petite anglaise

August 26, 2008


Filed under: misc — petiteanglaiseparis @ 11:02 am

       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.


  1. Welcome home, it both looks and sounds beautiful and I’m trying hard not to be really jealous!

    Comment by Rois — August 26, 2008 @ 11:40 am

  2. Belle Ile looks gorgeous! I love how with even just a short holiday you can get away from your routine and completely relax.

    Comment by Marjolein — August 26, 2008 @ 11:45 am

  3. How funny – I’ve just returned from a weeks holiday anchored off the ile de Houat which is a smaller island just of the coast of Belle Ile. It is a gorgeous part of the world isn’t it.

    I also had my first experience of a self confessed married French man trying to get me into bed, despite telling him I had a fiance…

    Comment by Rachel — August 26, 2008 @ 11:56 am

  4. Nice to read that you have enjoyed this bit of Brittany!

    Comment by Bristolian breton — August 26, 2008 @ 12:29 pm

  5. Your photos are gorgeous! I think the crab and the shovel has a childlike artistry to it that instantly sets the tone for a family beach vacation. It looks like a lovely place. We are also vacationing on the beach in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts for a month and even though my hubby returned to work, leaving me alone with 2 small reflections of us (our kids), every day is still amazing in this small island we call our second home. Vacations are wonderfully important!!

    Comment by Nicole Harvey — August 26, 2008 @ 12:39 pm

  6. I love Belle-Ile, I have great memories there, especially in the winter with the enormous waves at the Pointe des Poulains. How do you say “dépaysant” in English ? This is how I feel about this remote place.
    Glad you enjoyed your holiday and welcome back !

    Comment by Delphine — August 26, 2008 @ 1:09 pm

  7. The way life was meant to be! Renting bikes, sipping wine and relaxing, welcome home.

    Comment by DaveW — August 26, 2008 @ 1:46 pm

  8. Lovely photos and lovely post. That sounds like an ideal week’s holiday. After reading this Belle Ile has just been added to my list of places to visit.

    Also I love the trailer thingy that Tadpole was transported in! I had no idea you could hire them from bike hire places -its a really good idea.

    Comment by Hazy — August 26, 2008 @ 1:47 pm

  9. I love Belle Ile! I spent four glorious days there a few years back and I still look longingly at the pictures from that trip. What a magical place.

    Comment by Patty — August 26, 2008 @ 1:56 pm

  10. Sounds absolutely beautiful!

    By the way, I saw an advertisement (granted, here in the U.S.) the other day for a straight-to-DVD Little Mermaid “prequel” of sorts. I immediately thought of my niece, who seems to be going through a similar mermaid phase as Tadpole, when I saw it. Might be something she’d enjoy.

    Comment by Jenny — August 26, 2008 @ 2:12 pm

  11. It looks like a perfect holiday. Tadpole is so tall!

    Comment by Jules — August 26, 2008 @ 2:15 pm

  12. What lovely photos (that village looked like it should be a movie set, it was so perfect) and how nice to feel so relaxed. I felt much the same last week when returned from Saint Raphael, and the new-found relaxation must have shown on my face because a friend commented upon it over coffee (ok, it was a beer) the other day. Welcome home to Paris.

    Comment by The Bold Soul — August 26, 2008 @ 2:34 pm

  13. Lovely photos. It reminds me of certain coastal towns in New England.

    Comment by Dave of the Lake — August 26, 2008 @ 3:07 pm

  14. I just love the pictures you draw with your blog posts. Any more and I’d have been emptying my shoes of excess beach sand. :)

    Comment by Ness — August 26, 2008 @ 3:13 pm

  15. Looks beautiful! Holidays are the best. It looks similar to Cassis (near Marseille) where I went on my holidays! (Co-incidentally, it was in Cassis that I was erroneously referred to as a ‘petite anglaise’ while buying an ice-cream. I was thinking, ‘dude, don’t you know I can understand you?’ Not to mention I hate being mistaken for a Brit!)

    Comment by Lauren — August 26, 2008 @ 3:28 pm

  16. I have just finished night duty as a midwife in Exeter Devon and every morning before I sink into bed I look to see if you have any further news. I loved your book and enjoy your blog.Keep it going!.

