Summer and road trips seem to go hand in hand. July was full of road trips, many mini-voyages exploring nearby areas, but also what I would consider a legitimate jaunt as Rachiel and I ventured north to Bourgogne. We arrived in Noyers-Sur-Serein on a hot Saturday evening. The air was still, the village quiet and both of us wrecked after the long drive from Provence. We nestled into the old house with its attached barn, secretly tucked away in a hidden corner of the village, and sunk into the garden with our host, Julie, to relax and to share a bottle of cold bubbly. Filling the quiet village night with our girl’s chatter, we ended the long day around the small garden table... mosquitos buzzing, candles burning, slowly unwinding before we tiptoed off to bed.
In the morning we walked into the main village square, coffee and croissant in hand, to enjoy the early freshness of the day before the village and the heat awakened. The buildings encircling the square seem as though they were taken from the pages of a fairy tale, wood striped with thatched looking roofs, appearing almost crooked against the backdrop of the sky. Noyers, also known as Noyers-Sur-Serein, a tiny village located in Bourgogne, is designated as one of the “Plus Beaux Villages de France.” Situated in the middle of a field, you probably wouldn’t even know Noyers was there, unless it was your final destination stop or you stumbled across it driving through the vast Chablis countryside surrounding the village.
A medieval city, surrounded by walls and the river Serein, Noyers holds much of its heritage in its traditional colombage or half-timbered houses, a building technique used throughout past centuries in France and in many of its walled gates which still stand today. Cobblestoned streets and weathered buildings showing their age, walking in Noyers feels a bit like walking in another era. The village oozes its history, aside from the few modern shops and restaurants now scattered amid its center, and I felt as though I was on a movie set taking place in medieval times. It is a bit surreal. The village is tiny. On one side you have the open banks of the small river Serein which is juxtaposed to the neighboring fields filled with horses and cows. On the other side of the village, hidden by stonewalls, beautiful private gardens spill to the edge of the riverbank. Each garden plot owned by a villager is a little oasis in the middle of the “city” to escape to and to enjoy nature.
Meandering about this old village, we soaked up the heritage and the scenery. The lush greenness of the fields, the swallows filling the skies above with their sporadic flight and the beautiful flowers of the season with wisteria growing as I have never seen. The river filled with small boats, ducks and the occasional boaters makes an ideal spot for a picnic. We sat on the worn stonewalls, relishing a cold bottle of rosé with fresh olives, trying to escape the intense heat that blanketed all of France during the week of our visit. We shopped locally, visiting market days in different villages and cooking dinners at home each night. Some of the best part of vacation is time spent around the table, impromptu meals, everyone taking turns to cook, catching-up on life and sharing silly stories over good food and wine.
Walking along the riverbank and through the small streets, you can feel the quietude of this place. Admiring the history and the simplicity of life here, we had a week of both exploration and rest. Noyers instills downtime, a sense of calm, like you are in a different world removed from the hustle and bustle of reality. For Julie, Noyers is her escape from Paris, a country home situated in the middle of a field in Bourgogne. For me, Noyers-Sur-Serein was a respite if only for a week, time discovering a new region of France, a new village, meeting new people but most of all time spent with a friend from home in the heart of the summer....