Joyeux Anniversaire in the Pays Basque

This past summer my family and I spent a month in the Pays Basque region in the southwestern part of France. It had been my mother’s birthday wish that all seven of us be together in France at least once in her lifetime, so we all worked hard to make sure that her wish would come true. Little did she suspect that we had another surprise in store. Before our departure, my father, siblings, and I had tossed around ideas of a nice dinner, or perhaps a champagne tasting. However, it wasn’t until we’d arrived in France that we hatched a better plan. All was decided. My father, sister, and I were to take my mother on a drive up into the foothills of the Pyrenees.

Meanwhile, my brothers, Elliot and Alexander, were to go to the market and pick out cheeses, meats, champagnes, and other delectables. Alexander had researched and found a boat rental company, and we reserved a sailboat with its own captain in Hendaye, a port town just south of Saint Jean de Luz. That evening we told my mother we had reserved a table at a restaurant in Hendaye.  My father pulled into the parking lot of the restaurant, but told her we wanted to take a look at the port before dinner. We made our way around the restaurant, and as we turned the corner, my mother caught sight of my two brothers and my sister-in-law Cynthia aboard a thirty-foot sailboat. Needless to say, my mother was beyond surprised!  

We boarded the vessel where my brothers had beautifully laid out the spread of food on trays. There was charcuterie of all varieties, stuffed peppers, olives, shrimp, various tapenades, shaved truffles, cheeses, and an array of pastries, chocolates, and macaroons.

Sitting alongside was a champagne bucket full of ice and five different bottles of champagne; Perrier-Laurent, Veuve Cliquot, Moët, Roederer, and Taittinger.

The captain of the boat took us out into the bay, and we sailed along the coast and down the shoreline of France and past the border of Spain. Once we were out at sea, we each took turns steering the boat, and it took my father (who had been a sailor in the Navy) little time before he was messing with ropes and knots.

As we cruised along the coastline, a beautiful sunset began to spread out before our eyes.

The experience was breathtaking. It was then that we decided to get scientific about the champagnes in a blind tasting of the five varieties. After having tried them all, our verdict was almost unanimous:  Taittinger was our favorite. Just before dark, we pulled back into the harbor and moored the boat. We thanked the captain and began walking back to the car. However, the night had something else in store for us. We happened to spot a concert playing just beside the water a little further down the quay. We were all in a rather pleasant mood (champagne will do that for you), so we decided to join the festivities and went to see what was going on. As soon as we joined the crowd, we let loose and began to dance.

The evening was cool and the people were radiantly smiling. Rosé was to be found on every table. We made merry and reveled in our good fortune until the small hours of the night when we returned to our rented house in the Pyrenees. The evening was wonderful, one I shall never forget. It was a birthday success one can only dream of.

Harrison Hunt
Harrison Hunt


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