Tuesday, September 16, 2008


I celebrated my birthday this year (I was born on the 4th of July - did you expect me to be born on any other day??) with eleven fabulous, fearless female friends on the French Riviera for a week of festivities (ooooh, so much fantastic alliteration!). In case you didn't know, the trip was ALL ABOUT ME! (of course) and I warn you, it’s a long one, so take a looooooooong break, put your feet up and come relive it with me.

I started planning this trip almost a year ago. Five years ago I made myself a party to be remembered, almost like a wedding; a sit-down black tie affair atop the W Hotel in Chicago, replete with purple twinkle lights, purple eyelash tablecloths, blinking lip lights in the red and purple flowers, music from the decades of my life and people seated by those decades and oh, so much more shtick. You know how I love shtick!! The theme was formal
black and white with a touch of purple (my favorite color). The gals wore long gowns with purple flowers or scarves, the guys resplendent in their tuxes with purple cummerbunds or ties. And moi, in a red sequin gown with the requisite purple boa and life before blondness.

So now I had to top that. Oh, what would I do? My first choice was to charter a yacht and cruise the Greek Isles. But the more I researched the more disheartened I became in realizing my champagne taste was suffering from beer pockets. In the style that I like to experience life, it was cost prohibitive, especially with oil prices, yes even in Greece. My second option was a villa in Italy and no, I have never been there, deliberately. Ah, but

that’s a topic for another time. It was not doable because I needed a commitment from a number of people to know what size villa to reserve and that was an impossible task.

Sometimes the universe decides for you. Too "Ghandhi" for y'? Well this ex-New Yawker says, “get over it.” I went on vacation to Prague with my friend Chris from Wales this past Fall and we stayed at one of the small leading hotels of the world. I love boutique hotels especially Relais and Chateaux. Whenever you check in or out of these places they always have a book of all their member properties around the world so I grabbed one to read on the plane. I dropped the book as I was leaving the hotel and it fell open to the funkiest, hippest, most unique, colorful place I have ever seen. It was the Hotel 3.14 in Cannes on the French Riviera where they have the famous film festival. This was indeed fate.

I have always dreamed of going to the Cote d’Azur, the South of France, specifically Monte Carlo. It seemed like the ultimate topper. What if I got friends from all over to go with me?
Hey, you have to dream big! I plotted, I planned, I asked, I researched, I Googled, I gathered info from every source and then some and here are the results.

Monday, June 30, 2008 - Day One

They came from NY, Wales, Detroit, San Diego, New Jersey, Washington, Virginia and Chicago to stay at the more-than-fabulous four-star boutique Hotel 3.14 that all the gals swore I must have decorated. And the riddle of the month...why was it named that?

The hotel was the brainchild of the daughter of an airline pilot who was able to delve into civilizations and cultures as varied as they were captivating. She wanted to bring them together in one place and the result was the Hotel 3.14 in Cannes, an establishment that invites you to explore five floors with different scents, colors and atmospheres belonging to the five continents. You simply MUST visit this website to get the true experience of it, http://www.3-14hotel.com/site_gb/home_gb.htm

Anyway, while the gals mixed, mingled and introduced themselves (they did not know each other) in the bar area of our hotel, I slipped out to the hotel restaurant next door to set up the opening night dinner and told them to meet me there in 15 minutes. All weary from travel, I planned a casual dinner at The Carlton Hotel adjacent to our hotel and close to La Croisette, within walking distance.

I had gift bags made for their arrival, which was on their seat when they arrived at the restaurant. Black tote bags emblazoned in rhinestones Mikki’s Bday Bash July 2008 French Riviera (did the rhinestones surprise you?)

