A three day weekend. The Holy Grail of weekends. What to do? How best to make the most of 72 hours of freedom from school and work?
The day before these three gorgeously empty days on the way home from school (planning not being my forte), I casually suggest travelling to Paris to Bean. I am picturing strong coffee, Seine side strolling, the Eiffel tower and feasting in a Parisian patisserie.
Bean bursts my continental bubble, throwing her arms round me and gleefully declaring ‘Oh thank you Mummy! I can’t wait to go to Disneyland tomorrow! Thank you, thank you!’. EuroMicky had not played a staring role in my chic city break imaginings.
Immediately regretting thoughts passing my lips I back-tracked. I mumbled something about the croissants in Paris being better than meeting a giant mouse to a wide-eyed and expectant five year old, who was definitely not buying it.
An evening searching last minute trips to Paris quickly told me I need not have worried about the activities once we arrived, because it was way off budget. My suggestion on the walk home quickly unfurled as entirely off piste from the achievable. At least for this weekend.
Au revoir to utilising my recently revised French verb conjugations. Au revoir breton top I had mentally packed. Au revoir Paris.
I scrolled down the list of city break options, but to no avail. I moved further and further from the original idea, until Paris was a little dot in the distance and I was searching youth hostels in the UK. It was at this point I stepped away from the futile search telling myself the original idea had merely been postponed. Postponed indefinitely.
This was how Bean and I ended up in my brother-in-laws van making our way down to West Wittering. The VW van has been, as far as I was aware, in the process of conversion to camper for quite a while now. So when we found ourselves climbing into the back of what to all intents and purpose is a work van with an extra row of seats and some Hawaiian flowers dangling optimistically over the dashboard it wasn’t quite what I had in mind. Bean however thought it was amazing; ‘I LOVE the van!’ was proclaimed repeatedly as she beamed from ear to ear.
We threw what looked to be all our worldly belongings behind us, prepared for everything from glorious sunshine to a monsoon (see Wanderlust. for recent weather). Bucket, spade, ball, poi, wagon (although I cannot claim that as my item of child entertaining genius), picnic; it was all there. We set off on our slightly protracted journey. We turned back to pick up a friend, needed to stop for three year old Cousin Ollie to pee within the first five minutes of travelling in the planned direction (and then typically not need to actually pee when we pulled over), and took a detour for coffee. By the time we slid the van door open and hopped out for said coffee I was ready for gin. We had travelled ten miles and were already being asked if we were there yet.
Latte in hand I handed in my resignation on the position of Chief Entertainer and took up immediate residence in the front of the van. Aunt Flo turned out to be far better qualified for the role, with it soon transpiring the ability to transform your child and niece into unicorns via the medium of Snapchat is the essential position attribute.
A few hundred mythical creatures later and we arrived at our beautiful sandy destination. Wagon piled high we searched for our spot on the sand. Bean promptly unveiled the kite she had spoken at length to Aunt Flo about and proceeded to leap around on the beach like a puppy.
The ‘kite’ was not as Aunt Flo had envisaged from the exaggerated description of an excited Bean, consisting of a translucent plastic butterfly that was all of 10cm wide on a long piece of string. But Bean was happy, Cousin Ollie was happy, in fact everyone was pretty happy.
The sun shone, the tide rolled out leaving warm shallow lagoons perfect for leaping in, and all was well in the world. Somewhat surprisingly where small children are concerned, all remained well for the rest of the day. Sandcastles with moats were constructed, the picnic food was enjoyed (predominantly in deconstructed and sand covered form), and waves were jumped over. Fun was had with people we love.
Bean and Cousin Ollie returned home sun-kissed, good tired, happy, and hopefully with lasting memories they had made together. The sort of memories that stick out in my mind from my own childhood as warm, fun, and a sort of sunny yellow shade in colour.
A day out that had cost little, involved next to no planning and been simple in its pleasures was a great day. The people and the place, despite not being Paris, had made it the best that particular day could be.
Here’s to simple pleasures, spur of the moment day trips, and lovely people.