“The Last Hour?” – by Debbie Ambrous

IMG_9747October 16, 2015 – A cute little pooch with sad brown eyes looked at us through the rear window of a parked car in Ménerbes. Since the French people take their dogs with them almost everywhere, it seemed strange to find this lonesome doggy in a car. IMG_9614The weather was cool and the car was in the shade, so there was no worry about his comfort.

Still, his longing look tugged at my heart; I wanted to take him up the hill with me. Hopefully, the owner was only making a quick stop and he would be on his way in the little car with his furry friend.

IMG_9615Our next distraction from the uphill walk into the hilltop town of Ménerbes was a poster for Marguerite at Cinéma la Strada happening that very night. Wouldn’t that be great fun? Where could we buy tickets? Another poster advertised a “Belle Brocante” at Saint-Saturnin-les-Apt, not just any old sale of junk and antiques, but a “belle” of a sale. IMG_9826That’s the thing about roaming around and seeing these charming French villages, you just never know what unexpected things you will see, or what will happen, especially if you are open to new experiences.

My preconditioned mind was expecting to drive through cherry orchards and vineyards and view Ménerbes spread across the hills like an ocean liner with its deck retrofitted with blocks of ancient buildings, churches and citadels. That fanciful imagery was conjured by a tourism website, and the writer of this luring prose didn’t have one too many glasses of rosé since the orchards and vineyards were more stunning than he described. The ship at anchor comparison was easy to pick out and delightful to discover all of the sixteenth and seventeenth century architecture, knowing this conjured ship was not pulling out in the morning.IMG_9626IMG_9651My notion of what to expect in Ménerbes was fixed in place years ago when I read A Year in Provence, written by Peter Mayle. Have you read this book, or any of Peter Mayle’s books? Did you see the movie A Good Year, starring Russell Crowe? Peter Mayle wrote the book with the same name, although the story in the book is rather different, like it happens so many times when movies are produced based upon books.

Peter Mayle escaped the stress and strain of city life with his wife and bought a mas, a farm house between Ménerbes and Bonnieux, after dreaming and looking “with an addict’s longing at photographs of village markets and vineyards.” Over a million copies of A Year in Provence have sold along with other books written by Mayle, almost invariably with the same rate of success. IMG_9625People came quickly after feeding on the dream of sunshine in the Provence, but somehow the medieval village has survived the notoriety in quiet beauty. After too many autograph hunters and uninvited callers, Mayle sold his home and moved for four years to New York. He says he has lived in London, New York, Barbados and the Bahamas, but nothing comes close to Provence. I knew I wouldn’t find Peter sunbathing by the pool in Ménerbes, but he does still live in the area. Who knows? After all, you just never know what will happen in these adorable villages.IMG_9726

Mayle wasn’t the only one to put his mark on Ménerbes. Walking around the peaceful streets, you would never dream of the carnage of the wars of religion that took place there in the sixteenth century. The town withstood a force of twelve thousand Catholic troops for fourteen months. The villagers ran out of water because it was used to put out fires. The citadel suffered more than nine hundred blows by cannonballs and assaults by fourteen tons of lead bullets. The Protestants agreed to negotiations and surrendered on December 9, 1578 to a “glorious capitulation” after more than five years of battle. IMG_9676 A monument is erected honoring the bicentennial of the French Revolution in 1789.

During more peaceful times, artists were attracted to Ménerbes. Nicolas de Stael lived here and Picasso bought a house for his mistress Dora Maar near the top of the village. Many writers and artists are still here enjoying the views and the beautiful light, perhaps inspired by the greats that came before them. I could only imagine what was behind the massive doors and inside the grand houses.IMG_9710

 

Husband Jim and I enjoyed the beautiful views all around from the prominent position high above the Luberon valley. When the dinner bell rang, or slightly before it rang, we found a boulangerie while it was still open.

We bought quiche and pastries, an orange one for me and a chocolate mint one for Jim. We found a welcoming bench in the shade in front of the church and a view of smoke ascending from the valley. At least it wasn’t cannon fire!IMG_9629IMG_9695IMG_9677After lunch, we made our way back down to the main square where I spotted an ancient sundial with the Latin words “Ultima Forsan” above the Roman numerals.IMG_9737 A very kind lady with the Bureau d’informations de Ménerbes told me that the wording means “the last perhaps” or “maybe the last hour of your life” which could stir some deep thoughts. Was this my last visit to Ménerbes? Then I saw the humorous side of the sundial. The painter didn’t shop Home Depot for tape to mark his edges. He subscribed to the theory of painting outside the lines. Now, that was amusing! Why not paint up some fun during – perhaps, his last hour?

Ménerbes is one of the plus beaux villages in the Vaucluse department of France. I’m happy to say that we saw all seven of the villages.

We left town without tickets to the advertised show, and thankfully we found the car with the puppy dog was gone, so the wait had not been very long for the little fellow. Jim drove to the bottom of the hill where signs pointed in various directions. IMG_9718With eyebrows arched and my finger pointing the way, I told Jim with an informative voice, “See the sign post for Apt. Apt is the nearest large town to our rental house. If we are going home and you see the sign for Apt, you are apt to be going in the right direction. I’m telling you this as a good wife should, since you are apt to go the wrong way, otherwise.” I giggled at my play on words, and Jim retorted, “You’re apt to be right, but we’re apt to run this in the ground before our trip is over.”

Come and see us again since we are apt to find more stuff on the road, maybe even Peter Mayle! Why not check out some of his books in the French Market? I have enjoyed reading his stories very much.

“Opp Connexion” – by Debbie Ambrous

IMG_8777The Opp Connexion with my small hometown linked to France in my blog stories was something like falling off a turnip truck and landing on the doorstep of a boulangerie. In other words, it was an odd connection and not easily crafted. I wanted to share the small towns of France, not found in guide books, or on any travel tour agenda. Simple enough to feature those stories on A French Opportunity, but how could I link my small town life in Opp, Alabama with faraway France. With my purple beret perched at an angle on my bought-and-paid-for blonde hair, I pulled up my discount outlet socks and gradually gained confidence in the word game.  IMG_8763Rambling with a tale is the Southern way of speaking, and taking the long way around to the point is considered a virtue to be praised and waited for patiently. A new friend visiting from Wisconsin recently asked a question, and fifteen minutes later after telling her about my second cousins, where I bought my Singer sewing machine in 1967 and how to fry okra, I said: “Yes, I believe you’re right,” in answer to her question. She needed all of the other background whether she knew it, or not. So, my stories go.IMG_8857The Opp Connexion delivered a bodacious load of turnips for me on this tale. Jim and I discovered a magnificent little hilltop town in France named Oppède Le Vieux. Oppidum is the Latin word for town. Isn’t that just the best Opp Connexion I’ve discovered, or made up yet?IMG_8841