    Comment by jack bostock — August 26, 2008 @ 3:29 pm

  17. Hi, Petite,
    I look forward to your France travel guide!

    Comment by Claux — August 26, 2008 @ 3:56 pm

  18. Sounds picture perfect :) And Tadpole has become so big!

    Comment by L.C.T. — August 26, 2008 @ 4:13 pm

  19. As someone already said above… Belle Ile is magical! Absolutely. I have some very fond memories (and photos) of my visit there. I hope tadpole know what a lucky girl she is. :)

    Comment by Ali — August 26, 2008 @ 4:35 pm

  20. Relaxed is good ………

    Comment by Daddy Papersurfer — August 26, 2008 @ 5:51 pm

  21. ……. not comatosed though!

    Comment by Daddy Papersurfer — August 26, 2008 @ 5:52 pm

  22. [I know it isn’t a real word! …….. sheeesh]

    Comment by Daddy Papersurfer — August 26, 2008 @ 5:53 pm

  23. Le nom n’est pas usurpé !
    T’es tu baignée ?
    D’après ma cousine qui vit dans le kent depuis 30 ans, une partie de l’éducation anglaise consiste à apprendre à ne pas être frileux !!!

    Comment by marie-hélène — August 26, 2008 @ 6:11 pm

  24. I did miss your engaging posts while you were en vacances, but having shared photos of the idyllic holiday, you are forgiven. +

    Comment by sheba — August 26, 2008 @ 7:07 pm

  25. Hey Petite,
    What lovely photos of the holiday. It looks like such a lovely place and just right with Tadpole in tow! Young children love going to beaches with rock pools and so on. We took our to Cornwall a few years ago and it was one of the best holidays ever. Haven’t been able to go away for a while though so am very envious of such a lovely holiday.
    As I was looking at the holiday photos, I had a quick look at the ones in Morocco. What a fantastic place, would love to go there, so colourful, super photos, well done!

    Comment by scribble — August 26, 2008 @ 7:42 pm

  26. Jup, Tadpole is definitely growing up, hm? Taller than our Zuleikha, who will be 4 in December:

    Sounds like a nice holiday you had there. Thanks for sharing it with us.

    Comment by wjl (Wolfgang Lonien) — August 26, 2008 @ 7:45 pm

  27. Coucou!

    This is the first time I’ve ever posted, but I have got to tell you I am hooked! I am recovering from surgery, so this has been a wonderful diversion. It sounds like you had a wonderful holiday. The photos are great!

    A bientot!


    Comment by Betsy — August 27, 2008 @ 12:25 am

  28. Loved your book! Many bloggers here in the states are saying such wonderful things about it, that is how I heard about it.

    I hope your restful and tranquil feel stays within when you return home. You all deserve it.

    Comment by eileen — August 27, 2008 @ 5:17 am

  29. Looks like a lot of fun, love the one of the crab and spade. Any news of the paperback so I read your book?

    Comment by Nick Carraway — August 27, 2008 @ 8:50 am

  30. paperback is due on 5 Feb … with a very different cover which I hope to be able to show you very soon.

    Comment by petite — August 27, 2008 @ 9:16 am

  31. How lovely! We must have crossed paths; we were also in Sauzon this month, although I don’t remember the sky being so blue… The summer in Brittany this year has been disappointing (something to do with 13 moons…), but the islands come up trumps every time!

    Comment by Amanda Grey — August 27, 2008 @ 10:39 am

  32. The weather was very fickle, I must admit. Cloudy one minute and grand bleu the next. But definitely much better than on the mainland…

    Comment by petite — August 27, 2008 @ 11:32 am

  33. Belle ile is one of my favourite locations. Your blog reminded me of a very nice vacation i spent there then years ago. I stayed with friends who have a little house out there. I hope one day i can share this beautiful place with my boy and children ;)

    Comment by dame blanche — August 27, 2008 @ 12:56 pm

  34. Wow, educational content! Thanks for highlighting a part of France I never knew existed. [I grew up in France and even went on childhood hols to Britanny, but Belle Ile? Nope, never heard of it]. :-)

    Comment by Ariel — August 27, 2008 @ 1:03 pm

  35. Looks like a completely gorgeous and relaxing place!

    Comment by librarianlisa — August 27, 2008 @ 3:53 pm

  36. I found your blog by chance, and found it very alluring and interesting. I’d be coming back to read more from earlier dates.

    Sounds like you had a great vacation. I need one badly.

    Comment by kayni — August 27, 2008 @ 8:46 pm

  37. Hi Catherine,

    I just read your book. I really liked it! Thanks for publishing it.

    xxx from Holland

    Comment by Jessica — August 27, 2008 @ 11:04 pm

  38. Aww, how sweet, thinking of the “family” instead of only the “couple”. I can see how that would definitely “seal the deal”!

