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A French-Inspired Garden and Home by Judith Stringham

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Amour de porte française

Europe: Simply Irresistible,  
. . . . . . . .
A collection of dream voyages 
posted by world travelers 
about destinations that call to them. 

Where, you ask, calls to me? 

Off we go to my dream destination. 
Beynac Château inside the walls 

. . . as part of Anita's 

Castles Crowns and Cottages

Pack a bag, 
just a lightweight carry-on, 
and come along for the journey 
to irresistible places 
across France. 

Then visit the simply irresistible destinations 
of the other 54 bloggers. 
It's bound to be a 
Grand European Tour. 

What is irresistible about France? 
There are . . .  
the food, the gardens, the shopping, 
the history, and the architecture. 

All are reasons to return over and over again 
to France, but our journey today is about  

Amour de porte française
(French door love) 

The doors, oh the doors... 
From massive carved wooden doors in Paris 

. . . to carved stone statues surrounding a door also in Paris. 

Wandering the streets of Paris 
for usual tourist activities is always interrupted 
just to gaze at the beautiful doors. 
Repeatedly, I catch myself straining my neck, 
slowing my pace, and exclaiming, 
"Look at that one," 
to my traveling companions. 
Inevitably, we stop to take in all the details. 

Beyond Paris, there are more doors to love. 
The Dordogne area is filled with 
castles, ancient cities, cave drawings, and 
lush countryside. 

Massive defensive walls 
surround the 13th century town of Beynac, 
and visitors enter through an old city doorway  
to make their way to the Château de Beynac. 

Along the narrow cobblestone street 
is this door just inside the old city walls.  

The massive wooden doors built in the 
creamy colored stones has an iron gate 
that can be dropped in front of the 
main Château de Beynac entrance. 

The iron studs in the doors and 
the arched shape of the doors 
are hallmarks of medieval doors. 

Inside the Château walls rising far above the Dordogne River 
are many more buildings other than the main castle.  

We have to get closer to the small 
addition on the right side of the above building to take in all its beauty.  

Two doors to study and to love. 
Could there once have been a balcony that 
the roof door opened onto? 

How long did it take for the 
stone mason to carve the intricate stones? 

Is this not the quintessential French architectural style? 
Cream-colored stones, red tile roof, carved arched wooden doors, 
and stone carvings around the roof door. . . 
Oh, be still my heart! 
To see this structure, 
to touch the stones and the wood, 
and to feel the air on the terrace 
is to experience France. 
Simply irresistible. 

The city gate has two distinctive towers 
surrounding the gate that leads into Domme. 
Any French person can identify the old city from this view 
of the well-known doorway that is on our list of 
doors to love.  

Château Montford was razed and rebuilt multiple times since 
the Middle Ages, and is not open to the public. 

Built close to a public highway 
and on the Dordogne River, 
it can be admired from outside its ramparts. 

Does this entrance not look like a 
Hollywood set? 
Yet, it is the real thing. 
See the stone crest at the top? 

The wisteria-covered courtyard 
behind the wrought-iron gate 
is one of my favorite entrances in France. 
What a glorious sight the courtyard must be 
when the wisteria is in full bloom. 
Perhaps one day I will be in Sarlat 
when wisteria is in bloom. 

Located in the walled city of Sarlat, 
the little courtyard has a door to love. 
The graduated carved stone surround 
is elegant in its simplicity. 

Also in medieval Sarlat, 
the door at #20 seems modest compared 
to the massive doors of châteaux. 

Near the center of Sarlat 
this arched doorway opens to a passageway 
with multiple doors opening onto it. 
I wonder about the  
stone-carved crest above the doorway. 
Was this a royal household?  

Sarlat was saved from being razed and rebuilt as a modern city 
in the 1900s because it had fallen on hard 
financial times. 
No one was interested in the small crumbling city. 
French laws protecting national historical sites were passed,  
and Sarlat benefited from government funds 
to help restore the city and to revitalize its economy. 
Today it is thriving with the help of tourism. 

How glad I am that these beautiful doors 
have been restored. 

Throughout France, 
gardens and courtyards are graced 
with modern metal doors like this. 
Another style to love. 

An old wooden gate stands with a gnarled tree 
that has sprouted new growth. 
What once was a doorway into an enclosed field in Carsac, 
a small town near Sarlat, 
is still a thing of beauty in its forlorn setting. 

For a list of more posts about France, 
click on 

A Moment in France

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Saturday, July 12, 2014

Tree Top Loft ~ Where Botanic Bleu Creates

Looking out at a spreading oak tree 
from the second-floor loft window 
allows my mind to wander and 
allows my thoughts to drift away 
from everyday life. 

This is my creative space, 
where Botanic Bleu is created. 

Join me on a tour of my tree-top loft 
as part of  

Sitting in my office loft is like 
being in a tree house that 
looks down into the living room 
and looks beyond to other big oaks in the east yard.

