As our TGV hurtles towards Paris, Tadpole, who has been dozing on my knee for the past two hours, begins to stir. ‘That was a big sleep,’ I murmur softly, smoothing her hair out of her eyes. When she lifts her head, I see the imprint of my trouser seam on her left cheek. Ignoring my protesting bladder (two hours, two coffees = pain), I savour the delicious moments between sleep and wakefulness, drawing her up into my arms so that her warm face rests on my bare shoulder.
Opposite me, The Boy is engrossed in his magazine. The stranger sitting next to him – a slightly nerdy-looking thirtysomething with round glasses and a striped nautical t-shirt – is staring somewhere south of my chin. I pretend not to notice.
‘I did dream that I was a sirène, mummy’ my daughter mumbles into my neck. Her mermaid obsession shows no sign of abating. Of the fifty or so sketches she drew in her notepad during our week away in Belle Ile, over half depict mermaid princesses. The high point of her holiday was undoubtedly the half hour she spent with her legs buried under a mountain of wet sand, while I carefully sculpted a her fish tail. On the ferry from Le Palais to Quiberon, her eyes were riveted to the sea, searching for evidence of mer-activity.
The Boy spent many a summer holiday in Sauzon as a child. Going away together – all three of us – was his initiative. He first floated the idea back in December, and I think his willingness to envisage a ‘family’ trip away was one of the things which sealed the deal, spurring me to make my clumsy proposal. I’d assumed The Boy would prefer to spend his precious holiday time on an adult getaway for just the two of us, in the same vein as our Greek Island escapade last summer. (In an ideal world, we’d have done both, but with the wedding and apartment move, something had to give…)
And so we found a tiny, functional apartment overlooking the picture-postcard port of Sauzon, rented bicycles for us and a cariole to tow Tadpole and our beach bags behind us, and set out to explore the surrounding villages, countryside and beaches. We fished in rockpools, built sandcastles, jumped in the waves and picnicked outdoors. Each day we pedalled a little further from our base camp, as our confidence in our calf muscles grew, graduating from Donnant to Baluden and finally to Les Galères, a full fifteen kilometres away.
Belle Ile was breathtakingly pretty, unusually quiet for the season and the slow pace of the holidays suited me perfectly. In the train, with Tadpole yawning into my shoulder and The Boy’s tanned calf brushing against mine under the table, I feel more relaxed than I have in months.