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The Proposal
- The Proposal -
So there I was, sitting outside Kristy's house, eyes watering from an overly potent shart Bryan had decided to involuntarily share.  I thought about how I would never pick him as my professional stake-out partner (not that that day would ever come) ...and also about how this engagement scheme was actually about to work!
- The Idea -
Almost a year earlier I got the proposal idea as I listened to a friend talk about her recent trip to France for the weekend.  I had never realized that such a feat was even possible.  And then it struck me, what a cool thing to do for a proposal ...fly to Paris for a day!
- The Concept -
It had taken some planning, some help, and a whole lotta "luck" to make the scheme fly.  The concept was to surprise Kristy with a proposal she knew was coming (for a wedding she was already planning). Simple... ...kinda.  

The only way I could conceive, was to set up a fake trip and play it so nonchalant Kristy would never see it as a decoy.  Luckily, I knew she had taken a week of vacation the first week of April.  For the surprise date, that was gonna have to work.  So I pretended I couldn't afford the ring and proposal until Summer at the earliest.  Of course that didn't quite work for her and we "negotiated" a date in late April that worked for both of us.  Kristy got the time off from her job and the date was "set".
- The Passport -
Months earlier I had gotten my sister, Julie, to plant a seed in Kristy's head that it would be in our best interest to get our passports (for our St. Lucia honeymoon) early.  Apparently some people (known only to Julie) had entire trips ruined by extremely slow passport processing times.  (obviously a total fabrication as we all know our government agencies are prompt, polite, well oiled machines).  It did the trick, and Kristy was actually the one who suggested we get the passports early February.  She somehow overlooked the fact that I uncharacteristically set up the resulting appointment with-in hours.
- The Cover Story -
I wanted to surprise Kristy at the last possible second and that meant the perfect place was outside the airport only hours before our departure flight.  I only had to invent a way to get her there!  Since Julie was already in on the plot and had done such a great job thus far, I asked her to help with this twist too.  She graciously agreed and we developed the story.

Conveniently, Rudy (my sister's husband) had recently switched jobs and his new one called for occasional out-of-town business trips... ...and we knew Kristy knew this.  Based on this info, we hatched a story where Julie would be coming home from visiting Rudy on one such trip.  We only had to get Kristy to agree to pick Julie up from the airport, thus putting her in the desired surprise location.  Again, Julie's email was so good that Kristy agreed and no contingency plan was needed!
- The Luggage -
Only one more thing to consider... ...one more huge thing!!  Kristy's luggage.  I knew I could get around most any obstacle that arose with the airport-pickup story, but I had nightmarish visions of me not packing the "right something" and screwing the trip all up.  

So, I covered all my bases on this one.  Her brother, Jeff, eagerly agreed to help out if I needed it... but thankfully, it was Kristy's mother, Jackie, who saved the day.  She did an amazing job of throwing everything together (in less then 15 minutes) and not missing a thing!  David and I agreed the packing was so good, I could have made it into a week long trip had I felt the urge.  Thanks again Jackie!!
- The Surprise -
So that was it!  All the bases covered, all stories in play.  I was sitting with Bryan outside Kristy's house (in my parent's car, of course) waiting to see Kristy drive... ...oh, there she goes... off to pick up Julie.  We give her a minute (to make sure she's really gone) and finally enter the house to a feverishly packing Jackie.  David keeps us company for a while and then we're off, luggage in hand, to the airport.

Julie keeps Kristy waiting patiently in front of our gate with tales of slow tarmac and baggage claim times.  Finally, we arrive!  We hop out, Bryan snapping a steady stream of pictures, as I proceed to tell a very confused Kristy that she's the one being picked up and not Julie.  Finally, as Rudy and Julie arrive so does enlightenment. We all laugh about how the scheme somehow worked perfectly and then Kristy and I are off to France...
- The Trip -    [  Our Flight  ]
If you've never taken a trip to a foreign country,  I recommend it.  If you've never taken a trip with absolutely no itinerary,  I highly recommend it.  If you've never taken a trip to a foreign country with no itinerary.. well, you better have someone looking after you!

It was crazy from the start!  We managed to get through two airport security checkpoints before we were kindly informed that the two tickets we were given were for only one person (both legs of the trip).  We had to go all the way back to the ticket counter and haggle the other ticket out of the attendant, as by this time it was about 2 minutes too late for anyone else to check onto the flight. While the family to the left of us was being turned away, we managed to secure another ticket.  *Someone was looking out for us.

