I am a firm believer in the benefits of play.
As adults our lives are often so stitched-up with work and worries, duties and daily tasks, that we can easily forget to have fun. And when that happens our minds become narrow and closed and we lose an important element of that which makes us human - our curiosity and our sense of adventure.
So, on holiday, I like to return to my seven year-old self, the little feisty kid with waist-length blonde plaits, scraped knees and freckled face. On holiday I like to play.
The Rags and I went kayaking in the Gulf of Maine twelve years ago and, aside from an unsuccessful attempt at canoeing on the Thames when I capsized my craft so often and had to be dragged from the water so frequently that our instructor gave up on me, we hadn't enjoyed Riparian Rolics for a long time. So, with The Ragazza and the BF, I planned a kayaking adventure on the Pink Granite Coast.
I'd taken the precaution of booking online and in English to avoid any confusion and hitches but even so... We arrived early at the Club Nautiqe de Tregastel (link here) which was not easy to find and which driving down dead-ends and round in circles had put the BF (our self-appointed driver in France) in a mood that was tense, to say the least. We parked and walked expectantly to the club where small, sun-tanned kids were wandering around in wet-suits and everyone seemed to know what they were doing and where they were going, except us. We marched into the reception area to be greeted by a woman who spoke only French and who insisted that she had no record of our booking. The BF's tension increased and the pressure on me mounted. There was an exchange, polite but insistent, no there was no booking, yes there had been, no there hadn't, yes there had, until I suggested that we make one for that afternoon, an hour kayaking with a guide for three people, that being all that I could afford to pay when presented with a new price list. And so, it being lunchtime when everything in France grinds to a halt, we left to find food.
An hour later we were back. And this time we were armed with the e-mail confirming our booking, courtesy of The Ragazza's phone. We found the changing rooms (no signs on the doors or directions), we changed into suitable clothing, we wandered outside feeling self-conscious and gauche, and were duly pointed to a row of kayaks and pretty much told, there they are, see you in an hour.
I protested, we had requested an hour with a guide, we were not capable of venturing forth alone and unguided on the high seas, we would pose a risk to shipping and a danger to ourselves, what if we ended up encountering a Brittany ferry? What if the currents returned us to England? What if...?
And then everything changed. A guide was found, we were informed that our bill would be a great deal less than we'd been told that morning, we were promised two hours instead of the one that I thought was all we'd been allocated, we were kitted out in life-vests, handed a paddle and asked to follow Eric to the kayaks on the beach.
And from that moment it was blissful, heavenly, brilliant!
We paddled in the shelter of the pink granite rocks which, as I kept informing the Ragazza and the BF, would once have been the tops of mountains higher than the Alps, wasn't that amazing? We navigated small channels between the rocks with only the occasional mishap when one of us, the oldest and wisest, became stuck on said-rocks and had to be pulled back into the sea. We admired the crystal-clear water and all that we saw beneath the waves, and you have to be above the waves to appreciate the beauty of that which lies beneath. We ventured out into the sea beyond the safety of the little bay and battled the current. One of us, the oldest and least wisest, even tried to copy the guide as he practiced some fancy-schmancy kaykaing near the rocks, before being politely told to desist. In short we had a wonderful afternoon.
Our guide was great, patient, reassuring and even laughing at my silly French humour.
It had all been worth the hassle and the misunderstanding.
When we finished and when I finally managed to extricate myself and my wonky knees from my craft, having thought at one point that I might have been forced to board the ferry home still 'wearing' a kayak, we thanked Eric and gave him a tip which, he said, was not expected, but which we said had certainly been earned, and which he said would buy him a lot of beer, and we left to find a certain establishment nearby that sells the best cheese omelette and fries in the world, by way of celebration.
We will return, that much we've promised ourselves, perhaps for a whole day of kayaking next time.
Sadly, I have no photos with which to illustrate his post.
Save for the one that I took from the restaurant which, I think, captures the mood of the day perfectly. Apologies for reproducing it but it is my favourite.
So, kayaking at Tregestal.
The Club Nautique Tregastel caters for all ages and offers courses in kayaking, windsurfing, canoeing, sailing etc.
Equipment for kayakers:
Shoes, suitable for those occasions when you part company with your kayak and find yourself standing on rocks, stones, sharp stuff on the seabed. Carrefour sell cheap canvas shoes that do well.
A hat if you find the sun too much.
Swimsuit, see shoes, above.
Sun cream, unless you like to look like a cooked lobster.
Wetsuits are provided if you kayak in cold weather or plan to be submerged in deep water.
Life-jackets are provided and must be worn.
Changing facilities, toilets and showers are provided on site but there are no lockers for valuables so best to leave the diamond tiara at home.
Car parking is available nearby and is, of course, free.
One last picture, of my muse, the pink castle that inspired me to write my second novel