The two should be sister cities with their similarities in name plus the likeness of a quiet downtown with old buildings and churches. At this point much of the sameness fades away since Oppède Le Vieux is built high on a rocky outcrop surrounded by lush forests and mountains. Old buildings take on a different meaning in the hilltop French village with a twelfth century collegiate church and the ruins of an ancient chateau. Artists, writers and movie stars have fallen in love with this charming village and make it their home.IMG_8788

IMG_8811You can’t just drive into this picturesque village unless you are a resident. No, we parked the car and followed a path into the hills with the option of a steep stairway, or a long meandering route with a rusty baby buggy sign pointing the way. IMG_8860I charged ahead taking the stairs with the same attitude that I’ve taken with many projects, saying just do it. After all, it wasn’t uncharted territory. Others have been before me. How hard could it be? Soon, I was reaping the benefits of the stairway climb, seeing the faraway hillside of ancient buildings and then meandering past the fifteenth and sixteenth century restored houses, some painted in brilliant colors.

Sure, my muscles ached, and I did take the rusty baby buggy route on the return to the car.

IMG_8861 Hey, remember that is the Southern way to ramble and meander, taking a rusty baby buggy direction at every opportunity!

If you visit the Provence, this out of the way town should be on your list! Don’t miss it.

IMG_8800I hope ya’ll are doing just fine. Frankly, I’ve been sick and not quite myself yet from fever, cough and aches. I couldn’t have published this short story, but I had written a draft a few weeks ago which I had intended to expand, but it is what it is.

I am on my way to recovery. Take care and come around to see us again! Thanks for your kind support.

 

“Alike and Not Alike” – by Debbie Ambrous

IMG_8660October 8, 2015 – Jim took a right-hand turn from the main road before he had directions from the appointed navigator, namely me. Weary from jet-lag on our first day in France, I asked: “Why did you turn here? The sign points to a campground, and I never gave the word to fly off the road yet!” I slumped in my seat while Jim drove on the wrong road, knowing he had to turn around safely somewhere. Near the end of the road, I saw a beautiful hilltop town with stone houses, a bell tower and a chateau set among vineyards with the Luberon Mountains to our right. Continuing on his merry unguided way, Jim plunged ahead, driving up a narrow lane lined with cypress trees, entering the village of Maubec-le-Vieux, France and finally parking. IMG_8666I didn’t expect our turn-around from Jim’s wrong road foray to be in such a scenic location, completely different from the U-turns in parking lots, industrial zones, grave yards and cattle auction lots. The view of fruit and olive trees in the valley with a patchwork of gold, red and green in the sunlight was not like the scene of some of Jim’s notorious turn-arounds in Alabama. Backing our Jeep over a culvert to a patch of hardened clay overgrown with weeds, he was totally unaware of a sign posted: “No Trespassing! Trespassers will be shot! Survivors will be shot again!” No, I won’t go there again and I didn’t want to be there in the first place! In France, he somehow avoids the “Privé” (private) signs, but he leaves my side of the car inches from a drop-off to the canyon floor like it is ordinaire and flippantly says: “There’s plenty of room. We haven’t run off the road yet, have we?

Before I had said a word of direction, Jim backed the car from the parking space and headed in the opposite direction, unknown territory and toward a pathway that seemed to narrow into a goat trail. “Turn around now! While you still have space to get out of this place, stop and turn around!” He maneuvered the car in the tight spot until it was headed in the right direction, without taking a backwards tour down the side of the hill. We lived another day without incident to return for a real visit to the pretty village when I felt better with an improved mood.IMG_8679IMG_8685I love finding similarities in France, and other places where we travel. Honeysuckle vines grew on the wall of a stunning, strawberry pink house and reminded me of the honeysuckle flowers on my backyard fence at home. The sweet fragrance brought memories of my childhood when I tasted the nectar inside the blossoms. I didn’t think the folks inside the pink house would appreciate me sampling sips of nectar from their flowers. If I could have spoken to them, we may have shared our common appreciation of the hardy, but delicate, honeysuckle vine. Frequently, that is all it takes, a few words spoken and a smile to open doors and build good fellowship.

I enjoy the differences such as the woven curtain in the colorful doorway that we found in the village. No, we don’t have anything to compare in our small town, not alike any doorway in the vicinity! IMG_8695Jim and I travel to see the differences in other places, the architecture, people, food and landscape that are unique to the area. Among the variations, the discovery of a common thread is comforting with the realization that even hundreds, or thousands of miles away, we are really not that different after allWe are alike.

On the other hand, is there possibly another husband like mine out there? If I give him any leeway in following directions on our travels, he is like a runaway train, or one of those little toy cars in a cartoon, zipping around out of control. Do you have a husband like this on the road of your travels? Are there others just like him on this planet?IMG_1170-1                

Oh, heavens, do I ever feel for you! In all fairness, I will say that I am ever so thankful because I could never, ever, ever drive on those narrow roads like he does! Well, that’s enough of painting him up like a Super-Husband.

IMG_8689IMG_8673I hope you enjoyed this petite story. I’ve been extra busy this month. It is flying by fast. I hope you are happy and healthy. Please come back again!  I love seeing your comments.

“The Orange Elephant” – by Debbie Ambrous

IMG_1532What’s wrong with this picture? Any loyal Alabama football fan would scream immediately in protest to an orange-painted elephant. Red is the only choice for the Crimson Tide football team of the University of Alabama. Orange is the color for the fine and outstanding competitive team of Auburn tigers in Alabama, the one yelling “War Eagle!Orange is just not right for an elephant! It’s enough to make your eyes water and skin itch!

Do you know what started the stampede of red elephants that appear in Alabama on everything from mailboxes to Superman Elephant tee shirts?redelephant You are familiar with those sports reporters that scream until they lose their voices with their sports commentary on your wide-screen televisions, I’m sure! One of their predecessors, Everett Strupper of the Atlanta Journal, wrote a colorful story back in 1930, recounting a game with Ole Miss. He unleashed the red elephants with these words: “At the end of the quarter, the earth started to tremble. There was a distant rumble that continued to grow. Some excited fan in the stands bellowed, ‘Hold your horses, the elephants are coming,’ and out stampeded this Alabama varsity. It was the first time that I had seen it and the size of the entire eleven nearly knocked me cold, men that I had seen play last year looking like they had nearly doubled in size.”  So the legend began with Strupper and other sportswriters calling the Alabama linemen “Red Elephants”, with the crimson jerseys as the proper color reference for the elephants, not orange.