We arrived in Philly and in the 45 minutes allotted, had to swing by the ticket booth (due to the previous ticket error), pick up a new ticket, and get clear across the airport.   Needless to say we were the people running down the boarding ramp and onto the plane.   Yea, we had to flat out run to catch a plane, but we made it.  *Someone was looking out for us.

As many of you know I always wear a Notre Dame baseball cap.  Well, everyone it seemed, on this trip, was somehow connected to Notre Dame.  It started up quite a few conversations (both on the plane and around Paris) including one with our awesome flight attendant, Bud.  Once he heard the story and plan of proposal, he was sold.  He hooked us up with whatever he could, from individual travel kits to a bottle of champaign (which will be used come wedding night... thanks Bud!)  *Someone was looking out.. well you get the drill.
- The Trip -    [  Arrival  ]
We arrived in Paris a mear 12 hours later (7 am Paris time), all attempts to 'sleep on the plane' having failed miserably.  First challenge, where is our luggage?!  It's really weird to look around in a strange place and not be able to read signs.  I guess it was good that we were in France for this first eye-opening experience because most Parisites (Parisites...Sorry, I had to squeeze that in!) can speak English, and you can usually figure out what a French sign says as most words aren't too far off from their English cousins.

That being said, all the direction arrows are counter-intuitive if you are strictly Westernized.  Instead of the obvious (and correct) choice, the up-arrow, meaning 'straight ahead' Europeans use a down-arrow.  This creates quite a bit of extraneous looking about for nonexistent downstairs exits, until one catches on.  In any event, this was the cause for some confusion in finding our baggage claim. Luckily all the airport ramps went up, so while we thought we were going the wrong way we eventually ended up right where we needed to be.  *Someone was looking out for us?

Customs turned out to be a breeze.  Ummm, we just walked around the line and went out into the sweet Paris air.  
- The Trip -    [ Our Hotel   ]
Making it to our hotel was probably the biggest hurdle of the trip.  Well, it would have been had we attempted to go to the one I booked us with the flight!  Of course a hotel is cheap when it's 30 miles outside of Paris (translation, a $60 taxi ride each way).  After talking with Bud and making a $35 'local' call from the closest payphone, we decided we would rather just get to Paris and take our chances finding a place.  This proved to be both a fun and wise decision.

Since we were still reeling from our lack of sign reading ability.  We decided to take the bus rather then metro into town.  A much more expensive option, but at least we didn't have to read anything.  It took a few airport attendants to get us in the right location which lead to some guessing as to how the ticket machine even worked and what tickets to buy.  But apparently the tickets we bought worked because we hopped the bus for the 20 min ride into downtown Paris.

We rode for quite a while and through quite a bit of Paris.  Finally we got to a stop where most everyone else got off.  It happened to be right across the street from the Opera House, so we decided we would get off too.  As the bus pulled away we began walking down the street, bags in toe, eyes open for a place to stay.  For me it was one of 'those' moments.  The kind where the moment embodies a life of its own.  It was the feeling that we were in a place where we didn't know a soul and had absolutely no place to stay.  It was uncertainty and total freedom all at once.  It was pretty cool!

We stumbled into one of the first places we saw, and found it quite easy to turn down the $600 dollar room for the night.  The concierge graciously pointed us to another hotel 'more our speed' and we made our way there.   I don't think we actually arrived at the intended hotel, but we did find a nice haunted, 3-star, run-down little number along a back alley on the way there...'Historic', I think they call it!  
- The Trip -    [  Our Day   ]
Because *someone was looking out for us, we had about the coolest 'concierge' (desk clerk) you could ask for.  He hooked us up with a combo land and river tour around Paris, and then showed us how to get there by Metro.  The jet lag finally catching up with us, we took a one hour power-nap and then caught the subway to our destination.

We had a great tour which lasted the afternoon and consisted of a minivan, an unsettlingly quiet family of five, and one tour guide/driver/photographer/flirt.  He had the thickest French accent you can imagine.  Only about 1/2 his words were comprehendable, so most of my time was spent trying to fill in the missing ones with something that closely resembled making sence and attempting to recognize when he was asking me a question directly.  In truth, it was much easier for me then Kristy, as pretty much every other question was directed her way.  He would keep asking her questions like 'Remember when I talked about so-n-so who did such-n-such... " to which she would come up with her best bogus reply because really, who knows what that guy was talking about.

