Each of us was new

It was one of those gentle, magical days. A gift. We were in Nice, France. We wandered through the Old Town until I found the perfect striped straw bag I had been searching for, then took it with us to the open-air markets. There we bought olives, strawberries and enormous green grapes, warm from the sun, and ate them as we walked. Down at the beach, sinking through pebbles, the girls dipped their toes in the Mediterranean Sea.

The day grew hot. I left the family swimming, and escaped for one of those perfect, lonely explorations that are best to be had in an old, foreign town. If a narrow laneway appeared, I took it. If steps curved around the corner, I climbed them. I passed shrines to the Mother Mary, washing strung from building to building, and stepped in and out of shops - refreshingly cool like caves - of olives and lollies and crisp, white linen.

Way up high in the distance I could see a waterfall, and the cool sparkle of its water was like a beacon. I asked a man, "How do I get to the waterfall?" and he answered, "You mean the castle," and pointed the way. The climb was long, and my throat dried with the heat. At the top, the pathway branched back into trees. Between them I could just see glimpses: now the ocean glinting far below me, now circles of terra cotta rooftops, casting patterns in the view.

The waterfall cascaded over barely-visible stonework, almost all that was left of the ancient castle. I sat on the edge of the pool where the water plunged, grateful for the soft mist that blew into and over my face.

Back down at the beach, I found my family splashing in the shallows in front of a row of blue and white striped chairs and umbrellas. Lazily, we drained one iced tea after the other, then wandered home as the sun set.

But it was more than the tea that refreshed me. Sometimes, even in the company of those you love the most, a breath of solitude can revive a weary spirit. I came out of those few hours of exploring Nice alone like the girls came out of the sea. Each of us was new. How about you? Do you ever need to take 'time out' during a holiday?

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