The reflection: Today is my birthday. The annual reminder that as time marches on, it takes me reluctantly along with it. Some wear the years better than others and some of my friends are no longer here. I am happy with my throws of the dice and I count my blessings that the higher numbers have come up often. Today is a six. I know this because I am typing this sat on a sun bed, under a parasol, on a white coral beach, looking at a blue sky and sea, with the waves breaking white on the reef in the distance. Oh, and I have just had a nice lunch and a beer. I am lucky because I have children that know me well and surprised me this morning with tickets to a Genesis concert and a voucher at one of my favourite restaurants. Oh, and I have Sue who probably thinks I am more than a little mad, but sticks by me none the less and is willing to accompany in what ever adventure I dream up. Yes, I can count my blessings by the barrow load.
The blog: On wakening Sue gave me the birthday cards that she had secreted away in her case and I lay in bed reading them. A little later I went on line and thanked Sarah and Charlotte for their present. It is rare for Jamie to respond to messenger so I couldn’t thank him.
The car was being picked up today so I popped the keys in the envelope provided and dropped it off at reception, after I had photographed the fuel gauge and all 4 sides of the car (in case of dispute).
I joined Sue in breakfast. She had already stocked up on a plateful of fruit and waxed lyrical on today’s new inclusion as I placed my omelette, bacon, beans and sausage on the table. I find that too much change isn’t good for the constitution.
We trotted down to the beach just after 10am and took berth in the hotel’s glass bottomed boat. Motoring slowly out to the reef I gauged that the depth of water never exceeded 3m. We stopped and drifted many times over 3/4 of an hour and observed the sea-life below, rich with stags horn coral, anemones, urchins (nasty ones) and countless colourful fish.
Returning to the beach we acquired towels and took possession of a couple of sunbeds and whiled away the time; Sue reading her book and I running the urchin gauntlet and having a swim in the sea. Around 1.30pm we went for lunch
Appetite sated we returned to our sunbeds. Sue spotted a dog on the beach and returned to the room to dig out some crusts that she had thrown away and fed a very pleased canine. The rest of the afternoon was spent blogging, reading and swimming.
Late afternoon saw us take a leisurely walk down the beach to where the locals bathe and then head inland through the pine trees to the little town of Belle Mare. We had a poke around in some of the gifts shops there but on exiting one establishment we were distracted by a a superb rainbow indicating that a downpour was in the offing. Luckily we made the shelter of the trees before the worst appeared and by the time we made the beach the shower had finished.
On returning to the room I came across our chambermaid and she asked if it was my birthday today. Taken aback (we had mentioned this to no-one) I said yes. She hurried away. Later, I went to the reception to access the WiFi and on return, as if by magic the bed had been turned into a shrine bedecked with flowers, towel heart and two towel swans. Nice, but fussy.
Sue and I changed for what was going to be an eventful dinner. We had booked a special meal in the ala carte restaurant at the hotel that morning during breakfast and we had chosen the courses we wanted. The atmosphere was lovely. We were seated in our own little pergola on the beach. There was six other tables with couples also enjoying each others company in quite a romantic setting. Then things went wrong.
First, my special Palmar Style Crab Soup arrived. Nothing special at all, rather luke warm crab flavoured dishwater would have been a better description. Undeterred, it was supped and the main course eagerly awaited. It arrived. Local fish, shellfish sauce, French fries and salad for me and Venison in red wine, rice and lentil stew for Sue. Both beautifully cooked but tepid. The problem was that fish, rice and vegetables arrived for me and venison, rice and vegetables arrived for Sue. Yes, we should have asked to see the menu to check what we had actually ordered, but we didn’t. We ate it it. If the service hadn’t been so slow (only one hard pressed waitress on duty) we would have left vowing to leave a slating report on Trip Advisor, but I when I eventually got the waitress’s attention I asked to see the menu. When it arrived I confirmed with her that what we were served was not on the menu. She fetched the chef, he listened to our tale. Apologising, acutely embarrassed and sweating profusely he wrote the meal off our bill.
The waitress brought us two large glasses of wine and asked us to wait 5 minutes more. With our wine finished, we were about to leave when a birthday cake arrived. We felt bad. She sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to me. We felt worse. We ate half the cake, it was awful. We left with smiles and half a cake, determined to feed it to the beach dog in the morning. It may be the end of him, but better him than us.
We spent the rest of the evening sitting by the pool listening to disco music, drinking a bottle of Phoenix and chatting with Charlotte and Sarah.