Trivia: Did you know that the Auburn tigers played their first bowl game in Havana, Cuba? The orange tigers played against Villanova and the game was tied at 7-7, making history as the first time two U.S. universities played a game on foreign soil. It was during a revolutionary time because Batista had just taken power, and the game was almost cancelled because his picture was not on the program. Now you know!IMG_1536Husband Jim and I found the out-of-place elephant with the wrong color coordination on the main road through Robion, France in early October of this year. The young manager of La Symphonie des Sens (The Symphony of the Senses) a store with patio furniture and animal art for sale was trying to sweep away the falling leaves from the front door when two Auburn fans parked at the edge of his property. We didn’t protest the colors, despite our loyalty to Auburn as the true owners of the bright orange color scheme, not a big, trumpeting elephant on a French terrace. We only asked permission for photos and kept quiet about the football story, unless Jim’s mouth got carried away out of my hearing range, which isn’t very far.IMG_1533 The nice Frenchman told Jim he was born in the U.S. and lived in Washington D.C. and Maryland when he was a little boy. I don’t know if he had ever spoken to a South Alabama character like Jim, but it must have livened up his day. Uh, the yard displayed some unusual animals painted Alabama crimson red. Don’t blame me for their choice of animals. For the sake of not being in trouble – I hope – I will stay neutral like the soft-bellied, green frog who silently posed on a recliner by the busy road.IMG_1537 Remember and heed the harmonious theme of the store: “The Symphony of the Senses”.

We did more than mosey around the patio furniture on the busy, main thoroughfare. Just a few blocks down from the colorful animal art, we found a sign pointing to the historic district. A short ride away from the busy road was a peaceful scene; although, the narrow streets were packed with cars uphill and in front of beautiful buildings painted in faded hues of raspberry, strawberry and lemon.

IMG_8735IMG_8724 IMG_8750If all of the cars were as cute as the white and red-topped Citroën 2CV that Jim found for sale I would be a happy photographer, but otherwise they are not photogenic, and I hunt desperately for a photo capture without bumper-to-bumper, ugly, modern vehicles. No offense to the auto industry because I want to ride my Jeep at home and rental cars in France! Why not roll out more of the lovable Citroën 2CVs?IMG_8752We enjoyed wandering around the old streets, and then we lingered for a late lunch at tables in the sun at the popular Café de la Poste by the ancient fountain. Signs here and there advertised an olive festival, so I asked our nice waitress for more information. She sounded like most hometown people who are rather unimpressed with their own local entertainment. She shrugged her shoulders and said it was just olive stuff for sale, just ordinary. I asked about music, or other special events, and she shook her head in the negative direction. The food was good, and the young lady was very helpful, like she truly enjoyed serving us. When we started to leave, Jim said some corny, funny something to the waitress who had been charmed by his Alabama born-and-bred manners. He reached to leave the tip by his plate, but the coins rolled off the table to the stone terrace. We, females, locked eyes with a knowing look and a smile, with silent communication voiced as: “Men!!IMG_8711Don’t judge a town by the main highway when you are driving around. Check a guidebook, or simply look for those signs that point to the fun and interesting part of town.

Why judge an elephant, a frog or a person by the color of their skin? You may miss out on a life-long friend, or a wonderful memory.
Thanks for coming around to see us. Please come again.

I have one final word that I would like to say. Jim and I were heart-broken to see the tragedy in Paris. We continue to pray for the dear friends we have met in France and all of their fellow countrymen, especially those harmed in this violence. We do believe peace will come, and there is hope.

“Two Domaines” – by Debbie Ambrous

IMG_1527October 8-9, 2015 – Two nights at the foot of the Luberon Mountains, in the heart of the vineyards, in a private two-bedroom cottage with a small terrace, oozing ambiance and a fireplace for the cool evenings sounded like the perfect antidote to jet lag. What could be better for the two nights before we moved on to our rental house, La Maison d’Artistes?

My head was pounding after a night without sleep on the flight to Marseilles, but thankfully the flight was smooth with no other problems as well as the drive to our reserved sanctuary in the Provence. Rows of grapevines and olive trees surrounded us. (click for the website) Domaine Faverot. Fields of lavender minus the lovely flowers which were already harvested still created a tranquil atmosphere. I was only dreaming of a heavenly bed inside the solid stone walls covered with flaming red vines and flanked with tall evergreen trees. Jim parked the car on the hillside, and I anxiously opened the door to a startling, loud noise echoing from the woods above. Donkeys were braying, “Hee-Haw! Hee-Haw!” Oh, my painful headache! I thought it would explode as the noise sounded like a hack-saw scraping on metal. I wondered why the donkeys were laughing at me and if this was some indication of where our trip was headed. Click for larger images – Domaine Faverot:

I walked through the cobbled courtyard and admired all of the colorful seating areas. I felt satisfied with everything I saw and relieved that I had found such a beautiful place. Then, the nice managers had to break the news to me that they were booked up, and I didn’t have a reservation through some mix-up that was my fault, not theirs. They were completely hospitable and offered to help us with another property under the same ownership. My disappointment led to thoughts that the other place would not be as nice. I saw only one picture of the living area with a very modern appearance, not the cozy cottage atmosphere that I desired. Quickly, I did a kick-in-the-seat to my downward spiraling attitude, telling myself that it was only two nights and to get over it!

Outside, with Jim trailing along to the car, I heard the “Hee-Haw” of the donkeys again. “Oh, shut up! You don’t know anything about making reservations on the internet, or what it’s like to have jet lag!” Jim caught up with me and asked, “What did you say?” Mumbling in reply, I minced no words explaining, “I wasn’t talking to you. I was telling the donkeys a thing or two.” Jim, very wisely, decided to leave that one alone.

We drove through road work with delays in two areas with dust and aggravation. It seemed that the donkeys were riding in the backseat of our rental car, still laughing as we waited in a line of traffic. Finally, we reached (click please) Domaine Des Peyre and my worries evaporated in a cloud of thankfulness for the kindness of these lovely people at both properties who helped us after hours of anticipation.IMG_9519“Domaine Des Peyre is located between Gordes and L’Isle sur la Sorgue in the heart of the Luberon. The 32-hectate (79 acre)-estate’s vines are planted in terraces among oak, olive, almond, cherry trees and garrigue which cover 22 hectares (54 acres). After a long period of inactivity, the estate was taken over by hotelier Georges Antoun (Newhotel Group) and Patricia Alexandre (former director of Gault Millau), who began restoring it two years ago. After a complete reorganization of the vineyard, the estate today is going through a revival.”

