Thursday, June 28, 2012


"Mom," said Daughter, a couple or three months ago. "What do you want to do for your 75th birthday this year?"

"I'll be in Geneva on my birthday."

"When can we have a birthday party at my house for you?"

"I fly back on your brother's birthday. He'll be 50."

Daughter had just passed probation on her new job and signed the papers to become the owner of the house she and Son-in-Law had fallen in love with.

Thus was born the grand June birthday party and housewarming. Daughter and her Eldest Daughter also have June birthdays.

For that matter, Sister's birthday is July 2 -- very close to June, and my Best Friend since 8th grade is only two days younger than I, and was, I found out, coming to the party.

My birthday celebrations began in advance of the actual date, on the eve of my departure for Switzerland and France when Sister baked me a chocolate cake from scratch, her first such endeavor in modern history.

I have a friend who believes her birthday is worth a week-long celebration. I could be convinced that a 75th birthday is worth a celebration for the better part of a month!

Three days later, when our French Alps tour had brought us that day from Geneva to the Aravis Lodge in St. Jean-de-Sixt, France, our tour leader gave us a chance to stash our bags in our rooms, then asked us to meet downstairs for tea (he's a British ex-pat, or a citizen of Europe) and refreshments and an orientation.

Hah! Out came a birthday cake, complete with strawberries and little umbrellas. Thank you to our fine chefs.

How did they know we have a family history with chocolate cake and strawberries? I posted Something wonderful happened 100 years ago, after I got back from the trip, on June 20, the 100th anniversary of Mom's birth and promptly got a phone call from Daughter.

"Trifecta!" she exclaimed.


"Grandma, you, and Brother, all in June, all just 25 years apart from each other."

Yeah. It was. Interesting little fact to add to the celebration.

Sister-in-Law and I packed our blankets and pillows and tiny travel bags into my car last Saturday morning and set out from our little town to Fresno for the big celebration and slumber party.

We traveled through rangeland -- funny clouds -- through Merced and Madera and Chowchilla, looking much alike from the freeway.

We were aiming for noon and would have made it except for the mysterious closure of the freeway we were to turn off on to get to Daughter's house. The next exit, with my turn already committed, was another freeway that sent us farther afield. No map (I knew where I was going, if only . . .), no GPS (broken connection), nowhere familiar. And the sun almost overhead didn't give much clue as to direction.

We went on a rather long drive. SIL kept suggesting stopping at a gas station to ask for directions. I hate to ask for directions. (Sounds kinda like a guy, huh?) I have no confidence that people who take money in gas dispensaries would know where a 10-block long street somewhere in a big city is. They don't even give away maps there anymore.

My route was not direct but I got us there.  I trust my directional instincts in returning to a place previously visited and they came through.  (Fist pump!)

I'll show the rest of our weekend in pictures.

Fresh roses greet us in her living room.

Daughter's Youngest Son, just back from la  Compostela de Santiago in Spain, entertains the young neighbor kids.

Left to right, Son-in-Law's daughter, Daughter's #2 Daughter (also back from the compostela and 5 months' study-abroad in Ghana), Step-Granddaughter and Step-daughter up from San Diego, Boyfriend of Daughter's #1 Daughter, Sister (standing), and Son's Son's Girlfriend (hidden)

Sister-in-Law with her Niece (my Step-Daughter) and Step-Granddaughter

Moi with my friend since 8th grade. (I'm older than she is.  Two days.)

The palms that line the streets are whipping in the wind.

Crepe myrtle in the yard along with something like 15 different varieties of fruit trees and other ornamentals

Son-in-Law, who does physical medicine and pain management, works on Nephew's Wife.


Son and Nephew jammin'

Daughter's First Born at the BBQ - Dinner planned at 7:30

Daughter and Son-I-L get a little dancing in

Ummm.  Still cooking at 8:40.

Some food items are coming to the table.

Food's on! 

Turn on the lights.

No, that'll bring bugs.


The cake is served. (I saved my fork.)

It's my personal cake trifecta. Costco makes a heckuva good cake.