But it was a blast.  The guide took pictures for us (like the one above) all over the city and showed us what insanity they call driving in Paris.  He also let us pretty much pick where in the city we wanted to go.  So if it hadn't been for the unsettlingly quiet family of five sitting directly behind us, it was almost like a personal private guided tour!
- The Trip -    [  The Proposal  ]
I guess the point of the trip was fairly obvious, I was there to propose.  But even when you've known someone for over half a decade and you know exactly what the answer is gonna be, it still somehow manages to scare the piss out of you.  Plus we were having so much fun I completely forgot to pay attention for a good place to 'pop' the question.  

This ment I had to keep the fun (and procrastination) going for a bit logner.  I suggested we eat at a local restaurant to get the full Paris experience.  Well, we certainly picked a good one.  It came complete with a huge bowl of French Onion Soup and two rowdy mice we hoped to God were the owner's pets.  

By now it was dark, so we took a walk down the street (a long walk), Kristy absorbing the surroundings while I kept one eye on her and the other out for a good proposal spot.  After about 40 minutes we came to an Arcade and had to stop and play.  There is nothing like whooping up on your girl at a little air hockey to build up one's proposal confidence.  So that's just what I proceeded to do (well, it was best out of 3).

It was getting late so we decided to head back.  Apparently I had waited so long to propose that Kristy had finally given up the hope I would.  She had been waiting for it all day, but in my hesitation she actually thought I was trying to outsmart her again and wait to ask her later.  So she didn't even see it coming when I pulled her into a neat little alley (Rue Edward VII) and dropped to one knee.  

In that moment I fumbled for the right words...I think I said something about 'if she married me her whole life would be like the last 20 hours' and some other such things, finishing with the traditional 'Will you marry me?'  Then we just stood there.  Me, on one knee, ring in hand waiting for a 'Yes', and her waiting for me to put it on her finger.  ...I finally coaxed the correct reply out of a now sheepish Kristy and the deed was done!
- The Trip -    [  Getting Home   ]
Getting back to the airport proved we were being closely watched over.  Somehow we had inadvertently come to Paris the day before some preplanned 'riots' were scheduled to take place.  We were warned by quite a few tourists and concier.. ..err, desk clerks not to take the bus back to the airport, as a riot in Paris consists of thousands of bored teens and twenty-somethings mobbing the streets to intermittently scream obscenities between makeout sessions with their significant others.  It's not really dangerous, but traffic goes nowhere and tourism pretty much comes to a stand-still.  Not exactly the best of news when your trying to make an international flight across town.

We did the only things we could do.  Leave a good four hours before departure time and take the Metro (which we were much more familiar with by now).  However, the days' riots apparently went hand-in-hand with the Metro system.  Seemed the metro liked to hire young employees and then fire them before they worked long enough for full benefits (or some such dilemma...I really didn't follow all the broken English).  

In any event we headed out.  After successfully navigating a maze of several metro tunnels and trains we finally boarded last line which would take us all the way to the airport.  Just as we were about to breathe easy, the packed train came to the next stop and just quit.  As we sat there (a little longer then usual) an announcement came over the loud speaker.  Everyone listened then stood up and got off.  Kristy and I just stood there, we could tell the announcement was referring to the airport stop... but had no idea what it was saying.

So there we were on an empty train, absolutely no idea of what to do next; this was the line that was supposed to take us the distance.  Suddenly a girl's head popped into the car, asked if we were going to the airport and told us to follow her.  She lead us up to the next level, across a platform and to the train we needed to be on.  Then she took off.  Who says all French people are rude?!  That girl certainly saved our butts, as I'm convinced we would still be wandering around the wrong platform to this day had we not had some divine help.   *Someone was looking out for us!

At last, we caught the flight home with (big surprise) a bunch more Notre Dame alumni, and of course Bud, who was also our return flight attendant as we were only in the country a total of 30 hours.  He met us with souvenir wedding gifts in hand.  Totally awesome guy!  ..Did I mention how great Bud was yet?  

And that was it.  I hope I did the trip justice (and wasn't too boring a read).  It was a total blast!  There was no way I could have planned to pull off anything even remotely close.  I think all my trips from now on will be as un-agenda-ed and as dependant on *someone!  

Thanks for reading my page.  You rock!   
    *Someone = Jesus (in case where was any confusion on the subject). Props JC, props.
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