When you’re young, you can have a birthday party every year. In fact, people plan parties for you … bring gifts … play games … sing and make wishes … eat cake and ice cream. Then celebrations slow down … and you celebrate the ones with 0s. David was approaching such a milestone.

As luck would have it, our good friends Leslie and Rich were renting an apartment in Provence … and invited us to join them for several days. Including the actual celebratory day.

Leslie and I confirmed the dates … Rich wrote to David that he wanted to play 2 days of golf.

And thus we began planning our trip to Southern France.

Since we were heading west, David suggested we see our friends Raffaele and Elisabetta (and meet their toddler-son) in Milan. I sent a WhatsApp message [translated and edited].

ME: Are you available on Monday the xxth?
R: No, we’re leaving on a trip.

Drat, we thought.

ME: How about Friday the XXth?
R: Yes. And I’m playing with a really cool band that night. It will be super [sic].
ME: Are you and Elisabetta available for aperitivi or apericena* before the show?
R: Yes.
ME: Super!

* Apericena is a combination of APERItivo and CENA (dinner). It’s during Happy Hour (well before traditional dinner), and the buffet-style offerings usually include chunks of cheese, slices of salumi, squares of schiacciata topped with tomatoes or rosemary, and probably pasta, like farfalle or penne, in an unmemorable sauce.

David was excited that we’d get to hear Rafaelle play. He’s a wonderful trumpeter, and seeing him perform is always a treat. And this was with a different group, not one of his usual swing-style bands.

David got to work finding a hotel … walking distance to the venue … with parking. Getting through Milan was sure to raise one’s blood pressure, and we didn’t want to add “finding a parking place” to the list of possible stressors. Even though we’d lived in a city far bigger than Milan for decades, even driving in a city the size of Florence now seems H U G E.

Next, the destination where David would spend his birthday eve … and wake up on His Actual Birthday. Easy … the beach. Bonus … the French Riviera.

Cannes. Nice. St. Tropez. Antibes. Towns that evoke grand cinema … Cary Grant and Grace Kelly in “To Catch a Thief” and Cary with Deborah Kerr in “An Affair to Remember” and Sean Connery in “Thunderball” and “Diamonds Are Forever.”

We picked Fréjus, across the bay from St. Tropez … and a good spot between Milan and our destination northwest of Aix-en-Provence. One night there. We’d splurge on a room with a balcony and an ocean view. One only turned 0 every 10 years.

Followed by 4 nights with Rich and Leslie … then, to break the drive home, one last night in Antibes. This pick was bittersweet. It was in memory of our friend DeeDee who had recently lost her short battle with cancer. She and her boyfriend were planning a trip there to meet BF’s brother, Arthur, who lives in that seaside city … but she never made it.

David found a hotel in the Bisvio area of Milan, with parking and breakfast. Next, we found stellar places in Fréjus and Antibes.

Once we had our dates, I wrote to our cat sitter. She confirmed. We were set.

And as David tended the garden, I found an 18-hole golf course in Nîmes … and quickly sent him the link.

David decided we’d drive the hybrid, so we wouldn’t have to factor in finding EV charging locations and twiddling one’s thumbs while recharging along the way.

The night before we were leaving, I got a message from Leslie. One of her girlfriends who she’d spent the week with had tested positive for Covid … so the friend couldn’t leave. Couldn’t leave the bedroom that was to be ours. And Leslie had been exposed, so she thought it would be better, safer, healthier if we did not visit.


The next morning, David wrote to Rich. He replied that everything was, to paraphrase, at sixes and sevens. With no stay-nearby-and-we-can-golf suggestion, David took the 2 sets of clubs out of the car.

We left the house … in search of Plan B.

DAVID: Let’s go to Barcelona!
ME: Do you know how long a drive that is from Fréjus?
DAVID: 2 hours?
ME: (having done a quick Google maps search) 6 hours.
DAVID: Let’s do it!
ME: If you’re up for all that driving, SÌ.
DAVID: I’ve never been to Spain.
[Wait for it.]
LINDA: … but you’ve been to Oklahoma.

And thus it came to pass.

… to be continued …


1 ball of burrata with truffles
1 lb. linguine
Freshly-ground pepper
Olive oil

- Heat a serving bowl (using pasta water or in a low oven).
- In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the linguine until al dente.
- Drain the serving bowl … add the burrata. Cut into pieces. Season with salt, and add a little of the hot pasta cooking liquid.
- Reserve some of the pasta cooking water, then drain the linguine.
- Add the linguine into the burrata-filled bowl.
- Add some olive oil … toss well.
- Grind some pepper over the bowl. Toss well … adding some/all of the reserved pasta and/or more oil water to keep the mixture moist.
- Serve.