Well, it was bound to happen at some point this year! My Birthday arrived right on time on March 16th which fell on a Sunday this year. One of my favourite things about my birthday is that I share it with my Dad; Every year our cake has always had two sets of candles, and our song rendition has always included a rushed combination of both of our names. I have the most incredible birthday memories because I always spent it surrounded by my family.
I remember when I was younger and my friends used to ask me if I got tired of having to share all of the “birthday attention” that comes from being the Star Of The Day. And to be honest, the answer is no, never, not even once. True, maybe it’s because you can never miss what you’ve never had, but my Dad always made me feel just that little bit more ‘special’, and I never had to sacrifice any attention or affection from my family. In fact, sharing a birthday with my Dad GUARANTEED that no one forgot my birthday, and that it was always a proper celebration. But now, as the years have gone by, and I have left home and continued to grow with the travel bug my parents passed on to me, I have spent some of my birthdays ‘alone’. I say alone because, to celebrate it away from my Dad, to see only one set of candles on a cake, or hear only my name in the birthday song feels weird to me!
Being born in March meant that all through my school years I was on Spring Break for my Birthday, and because I shared the day with my Dad, it also meant that it magically coincided with our family travels. I have the most incredible memories of my birthday each year being in a different country, experiencing something new, and always spending the day with my parents and my sister. From climbing Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, to being surrounded by spider monkeys in a rickety boat in a mangrove forest in Costa Rica, my birthday has always been market by a special experience. And this year, I was determined to make sure that I kept that tradition alive.
I decided to be the Queen of France for a day and took myself to the Palais of Versailles.
When I say, “I took myself”, I literally mean me, myself, alone. This is the aspect of my birthday this year that is probably the most significant – and I’m taking it as a sign of my increasing independence.
Sure, I would have LOVED to have some of my friends or especially my family with me for the day but I couldnt, so there was absolutely no point in getting sad or miserable about it. Instead I took it as an incredible opportunity to TRULY be the Star of the Day. I had to answer to no one, wait for no one, talk to no one, explain things to no one, compromise with no one, entertain no one… well, no one but myself. It was so incredibly liberating to feel so free in my “selfishness”.
I had a relaxing morning and made myself a delicious little breakfast of strawberries and cinnamon before hopping on the 1 1/2 hour train ride from Paris to Versailles. Luckily for me the weather could not have been better – there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the temperature was all of 20 degrees. I was in heaven.
I took my time walking from the train station to the Chateau itself, winding my way through the beautiful little city and through their enormous fresh market. I remember thinking “so here’s where Paris keeps all of its babies!”, the place was completely packed with young families with small children, a baby in a stroller, or pregnant ladies. Yep, we’re definitely out of the city!
Walking up to the chateau was just as magical and impressive as it was when I had visited it as a small girl. The golden gates and archways and the enormous expanse of the driveway up to the castle itself – I could just imagine a long train of horse drawn carriages pulling up with the ladies inside fanned themselves as they supported their enormous pompadour hair pieces.
A group of Mexican women had boughten too many tickets, and as luck would have it, they were looking to sell only one ticket! As everyone else was traveling at least as a pair, I was able to buy the ticket from them and skip the undoubtedly two hour wait in line! (“So long you suckers who came here with people!”) They were wonderfully kind.
Sofia Coppola’s stunning film Marie Antoinette was filmed at Versailles, and its scenes kept flashing through my mind and only added to the breathtaking extravagance of it all.
One of the best things about exploring Versailles alone is that you dont have to worry about losing anyone in the crowds, keeping up with anyone, and you can take as much or as little time in a room as you wish! Being surrounded by all of this incredible art and history was a delicious daydream for me and I would sometimes listen to the audio commentaries several times for a single piece before feeling I had digested enough of its elegance to move on.
An obvious cult favourite room (especially after Sofia Coppola’s ridiculously beautiful film) is Marie Antoinette’s bedroom.
Instead of Birthday Cake this year, I laid in a pile of daisies in the Versailles Gardens and ate Macaroons. Even though I didn’t get to spend the day with my family or friends, I spent the day in the company of the person who I must love and live with the longest – myself. The start to this new year of life for me has started symbolically in that the world was bright and beautiful, and if I must wander through some of life’s most beautiful moments and places alone, I’m learning how to be happy and content in my own skin, and in my own company.
Happy Birthday Daddy-o, and to all you other March babies out there!