Returning from a week in Burgundy feels a little like having a hangover—and this has nothing to with the consumption of French wine.
When we rolled the rental car back into Delft late Saturday night I immediately felt overwhelmed by the number of bikes… of people… of buildings… of everything. It didn’t help that a student house nearby was throwing a party. The next morning I felt the same: there just seemed to be so much noise. So much clutter. And we live, let’s face it, in a small modern-medieval town. It’s not exactly Times Square over here.
Last week we rented a cottage in the rural “town” of Suze, Burgundy, France. With no disrespect intended, I put town in quotes because in this vicinity, we drove through dozens of these villages (maybe that’s the proper word) that were literally a cluster of houses + farm buildings, a couple signposts, a multitude of cows, and then the sign indicating that you’d left that particular village. Suze has been designated since the fourteenth century, and is named for the river that cut right through the property where we stayed.
Our rental was one building of four on the owner’s land: a large house (where she lives), a barn, a chicken coop, and “our” cottage. Out our front door was the bridge over the (not exactly rushing) Suze, and at the far end of the bridge was what Tim called “Rooster Training School.” Rooster Training School began at 5:30 every morning, rain or shine—and to be honest, most mornings it was rain. Across the road was one of the ubiquitous pastures of white cows (boeuf bourguignon training school), and they all gave Tim the (red) evil eye when he would jog by on one of his runs. Once we awoke to discover that a few of the more opportunistic cows had realized there wasn’t much holding them back, and they’d made a break for it… a very slow, determined break. As we touristically photo-opped this spectacle, a man rode by on a tractor and watched us suspiciously—speculating, no doubt, that we were the ones liberating all the bovines.
The cottage was only heated by one wood-stove, and seemed to come with a cat (at least, the cat thought so). Thankfully, Tim is pretty good at keeping a fire going. Our host related, astonished, that she had had to teach two different adult guests recently to light a fire. “What would they do if the world ended?” she asked (a tricky question to say the least).
The cottage’s bed was antique, in all the worst ways. On the modern front, there was wi-fi—sometimes. There were markets with fresh food and fresh cheese; and silent, clear nights; and two meals in restaurants that were basically in someone’s home. We played at least six games of Scrabble (and no, I will not say how many of those I lost).
But mostly, we enjoyed the quiet, and the slowness. And I miss it.