I think I may well have spent so many years being serious that I forgot what it is like to let loose and feel the wind in my hair.
Today we purchased two bikes from an Intersport in Guerande. Although slightly over budget, I fell in love with a vintage looking Amsterdam Bicycle with a front and rear basket. I could just imagine myself collecting our Baguette early each morning and cycling back to the family (though this is mostly Chris’s job!).
After a little practise outside in the car park, we cycled the 2km’s back to the campsite. I followed Lola who was a little hesitant and cautious at first. As we reached the crest of a small hill, the rest of the journey was downhill.
I cannot describe the feeling at that precise moment, nor find the words to do it justice…I had forgotten how it felt to sit tall on a bicycle and feel the hot summer air on your face, and the wind in your hair – it doesn’t matter how old you are, it propels you back to your youth and fills you with a sense of childlike freedom.
A desire to ride with no inhibition overcame me – just like when I was 10. To freewheel, legs extended out, eyes closed; just breathing in the moment.
As it was, I had parental responsibility for Lola and no helmet, so it would have been foolhardy – but the sense of happiness was immeasurable. I smiled from ear to ear and took a memory picture to last a lifetime.
That evening, we cycled 4km into the Centre of Guerande. We had no expectations so when we were greeted by a Medieval Castle and Moat that encompassed the ‘CentreVille’, we were in awe. The scene stopped us in our tracks. It was truly impressive.
We walked our bikes casually into the fort, looking high above us as the 12th Century Church cast shadows over the little Plaza of people sipping wine beneath it. The cobbled streets hosted beautiful old cottages; now French boutiques with original ornate signs and pretty hanging baskets.
As we entered the church, the kids gasped in delight as the colours from the stain glass windows cast a rainbow of light across the stone floor. Old ladies quietly prayed and the male choir practiced as we respectfully observed the amazing architecture and reflected on the stories of those past and present.
I watched as my children touched the stone cold walls and the old heavy wooden doors that have held the secrets of the rich and the poor for many generations. They whispered excitedly in the dark as the light of prayer candles provided snippets of intrigue on their faces.
I have been waiting for moments like this. I always hoped that this adventure would replace the virtual world of learning with the real thing. This was the proof I needed. Nothing ignites a child’s imagination more than reality of experiencing it.
On hearing the sound of an elderly gentleman ringing a bell, we noted that the Church was about to close. As we exited through the door, the late evening sun welcomed us back into the bustling cobbled streets. We were beckoned by a man playing his piano and then by the array of smells coming from Chocolate shops, Patisseries and eventually a family Boulanger.
Hanging in the window was the most impressive display of meats. Within seconds we were warmly greeted by the shops’ owner demonstrating a tray of his finest achievements. Greedily, Chris and the kids sampled all of the varieties on offer. I stood back knowing that we had reached a point of no return. They would not be able to leave without purchasing something, or risk offending the charming owner who had spent the last 10 minutes entertaining the kids and complimenting the husband on his pigeon French.
As the last slice was eaten, Chris turned to me with an expression of regret. He whispered “Are we going to have to buy a sausage now?”. I nodded with an expression of ‘I told you so’ .
Chris selected a Spicy Salami Sausage and headed towards the counter with my purse. 13 Euro’s later and Chris emerged from the shop a pale shade of grey.
To put this in perspective, our daily allowance is 50 Euro’s. 13 Euro’s on a sausage (only Chris will eat) did not sit well with his conscience. Suffice to say, Chris has not lived down ‘The Expensive Sausage’ incident.
We took a scenic route back to our campsite and felt totally satisfied with our adventure to Guerande Centreville. Had it not been for our bikes, I doubt we would have ventured that far from the campsite. It is by far the nicest town I have seen in France to date – and I have seen many.
The sun was still warm when we returned so we planned an alfresco supper under our canopy. Chris disappeared to collect more fresh water as I pottered about preparing our meal. We could hear Chris coming back before we could see him. He was accompanied by laughter and sniggers from other campers. As he turned the corner, it was obvious that something terrible had gone wrong with the hose. Poor Chris was soaking wet. Apparently the water pressure was greater than expected and the hose had snaked around Chris’s feet, and the majority of the Service Area, before he had a chance to catch it.
It was lovely to hear the kids giggling.
So, thank you Guerande for a wonderful day/evening. Not just for the impressive architecture and the history, but for the laughter, the expensive sausage and most of all, for allowing me to forget that I am 39.
Today I was transported back to the carefree 10-year-old who would ride her BMX as fast as she could through the boating lake to Moonies Park in her vest and Bermuda shorts. It felt great, truly great…
…And that is priceless.