Next morning, I am challenged to go on a walk with Sister-I-L, down a beautiful street lined with elegant old houses. It has a center island the length of the street.  A lost dog followed us almost home. She was collarless and looked as if she is or had been nursing pups. She followed us for blocks, then 1½ blocks from home, she switched her attention to a tiny dog on a lead, which I suspect she thought was her pup. Hopefully, that dog owner will see what he can do for her.

Beautiful flowers,

in lovely gardens

A grand house

A humongous eucalyptus. Note how tiny the bicyclist in the street is.

A renovation. The house has been pressure-washed and a big tree is coming down. By the time we came by again, it was almost down. There is a new walkway to the front door and a fountain over under the farther tree.

We'd eaten breakfast, or so we thought, before our walk, but Son showed up with a couple dozen eggs and wanted to do a "scramble." Everyone who'd opted out suddenly opted in.

Before we could head for home, I had to stop and buy a printer for a big print job (more later). My not-so-old printer got a paper jam that's not serviceable by me, but with a deadline looming, I didn't have time to track down a repair. We decided to take the scenic route home, that is, through Yosemite. The apparent freeway to the mountains quickly diminishes as we rise into the foothills. There is a steady stream of outward bound traffic. This is, after all, the route back to Southern California and it is a Sunday afternoon.

Traffic our direction isn't too bad on our way into the park. We give each other little pokes. "Oh, are you missing Madera?" "Don't you hate these narrow roads?"


We just drive into the Valley until we reach the point where we can cross over to the road home. It's enough. It's beautiful. How can it not be? We pick up more traffic this direction, and get behind a major slow-poke. How do cars not notice the've got ten cars piled up behind them? There are lots of turnouts to let people pass.

Still, let us not let that ruin our beautiful weekend.

Thank you to daughter and her huband, who worked so hard to get their new home into shape for a gathering, and to all four of her children who know how to throw a BBQ, to all who made the trip to celebrate with me and my co-honorees. A marvelous party  . . .

Friday, June 22, 2012

Picture Perfect Lake Geneva/Lac Léman

First full day on the French Alps Tour . . . June 9

The Kathys and I were 2nd, 3rd and 4th to be picked up by Paul and Cynthia, our tour leaders and driver (in Paul's case). We'd all arrived a day early, all had selected the same hotel. Effie, our Australian lady, was already in the van. We stopped at a hotel in the center of Geneva to pick up our other three travelers, a couple from Massachusetts and their long-time friend, recently widowed.

After a brief drive around Geneva, we headed north, along the shore of Lake Geneva, or as it is known by the French, Lac Léman. It's one of the largest lakes in Western Europe and falls under the jurisdiction of three Swiss Cantons and the Haute-Savoie in France. It's average surface elevation is 1,220 feet above sea level, putting Geneva at a much lower elevation than I imagined it to be. I guess I had it confused with Machu Picchu or Tibet (the Alps thing, I suppose). :-)

We were dropped off in the Old Town of Yvoire, which sits at the figurative division of Lac Léman into the "Grand Lac" to the east and the "Petit Lac" to the west and south.

Entering the old walled city

Harbor on the Petit Lac side of Yvoire

The arrival of a lake boat

Parasols and sunshine

A departure in a rubber raft (with company)

Around the corner at Grand Lac

Little harbor


Le cygne

L'église St Pancrace d'Yvoire

A glimpse back


Forbidden to cats

Vroom vroom (Ne Pas Touche!)

No service, no happy, no stay. Two of us went in here separately (at different times) and were given no acknowledgement whatsoever, not even an eyebrow lift, by the waitress. I waited 20 minutes before I walked out.

Cynthia directed me here, where Effie was having a good experience. Fast and friendly.

Crêpe fromage

We sat at a table for little people. Effie is small. She didn't notice. A kid passing by with her Mom looked at us askance, like "what are they doing in the children's seats, Mommie?" Maybe it really was only for little people.


Bicycle rack

My room at the Aravis Lodge. A bustling ski lodge in the winter, Paul closes it for our exclusive use, French chef and all, for this tour.

Room accommodates several skiers

We meet for refreshments and they greeted me with a birthday cake. Happy 75th! This was all that was left by the time I got out my camera.

The view out my back door as clouds are lowering over the mountains

Table set for dinner

Pork loin with a (wine?) sauce and apricots on a bed of mashed sweet potatoes

What a perfect day!

The adventure will continue.