There was an event card at their table setting and a cookie that had my picture and the date, and a place card for assigned seating. Every night I would change the seating arrangements so they got to meet and know each other. Inside their gift bags was a journal to keep for the week with Carpe Diem! (another surprise?) and their name in calligraphy on it (thank you, Michele). They had a lavender candle with an engraved cover and a silver frame engraved so they could put the group picture in it when we returned AND a hot pink luggage tag that said in French, "Est-ce que mon derriere semble plus grand avec cette valise?" which translated means, “Does this luggage make my butt look big?" A good laugh and a good beginning to the week!

But wait, I digress. In the middle of dinner there was a fireworks display over the yachts cruising the Med, as good as any we'd ever seen. We sat mesmerized knowing full well that the French celebrate July 14th, Bastille Day, so we could find no reason for this but enjoyed the synchronicity of it.

I had them all introduce themselves by how they all knew or met me.

We had relationships as long as 47 years and some as new as under a year. I had a different question planned for each night, the opening one was, “Tell us about your worst date ever." We laughed, we ate, we drank, we shared stories as only women do. We crashed from jet lag.

Tuesday, July 1st - Day Two

Cap d'Antibes, Nice

We got up and did our morning exercise with a walk along La Croisette.It is basically this huge long street lined with palm trees and on one side you have the sea and all the private beaches with lovely yachts and cruiseliners in the distance and on the other, unbelievably beautiful fancy hotels and expensive shops like Chanel and Dolce & Gabbana. I did not plan the days, only the nights as I knew they needed free time. I knew some would sightsee, some would sun, some would shop and some would just be. It was a fortuitous insight.

Tuesday night we went to the Bond-esque Cap D’Antibes and the famous Hotel Du Cap Eden Roc, the hotel to the rich and beyond famous (Tom Cruise is a current guest) where a week's stay could buy a small house. Eden Roc, set into the coastline below the hotel, presents a jaw dropping venue. From here earth, sea and sky seem as if physically arranged for maximum-WOW!

Eden Roc is a restaurant where staggering food is only the start and the rest will leave you legless. It’s difficult to imagine this being normality and in a way I’m happy to keep it like that because we know, I don’t do normal.

Wednesday July 2nd - Day Three

The pool at our hotel on the rooftop overlooked the Meditteranean. We spent the day there, in the hot tub, in the pool and no, we are not sharing the topless photos.

I arranged for drivers every evening so we were picked up and taken to St. Paul de Vence in Nice. Saint Paul de Vence is a charming hilltop fortified village in Provence, filled with art galleries, boutiques and sidewalk cafes. It's hard to find something ugly about this quaint village. A walk through its winding streets reveals elegant fountains, vine-covered stone walls and statues tucked into nooks in the walls. There are breathtaking views of mountains and sea. Even the ground below is attractive, as the cobblestones are laid into the shapes of flowers. The fortified village itself is a site, with its medieval fortress walls surrounding the city. The entrance was erected in the 1400s.

As you walk through the village, you look up and see some of the artwork embedded in the walls. If you walk towards the south side of the village and climb the steps to the view, it overlooks a gorgeous cemetery, surrounding hills and mountains. At Bastion St Remy on the west side, you can glimpse the sea. In Saint Paul, you can see the snow-covered Alps to one side, and the glistening Mediterranean Sea the other direction. From there we went to dinner at Le Clos des Arts, one of the small luxury hotels of the world and dined on the most breathtaking patio with views of the village in the distance and a landscape equivalent to a still life portrait of a Tuscan countryside. Once again, the cameras emerged as the gals embraced the magnificent scenery, the delicious food (I mean, realllllllllly, having a bad meal in France is an oxymoron) and… the perfect weather.


No one was told of the plans other than that the evening would be spent in Monte Carlo.

Everyone dressed up for the glam night and our drivers first took us to Eze to the Fragonard perfume factory. Suspended above the sea on the Moyenne Corniche between Nice and Monaco stood this perfume, soap and 

cosmetics factory equipped with the most modern laboratories and workshops. We had a tour and saw how the perfumes were made, then we got to shop for all the “goodies,” and shop we did.  You can’t expect to let 12 gals loose in a perfume and cosmetics shop and not expect us to enhance the local economy.

