Happy Birthdays Whilst Cycling in France

Ever since we started, back in 1997, the closest thing to a ‘company rule’ has been the Birthday Rule.

Whenever we see on the Booking Form that someone is going to have a birthday during their holiday with us, we try to arrange champagne and a big birthday cake. It costs us a bit, but it’s ‘nice’, and I always optimistically imagine that we’ll get it all back on the basis of the ‘what goes around comes around’ rule.

It usually works fairly smoothly, but there’s one regular gripe. It’s nice if it’s a surprise, so we’ll arrange with the hotel or restaurant in advance that champagne is poured as soon as we’re all sat down, and the guide can then explain and propose a toast to the birthday girl/boy.

This almost never happens. Invariably there is lots of faffing around, waiters coming to ask questions, our guide reminding them to put champagne glasses out, a further discussion on whether the champagne was meant to be served at the beginning of the meal, or with the cake.

I once heard somebody say that all blokes were autistic, it was just a question of degree, and as soon as I heard that it struck a chord. Anyway, I’m not very good at dealing with situations where, for example, we ask by telephone that the champagne be served immediately we’re all sat down, we then confirm that arrangement in writing, and our guides will always raise the point specifically on the night in question, and then someone comes and asks if it’s OK to start bringing out the champagne glasses, or should they serve it with the cake. I’ve learnt to treat it as the triviality that it is, but it seems so simple to me. We sit down, you pour.

Still, no sense getting worked up about it all over again. Recently we were lucky enough to have two birthdays on the same tour, Damaris O’Hanlon and Aundrea De Jonge. I’d felt compelled to go and have a slight moan at the management on Damaris’ birthday for going through the usual “shall we, shan’t we? With the cake? Later? When we receive a signal?” And then they wheeled out this beautiful cake for Damaris’ 50th, complete with correct spelling. Maybe there’s a lesson not to get worked up about things that really don’t matter at all.

On which note, another tiny, tiny gripe. The wonderfully nationalistic Italians simply won’t serve us with Champagne. Despite all our best efforts and protestations that cost is no object, they always bring out the Prosecco. Mind you, imagine trying to get served with Prosecco in France!

Damaris on her birthday

Aundrea on her birthday

Aundrea on her birthday

Anyway, Happy Birthday Damaris, Happy Birthday Aundrea, and thank you for sharing.

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