All of this impressive information had to stay on hold since I was more interested in the beautiful stairway with a huge chandelier that led to our own large second floor terrace. Inside, I found high-class facilities including a fully-fitted kitchen with dishwasher, oven, LCD screen TV, free wi-fi and everything of my heart’s desire, especially the large, comfortable bedroom next to a bathroom with double sinks and a power shower! IMG_8872IMG_8920The decoration was Provencal with a few antiques mixed with industrial furniture and modern art. I was feeling chic and with-it, or whatever the current expression is. Oh, and before I forget to mention it, there’s an infinity pool set among the vines, lavender and almond trees. We were wearing jackets and sweaters. The cool pool was not an option for us this time, but it must feel like an oasis during the heat of summer!IMG_8869

“The new owners wished to restore the wine estate to its full splendor. They have realized this by undertaking the complete restoration of one of the last remaining fortified farms in the region, taking care to respect the architectural features of the site while at the same time investing in, and carrying out, a major reorganization of the vineyard.”

HISTORY
Recent archaeological excavations have uncovered numerous remains of Roman houses. The farmhouse itself, dating from the 18th century, is thought to have been built on the foundations of a Gallo-Roman villa.

CONTEMPORARY ART
“For Richard Nicolet, (Click for Galerie Nicolet) in view of the quality of the project, opening his contemporary art gallery at the heart of the wine estate was an easy decision to make. Amongst the ancient architectural beams and stone walls, visitors can appreciate the contemporary works of sculptors, photographers and painters. In the boutique’s warm, informal yet chic ambiance, the Domain Des Peyre wine bottles flaunt their unique identity, each in their own contemporary design label.”IMG_8897

IMG_8898HIGH-TECH FACILITY
“A new air-conditioned, 400 square meters (4,305 square feet) wine-making cellar was constructed in time for the 2014 harvest. Built by DVTech, it features 18 stainless steel tanks and 8 concrete vats, a sorting table for removing any residual plant matter, a hydraulic press and highly efficient wine-making equipment. A visit to the cellar allows wine aficionados to gain an insight into the wine-making process.”

JIM’S STORY – WINE AFICIONADO
Special thanks to Guillaume de Roany, Sommelier, for taking Jim on a private wine tasting. Jim has been to many wine caves in the Loire, Burgundy, Dordogne and Bordeaux, but this was a unique visit. He was like an excited young kid going on his first camping trip. On second thought, perhaps Jim was anxiously stepping into the mature world of becoming a true wine aficionado. I was still recovering from my headache so I decided to spend my time on the sofa while he went off to explore the wine cellar. I heard about his adventure in bits and pieces when he returned and for days after, but I needed the full story. Today, he started before breakfast with his written version on ruled notebook paper, almost four pages. Please pardon us if there are errors in our understanding of this complex winery. We hope you enjoy the little tour. The following is Jim’s story:
“At 4:30 p.m. with everything closed, Guillaume met me and I had the privilege of tasting the blanc, rosé and rouge wines.”
LE SCOOP, White Luberon. Having a lovely pale yellow color, this opulent wine has notes of honeysuckle, hawthorn and ripe pear.
L’EQUIPE, Rosé Luberon. With its lovely pale pink color and fruity notes of melon, strawberry and grapefruit, this fresh wine is elegant on the palate and a perfect wine for summer.
LA GAZETTE, Red Ventoux. This wine opens with a peppery nose, evolves in the mouth with notes of red fruits.

“Guillaume’s father is a wine maker, so he has been involved all of his life. He smelled the wine as a boy to identify the various aromas. He trained his nose in the markets and said, “You can’t smell blueberry in the wine if you do not know how blueberries smell.” We moved on to the Oaking Cave with about a dozen new oak barrels. After this vintage the oak barrels will not be one-year-old, but one-vintage-old. They can be used for many vintages, and they are very expensive to buy new. The barrels lose value faster than a new car, from 600 euros to 10 euros in one vintage. The old barrels are sold to distilleries for whiskey, rum or brandy.”

“Next, we moved to the Vat Room. I’m not sure that is the correct name, but that is what I’m calling it. A large machine separated seeds and skin for the blanc wines. Rosé is made from juice from grapes that are crushed by the weight of the grapes. Grapes are then pressed to extract juice for the rouge wines. Juice, seeds and skins go into the vats and fermentation begins.”

“It was time for more tasting, but this time I tasted from the vats! Each vat marked the varietal of grape, the date and other information for the Chef of the Cave, a young lady with an impressive background. This was my impression from the tasting, bearing in mind that I do not have a trained nose, or exceptional taste buds.”
Blanc: Very young “green” a bit of pucker
Rosé: light, slightly fruity, dry, not sweet
Rouge: almost wine, almost 10% alcohol
“When the wine is ready, the vat is chilled by pumping cold liquid through an internal system of cooling tubes and fins to stop the fermentation. The final product will be a blend of more than one varietal. At Domaine Des Peyres it is not simply a recipe, but the wine is determined by sight, smell and taste. The sommelier has a say, but the Chef of the Cave has the final say. It sounded like the way my mother cooked in her kitchen with a dash of this, and a pinch of that, with her personal taste buds that had the final say.”

“Then we went up to the top of the vats. The blanc and rosé juices need only sit and ferment while the rouge is labor intensive. The juice must stay in contact with the seeds and skins to get the color, flavor and aroma, but the seeds and skin float on top. The lid on the vat is removed and they use a long stainless steel “T” handle as a plunger to push the seeds and skin down through the juice. This is done about 50 times per vat – every day! The easy method used in some other wineries is to pump the juice from the bottom up to the top. Then, it was time to go for a glass of wine!”

“Lastly, I must mention that before we went into the Vat Room Guillaume tested for SO₂ (Sulfur Dioxide) a natural by-product of fermentation. Thus, the wine contains sulfites. The test is a cigarette lighter flame. Everything is o.k. if the flame does not go out, but otherwise it can be as deadly as CO₂.”

