Paris Birthday Surprise

In Our Life, We Heart Travel by Courtney4 Comments

Remember that time Gary gave me the surprise of a lifetime and whisked me away to Paris for my 30th birthday??? It’s so outrageous and the sort of thing that happens in chick flicks that three weeks later I’m still a little afraid that maybe it was all a dream.

I knew he’d been planning something. He had blocked off my birthday weekend on the calendar 6 months earlier and made me promise not to plan anything Friday-Sunday. Little things had me suspicious a couple of times…like how all the google ads on his computer were for Paris hotels and attractions. But it’s absurd to go to Paris for a birthday in general…let alone for a day and half, so I dismissed it.

Then a week before my birthday our little family went out to breakfast and he gave me an early birthday present. It was a gorgeously wrapped little box with a perfect set of antique keys tied to it. I opened it and inside was a beautiful lock to match the keys and a flight itinerary to Paris with my name on it….Leaving the next morning and staying for a full week. The lock was to put on the Pont de Arts as a symbol of our undying love.

Geez. I’m crying again just writing this. (Disclaimer, I’m a cryer…so there’s lots of crying involved in this story.)

First I couldn’t believe it. Like…I couldn’t actually get my brain to accept the idea that I was going to Paris the next day. Then I started bawling. Crying like a baby into my french toast.

Gary had arranged everything. My parents were going to watch the girls, we had a ride to the airport, a beautiful little flat booked, dinner reservations on the Eiffel Tower on my birthday and even a spreadsheet of restaurants, bakeries and attractions that he had researched. It was crazy. And insanely awesome.

The fact that I was going to Paris didn’t actually sink in until our second flight from Salt Lake City to Paris. At which point I started laughing and then crying again.

At that point I decided to accept randomly bursting into tears as a part of my life for the next week. I did it a lot….like three or four times a day at least. Whenever I looked around and got crazy overwhelmed by how loved I was. And how beautiful life was at that moment.

We don’t get very many perfect moments in life. But this was mine.We decided to be terrible photographers and great people and leave our big camera at home. We didn’t want to feel the pressure of taking great pictures…We wanted to give ourselves the freedom of just experience things in person, rather than through a view finder. So the photos you see here and nearly all of the photos we took (from our phones and trusty point-n-shoot). But we have some amazing memories.

We ate a lot of incredible and insanely buttery food and then burned it off by walking at least five miles a day. We drank a lot of champagne (we brought a couple of bottles of my favorite that I had insisted on buying for my birthday before I knew about the trip.) And we had a crazy good time.

When in doubt, make out under the Eiffel Tower. If possible, involve a delicious rose wine from Provence.Gary had made us reservations for dinner on the Eiffel Tower for my actual birthday. It was GORGEOUS. There was a misunderstanding and they sang him happy birthday instead of me which was one of my favorite moments of the whole trip. I sang along and then we laughed til we cried. But it might have been the champagne that made it so funny.
Oh and the lock? We decided to be subversive and put it somewhere the Parisian authorities would never try to cut it off. So it’s in a perfect little spot with an amazing view.

You’re supposed to throw the keys into the Seine, but we kept ours…and promised to move it every time we got the chance to visit Paris. It’s like our little promise to not let this be the end. Of grand gestures. Of crazy, irresponsible adventures. Of surprising each other. Of traveling. Of being hopelessly, madly in love. Of drinking champagne and making out in public. I don’t want this to be the last time. I want it to be the first.


  1. Jenna Strubhar

    Perfect. I cried every time you mentioned crying and grinned the rest of the time. :) What a story! An inspiration! Love every bit of this.

  2. Krysta

    I think it’s amazing you were eating French toast when you found out you were going to France. :)

  3. Carly Kolbo

    I adore your love outrageous love for each other and adventure. You make life grand!
    (And I thought I was cool for surprising Amos with a Vegas trip for his 30th. Ha!)

  4. Ville

    OK Courtney, now you have me crying, and I am a grown up man. Thank you for blessing my morning here in Finland with your beautiful story!

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