The word ‘perfume’ is derived from the Latin per (through) and fumare (to smoke) because, long before the use of modern techniques, the first perfumes were obtained by burning woods, resins and other complex mixtures. Fascinating!

In the parking lot of the perfume factory I revealed to the gals what the evening would be. explained that ever since I can remember I always dreamed of going to Monte Carlo. I didn’t know if this night would exceed the “wow” of the others but I knew I wanted to share this special birthday with these special friends in this special locale. It turned out to exceed allour expectations including my own.

There are some exceptional palaces which one day cease to be merely an address to become a legend. The Hôtel de Paris is one of them. We arrive at this fairy tale-looking principality, Monaco, which is no larger than Central Park. It is pristine, it is almost surreal except for the incredible display of arriving cars…the Bentleys, Rolls, Maseratis, Ferraris and some we’ve never seen or heard of. What yachts were to St. Tropez cars are to Monte Carlo. Prince Rainier’s palace sits on a hill overlooking this hamlet and the gals wonder if I’ve arranged for Prince Albert to stop by. We pass the curve of the hill where Princess Grace was taken from them and we cannot believe we are living this dream. 

We enter the opulent lobby of the hotel after a major amount of camera clicking and proceed to the eighth floor to Le Grill where we are dazzled by the elegance of our surroundings, awed by the view of the harbor and overwhelmed by the circle of chairs set up for us in the bar to enjoy Bellinis (champagne and peach nectar) and pre-selected hors d’oeuvres. 

My eyes meet my friend Pam sitting opposite me and her eyes are filled with tears of sheer joy as she will be sharing her big birthday with all of us tomorrow. I glance over at Sharon, my college roommate who has never ventured past Florida or the Poconos, her eyes also filled with tearsand I am sharing in her wide-eyed wonder like a little child at her first amusement park. I am overcome with emotion. 

We proceed to the dining room and our table at the edge of the wrap around terrace when the most magnificent display of fireworks begins and we all dash to the balcony to capture this moment on film, on video, in our memories, in our hearts. We sit down to dinner and turn over our menus which reveals a watermarked photo of me with the menu printed over it and the title and date of the event. It is packaged for all of us to take home. 

proceed to toast each gal individually as to what they eachmean to me and to thank them for sharing this night and to let them know that they are my guests for this evening and I am making the party for them.There is not a dry eye at the table.

After a truly gourmet dinner and great conversation they wheel out an indescribable piece of art called my birthday cake and again the audible gasp (or was that for the waiter?).

We cross the courtyard to the adjacent, famous Casino de Monte Carlo. It is hard to imagine that in the middle of the 19th century this prestigious square - known all over the world - was nothing but overgrown grassland under which, according to forebears, were seawater-filled caves. The visionary François Blanc, founder of the Société des Bains de Mer, transformed it completely within three years. In 1878 he gave this huge project to architects Charles Garnier and Dutrou in keeping with Marie Blanc's wishes, and in a record time of just seven months they were to build an opera house and a new casino in Monte Carlo. They did it and the dazzling inauguration ceremony was attended by the celebrities of the epoch. Dutrou was in charge of the Atrium; he created a magnificent vestibule featuring columns supporting a gallery with balustrades.

We spent an hour watching the international jet set throw countless bets on the blackjack table. We walked through the silence of slot machines so un-Vegas like. It was the quietest casino we ever experienced, minimum bets starting at $500, more beautiful people, it was a feast for the senses. The only interruption, much to the delight of my gal pals, was a handsome Italian from Milan, shouting, "Bella, bella, bellisimo," and to my surprise he was captivated by me. The gals all stood to the side smirking with glee like 11 pourd mamas as they watched and listened to this beautiful man try to get me agree to a date, a lunch, a dinner. I politely told him that I was there to spend my time with my friends but certainly did enjoy the compliments and attention. Soooo when I do get to Milan someday..., I will be sure to look up Franco with the number that he gave me.