    Looks wonderful, I live near the beach and love it but it is much different from your photos of Belle Ile.

    Comment by QldDeb — August 29, 2008 @ 1:19 am

  39. Sounds heavenly! Wonderful pictures and a lovely read! Have read your blog for afew years now and never commented before – so Hello!! Just bought your book to take on holiday to Spain next week – looking forward to a good read.
    Marie-Louise, England.

    Comment by Marie-Louise — August 29, 2008 @ 6:27 am

  40. We have been to the quiberon many times and have watched the ferry boats depart for Belle Ile. Maybe next time we will take the ferry. Your photos are fantastic.

    Comment by tom — August 29, 2008 @ 5:36 pm

  41. Looks beautiful! I am envious! Just got back from hols myself a couple of weeks ago and am craving sunshine already.

    Comment by Wendy Juniper — August 29, 2008 @ 7:20 pm

  42. Hey,
    I don’t know where to put this so i just put it here. I finished your book a while ago and loved it because I understand it why you blog. A few months ago i had a story to tell and did that on a groupblog. There I met a lot of people and one of them recommand me your book. i am glad she did because now after reading it I started my on blog and it feels wonderfull to have finally my own special place on the internet where i can write all the good things and bad things that happen to me. It is a whole new freedom.
    Thanks for that last little push.
    greets from Belgium

    Comment by Nanami — August 30, 2008 @ 12:23 am

  43. Oh it makes me positively yeeaarrrrn for Europe!
    love your blog btw..

    Comment by Mom/Mum — August 30, 2008 @ 2:01 am

  44. That kind of family holiday looks so peaceful and thanks for sharing the photos so I discover this magnificent place.
    I also enjoy the re-reading of former posts like the clumsy proposal, that happened in such a natural and spontaneous way. Great!

    Comment by hilde — August 31, 2008 @ 12:39 pm

  45. Oh, Brittany — I love (and miss) it so much! I’m so glad that you had such a great time there. I’ve actually never stayed long enough to see Brittany in late spring or summer. Mais, bon, tant pis. Maybe next time!

    Brittany has so many fantastically, photographable places, doesn’t it? I love those rocky coasts and its crashing waves. I feel homesick for it (despite the fact that I’m American!).

    Comment by George — September 1, 2008 @ 1:34 am

  46. I used to live in britanny, went to belle ile a couple times, on a friend’s boat when he got done with fixing it. After a few years I crossed the atlantic (on a plane) for work, while my friend crossed it… on his boat.

    Miss those times now…

    Comment by walken — September 1, 2008 @ 12:00 pm

  47. Wow, I’m amazed at how empty Belle Ile seems.. I thought it would be chock full… nice pix and glad you had a nice vacation.

    Comment by magillicuddy — September 1, 2008 @ 12:05 pm

  48. “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.”

    So! What’s the point!

    Comment by rocket — September 1, 2008 @ 10:58 pm

  49. Either you are an excellent photographer or you have an great camera, or both : ).

    Comment by Java — September 2, 2008 @ 5:05 pm

  50. To #48 I think the point is that Petite is young, just married, and in her sexual prime! At this point in your life, everything seems to relate to sex. Maybe the guy wasn’t staring at her chest; maybe he was thinking about a nerdy thing like physics or something but that would not make an interesting post , would it?

    Comment by Sheila K. — September 2, 2008 @ 7:49 pm

  51. Not much happening here …… anyone want to see my holiday snaps?

    Comment by gonzales — September 2, 2008 @ 9:23 pm

  52. I really wanted to like your book, but found it to be pure and utter dreck. After 2 chapters I gave up and stopped reading (thank God I’d borrowed it from the local library and not bought it!). Great idea, poor execution.

    Comment by none — September 2, 2008 @ 10:22 pm

  53. To N°50

    Oh really, getting married is equated with sex. I thought it was firstly about about building a life together not getting over on your spouse.

    Speaking about the book. I didn’t buy it and and won’t. As I mentioned, I think Petite is a very talented writer and I might have bought the book 10 years ago when I was still reading the books written by expats living in France. What struck me is when I picked her book up in a bookstore in Paris, I just opened it to a random page and my eyes fell on the first passage I saw, which was Petite stumbling into the appartment early morning (après une soirée bien arrosée) much to Mr. Frog’s consternation.

    Comment by rocket — September 3, 2008 @ 2:12 pm

  54. Yes, #53, getting married is equated with sex. Also with building a life together,and having each other to lean on through all the good and bad life has to offer. Have you ever enjoyed a fulfilling relationship,rocket? It doesn’t seem like you’re very familiar with how it works.

