The Extravaganza Continues


What I could not say in the last post was that there were more surprises in store for Ben.  Ben reads my blog so if I had said more it would have spoiled the surprises.  So here are more details.

From the previous post you might remember that I had been planning this surprise  since January, and I was smart enough not to tell anyone except those who were really involved; Ben’s daughters, Maria and Annalisa, his sister Bea, and her daughter Barbie. Really, no one else knew the whole plan until very close to when it began, June 25th. It was so hard for all those months for me not to say “Oh, well, when Maria comes…” or “when we see Annalisa…”. Even our friends John and Richard did not know everything because one day while Richard was visiting and Ben was in another part of the the house, Richard said, ‘now when Ben’s daughter comes’  and at that point I started violently shaking my head and indicating he should stop talking and loudly said “BEN”S DAUGHTERS ARE NOT COMING! I THINK GRACE’S DAUGHTERS ARE COMING THOUGH.”   So John and Richard did not find out all the details until they really were leaving to go out of the country and were safely out of the way.  That gave me the perfect opening to mislead Ben that we had to go to pick up John and Richard’s friends at the train station in Arezzo.  And that the little girl had just had a bad experience with a dog so John and Richard were paying for us to send Nerone to the ‘spa’ for one night. (Nerone is such a blabbermouth that I didn’t tell him either until the day before we left.)  From the previous post you might recall how excited Ben was when I walked  out of the train station in Arezzo with his daughter and grand daughter instead of two strangers.

spring and maria arrive 036

And then grand daughter Spring, announced, “We are all going to France tomorrow!” So we rushed off home, for a quick dinner and pack up and the next morning we were off to Nice, France.

bens b day in France, 2015 002

Yes, we were traveling light.  (Ha ha).  Maria and I made the decision to remove one of the back seats to make more room. (the car seats 6 folks) That made the front crowded but on the way up there were only 4 of us. 

Ben was surprised again when we arrived at our hotel in Nice and his daughter, Annalisa, walked out to meet him and then his niece, Barbie and her daughter, Siera walked out too. (Sorry there are no pictures of these reunions.  Nice is a big city and we were stopped in a bus zone, across the street from the hotel and Ben was hanging out, waiting until we got luggage unloaded (which Maria and I were doing) and the reunions happened before I could even find my camera.)    Once we got inside and settled, Ben asked, “are there any more surprises?”. And we told him no. Because we had already told him that after our wonderful dinner that night in Nice at one of his favorite Vietnamese restaurants, (Le Dragon Bleu), …..


bens b day in France, 2015 010

{Starting on the right with Ben, daughter Maria with grand daughter Spring in her lap, great niece Siera, niece Barbie, daughter Annalisa and Martha. At Le Dragon Bleu in Nice.}

we were all going to the beach, La Capte, between Hyeres and Toulon. A wonderful, very French, unspoiled beach town. We rented a great house, with two bedrooms, bathroom, kitchen and living area for the daughters and an attached but separate bedroom and bath for us, 4 blocks from the beach, 2 blocks from the very French town with a bakery, 2 butcher shops that also made prepared foods and a number of restaurants.  We stayed in this Air BandB listing. 

House Presqu’île de Giens (Seaside)

Hyères, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, France

I totally recommend this house and town. 

But, there was one more surprise, Miriam, a friend of Annalisa’s from high school arrived later that night from London.  She rented a car, so on Saturday AM Miriam, Annalisa, Barbie and Siera set off in one car and Maria, Spring, Ben and I set off in our slightly stuffed car.  Look what was waiting for us.

bens b day in France, 2015 072


Since most of Europe was hit by a heat wave, this wonderfully calm, cool sea was a big relief. 

We spent the week shopping at the local markets, cooking together, and eating lots of good food. And going to the beach. It was a pretty good family vacation.

bens b day in France, 2015 060

From left to right: Daughter Maria, Grand daughter Spring in Ben’s lap, Martha behind Ben, Daughter Annalisa, Miriam (high school friend of the daughters), Neice Barbie, niece’s daughter, Siera. Or as I ‘m sure the French folks thought of us ‘Ben’s Harem’

bens b day in France, 2015 123

Instead of a big cake, we chose to try all sorts of wonderful French pastries from the bakery that we could walk to. I think it is a good thing that we don’t live by a bakery that we could walk to all the time. Here’s the birthday boy enjoying life.

So do you really think this is all I have to write about this event?   More to follow. 



  1. Grace Brousseau

    Lovely article,,Lucky Ben…found our booster seat

  2. BK McCloud

    What a surprise for Ben! You really did a good job! What’s Ben going to do top this next year?

  3. bea

    Barbie and Siera had a wonderful time. They only wished they had more time on the beach and checking out the pastries shops. Haha! The cousins haven’t seen each other in years and Siera really enjoyed being with everyone especially Spring. Love you all and see you in November.

  4. What a wonderful time! Memories to nourish us for a long while. Can’t wait until we meet up again. Spring want to meet more cousins in Kansas City.

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