From there we were whisked to the most famous of all nightclubs, Jimmy’z. It’s the rendezvous for the international jet-set. A portion of the nightclub is situated outdoors which helps deal with the incessant smoking of the French.

Jimmy'z has seen every celebrity and sports star in Christendom pass through its doors and models and millionaires are ubiquitous.We drank champagne, danced till dawn and returned to our hotel at 4 a.m. The only time I see 4 a.m. is on a trip to the bathroom. To say a good time was had by all might be the understatement of the year.

Thursday July 3rd - Day Four

St. Tropez… and my second favorite part of the itinerary, Nikki Beach. Of course, you have to know that the South of France is the glitterati, the glamour, the glitz capitol of the world; the most beautiful people, the wealthiest, the jet set to the max, any wonder that I always aspired to go there and loved it so much?

Located on the bay of Pampelonne in the center of the Riviera, Nikki Beach Saint-Tropez has a vibe and clientele that is quintessentially jet set. This is an exquisite location, and a favorite vacation destination of the world’s most beautiful, celebrated, rich, and powerful people. Hosting one of the most renowned party scenes in Saint-Tropez, Nikki Beach is the consummate see-and-be-seen party places for guests, visitors, VIP’s and celebrities alike. For relaxation, we lounged on the famous beds of Nikki Beach while soaking up the sun of the French Riviera while a DJ played all the beats and sounds of international dance and house music and we sipped champagne and renamed it Mikki Beach.

Nikki Beach has the undisputed reputation as being the “The Sexiest Party on Earth”. It is one of the few places on the planet that champagne & cocktails begin at noon. Designed in simplistic elegance…furniture made of natural woods from Vietnam, throw pillows made of organic fabrics, free flowing white linen curtains and plush champagne beds. I LOVED it! What followed was a casual meet up at a sidewalk café for afternoon libations, then a walk along the harbor and the spectacle of the 100 million dollar yachts moored in an endless array of beauty and untold wealth. Then to a casual dinner at The Strand under a big, beautiful flowering tree and too many mosquito bites later.

Saturday, July 5th - Our last day! ☹

It was a laid-back day at the pool, toe dipping in the Med, last minute shopping, and our final dinner together at Tantra, an enduring favorite on the city's dine-and-then-dance circuit and back in Cannes, our home base. It was a night to also celebrate Pam’s 50th. I’ll let you discover what Tantra refers to…ooh la la, the French.
This duplex-designed restaurant and disco on a side street runs directly into La Croisette. On the street level, is a Tao-inspired dining room, artfully simple and outfitted in a way that, if it wasn't filled with chattering and gossiping diners, might inspire meditation or a yoga class. We never made it to the disco, oh so tired so went back to hotel to pack for tomorrow’s departure.

Part of the sheer joy of this celebration were the friends who participated, gals from all walks of life, some who saved dearly for this costly trip, some who came just to honor our friendship, some who came to see this part of the world, some who came because like me, they know that experiences and memories are life events that can’t be replaced or recaptured and they too want to savor it all. CARPE DIEM!

My friend Tamilee Webb,
aka Buns of Steel created a photo album of the trip.

Vicki Thomas created a dvd and slide show for each of us and
Pam Ausley created a
calendar out of the twelve who shared this magnificent celebration with me. I am now working with Vicki to pitch the story to some national magazines.

Bio and picture of each fabulous female...

Here's a little bio and pic of each fabulous female who was part of the entourage. They ranged from 40-60+ years of age, from all walks of life, from all geographic locales, single, married, divorced, all successful working women, all fiercely independent, all with a sense of adventure and lust for life and all my most special friends with whom I was proud and happy to have shared this once-in-a-lifetime trip, birthday and memory-making experience together.

