My next travel blog will be about Monte Carlo, but I thought I would just mention how I came to going to Monaco…
It was 2007 and my younger sister, Terry said she wanted to organise a surprise birthday celebration for our older sister, Lesley who was to turn sixty on 30th November of that year. Terry made enquiries and sent out invitations to family and friends around the world; and at her call we came: from Australia, England, France, Germany, Malta, and Switzerland.
As Lesley lives in the south of France with our mother it would be difficult for mum to arrange for hotel accommodation for the guests, a restaurant for the birthday lunch and taxis to meet people at the airport without Lesley finding out. It was therefore left to Terry to organise. Fortunately though, friend and hotelier, Jean of the Hotel de Provence in Golfe Juan was in on the surprise and set aside several rooms for all us guests. Not wanting to sound too biased, but I would gladly recommend the hotel as it is inexpensive and well placed with proximity to the railway station, buses and the beach:
She also arranged for a party to be held at the hotel café/bar in the evening with champagne and cake.
The hardest part of it all was to keep Lesley in the dark until her actual birthday. A restaurant was booked for dinner the night before as we all arrived on the 29th. I had flown into London from Sydney earlier that week and Terry had arranged for flights for me, her husband Rudy and herself. Also flying out of London on the same flight was a couple of friends we had known since our arrival in England in the late 1950’s.
When we reached Nice our mini bus was waiting to drive the five of us including some dear friends who had flown in from Switzerland to the Hotel de Provence in Golfe Juan.
Once settled into our rooms, we waited in the bar, whilst the others arrived; our cousins: Dagmar from Germany, Rita from Malta, and Anna, Dorothy and Derek from London. As evening fell we headed to the Toscana Brasserie/Pizzeria at Avenue des Frères Roustan for a wonderful meal. The restaurant was to be the venue for Lesley’s birthday lunch the following day…
The day of surprises began when Terry and I walked from the town to the residential apartments where Mum and Lesley live. Although Lesley was expecting Terry and Rudy to arrive, she was expecting to fetch them from the airport that afternoon. So when Terry buzzed the front door Lesley was taken aback to see her standing there. What blew her away was when I rounded the corner and said “Happy Birthday, Sis!” I regret I hadn’t had the camera out when I said it, as the expression on her face was priceless.
But it wasn’t going to be the only surprise for her as we all knew; so it was nice to hug and enjoy breakfast together on the balcony.
Telling her that Rudy awaited us at Jean’s hotel, she offered to drive the four of us into the town, unbeknown to her that it was all part of a very well-rehearsed plan.
Stepping into the hotel café/bar Lesley was pleased to see Rudy sitting at a table enjoying a coffee and reading the paper, but was puzzled when another friend, Ninette, was also there dressed very smartly – so early in the day!
Then one by one people she hadn’t seen in years appeared from the corridor: Sylvia and Hans from Switzerland were the first to make an entrance and Lesley’s shocked expression spoke for itself. Hugs, kisses, and photographs followed and just as she began to relax, Loretta and her mum, Salvi stepped into the room. More tears of joy, exclamations of surprise, gifts and yet more hugs. Then from outside in walked Dagmar carrying a bunch of roses, and Lesley’s expression was one of non-recognition. A slight prompt from me was needed before the penny dropped. By now Lesley’s face was fatigued by all the joyful tears, but we weren’t going to let her off so lightly. Some of her local friends showed up and in all this time Jean was behind the bar desperately trying to remain unsurprised in her part of the conspiracy.
As planned, glasses of champagne appeared and Lesley began to relax. It was time to spring a few more faces into the room. Anna, followed by her sister Rita came in, with Dorothy and Derek training slowly behind. The pièce de résistance however was to be the entry of her friends Cindy and Syd from Australia.
The Toscana was just as nice during lunch. Terry had prepared some wonderful souvenir menus with a photo of Lesley when she had been a toddler on the cover. The table was decked out with bottles of wine, bowls of sugar almonds, scattered sparkles, and the atmosphere was of blissful joy.
After lunch some of us strolled along the promenade, whilst the older members retired back to their hotel rooms for a siesta before the evening’s planned party.
It would be a night to remember with finger food, champagne and birthday cake. Friends talking, laughing, reminiscing about old times and thoroughly enjoying a wonderful birthday celebration…
The following morning a few of us woke early to a crisp, but sunny winter’s day and set off to the city synonymous with royalty, glitz, and formula one motor racing – Monte Carlo.
RLB – Tomewriter
** Footnote** I have only included a few photographs in this blog as the majority of the day’s events includes photos of family and friends. I have purposely not added these to respect their privacy.