Fortieth birthday party, celebration and gift ideas. Happy 40th Birthday!

Fortieth Birthday in Paris

by Hannah Carsdale

I don't know about you but whenever I hear the word 'Paris', it conjures up images of elegance, beauty and stylishness, of art and literature, politics and philosophy, of stimulation and serenity. Whether you're looking for culture, for gastronomical delights or for a zinging night life, you'll find it all in the city of light.

My sons are both in their late teens and pretty independent. While I think and hope they will come to appreciate Paris when they're older, for the moment they'd rather lock themselves in their rooms and play on their computers. The prospect of turning 40 had propelled my husband into a mid-life crisis, the net result of which was, we split up. So, by the time it was my fortieth birthday, I was wondering who I was going to celebrate it with. Indeed, I was wondering if I was going to celebrate it at all, since there didn't seem to be that much to celebrate.

40th birthday in Paris, France: Notre Dame from the SeineIt was my best friend, Louise, who suggested we go to Paris for my 40th. She knows I love the place and she said it would do me good to get away for a few days and have some fun. How right she was!

Although Paris is renowned as a romantic city, I think this is only at its cheesy surface. Any beautiful surroundings are romantic if you're feeling that way, but Paris has so much more to offer than the Eiffel Tower wearing a beret and with a rose between its teeth.

Louise and I caught a flight after work on the Thursday evening, so as to wake up in Paris on the Friday, which was my birthday. We stayed three nights in a straightforward but friendly and efficient hotel, and we made the most of every hour we had in the chic French capital.

After you've seen the Eiffel Tower (which you really have to do), the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs Elysées, here are some other recommended highlights of a brief trip to Paris:

Montmartre, Sacré Coeur and the flea market. This bohemian area, crowned by the stunning basilica, has its tacky side these days but also still has a good vibe and is interesting to explore.

The Latin Quarter and the Paris Mosque. Louise and I enjoyed wandering around here thinking about the students from Les Misérables planning the revolution. We also greatly enjoyed our visit to the café at the Mosque.

An art gallery. I love the Impressionists and could stand in front of their paintings for hours. The Musée d'Orsay is great, with a wide range of engrossing pictures. If you want something smaller and more focused, try the Orangerie. This is just two rooms with a few of Monet's paintings on the walls - a few, but they're HUGE! If you've got the time and inclination, I'd also recommend the Pompidou Centre, with its museum of modern art, and the Picasso museum.

A boat trip along the river Seine. OK, this is a bit touristy but it's lovely. You get to see a lot of the city in an hour's cruise and it gives your feet a rest!

Wine tasting. A cool company called Ô Chateau does wine-tasting events that are fun as well as educational. The talking is in English, though the drinking is all French! You'll need to book this in advance but that's easy to do online.

Le Double Fond. This is a magic café-bar. Sometimes, apparently, close-up magicians come round and show magic at your table. If you're not lucky enough to be there at the right time for this, do see a show in the little cellar-theatre downstairs. Again, you're best off booking this in advance (thanks, Louise!). This place felt like the real Paris and if, like me, you enjoy magic, you should have a lot of fun.

I'm so grateful to my friend for pushing me to mark my fortieth birthday in a way that encouraged me to remember both that 40 is really not that old and that it's all right to spend some time and money doing something I want to do. I work hard to be a good mother and my impending divorce is stressful, but a few days in Paris helped me to get some perspective and to get back in touch with the easygoing, fun-loving person I used to be.

Inspired to celebrate your fortieth birthday in Paris?

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Useful links to help you plan your trip

Paris Magic - Where to see magic in Paris, along with suggestions for and information about lots of other great trips and experiences in and around the French capital.

Paris Museum Pass - Official website where you can buy a pass for all the museums, galleries and attractions of Paris.

Ô Chateau wine tasting - Learn about wine in relaxed and easy-going surroundings.

Back to 40th Birthday Articles or read about 40th birthdays elsewhere: New York City, Las Vegas, London