“I lived through it safely, thanks to Guillaume and his expertise! It was the most fun that I’ve had in a long time, and I hope this year’s wines are a great success!  Thanks very much to Guillaume for an experience I will remember and share for a long time.”IMG_8878FIRST GOLD MEDAL
Domaine des Peyre was presented with their first gold medal for rosé wine, AOP Ventous, cuvée Paparazzi 2014. With 6,019 wines tasted during the competition, only 525 gold medals were attributed. We expect to see more awards and great success in their future.IMG_8900Our stay here was more rewarding than expected, a very pleasant surprise. We went to nearby Coustellet for our baguette and pastries each morning and explored nearby hill towns, with stories on those to come in the following weeks and months.IMG_8963 We had a leisurely, romantic dinner at Gustave Restaurant and returned to the domaine late in the night to see strings of lights and a gurgling fountain like something in a movie, except we were the characters. I would say stars in a movie, but we all know that Jim and I fit the part of “characters” much better.IMG_8922

As for the donkeys, I took time from my valuable sightseeing to run around to their residence on the hillside for a photography shoot. They wouldn’t show their faces, but the “Hee-Haws” were vibrating through the trees and vines. No doubt, they didn’t want me to tell them that I had the last laugh since I had a perfectly grand time!
I believe you will feel the same if you stay or visit at either of these two beautiful domaines: Domaine Faverot or Domaine Des Peyre.IMG_8905Note: All quotations above, except from Jim’s Story, are from Le Petit Journal du Domaine des Peyre Numero 001, May 2014.

Thank you for coming around to travel with Jim and me! We will have more beautiful villages to share in the coming weeks. If you have not entered your e-mail address to subscribe, perhaps this would be a good time. Just look to the top of the page to enter for free notification when the next story pops up.

I enjoy reading your comments. Just click below and let us hear from you. Thank you kindly!

“La Maison d’Artistes” – by Debbie Ambrous

IMG_9501-1The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” – Mark Twain
The weather forecast of 100% rain for today prompted me to follow Mr. Twain’s sage advice to get started with writing my first post for Provence. My maiden voyage to France was in the year 1990 which doesn’t appear on any historic plaques, or Wikipedia, but it was a momentous occasion for me. Yet, why has it taken me so long to see Provence considering all of the praise and prose from wise writers and painters? Surely they must know what they are talking about!

Farms with stone houses and chickens, cows, sheep in the pastures set in rolling hills with surrounding forests filled my eyes and heart with satisfaction. Markets with fresh vegetables, antiques, colorful trinkets and friendly faces caused me to part first with francs and then with euros to fill my basket, again and again. Chateaus hidden in deep woods and dominating hills were exciting discoveries along with tiny villages where every home had flowers in window boxes and roses trailing on fences. I was happy to continue this pace in the regions of Burgundy, Normandy, Dordogne, Lot, the Loire valley and other areas since they had all of the above in abundance. I had everything I wanted, and I did not want to spoil it with a trip to a place with less than my high expectations and desires.

Now, speaking in my whining and ignorant voice, I will say that the Provence seemed to be dry, rocky and without the lush vegetation compared to my favorites. Please don’t throw rotten melons at me! I have thoroughly enjoyed Peter Mayle’s books, and many more books on Provence; and who wouldn’t love the movie “A Good Year” with Russel Crowe? I did my homework, and I had a bit of knowledge packed away in my French files. Now that I have finally joined the masses in the land of wine and lavender, I will say in simple terms after only a few days of inspection: “It is beautiful! I love it, love it! Get over here if you can!”

Where are we exactly? Find a map of France and locate Roussillon. Then, follow a narrow road down the hill about 4 kilometers and turn right to follow an even narrower road uphill to our rental house. You will find us secreted away like movie stars behind the iron gate, almost hidden by the cascades of orange trumpet vine. The door creaks open to a courtyard with a small pool to splash in the sunshine and a tree with flaming red leaves forming a canopy better than any umbrella. Tall green cedar trees point upward to the blue sky, proudly proclaiming another beautiful day. You may find Jim leaning back and snoozing in one of the wooden Adirondack chairs, or would you call them Provence chairs in France? Or, you may be just in time for the lunch Chef Jim prepares for us to enjoy at the blue table and chairs just outside the large, French kitchen.IMG_8966-1

IMG_9540IMG_9927I will stop here and say that the lovely Maison d’Artistes is probably not for you if you are looking for a sleek modern house with all of the newest electronic gadgets, or the minimalistic new décor. No, just turn around and head elsewhere.

Yes, a ROMANTIC roof terrace!

Yes, a ROMANTIC roof terrace!

IMG_9554However, if you want a two-bedroom house with art, antiques, books, fireplaces, wooden beams and nice touches that thrill the eye wherever you look then this house will delight you. Stop here and stay for an enjoyable visit in Provence in an ordinary French village.IMG_9931IMG_9937 No tourists are likely to be at your front door. An artisan’s shop is across our quiet street where beautiful women’s handbags are created! How is that for a setting, my ladies?!

I hope you click over to see the professional pictures of Maison d’Artistes  since I don’t have the professional lighting for my photography, not enough to do it justice.  You will also find the list of amenities for the house with wi-fi and other modern features included.

Since I’m anxious to enjoy lunch by the warm fireplace at the wooden farmhouse table in the kitchen, I will say au revoir! Ya’ll come again! Bon journee!

“Almost Forgotten” – by Debbie Ambrous

IMG_8401I can see the days on the calendar marked for our departure just a few weeks away. I feel a shiver of excitement with the prospect of seeing France again in a new area for us to explore, since during other visits we never stepped foot in the idyllic Provence. I’ve read the guidebooks, and the words have built expectations as high as the hilltop villages in the Vaucluse, edged in vineyards reaching far into the distance. The lavender will be gone from the fields with the summer harvest to scent soaps, lotions and perfumes, but other fragrances will beckon to tantalize and linger as memories of a special time for Jim and me in our version of Provence. I hope for a safe experience, meeting new people, savoring new flavors, seeing colorful towns and feeling France in my bones again.  (The books shown in the first picture can be purchased on the French Market page – just CLICK on over and explore.)

But while all of this is brewing I realize that I have never shared many of the stories, pictures and places from my last trip to France! I skipped and bypassed endearing and beautiful times. These forgotten moments in France are like the times I spend chatting with my girlfriends when we enthusiastically catch up on our news, often talking over each other at the same time. Yet, when I am home I remember that I didn’t tell my friends how cute grandson Daniel plays with his new white dog named London, or mention a new scrumptious recipe. With that type of venue in mind, I thought I would show a few of these lost and suddenly remembered souvenirs of last year’s spring in France.IMG_1287Azay-le-Rideau was described by the novelist Balzac as “a many-faceted diamond, set in the Indre.” The chateau is hidden away in the trees, not towering over the village. One of the special features of the chateau is the great staircase crowned with large sculptures. Inside, two pretty young girls danced on the wooden floors of the massive rooms, and we applauded their impromptu performance.  CLICK any of the photos below for larger image.

