Birthdays in France: a course in miracles in three parts Paris, Gaujac, and the Basque country

Esra, Bunny, & I wandering the streets of Paris come upon beautiful birds in a fountain square and took this photo for Christine our bird loving friend.

 

 

What do you consider a miracle? Escaping from a natural disaster with your life or can it be as simple as finding a parking spot? While the name for this post came to me weeks ago, the actual writing of it has taken me excessive long. It seems that I am afraid people are skeptical about miracles, even the definitions I have read lead me to believe that my loose definition is a bit too far-fetched and therefore will make my ideas incredible. Well, why not? For me, a miracle is a daily occurrence where I am in the flow of life and it flows. A direct metro train arriving as a friend is falling asleep on her feet, the present of a plane ticket to a place I was hoping but not thinking possible to go, a French bistro in the middle of nowhere just when we were about to give up hope of lunch. The daily magic that makes life worth living, where I want to consciously invest my time.

 

With the immensity of dissonance in the world today, on macro and micro levels (just look at the most recent US Supreme court selections) observing daily miracles seems to me a practice in connection. It is the difference between the amount of time and energy I invest in lamenting and the amount of time and energy I invest in appreciating what is in my life.

 

On point for this. in April my dear friend Esra said to me, “I would like to go with you to Paris Nicole, to enjoy this lovely city together in the fall.” 

Pragmatically I replied, yes to my lovely friend, maybe next year we see. Sure, she assured me, offer it to the universe and we see what happens.

 

Fast forward 5 months, and in a matter of days we were all booked for Paris due to the spontaneity, and generosity, of a sister like friend of mine who was there for a conference and invited me to join her in all senses of this word invitation.

 

Sasha bought me a plane ticket and hosted me in her hotel to be there with her in order to celebrate our September birthdays - hers the 21st and mine the 25th. Coincidence that Esra’s is the 26th? It was a spontaneous, miraculous September birthday celebration for us all.

 

The magic of this entire situation compelled us to make our birthday trip in Paris a practice in consciously recognizing and recording the small miracles that make up the average day. Investing our time and energy in the  ‘tiny’ serendipities that often pass us by, even go unnoticed, that magic I mentioned earlier.

 

The photos and their captions below highlight the daily miracles we invested our time in being grateful for in Paris.

Bottom left Esra has her first snails at a tiny Bistro we stumbled upon, to the right of this lovely shoes at said cafe; next two of us in Paris by night. Center we three meet and begin our Paris escapades. Top left Esra and I have just arrived and the Basque sausage men we met on our wanderings (where I bought Claudio sausage).

Every day was a celebration. Center at the rooftop bar with cocktails while we gazed at the Eiffel tower. Top left Sasha and Bunny contemplate a ginger cocktail at Les Grands Verres; center left our 'bicycle' ride to get there; bottom a group pic at Les Grands Verres. Figs and jamon at Semilla next to Sasha and I posing there. Finally far right Bunny and the Birthday cake at Les Grands Verres.

Esra led the miracles with several firsts on one of her many visits to Paris, this one a 4 1/2 hour lunch! The entire thing a miracle.
Center we pose with Comice co-owner  & sommelier Etheliya Hananova (co-owned with her husband and chef Noam Gedalof) who on her own makes this already spectacular place super extraordinary; accompanying photos feature the food which Bunny clearly enjoyed.

Far left Esra marvels over the chocolate cake Comice kindly presented us; middle Sasha, Bunny, & I delighted for our long lunch; final right Bunny & I beam with gratitude at Comice and the sense of magic.

Briezh, Esra wanted so to share this lovely place with me and there it appeared beside the Seine on our way to the Orsay, and I was starving! Right, sardines from Britanny in honor of Angela; right a buckwheat crepe with carmelized condensed milk – one of their specialties!

Once at the Orsay. Far left Bunny & I indulged in a pure lemon juice at the divine restaurant; middle Esra & I happy shiny faces; far right Esra in pure bliss at Orsay.

Deux Magots, appeared at the exit of a metro just when we needed a Paris institution for a coffee and then we returned ‘by chance’ with Sasha for a most generous apertivo.

