After months of working remotely, tending the garden and repairing fences, early May allowed us to travel further than the restricted one kilometre from our house in Burgundy, France. Although the authorities still imposed restrictions to travel, we took an old fashioned map and drew a circle of 100 kilometres, the distance allowed, to find out where we could go exploring.
Burgundy is famous for its wine, rolling fields and beautiful villages but there is more if you look closer. Together with my photographer friend we set out on a sunny day, starting with a quick visit to the legendary Abbey of Vézelay for some much-needed inspiration. Being accustomed to travelling extensively for work and pleasure, the last months had been strange and we were looking for some enlightenment, divine or not. For that, Vézelay is just the recipe.
It is one of the four major historical routes to Santiago de Compostela and the road leading down from the Abbey shows the scallop shells which, from ancient times to today, have guided the way for countless pilgrims. Although we haven’t undertaken that journey (yet), the endless number of feet have left their imprint of faith.
The soul replenished, we toured on. Driving through the green fields and budding vines, we passed many secondary homes, patiently abiding their time for their owners to return. Closed shutters and abandoned vehicles breathed a calm and quiet air, the tranquillity enhanced by birds chatting amongst themselves.
With her photographers’ eye, my friend not only discovered beautiful images but also dozens of quirky spots, making us wonder how a sack of dog food found its place in the sturdy wall of an old farmhouse.
The roads were still quiet and without the visuals of modern-day life, it took us back in time, a time when life was slower and less complex. Taking sneak peeks in gardens and courtyards, we saw nature running riot and taking over in various places. It made us ponder if the world would ever go back to “normal”.
Driving west we left the rolling hills and young vines to venture into the many forests of Burgundy’s nature park, the Morvan. The Morvan is a mountainous massif and a northerly extension of the Massif Central which covers the middle of France. It is old, empty, wild woodlands trading places with picturesque farmland.
We decided it was time for a hike, and we parked the car at the Haut Folin. At 901m the Haut Folin is the highest point in Burgundy and the summit of the Morvan mountain range. In wintertime the tracks are prepared for cross-country skiing, but now the sun had turned the spring light into vibrant autumn-like colours. We wandered around in the forest, lively with sounds of animals that finally had the world to themselves. Young deer passed us, jumping gracefully through the trees while the echo of wild boar shocked us out of our reveries. Reaching the top, we discovered a deserted internet station, a sudden reminder of our modern world. Where would we have been without it these past months?
After a picnic on the top, we followed the track that was circling us back to the place where we had parked our car. The Haut Folin has many walking and cross country trails to discover at your own pace. The tracks are well maintained and the signs make sure you will not get lost in its vastness. The French are excellent at that.
Driving the winding roads back down into the valley, the sun was already setting. We hadn’t ventured far, we hadn’t been on a long haul flight carrying us to exotic places, but we realised that if you dare to not only look but also see, you’ll discover the world is fascinating in the most unlikely places.
It was time to go home and plan our next journey in this changed but beautiful world.
Grand merci for the photos Dineke