Sunday, June 30, 2019

A Birthday Celebration (90!)

A Birthday Celebration (90!)
My children, Judy, Geoffrey, Roger, started last November asking me what I wanted for my upcoming birthday in June. "Nothing except to have the three of you with me", I replied. Then I slept on it, and, next morning, said, "No, I've changed my mind. I think I'd like to go to France one more time." They all agreed, and we promptly put plans in gear.
Not Brittany, oddly enough (I've seen lots of Brittany these past 40 or more years) but to a little town in the Loire valley, in the heart of the château country, Contres. The Manoir de Contres was beautifully refurbished about ten years ago by Maria and Victor Orsenne, who were my hôteliers in Paris for many years...since they moved away, Paris no longer feels the same to me. I've stayed with them twice at the new place and have always thought "What a great place for a party, a family occasion".
And so it came to pass: invitations extended to closest European friends, everyone accepted, delicious menu planned...and all arrangements in place. Geoffrey is a genius at travel arrangements (and smooth travel) so that was left in his hands. Judy works with many fine craftspersons from her "Brin de Magie" pop-up shops in Quimper. She and I came up with the perfect party souvenir/ place markers for the dinner table.
We have always saved all the "breakies", as I call broken pottery, and she has all of mine, all of hers, and a great boxful from Alain LeBerre, a longtime dealer from Douarnenez, a close friend, and one of the invited guests. We decided on small pots, decorated with a mozaïque of these shards, with a loving inscription inside each one.
The work was started  immediately, but it wasn't until May that I saw pictures of the finished work, a two-part process using the talents of two different créatrices : Eleanor of Imagine Design for the inscriptions on the porcelain, and Marie-Laure of the Atelier de Saint-Guénolé for the mozaics. The finished results were so exciting I simply couldn't wait for THE DAY.
However, travel time did indeed arrive and Geof, Roger and I met at Dulles.
After a non-eventful trip to Paris, we picked up a car and drove to Contres, about a 3-hour drive.Maria and Victor were waiting to greet us, as were Daniela and Henrik from Germany who had come several days before. We spent much time in the courtyard, getting acquainted and catching up.
"The Frenchies" arrived on Sunday, Alain in the late afternoon with a huge bouquet, and Florence and Didier minutes before dinner was to be served! 

Here is the dinner menu, a copy at each place, folded under the little pots, to which we had added colorful pencils for a "flower" effect.

Dinner was superb! Victor is a fine chef with a very light touch, so each course was delicious and none of it overwhelming. The rosé wine throughout was a Loire Valley specialty and perfect with everything, and of course, a glass of fine champagne brut for dessert.
The convivial moment continued after dinner, with coffee and brandy in the salon.

 Everyone brought gifts that were charming and appropriate and special. The next day, we took a picture of them and me outside the little pavilion (which is separated from the main building) where Judy and I stayed.
Then my three were off to Chenonceaux, to sight-see, while I rested. When they returned, we had family time in the little salon: Scrabble and conversation. Next day we bade a fond farewell and headed for Tours for several days.
The others headed back to their respective homes, and Geof and I went to Villandry, one of the most famous châteaux/gardens in the world. I had not been for almost 40 years and was thrilled to see it as memorable and ethereal as I remembered.

So I got my birthday wish, the four of us were together!

With memories tangible and ephemeral to last a long, long time.

A perfect ending to a perfect week!

May you all have birthdays as joyous!