I hope you visit and see for yourself, fill your eyes and heart with the beauty.  Read the fascinating history.  The chateau is undergoing renovation presently, so check before you go.

Then, a postman making his rounds in a small village noticed that I had snapped his photo. Instead of being upset, he turned around and returned as a good-will-ambassador of tourism.

He posed proud as the Mayor of the village and then went on his way to deliver bills, postcards and packages like it was his pleasure to entertain a couple from Alabama.  Are you willing to stop what you are doing and be patient to help a tourist?  Remember what it is like to be in a strange place and extend a helping hand.

In the small village of Villaines-les-Rochers that features woven baskets as their main item of trade, an unfriendly dog made it clear to the whole neighborhood that I was not welcome.

He barked in his canine language, marking his territory and daring me to cross the line.  I only wanted to see the pretty tree with the unusual trim-job and take a look at the bright blue accessorized yard and house.  I am not that bold with color splashes in my yard unless you count the lavender door, but the cottage with the rock backdrop was beautiful.  Apparently, barks-a-lot the dog had sniffed me out and alarmed the vicinity that a basket-case was loose in the neighborhood.  Durable, finely crafted baskets are for sale in the village. I purchased a pretty bracelet there more than ten years ago which I still wear despite the dog’s “get out of town” attitude.

I filled my camera with pictures of old signs painted on buildings and weather vanes.

At a rather busy intersection, Jim had parked by the road while I ran to the other side to snap a few pictures of an old “Dubonnet” sign when an antique car rolled to a stop just in time. The gentleman smiled and waved at me, another friendly welcome! We followed in his dust for awhile by fields and through tiny villages until he turned on a side road, tooting his horn and waving Au Revoir!

A few miles from the village with woven baskets and the feisty dog, we found an old mill, a perfect place for a picnic at Pont de Ruan.IMG_3401 After a peaceful, lazy mid-day break by the flowing waters, we drove along the narrow road lined with tall trees to another village where an elderly gentleman welcomed me through the white picket garden gate into his beautiful jardin.  Everything was perfectly cultivated, not a weed in sight.  I identified the plants and remembered some of the French names of vegetables.  Pointing to rows of tiny seedlings, he told me what would soon grow and produce delicious vegetables for his kitchen.  I hope he had abundant crops this year and even more, I hope he has many years of happy gardening.  I’m sure he will never know what a precious memory he made for me.

Oh, yes, I just remembered.  I forgot to tell you about the village we found when Jim  wanted to wander around without the map.  It was raining, and he thought I would fall off a cliff.  Oh, and I remember another town with a school situated high on a hill where the children were playing with replicas of ancient toys.  There was lavender in the school yard … I almost forgot!

I’m reading a wonderful book titled 100 Places in France Every Woman Should Go” by Marcia DeSanctis.  It’s filled with delicious descriptions of places to go with insider info on everything from French lingerie to perfume.  You will feel like you’ve been there with the author without the bill on your credit card, or the extra pounds from the chocolate croissants.

Come back to see us.  Next landing could be Provence!  I love to hear from you.  Leave a message below and tell us what you almost forgot.  Thank you kindly!

 

 

“Chinaberry Tree” – by Debbie Ambrous

"Honey, I couldn't find a flowerpot.  Will this work?"

“Honey, I couldn’t find a flowerpot. Will this work?”

Do you want me to plant a tree in my old Acura since it’s all banged up from the hurricane when that huge tropical tree fell on it in Coconut Grove? I could drive the car around the yard and instantly have a shady spot for my barbecue parties!

I replied to Jim’s brilliant idea: “No, I don’t want any mobile landscaping. Thank you very much, indeed!

IMG_8222Why weren’t you laughing at this crazy picture that you took of the old, blue pickup with the popup forest instead of a hood? I think it’s hilarious. You were eyeing the picture on the computer with the same faraway look you have when you gaze at that old picture of me on the wall above your desk.”

I agreed to tell Jim my thoughts if he promised not to laugh, knowing that he wasn’t likely to keep his promise.

It all started like this in the hot afternoon sun in the center of the large yard by a double-wide mobile home outside of town. An old, blue pickup which will never haul any bird dogs off to hunt, or carry a load of groceries home from Publix again was going nowhere. IMG_8109 No, the days of glory on the country roads ended right there in plain daylight for everyone to see its ignominious ending. Now with the final days of rust and rot upon the declining blue pickup, it sadly slept in the sun a short distance from the highway of shiny pickups and flashy cars. That is, until I called our red Jeep to a halt and slung my camera bag over my shoulder, the old blue pickup rusted and rested in peace.

The tree growing from the engine area of the old pickup wasn’t just any old tree. I recognized the feathery green branches immediately and knew it was a chinaberry tree. IMG_8193These fast-growing trees are found at old home places and in fence rows, but they are not planted as landscaping at newer homes. Something about the new tree growing in that old engine spoke to me

Jim couldn’t keep his silence at that last statement. He blurted out, “And, what did the tree tell you? Take my picture from this angle. My left side is best! Ha.. ha … ha!!

I reminded him: “You promised not to laugh. Tell me. What do you know about chinaberry trees?

Jim shared his knowledge: “Those hard, green berries were good to use in home-made popguns when I was little.

I asked the popgun expert: “What did you shoot at?”

Offering info before I read his Miranda rights, Jim bragged: “Trees, bottles, tin cans and my sister!

Not impressed, I replied: “Glad I didn’t know you then. You probably would have shot at me, also.”

Quick to get out of a spot like usual, he gave me a sidewise grin and said: “Nah, you would have been too cute.”IMG_8221

Going on from the interruption, I told Jim that around the same time that he was trying to shoot his sister with a popgun I was climbing a chinaberry tree to escape my brother Tim, his annoying friends and dish washing chores. The chinaberry tree grew in my backyard near the kitchen window where Mama kept an eye on me. A few short planks were nailed to the tree so I could climb quickly to my leafy hideaway, not very high from the ground, but far enough for an escape. Like an up-stretched hand, the tree limbs grew to each side with an open center where I would play and dream by myself.