The tree top loft is 
an office space for working and dreaming in my dream house 
that we built by doing much of the work ourselves.  
And, twenty-seven years later, we are 
still updating and maintaining by doing work ourselves. 

For years, this is where I 
wrote lesson plans, typed tests, 
printed six-week assignment sheets, and 
graded tens of thousands of mathematics papers.
(No exaggeration; I taught math for 29 years, 
then became a school administrator.)

visions of new ideas, 
of rearranging spaces, 
of creating vignettes and tablescapes, 
of composing blog articles, and 
of finishing old projects 
take hold here. 

The space has transformed from a teacher's at-home office. . .

. . . to a blogger's creative loft. 

The little loft is only 8' wide by 14' long, 
open to the living room below, 
open to the stairs leading up to the top floor bonus space, 
and ends with a small closet at the enclosed end.

The tall mauve-colored cabinet is made from
old recycled doors and
holds reams of paper, computer manuals,
and office supplies.
It is on the list for a make-over inside
to transform it into a more creative space.

The small three-shelf wire basket on wheels
stores the paper cutter on its top and
holds left-over teaching materials.
It, too, is on the make-over list to reorganize
the drawers to hold supplies that I now use.

The work space is two pieces,
an old communion table and a folding wooden table,
positioned to form an L-shape.

The wooden folding table is easy to move around,
is large enough to spread out projects, and
is convenient for using the paper cutter
that is stored beneath it.

The old oak communion table came from the
church I attended in Alexandria, Virginia
while I was a young single working in
Washington, D.C.

Years of neglect had left it in sad shape.
The finish was marred and had a big black spot
that looked like an ink stain.
One of its legs had been broken and repaired.
It was in such sad shape that the elders
of the church would not accept any money,
just gave it to me.

After stripping it with a chemical stripper,
sanding it, and refinishing it with a fruitwood stain,
the little table regained most of its former beauty
and became my office desk.

A few years ago we removed the drawer
and installed a slide-out shelf to hold a computer keyboard.

Desk supplies and files fill the white file cabinet
that was a sale item from Pottery Barn about five years ago.

Wouldn't you know I didn't like the industrial-looking 
drawer pulls that were on the cabinet. 
No problem. 
Buy new iron pulls from Lowes, spray paint them white, 
and replace the industrial pulls. 

Behind the door is a small walk-in closet not ready for its close up. 
The antique pine armoire came from Forney, Texas 
and holds wrapping paper, ribbons, tissue paper, 
bags, and craft supplies. 
Some of the bags have escaped to the top 
where I can see them every day. 

Look closely behind the lit lamp. 
See the rolls of fabric? 
How about the old wrought iron floor lamp? 
Projects in the making. . . 

France has long been a love. 
The framed pastel printed French map 
shows the locations of gardens 
all over France.

The old chair once had cane inserts in the arms, 
had a fruitwood finish, and had green damask upholstery. 
Long before I knew about blogging, 
saw all the remade old furniture, and 
joined the current "love white" trend, 
I transformed this old chair using white paint 
and the rose/trellis print fabric. 

You know, I think I've been a blogger for years. 
Just didn't know about blogs. 
But, within a week of discovering my 
first blog to follow, 
I began blogging. 

Blue and white fabric sits in a clear container
awaiting some inspiration.

The tree top loft is a great place for pondering,
planning, and creating. 
At least some of the time...  
When I switched to a laptop computer, 
I began creating everywhere.

Don't miss out on all the other 
fabulous spaces where bloggers create. 
 Where Bloggers Create 2014

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Monday, July 7, 2014

A Thistle Tale

Drift away to a daydream love story. 
Be caught up in romantic young love. 

Purple thistles blowing in the wind along the roadsides are like the one 
pressed for keeping so many years ago. 

We had dated earlier that summer, 
and then we did not date for several weeks. 
You thought things were moving too fast. 

Our churches had a joint retreat in southwest Virginia for young adult singles. 
You brought a beautiful Canadian girl on the back of your new motorcycle. 
Early fall weather had a deep chill in the night air by the time you arrived. 

The next morning was a brilliant, sunny warm day, and 
you offered to take me riding on your motorcycle. 
Was it my first motorcycle ride? 
Yes, I know it was. 
Life with you was filled with new adventures.

Deep in the woods at a clearing on the gravel road 
we spotted wild purple thistles. 
You side stepped, slid down the slope and picked one for me. 

We spend the rest of the weekend apart, 
across the room from one another.  
You with the Canadian girl, 
both of us with others, 
individually, and in group activities. 

Back home, the thistle was pressed in a heavy book for weeks,  
as a reminder of our time riding together.
I checked on it from time to time, remembering 
how special spending time with you was. 
How much I liked your laugh. 
How easy it was to be with you. 
Weeks passed. 


You called with front-row tickets to 
Andrew Lloyd Webber's new hit musical, 
Jesus Christ Superstar. 

C'est une belle histoire 
(It is a beautiful story.)
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