The Adventurers…meet my special friends (in alphabetical order):

The Birthday Gal…45? 50? 55? 60? 65? 70?
Age is just a number and I’m unlisted, baby.

Pam Ausley from DC, divorced mother of three, granny to two. I met Pam back in the 90’s when I owned my natural health company, Six Degrees of Wellness. She has since gone on to have a very successful Feng Shui company in addition to her organizing clients. Pam is one of the happiest, most spiritual, loving gals you ever hope to meet. Pam celebrated her milestone birthday on July 5th in Cannes!

Anna Belyaev is an extraordinary fearless female, fabulous friend (you all know how I love alliteration) and a cherished Vistage member. She is one of the founding members of my Vistage CEO group and just the smartest, sharpest gal you ever want to hang with, especially on the French Riviera:-) She is the founder and CEO of Type A Learning Agency, a recognized global leader in her field of leveraging technology and learning to make a difference.

Pam Cosmi from Detroit I met at a fitness convention in the UK when she fixed my broken nail and found out we both loved to cook. A few months later we were off to the Costa del Sol in Spain and then to Refugio de Vila, a Portugese cooking school. We have since been to Greece, Belize and on assorted mini trips. Pam has two kids, a hubby, still teaches fitness and I call her Pamela Anderson and yes, she is a knockout.

Jan Dastur from Chicago is married to one of my Vistage members. I met Jan and her husband Dave in 2002 while sitting next to them on a plane returning home from one of my cruises and by the time we got off, he was "mine." :-) Dave is a senior partner with the oldest architecture firm in Chicago, Jensen and Halstead. Jan was in the insurance industry for 18 years, but took a buyout 2 years ago. She has been enjoying time off and working independently while deciding what to pursue next.

Catherine Davidson from VA is married, the mother of two teenage girls and has three dogs. She is a realtor who in her first year made the Million Dollar Club. She loves yoga, walking, cycling, gardening and going out with her girlfriends! Catherine is high energy, vivacious and so much fun, fun, fun to be with and my newest friend of less than a year.

Sharon Greco from Long Island has been my friend forever. My college roommate and my lifelong friend, who lives with her husband, Tony, has three sons who are all married with kids and each year her holiday card gets longer and longer with the family photo of more grandkids than I can count. This was Sharon’s first trip out of the country.

Ellen Hefter (akaTweeny) from New Jersey, also a college buddy who taught speech therapy in the school system and has since retired. She lives with her husband, Arie from Israel, a talented cameraman and their son has become a famous sommelier in Vegas.

Karen Kennedy from Chicago is my neighbor extraordinaire who has become a really good friend and looks like an adorable Kewpie Doll (some of you are too young to know what that is). She was only three floors down but since moved..boo hoo. She is my constant movie buddy, world traveler, a gal who loves the finer things in life (like moi!) and is a very successful salon owner. Her salon is in the Sears Tower so she works with men all day…lucky gal!

Chris Leach from Wales in the UK owns a financial services agency
there. We met in the early 90’s at an insurance industry convention, The Million Dollar Round Table and later bonded in a jeep in the Israeli desert. She cruises with me yearly and this past Fall, we did Prague together. She is yet another of my shy unassuming female friends.

Vicki Thomas from Weston, CT has been my friend for X%$@*# years. We have shared office space, dog walks, memberships, diets and business savvy. Ask about the photos on our opposite walls. She is one of the smartest gals on the planet, with more businesses than I can count, well maybe as many as me. She is one the most preeminent authorities on senior marketing in the country and proud to say I nominated her to be a Vistage Chair and it’s her new role which she is succeeding at brilliantly.

Tamilee Webb, aka Buns of Steel, the very famous video queen. She has been my friend since the 1980s when we met in the fitness business. We have seen each other through marriages, divorces, relationships, laughter, tears, shopping, travel to exotic places and visits to both coasts. She is gorgeous, smart, successful and if she wasn’t my friend and the sweetest person on earth, I would hate her!