I could see a chicken pen far to the edge of the yard where white chickens were pecking around for worms and the scraps that I threw on them. Yes, you read that right. I think I threw more food scraps on the hens than on the ground. I’ve admitted to a mean streak now, or at least mischievous. Why didn’t those fussy hens line up along the fence and wait for their lunch instead of rushing like a line-backer to the exact spot where I tossed their lunch? Then, they wouldn’t have worn shriveled English peas and dried-out biscuits to strut around in the afternoon sun. Oh, maybe Jim should have shot me with his popgun!

IMG_8265

 

My sweet, young sister Rachel had a pet chicken among the brood. Only one of the chickens would allow her to pet and cuddle which caused her to meet some angry hens with flying feathers when she chose the wrong white chicken.

I wonder what these French chickens would have socialized in our Alabama chicken pen.

I wonder if these French chickens would have socialized in our Alabama chicken pen.

French hens and a rooster leading them on ..

French hens and a rooster leading the way

Rachel solved that problem by opening a can of black paint in Daddy’s shop and painting one of her pet chicken’s wings! Blackie stood out in the pen, a newly-detailed chicken for my cute little sister who outsmarted the bird-brained critters.

A larger and taller tree was in my future, the sweet gum tree which was growing and stretching its limbs into the sky waiting for me to do the same. I still cannot smell sweet gum leaves without memories of climbing so high I could almost see downtown. Next to the sweet gum tree we had a giraffe slide. I saw Jim’s eyes widen, and I assured him that I did have a giraffe slide, not imaginary at all. Daddy could make almost anything in his shop. The kindergarten teacher, Mrs. McGill, brought some plans to him and asked him to build a giraffe slide for her class. (CLICK here if you would like to see giraffe slide pictures.) Daddy did better than that. He built two! The kindergarteners had their slide, and we had our own slide with fewer kids to share the fun.

Mama planted pretty purple coleus under the shady branches of the tree on one side. I liked the bed of bright purple leaves. Somewhere deep inside the little tree climber’s mind, the colorful mix of coleus and the lavender blooms on the chinaberry tree planted a first love of flowers.IMG_8140The comforting center of my chinaberry tree was a good place to hide when I felt sad. I remember rushing there after school to forget the paint box incident. My elementary school  teacher kept all of the bottles of paint for artwork in a wooden box. One day she had the box on the floor near the sink at the back of the classroom, and I accidentally stepped into it. I was so embarrassed, absolutely horrified! I stood there in class with paint splashed on my legs and the skirt of my pretty dress, hoping no one would notice my tears. It never crossed my mind, not even until now, that the box was an accident just waiting to happen and not my fault at all. Sitting in my tree with the breezes blowing through and the chickens clucking below, I felt secure.

I told Jim that I remembered all of this when I discovered the chinaberry tree growing in the old, blue pickup. I learned something new about the old tree. The chinaberry was introduced to the United States by a French botanist! Yes, that’s right. There I was in my childhood playing away in a tree brought to America by a French botanist.

Jim had held his tongue as long as he could. Then he said, “When that chinaberry tree spoke to you, did it speak in French?

IMG_8196Information on the tree from University of Florida: “A native of Asia, chinaberry and was brought to the U.S. in the late 1700’s by a French botanist. chinaberry has been used over the years as an ornamental plant, shade tree, and fuel wood. There are also some medicinal applications for chinaberry including a peptide isolated from leaf tissue that is effective against the herpes simplex virus. Unfortunately, chinaberry has all the qualities of a successful weed. This plant is adaptable to many environmental conditions, is virtually disease and insect free, and thrives in disturbed or open areas.”

July 18th was an anniversary for my blog which began on that date in 2012. July 22nd was the 48th anniversary for Jim and me. We posted this cow and the silly quote on Facebook and I couldn’t resist doing it again.

"Something in the way she MOOS attracts me like no UDDER lover!

“Something in the way she MOOS attracts me like no UDDER lover!

No animals, or husbands, were harmed in this episode.

Thank you for joining us again! Take care and ya’ll come back!

CLICK HERE for your copy of "A French Opportunity" Thank you!

CLICK HERE for your copy of “A French Opportunity” Thank you!

“Micanopy” – by Debbie Ambrous

IMG_7651Jim and I were traveling an endless, boring highway for hours with the hot sun chasing us out of Florida. Disney World with the children and grandchildren had been fun, especially with the lunch in France at Epcot. The sadness of leaving the sweet faces of our family kept us in a quiet mood while the billboards of houses for sale flew past our Jeep like commercials during a mediocre television series. Lunchtime rolled around, and exits for McDonalds, Subway and Arby’s were there for the taking of calories and a quick fill-up. Bags of Nutter Butter cookies and Lays wide-ridge potato chips were within easy-reaching distance on the back seat, I’m ashamed to say.

I had a different option in mind with perfect timing for a quick escape to Micanopy, just two or three miles off the endless highway to a small community with quiet, narrow lanes. Jim agreed to my idea, although he would have preferred to keep his foot firmly applied to the accelerator with the Jeep headed to Alabama while wolfing down a burger and fries.IMG_7635

Gradually, he accepted the idea when the calm, serene and shady lanes worked the kinks out of his tired shoulder muscles. A restaurant under the ancient oaks, draped with Spanish moss had a menu of good food with ambiance worth the stop. I had my eye on an after-lunch foray into the old buildings along the main street for antiques and “just looking” for fun. Jim kept reminding me that we couldn’t linger around too long.

Maybe next time we could stay in the Herlong Mansion Historic Inn (1845) for our wedding anniversary or a short trip in the fall, or spring. IMG_7637IMG_7643Micanopy is between Gainesville, Florida, home of the University of Florida and Ocala, Florida with its world-class horses and Silver Springs State Park. Micanopy (Pronounced as Mick-ah-No-pee) was named for the Seminole Chief Micanopy (ca. 1780-1849), and it was founded after Spain relinquished Florida to the United States in 1821. CLICK here for the amazing history of the old town that was originally an Indian trading post and a community that has kept historic homes and old cracker houses in a romantic setting. IMG_7622

Our short visit to Micanopy to slowly wander the streets in a dreamy state of mind refreshed our spirits so we could face the road home again with plans for the future. Perhaps the photos and this short hint of a special place off the main road will inspire you to take an exit to explore a special place of interest.IMG_7632

 

 

I have left the history for you to explore by clicking the links. I’m not doing all of the work for you. After all, summer is here! Juicy ripe watermelons must be eaten and lounging by the pool with a tall cool drink is necessary. Typing at the keyboard is allowed for only so long, and then shut-down happens before you can say: “That hammock has my name on it!” Stay cool. Enjoy your summer. See you next time.

