August 23, 2011 – 10:41 pm
I spent last week in a 12th century chateau in the south of France.
I travel a lot, as you may have noticed if you follow this blog – but I hardly ever get an actual holiday (to which my sisters always say “from what?!”). In fact, I was so ready for this break that my brain actually started to shut down a few days before we left, and it came to a complete stand-still for the first day we were in Avejan.
To say that I was ready for a break was an understatement. It was more like when your computer just runs out of processing power. I was experiencing the human equivalent of the spinning beach ball. So just shutting down and rebooting – with the help of a book, a few of my favourite people in the world and some very good wine was just what the IT helpdesk ordered.
There’s not much to report from the week in fact (other than the fact that it was wonderful), except that I rediscovered something I’d written a few years earlier, and used that to reassess where I’m at with life, where I’m going and how I’d like to get there. The sort of pause and reflect thing that holidays are quite good at.
I may actually write a blog post about that particular piece of writing soon, because it was surprisingly helpful…
It was beautiful weather – high thirties (that’s like 95F for US readers) – and we spent a bit of time swimming in the nearby river, but mostly we sat in the shade of a walnut tree, ate, drank, talked and read books. But like I say, other than some good conversation with great people (four kiwis in France) and a bit of introspection – nothing much really happened.
And, as I mentioned, it was wonderful.
Through the northern hemisphere summer, our friend Mary runs the Chateau d’Avejan (just outside the village of Barjac) as a bed and breakfast for just a handful of guests at a time.
It’s all word of mouth. Friends of friends of friends, sort of thing – and we had the place to ourselves.
But when the weather turns cooler, she heads back to New Zealand and works at a university teaching English. She hasn’t seen winter in over twenty years, which sounds like a pretty good way to live.
Perhaps the best thing for me was the fact that there was simply no internet. I was completely offline for a whole week. It caused some anxiety at first – though not nearly as much as I had anticipated – but I can thoroughly recommend some away time – especially if, like me, you pretty much spend your whole life on the internet.
I have a pretty big year coming up – and so these few days sitting and doing next to nothing was, I suppose, my deep breath in before the onslaught of writing, teaching – and pursuing a whole bunch of really quite exciting, but potentially exhausting projects – really kicks in.
I returned to a book contract, which I’ve now signed and sent off; I have a new regular writing gig that I’ll be able to tell you about very soon – and some very interesting opportunities and activities coming up in Copenhagen, Brussels, London, Amsterdam and Rio – and that’s just in the next couple of months.
So the chance to pretty much just switch off was a real blessing.
Naturally, I brought some rather nice bouteilles de vin back with me (as well as some unrealistic expectations about local fresh produce and coffee), and I look forward to sampling a few Bordeaux over the coming weeks.
If you’re interested, there are more photos (a LOT more photos) of the holiday, the region and the journey here on Flickr.