As my consciousness bubbled to the surface, I heard exuberant voices ringing out a familiar theme. My messy head flopped out from under my covers to see my three flatmates boldly marching in with glowing candles and smiles and flags waving. I couldn't stop giggling at how wonderful it was to get woken up by the birthday song. It's a Danish tradition. What followed was a beautiful breakfast table laid out with more candles, flowers, croissants, pain au chocolat, nectarines, presents. Karl was the funniest and sweetest as he did his best to pray a blessing for me when he'd also only been roused from peaceful sleep five minutes previous, pre-coffee and everything. (I will be adding pictures shortly.)
After lingering, Karl and I decided to spend the rest of the morning using our French bikes one last time to meander down the Coulee Verte. This is a trail south of Paris that winds through some pretty little villages. We ended up in charming Sceaux, and discovered for ourselves an exceptionally good boulangerie with a sidewalk table. We started with quiche with salmon, dill, and sun-dried tomato, and the server looked at us quizzically when we said this was my “birthday cake.” We took that as a sign to indulge in a luscious tarte aux pommes, and 2 cups of espresso. She approved.
We had to book it back to Paris, as my friends Peter and Aubrey had invited me over to have lunch at their place and hang out with their new little daughter Rebecca. Indian takeout, a beautiful bouquet, good music, laughs, hugs, prayers. Karl joined and our dear friends pulled out an awesome bottle of champagne to celebrate. Tear-filled smiles- this was au revoir for a while. I paraded through the streets of Paris with a gorgeous bunch of red and white flowers (I will say that carrying flowers around sure makes one feel pretty), and continued on to my friend Alexandra's, who had offered to have me for tea. We indulged in the most amazing fondant au chocolat and fresh cherries, and laughed, played with Karl-Johann (her eight-month old), prayed, cried, and then I headed home.
When I arrived, it was already late-ish for dinner, but Ray and Karl were just finishing up the preparations for Japanese curry and a playlist of Johnny Cash (what else would you do in Paris, I mean really?) Tasty, on all counts. At this point, it was 9 pm. We were pretty tired, had to be up early. Still some packing to finish up. So, we went to bed, right?
Well, eventually. (You know us better than that, I hope!) I mean, it was our last night in Paris for a while. So, we got gussied up and ventured out for the late show at the Duc des Lombards, a famous jazz club we'd always talked about going to. As we sat bouncing our knees to the lively interpretations of Benny Goodman tunes, we lolled mouthfuls of Madiran over our tongues and just savoured. That's what this day was about – to enjoy and be thankful for 30 years, 10 percent of which I spent in this wondrous city with the man that I love, making dear friends that will last through this life and beyond. Merci, Dieu.
N.B. The best gift of all was my amazing husband, as you can see he was hovering around, carefully making sure all day that my birthday went well. Love you, K. Also, I wrote this post too soon, as more beautiful roses were awaiting me when I arrived back at home. Thank you, Pam!