I love hearing from you. Have you been to Micanopy, or another memorable place just off the beaten path?

 

Thanks for your kindness and support!

Just a hint of what you could be reading this summer …

 

 

 

 

 

As a final note I would like to say thank you from the bottom of my heart to all of those who sent messages of kindness after my brother’s tragic loss of his business in a destructive fire. It is reassuring to know that we have family and friends who genuinely care.

“A Fire in our Family” – by Debbie Ambrous

IMG_7812-1Our neighbor rushed to our front door. I could see the expression on Jim’s face and knew it was not good news, or another sack of squash from our friend’s garden. My brother’s business was on fire! Jim and I rushed to our Jeep, leaving on the dinner table: baked potatoes, fresh green beans, tomatoes, squash and baked chicken. A hot blackberry cobbler was waiting on the range to be served with vanilla ice cream. Why do we always remember where we were and what we were doing when tragedy strikes? From Elvis’ death to our own personal blows in life, we remember and relate the events to anyone who will listen. It’s true.

Why am I writing this story on A French Opportunity, basically a travel site? If you can bear with me just a little while, I will try to explain.

When Jim turned on to the highway still several blocks from the fire, I saw smoke pouring into the sky. The fire wasn’t real until then. All of my emotions that were held in check surfaced without control. Jim tried to comfort me and still drive carefully since the road was blocked by emergency vehicles. He went on through explaining that the red-faced, crumpled person in the front by him was the sister of the business owner. Sisters have rights!IMG_7769IMG_7779We walked downhill through the neighbors, friends and relatives who had gathered at the property. My eyes took all of this in, but I was searching for my brother Tim. I knew he was not harmed because he was not there when the fire started, but I wanted to see for myself and tell him how much it hurt with my eyes, my heart and a hug.  I found Tim in the front yard of his house, our family home where I grew up with him and our sister Rachel. Tim was facing the burning wood works building just a short distance away, with the structure near complete collapse as numerous firemen on the ground, and in buckets in the sky, wielded powerful water hoses.IMG_7805 My brother’s green shirt was soaked through from the heat and exertion. I hugged him with a lifetime of memories in our embrace. He was holding up fine, all things considered. I should have been the one to comfort him, but he is my tall brother, so he had the soothing words and sounds as I cried on my big, baby brother’s shoulder.

My daughter Jessica said it best: “This business is part of my family’s legacy. It’s not just a building, but many generations of memories and hard work.” If you are part of a family business, you will understand those feelings. I spent my childhood playing in and around the wood works shop. Daddy had lumber stacked in compartments in two or three levels to the rear of the shop. I would sneak back there and build playhouses on the clean lumber, pretending I lived there with my dolls in my own little frame house. It was great fun until he caught me and shooed me to the real house next door. I ran around barefoot anywhere in the shop, but when friends came to visit the mothers drilled it into their heads that they could not step one foot into the shop. I thought they were too picky. What did they expect us to do, send them home without legs and arms hacked off by the big band-saw? I thought this with a chuckle while I innocently played paper dolls with the less-brave friends.

Then, there was the time that I played Indian behind the shop in the big, open field covered in dry broom sage. I built my teepee with branches and Mama’s tablecloth. Then, I built my campfire! It got out of control, very fast. Thankfully, Royce Spivey, a carpenter in the shop, hurriedly put out the fire while I stood crying and scared of what would happen next. He must not have told Daddy because I went without punishment, or maybe they thought I had my punishment already from the fright of it.IMG_7792

IMG_7803IMG_7800Through the years, we have always been very conscious of the danger of fire. My brother does not smoke, and he stresses this danger along with many other measures for safety. We have always known that if a fire happened, the shop would likely be destroyed.IMG_7772

When we rushed over to the shop after hearing the news, I didn’t take anything with me, not a purse or phone, and certainly not my camera. I noticed many others were snapping pictures around me and decided I wanted my own photos to record the sad moment. Jim went to our house to retrieve my camera. With camera in hand, I was re-energized. However, the smoke and burning chemicals were hurting my eyes. I found my brother sitting on the front porch, the same porch where Jim and I spent many hours before we were married holding hands, and kissing – when Daddy wasn’t looking.

Tim was reliving the days he spent enlarging the shop (7200 sq.ft.), since he doubled or tripled the size from the original, adding many pieces of expensive equipment. Yet, he said some of the equipment that was created by Daddy was better than the new stuff. Tim was telling the group about a day when he had worked on the addition to the shop until he felt he would fall on his face from tiredness. Daddy’s failing health and years left him on the sideline, but he was watching from his favorite chair. Daddy saw Tim’s condition and called a friend to come and help, offering to pay him for his work. Suddenly, Tim was puzzled when he had a worker at his side to help with the addition to his building.  I’m thankful that my brother and my daddy have the reputation of producing fine quality work and being honest businessmen.  Tim has two lovely daughters, Berkley and Shannon, who are a great support to him.

I said my good-byes, telling Tim to call me for anything, anything at all. Then, I was home and looking at the picture of Daddy and Mama on the shelf with the bouquet of daisies. Oh, my, I am so glad that they never saw this tragedy. IMG_7825-1The dinner we left behind was waiting, but my appetite was gone. A slice of blackberry cobbler seemed just right, though. I had cooked it earlier in the afternoon, like Mama did when I was little. I put the blackberries and a cup of sugar in a pan and slowly brought them to a boil. I had gradually added strips of pastry, cooking on low heat. Then I put the mixture in a deep dish pan, layered pastry on top and popped it into the oven for about 20 or 25 minutes.

The blackberry cobbler was comfort food, remembering that I always picked the blackberries for Mama’s pies behind the shop. I wonder if the blackberry vines survived the fire. Large fig trees loaded with figs were singed from the heat, but the honeysuckle was blooming like nothing had happened at all. Take a lesson from the honeysuckle and ramble on.

Why did I write this type of story on a page devoted to France and travel? This sad event in my life, here in Opp, Alabama will affect me in my outlook on others as I travel. In France, and all other places Jim and I have been, we have shared Opp and our background with new friends. Telling the story has been a release of my feelings and I hope an insight to the person who loves France and Opp, and sees both as opportunities.

Special thanks to Opp Fire Department, Opp Police Department, Opp Emergency Teams, Onycha Fire Dept., Babbie Fire Dept., Rose Hill Fire Dept., Union Hill Fire Dept. and the many friends, neighbors and family.  A double-thanks to Skip, neighbor and friend, who kept a water hose on the house preventing a fire until the fire department had it under control!  A news article about the fire is shown if you CLICK here.