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A French-Inspired Garden and Home by Judith Stringham

Château de Chenonceau - 500 Years

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Château de Chenonceau
my favorite château (castle) in France...
is celebrating its 500th anniversary this year...

1513 - 2013

Love at first sight!

On my first visit in the 1980s, our tour guide regaled us with
stories of lavish, sensual royal parties
 complete with servant girls dressed as mermaids
frolicking in the shallow water ditches on both sides
of the broad graveled drive leading to the château.

Breathtakingly beautiful flower gardens,
a free-standing conical tower guarding the moat and castle,
and the ballroom wing spanning the River Cher
all reflect the influence of the women responsible
for building, adding onto, living in, and protecting Chenonceau.

Known as the Château des Dames,
its history is replete with
betrayal (burned as punishment
for sedition on the part of its first owner),
 romance (a gift to the king's mistress),
revenge (seized by the king's widow from the mistress),
intrigue (saved from destruction at the hands of
French Revolutionists),
altruism (used as a hospital in WWI), and
heroism (way of escape from Nazi France
across the gallery bridge to free France on the
opposite shore of the river.)

I will always remember seeing the grand floral
arrangements in the rooms for the first time.  The entry hall had
mounds of beautiful blue hydrangeas in a
stunning container.  While the other tour members were
gazing at the magnificent artwork, I was captivated with the
magnificence of the hydrangeas.
Such abundance, such grandeur, such perfection...
Oh, to be royal!


With its history and beauty,
 Château de Chenonceau embodies the
allure and romance of France.
How can one not love Chenonceau!

A few visits later, I bought a print of Chenonceau
from the gift shop housed in the guard tower.
It reminds me of the lovely days I've spent in France and
of the lives of the many influential French women over the centuries.
My life will never have the impact of those French women,
but I am encouraged to live a life that makes a
difference.  And living a life that makes a difference
can include beauty...


Whenever I end my visit to the castle,
I like to walk along a path in the woods that parallels
the main entry road filled with visitors.
Just a few feet away from other excited travelers,
but in my own private wooded sanctuary filled with
sounds of birds instead of conversations,
I enjoy yet more of Chenonceau.
One can travel within sight of the crowd,
but not be so overcome by the crowd as to
miss the meaning of the journey.

The official Château de Chenonceau website
http://www.chenonceau.com/en

Printemps in Alabama

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Printemps
(Spring)

in Alabama arrives while the air is
chilled and still damp with rain.

An old homestead near my mother's house
is one of the first sites to which
 signs of Spring arrive.


The old house was torn down more 
than twenty years ago, but the
trees and flowers continue to bloom.


Daffodils and hyacinths bloom year after year
at the base of an old pecan tree.


The family that lived in the torn-down house had
two daughters and a son.  One of the daughters died a 
few years back.  The other daughter, in her 70s, lives
in North Carolina near her son.  
The son of the original family, also in his 70s, lives in a 
newer 1950s ranch-style house and is the
caretaker of the adjacent old homesite.


Several people have tried to buy the vacant lot,
but it is not for sale.


Each winter the daughter who lives in
North Carolina spends November - February
with her brother.
The old pecan trees bear bushels of pecans
and the daughter can be seen walking
through the lot picking up pecans.


One of the biggest Saucer Magnolia trees I've ever seen
grows on the homesite.
Here it is on February 14, 2013, 
ready to burst into bloom.


Within a week, the tree will be in glorious full bloom ...
about a week earlier than these views taken
February 28, 2011....


Don't you wonder when the family planted
this tree and flowers?
What made them choose a Saucer Magnolia?
Had they seen one as beautiful as theirs was in 2011?

Spring in this small Alabama town is 
truly beautiful.