Quiet green villages filled with birdsong and clean air make me claustrophobic. Oxygen is overrated. And I can't really hear myself think in too much silence. It's all very good for a weekend, but I must have that 'end' in sight.
In one of my parallel lives, I do have an alter-ego living in one of these quiet green places. The other Pia, who fancies herself a bit of a farmer. She is out there now, plucking apples from her orchard, and making chutney. She lives in a house straight out of Country Living, and cooks in a kitchen with an Aga, a Smeg refrigerator, a butler sink and many copper pans.
She's the country mouse, I'm the city mouse. We meet sometimes.
But a few weekends ago, me, the city mouse, was so charmed by a village that I almost saw myself living there. Almost. Almost.
Burnham Market sits close to the stunning north Norfolk coast, and is a village that you pass on the way to busier seaside towns like Wells-Next-The-Sea.
But don't pass on by.
Be the mouse who found the Cheddar, because this tiny strip of a village really is a delicious little find. Art galleries. Independant shops full of beautiful, handmade things. Friendly, cosy tearooms. Bookstores. A little cottage selling designer clothing. Award-winning local cheese. Fresh, fresh fish. An old wineshop that makes you stop in your tracks. And a 17th century coaching inn, now a plush hotel, with a Moroccan-themed courtyard restaurant.
A shop that I found particularly hard to leave was Norfolk Living. It's an Alladin's cave of a shop, filled with seashell soaps, vintage perfume bottles, jars of jam, white linen, rugs and cushions, candles and crockery. Room after room of beautiful things.
I ended my window shopping for a good cause - lunch at The Hoste Arms. It was al fresco eating at its best. The sun was warm on my back. A glass of chilled Chardonnay in front of me. A Peroni for D. And a meal that could not have been cooked better.
That was our lunch.
~ Mushroom soup, served with an open sandwich of mushrooms in truffle oil.
~ A salad of watermelon, feta cheese, parma ham & pumpkin seeds, mixed baby leaf, mint dressing.
~ Sautéed smoked paprika squid, dressed rocket, piquillo pepper, chickpeas & chorizo, tahini dressing.
~ Pineapple carpaccio, fresh pomegranate, malibu, lime & mint jelly, mini meringues & pina colada ice cream.
And along with each course, we had conversation, because a little girl slept right through lunch. D and I grinned at the utter, cunning perfection of our timing. We had managed to sneak a date into our day!
We left Burnham Market feeling like we'd been given a treat.
I'm still a city-mouse, and I think I always will be. But every now and then, I like traipsing around pretty villages looking for some good local cheese.