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In the summer of 2000, Greg’s college friends and their spouses gathered for a week in Tuscany so that they could all celebrate turning 40 years old together. We chose to stay home because Willa was only two years old and I was six months pregnant with Arlo. They vowed to repeat the trip every five years and we joined them in 2005, when they gathered in Provence.

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Here’s what I remember about the trip:

1. We stayed in two large houses that shared two lovely swimming pools.

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2. We opted to “share” Bill and Tina’s car instead of renting one of our own, which meant Bill got to do all the driving.

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3. Trips to the grocery store for provisions were preceded by an inventory of foodstuffs in the house and if we had fewer than six bottles of wine on hand we definitely needed more.

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4. Jay organized most of the cooking.

5. We went hiking a few times in unbearable heat and one day while hiking encountered a footrace through a town that had set up a station to hand out wine to the runners. As we stood there watching and cheering the runners, a woman ran up to the wine station, opened her water bottle, dumped out what water she had left, filled her bottle with red wine, replaced the lid, and continued on her way.

6. On a day trip with Sarah, Betsy, and Tina to a hilltop town near Mt. Ventoux, I bought six antique spools of gorgeous silk thread.

7. On the last night we dined out at a lovely restaurant that served us beautiful blue cocktails that matched Duncan’s shirt perfectly.

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8. At the end of the week Bill and Tina drove us to Marseille to catch our flight home. On our way to Marseille, we stopped in Avignon for lunch and sightseeing.

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We then got caught on the wrong side of a road closure due to wildfires alongside the highway and missed our flight home.

Five years later, the year that Greg and his schoolmates turned 50, the group gathered in Spain to celebrate. By then we’d established our own routine of travelling overseas with Willa and Arlo every other year so we opted to travel with them instead of meeting up with the group in Spain. Our trip to the south of France and Paris happened to occur the week after the reunion in Spain so John Henderson (also known as “Running John” or “Uncle John”) decided to tag along with us for a couple of days.

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Greg’s friends are next scheduled to gather in 2015—the year they turn 55. But that is also the year that I turn 50 and I’m trying to decide how I want to mark that transition for myself.

When I turned 30, I flew to Ireland with my bicycle and spent a month on my own, riding from town to town and staying where ever I liked.

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I took two trips to mark turning 40. In the spring of 2005, Marty and I flew to New Orleans to meet up with Eric for a long weekend of gentle debauchery.

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In the fall of 2005, between our two September birthdays, Erin and I spent a long weekend in Napa Valley and San Francisco eating good food and drinking champagne as often as we could.

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How can my 50th birthday celebration top those adventures? It’s time to start planning because I have only 18 months left to come up with something truly great. Or perhaps I should aim higher and conceive of a series of great adventures instead of just one.

Offering: Six antique spools of gorgeous silk thread, picked up in a small town near Mt. Ventoux

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