33rd: Escape to the Vosges

What is a perfect birthday celebration?

As a personal tradition, I’ve spent my birthdays travelling since I’ve moved to Europe, from Italy to Spain, from the Philippines to Tanzania. Many had been almost perfect, whether I spend them sleeping on an airport floor or watching an African sunset.

My 33rd is no different. For the most part, I was riding shotgun or driving in the highway. However this time, the presence of my mother and my daughter made it extra special.

We rented a house deep in the French Vosges Mountain, in Rupt sur Moselle where I switched off from social media to be fully present in this trip.

I wanted to remember this day in memories and not in snapshots. One day that memory will be rusty but I know my heart will pick the happiest parts

On the way, I suddenly remembered that we didn’t even have a bottle of wine to toast my birthday. Robin said we’ll buy one if we pass by a supermarket. But we didn’t see one and surprisingly, I didn’t mind.

But when we reached the house, he had a fruit cake with a candle playing an annoying happy birthday tune waiting for me in the fridge. He also popped open a bottle of a very good brut. I hate surprises but this one made my voice cracked, especially after a 9-hour drive. My mother was tearful and my daughter found the high-pitched tune delightful.

In the evening, following the recommendation of the house owners, we trooped to the night market at Girmont-Val-d’Ajol. Tipsy and a little too happy, we drove through tiny mountain roads with suicidal curves and heart-gripping bends. At the market, we begged the seller at the booth of Domaine de l’Ambroisie to pay for cash with our debit card else we wouldn’t be able to buy or eat anything at the market as we only had €12 coins which we used for three pieces of ham and a small baguette for breakfast the next day. They were the only ones with a pin machine. Thankfully he speaks English and accommodated our request so we bought four bottles of wine from him.

For my birthday dinner, we feasted on traditional food and drinks side by side with the locals in wooden benches. We struggled to finish a piece of Lorraine pâté (puff pastry stuffed with herbed pork and veal), jugged it down with La Madelon beer on plastic cups and introduced my daughter to French baguette. You couldn’t start them early enough in appreciating good food.

We bought a jar of Munster cheese spread, which we enjoyed together with a bottle of Gamay to end the day. I went to bed partly intoxicated but fully grateful for an amazing day.

Could it be more perfect than that? Perhaps. But it was a great day and it was enough.

P.S. I had to think of these lines when I was writing this blog post, from Rent’s Seasons of Love:

How do you measure – measure a year?
In daylights – in sunsets
In midnights – in cups of coffee
In inches – in miles
In laughter – in strife

In – five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes
How do you measure
A year in the life?

P.P.S. I didn’t have a proper photo on my birthday. All I have are crappy snapshots to “note” details on my phone. The main photo was taken two days after in a restaurant.