When one decides to travel for their birthday, Saint-Malo is not exactly the first place to come to mind, despite its beauty. It especially doesn’t come to mind if your departing station screams Paris loud and bold in jet black. And yet, hours before I turned twenty-two, I stretched the earth tight between all the cliches you can conjure in the city I had been fighting so hard to be a part of, and the asphalt- whose current sped me toward a walled city.
5 hours later, we were walking up the Grande Plage du Sillon, breathing in the sand on a windy October evening. As our scarves tightened around our necks and the clouds hung low, I turned to Sapna, my co-traveller, only to follow her gaze – fixed on the distance. Against the gloom of the heavy skies stood an island – trees and shrubs still as though untouched by the wrath of the cold. We stood still, anchored to one place by the weight of our boots on the sand.
A boy in an orange jacket ran past us and toward a barely recognisable path that seemed to lead up to what we later learnt to be the island of Grand Bé. He followed the route. From behind, the boy was walking on water – his father cutting a rather comic figure with his red face beaded with sweat, one hand holding his son’s rainbow tricycle over his shoulder while the other grasped his son gently by the neck. The two often disappeared behind a thick spray of water or waves that licked the very ground their feet had just touched.
We stood in one place, but we followed the son and father as they reached the island’s shore, only to be swallowed up by the foliage.
The intermittent route was enticing, almost offering a journey back in time – a time as close, yet as grey and obscure as the very waters of Saint-Malo. Our boots and hesitation were not for the occasion, and thus we decided to return better prepared the next day.
We walked the narrow streets of the town, seeing all that the walled city had to offer. From crowded art galleries to spacious coffee-shops, our feet still felt the numbing pain the next morning as we found ourselves on the familiar ground of Bon Secours beach.
We held our hands over our eyes to be sure of what stood against the sun. The very road we sought to take was now a gushing chaos of waves as the tide pulled the water much closer to our feet than before. We gulped down our regret and moved on, consoling our inability to access the thriving piece of land with paintings we found in a store.
Another’s work became our imagination.