    Comment by Sheila K. — September 3, 2008 @ 10:18 pm

  55. First time commenter, longtime reader…

    @52 I have to say I agree. I started reading this blog after petite’s dismissal became news in France (I’m a petite irlandaise living in Lille) and I was amazed by it. I started in the archive, worked my way forward and was glued to the “story”. Something about the way petite expressed herself – her honesty, her humour – captivated me and I couldn’t wrench myself away. I was scotchée devant mon ordi for a whole weekend, only pausing to eat and sleep. So recently, when I saw the book in the Furet du Nord (the greatest bookshop ever? possibly) I pounced on it, in the mistaken belief that it would be as thrilling a read as the blog.

    Unfortunately I found it rather flat. This may be because I knew what was coming, but I believe the real reason is that the blog format added so much to the telling of the tale. As petite says herself, she was able to feed her readers a story bit by bit, and watching events unforld over a series of days or months, even when read in one go, is riveting. I think I felt a bit cheated as well – I was much more interested in petite’s legal struggle (and eventual triumph) than the Rennes story. Unfortunately the book focuses on Rennes, with no mention of the events that brought petite to my attention. I very much admired the woman who wrote the blog – the woman in the book I found hard to warm to.

    Petite, I love your blog, and I do hope you continue to write it. I wish you every happiness and the best of luck in your new life, and I hope you are not offended by this post.

    Comment by Ch'tirlandaise — September 4, 2008 @ 9:55 am

  56. Hi,
    I’ve felt compelled to write to you after our rather strange experience in CDG airport on Monday evening. I wanted to assure you that I’m not usually in the habit of accosting complete strangers and I apologise if I embarrassed you. I’d first seen you in LBA airport and had that annoying feeling that I knew you but couldn’t place from where. It was niggling me the whole duration of the flight where bizarrely I was actually reading your book! It was only when you were standing behind me in the queue at passport control and I noticed your little girl and heard you speaking both French and English that it clicked where I knew you from. At the baggage collection I stole a look at the photo in the cover sleeve of the book just to make sure. When our paths again crossed at the ATM machine I decided to speak to you and feeling rather foolish ask if you were indeed ‘Petite Anglais’.
    It was a very surreal experience to be reading about someone you don’t know but feel you do one minute, and the next to be stood next to them in an airport.
    I too am from Yorkshire and have been living in Paris with my French fiance for the last 8 months. I have really enjoyed reading your book and have been able to relate to it in lots of ways.
    Hopefully our paths may cross again one day…

    Comment by Tracy — September 4, 2008 @ 3:26 pm

  57. Petite, I just discovered your blog a while ago. August is the time all of France is on vacation, right? I was on vacation in Cape Cod USA while you were on Belle Ile, so we shared the Atlantic. Love your fotos.

    Comment by marlana — September 5, 2008 @ 2:24 am

  58. @56 – I was just very amused actually, and I’m even more amused to hear you were reading the book on the flight. What a coincidence!

    Comment by petite — September 5, 2008 @ 9:42 am

  59. @55 – I’m not offended at all. I don’t expect everyone to like the book and you’ve put your finger on one of the very real issues I faced when making the story more linear so it would work in book format. I think the main intended audience as far as my publisher was concerned was probably outside my blog readership. One thing I will say is that people don’t realise, I think, how much say the publisher who buys an unwritten book has in the finished product. Another point to bear in mind is that my court case was still unresolved when the book was being completed, which was one of the reasons I chose not to explore that territory in ‘petite’.

    Comment by petite — September 5, 2008 @ 9:45 am

  60. I read your book..
    and I really liked it!

    x Greetz from Belgium!

    Comment by Liese' — September 14, 2008 @ 12:28 pm

  61. I am an American woman who visited Paris last fall and plans on going back next fall, too. The trip fulfilled all my long awaited expectations and I love planning and day dreaming of Paris but was growing tired of reading guide books full of facts and so went looking for a fun book set in Paris and was not disappointed. I found Petite Anglaise quickly in my neighborhood Borders bookstore when I should have been grocery shopping. I must say I was lured in by the adorable cover and feel it is exactly what I was looking for to fulfill my Paris fix. I’ve read a few chapters and am loving it! I am thrilled to have a web-site to look in on as well. Thank you for your book. -Patti in Vermont

    Comment by Patti — September 21, 2008 @ 10:13 pm

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