When we first came to live in the Saint-Aignan area 14 years ago, the lack of noise here was amazing. We had been living in densely populated, high-traffic San Francisco for nearly 20 years. Our neighborhood there was quiet, but the houses were packed together, so neighbor noise was noticeable. And the I-280 freeway, 8 or 10 lanes packed with cars and trucks nearly 24 hours a day, was only a few blocks away. The noise from that traffic was a constant, low, but perceptible roar that your ears got used to filtering out.
The railroad tracks and the new autoroute are over on the other side of the Cher River valley from where we live.
Out here on the edge of the Touraine vineyards, the silence was deafening. First of all, we live at the end of the road where the pavement ends. Traffic on that road is minimal, except for cars driven by a few vineyard workers or our 4 or 5 close-by neighbors, plus the occasional tractor. About the only other noise was the sound of a train passing on the tracks across the river from us, at least 3 miles distant. And we only heard trains when the wind was blowing in a certain direction and there was low cloud cover to hold the noise close to the ground. Sometimes, too, we hear loud, low-flying fighter jets on training exercises, because there are several military bases in the area.
A lot of trees around the hamlet are in full flower right now.
Several of the men who worked in the vineyard back then (we got here in 2003) and pruned the grapevines in wintertime burned all the trimmings in improvised contraptions that were basically big oil barrels on wheels. I think the heat of the fire kept them warm — vine-pruning is a winter activity — and I know that the process made no noise at all. Now, the burning of trimmings has been stopped and tractors pulling grinders make passes up and down the vines to pulverize clippings that pruners have left on the ground. That work takes a week or two in early spring.
April skies over the vineyard
For a while, we had some neighbors who kept chickens, and we got used to the year-round clucking and the early morning crowing of a rooster. Sometimes our neighbors would have a couple of loud, late-night parties in July or August, but we were often invited to attend so the noise didn't bother us. There's a lot more car traffic around the area now than there was 8 or 10 years ago. That's because the local Beauval zoo has become a major tourist attraction, with its growing collection of exotic animals, including a couple of giant pandas.
A neighbor recently cleaned up his little orchard near our house and put up a hand-made sign.
Also, a major highway (une autoroute), the equivalent of an interstate highway, was built and opened to traffic nearby a few years after we got here. Now we sometimes vaguely hear the noise of big trucks off in the distance. But we don't hear the trains as much as we used to, because the railroad now uses electric-powered rather than diesel locomotive. About the noisiest time around here is when a hot-air balloon floats over the hamlet and all the local dogs go wild barking. That happens maybe half a dozen times a year, in summertime.