Esra enjoys two of her favorite treats, both on our last day when we visited the Pantheon which was having an exhibit of Simone Veil. Three miracles in one.

 

Esra and I returned from Paris and soon after Claudio and I went back to France, this time south, to Gaujac with our lovely, generous friend Francesca. Our third visit, each more magical than the one before. This time, for me, on the heels of the Paris and compounded by my journey to the Himalayas, I was super sensitive to the magic of being there, bursting with gratitude.

 

While Claudio and Francesca worked diligently on various garden and household projects I was over the moon to be the Empress of the kitchen. Hours in the kitchen, in total quiet or listening to my favorite Stephen Colbert & John Oliver mixed in with various music. Often there was a fire, and always I was warmed by my passion for food. Each meal was a chance for me to express my love, making every meal a small miracle of communication for me personally.

 

Part of our adventure this time included a road trip to the Basque country and when I met the Basque birds in India I promised them we would visit while we were there, not having any idea of the logistics of course. Planning the logistics, I all but gave up on the idea of seeing the birds and then I remembered I believe in magic and miracles.

 

The photos and their captions below highlight the daily miracles of our entire trip to France, Basque country French and Spanish, and to visit the Basque Birds! This last one has a special feature, a video of Eider (Basque Bird with the same birthday as Claudio) leading us in a Biodanza activity, click the photo triptych of the Birds to see the video.

Center, magical Chez Francesca in Gaujac; bottom left Bunny, Bearli, Claudio & Claudio savor Bouche à L’Oreille (“Word of Mouth”) in Simorre, a local village near Gaujac; bottom middle Claudio & Francesca attentive at a French dinner in the home of friend Suzanne; bottom right Claudio with the special cat of our hostess Suzanne.

San Sebastian alla Francesca. Middle Claudio’s birthday lunch; top left Bearli and Claudio driving to San Sebastian; next a Claudio at a café upon our arrival; me in THE wine shop; straight haired Nicole, a special present for Claudio’s birthday; us by the sea in San Sebastian upon arrival; Francesca and the brothers with the second generation book shop Donosti; Francesca outside the third generation wine shop Ezieza where Gorka and his father in law shared his passion for wine with us.

Pintxios and the sea; center Francesca and I in French Basque country where we had our first fish; top left urchin pintxios, bottom artichoke, scallop, and urchin pintxios with a lovely local white, bottom center, Bearli anticipates baby eels, smoked salmon and smoked ham; far right Claudio, Francesca, & I pose at our favorite Pintxios place in San Sebastian Gandarias.

Birthday lunch at Restaurante Itzalian by the sea and dinner in La Fabrica in the center of the old town. Left center the spectacular salad I had for lunch; inset with Claudio & Bearli and their lunch. Top right Francesca at dinner at Fabrica; middle right coy me there too; bottom right what Claudio called the best ravioli he has ever eaten.

 

Bearli & irresistible pintxios in Bilbao.

Bilbao alla Francesca by her camera and eye; left the Guggenheim by night with Vasconcelos colorful in the foyer; middle Guggenheim and the bridge; right the Guggenheim Maman spider.

 

 

The Basque Birds! Right the whole clan at the Basque birthday party; center the Birds & I; Izaskun & I. Click on this photo to see a video of us biodancing!

Miraculous lunch in the middle of nowhere, just in time. Top Claudio takes a rest from driving; bottom left Bunny & Bearli contemplate a fresh rose on an exceptionally hot day; Bearli gets ready to tear into a leg of guinea fowl.

 

Sasha phoned me while we were in Gaujac, just two weeks after our time together in Paris, and she said to me, “Somehow you make access to miracles possible”. While part of me was happy to be flattered by her compliment; I was compelled to reassure her that we all have access to miracles. It’s just a matter of whether or not we choose to see them, where we invest our time and energy.

 

This brought me back to our time in Paris where we consciously practiced seeing miracles. Each night taking the time to recount them, to write them down and openly be grateful for our time together and all the magic it manifested. This has me wondering, what will happen if every day we all consciously practice seeing miracles? Shall we try?

 

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