to name the town after Mr. Opp.”

Continuing with the railroad theme, Jim and I watched a Masterpiece Classic movie titled “The Railroad Children” from Netflix on Friday night. IMG_4860-1The children’s father was accused and jailed although he was innocent of the crime. A railroad tycoon came to his rescue and he was released. The moderator stated after the film that the railroad barons were often ruthless and used exploitative practices to accumulate their wealth. He said the film was more fantasy than reality. Nonetheless, we enjoyed the story and wish there were more people as kind-hearted as the rich gentleman who helped the sweet children have their daddy returned to them.

I hope you enjoy the photos of the trains and have your own imagination and energy fueled for a future visit or further exploration of the history of trains. IMG_4891We have traveled on trains in France, Japan, Majorca, England and Canada. I hope there are more rail adventures in the future, especially if they could include our grandson Daniel who loves trains! I almost forgot to mention our train rides at Disney. Daniel’s train adventures began at Disneyland. Who knows where he will ride on the rails in the future? I would enjoy hearing about your train rides, or any history of the railroads that you could contribute. Comments from readers add to the story and join us together as a community. Thank you for adding your comments!

Since I have not shared much of France for you in this story, I have added more pictures of France on the (CLICK) France Pictures and Storytelling page. I hope you enjoy the France page.

Ya’ll come back for more adventures whether they are on a train, or just walking in the backyard! Take care, you are tremendously special people! Thank you.

“Surprise Parade” – by Debbie Ambrous

French horn in a French parade - Chinon, France

French horn in a French parade – Chinon, France

Coffee, croissants and a crunchy baguette with butter are only a memory of beautiful France now that we are settled into our Alabama routine.

Jim entered the room that I claim as my office this afternoon to tell me: “I’m going over to help Jeremy (his buddy) with a project he’s working on. Aha! I see that you have written some words on the blank page. Now, all you have to do is finish it.” Easy for him to say! I had stared out the window, walked to another window to watch the birds and still no words except the first sentence above were on the blank page. Thoughts were fluttering like the bluebirds at my fountain and drifting like the brown, dried leaves on the lawn with no order, or inspiration. The buttery croissants and hot coffee would be warmth for the soul and my cold fingers, but they are not on my desk on this cold day with sunshine licking the chocolate-brown bark on the tall trunks of the pine trees.

Jim is out of the house now. “Come on fingers, do your thing.” It is time to touch the keys quickly now that I have a purpose and a story to tell about beautiful Chinon, France on the Vienne River with its historic buildings and the Chateau Chinon crowning the city, high above the action of a bustling market.IMG_3123May 7, 2014: We had our fill of coffee and croissants and left our cozy rental house on a beautiful day in May to shop at the open-air market. Sweet strawberries, crunchy carrots, bright red tomatoes and a few potatoes went into our shopping bag. Our needs were purchased and the list was checked, but that did not stop us from sniffing the spices and scented soaps, or looking at all of the other vegetables and live poultry. IMG_2360Market day had attracted a large crowd on this sunny day in Chinon. IMG_2367I noticed people were gathering along the street and policemen were directing traffic away from the main thoroughfare. What was happening? We looked for a place to stand for a better view. A group of Red Cross (Croix-Rouge) members in their bright orange uniforms were waiting under the tall sycamore trees, laughing and talking. One young man in the crowd caught my eye immediately. He was very cute with dark hair and brown eyes, easily young enough to be my grandson; but as they say, he was easy on the eyes. (It is easier to write this since Jim is out of the house and won’t make any silly jokes about me eyeing the sexy-looking, young Frenchman.) I aimed my camera to capture a picture of him for the young ladies in my reading audience, looking after their interest, nothing personal you know. I wished they would assemble in a straight line for a photo, but that didn’t happen. We realized a parade was forming since the band members were gathering.

What a nice surprise! I check the tourism offices and on-line for fairs, concerts and other special events when we travel. Some of the smallest villages have unusual fairs that are such great fun. People-watching alone is worth the trip. We were once driving to another village and suddenly the road was blocked with carnival rides for children with no way around to continue our journey. We parked, enjoyed the laughter of the children and had to turn around to drive several miles out of the way to get to our destination. Can you imagine blocking the main road into town for a carnival in your hometown?

We walked further into town past the boulangeries and a lovely square filled with flowers for sale. I bought a colorful pot of flowers as a gift for the hostess of a luncheon marked on our calendar for the following week. (CLICK to read “Rabbit Stew” if you missed it.) IMG_3350After window shopping our way to the main square, we saw the parade coming around the corner for the grand finale with trumpets blaring. When the Red Cross members wound their way along the line into position in front of me, I noticed the cute young man was grinning and the lady beside him was laughing at their inside joke. I could imagine the conversation between them as she told him: “Look, that old lady with the camera has a thing for you! She fancies your cute form for sure.

Focus is on another handsome Frenchman.  Undoubtedly, the lady and young man following are enjoying a joke on me.

Focus is on another handsome Frenchman. Undoubtedly, the lady and young man following are enjoying a joke on me.

I would have approached the group earlier except the assembled crowd along the street was rather quiet, and there wasn’t enough time for communication. I need to carry some business cards printed in French as an introduction. Next time…

Family members who seemed to span four generations marched past as honored members of the parade. IMG_2377-1 Important functions may occur in the center of the city, but notice that text messages must be checked. Life is the same everywhere now with our social media. I selected the photo of the ensemble for the topic of “Street Photography” in a photography challenge. (CLICK here if you are interested in joining the challenge, look under the “About” tab for the details. I know that many in the reading audience are excellent photographers, so you may enjoy joining the group.) I had a difficult time deciding which photo to submit. I asked for Jim’s opinion and we decided on the family in the parade. The pride of the young daughter and the humor of the gentleman checking his text messages caught our attention. We may have erred in our judgment and selected the photo based on our emotions from the happy experience in France. (I used an older photo since I was still recovering from eye surgery. I will submit new photos for future submissions according to the guidelines.)

We had a fun day in Chinon with the bonus parade, a shopping bag filled with goodies and a camera loaded with memories. The parade was over.

I closed out my computer. Jim opened the kitchen door and called out, “Honey, I’m home! How’s the story coming? Do you have another sentence on the page?” I deflated his funny jab: “With you out of my hair, I finished the story in no time flat. In fact, I wrote a draft of a first chapter for a romance novel.” He didn’t believe me, but I continued: “Yep, the story begins with a beautiful woman on a travel photography assignment in France who falls in love with a rich, handsome Croix-Rouge humanitarian.” Jim’s jaw dropped for a minute, but he recovered and said: “I already know the second chapter storyline. Aged wannabe photographer slips and falls in horse manure. Poor, but intelligent, Alabama redneck rescues mature maiden in the muck.”

You see what I have to put up with?!!

Ya’ll come back! Thank you for visiting and a special thank you to those who wrote such kind comments on last week’s blog about my surgery. I received phone calls, cards, e-mails and Facebook entries of encouragement. I was touched by your generous compassion! I’m much, much better!

Shown below are some of the photos that I considered for the Photo Challenge. Which one do you prefer?

I always enjoy seeing your comments!

 

 

 

CLICK the photo for a larger image: