After a typical French breakfast of croissants (bland, cardboard on steroids with peculiar bits on the side) we all made our way with our luggage to the Gare du Nord station to leave the cases in the left luggage store and then continue our sojourn in Paris unhindered.
We decided to make our way across to Montmartre and the Sacre Coeur and whilst on the way from the Metro station passed the famous Moulin Rouge. The weather was quite blustery and there was a very long flight of stairs up to the district of Montmartre. Six of the group decided to climb the stairs, but as Pat was suffering from angina and I along with Jan, Pat and Mick, found the thought of climbing the stairs together with the vigorous wind, we decided to sit in the gardens on a park bench like chair for a while. A little later we discovered that there was a lift like a vernicular cable car going up and that we could use our carnet tickets on it.
This brought us up to the square with the outside cafes in the centre, cafes and bars bustled all about around the square and the portrait painters and sketchers were on almost every corner. We spent a wonderful hour or so walking around admiring the paintings, (while the wind had its way). And so we finally decided to find somewhere to eat. By this time the wind had really got up and (well to be honest it tried to blow my socks off), being chicken, we decided to go into one of the café bars surrounding the square rather than sit outside. The food was delicious, even for me, and we sat, as only you can in Paris, and leisurely enjoyed looking at the strange and different surroundings with the added bonus of a singer on the small stage who sounded very much like Edith Piaf.
By mid-afternoon we made our way back across Paris to the Gare du Nord where we were to catch the Eurostar train home that evening. I was knackered but there are a number of cafes and bars in the area, we passed one café where Rosina, Chris Jean & Eric were eating (Jean & Eric appeared to be tucking into a large plate of oysters), which I didn’t fancy so we found ourselves a table in one of the other bars just opposite the station and enjoyed our last hour or so with a glass beer whist Jan & Pat had wine.
Once we had retrieved our luggage from the left luggage office we trudged our way onto the concourse from where we would board the train a bit later. Unfortunately there were no seats available and after a long day wandering about Jan sat down on the floor to rest her legs. Ray then placed his hat in front of her, making it look like she was a tramp, to everybody’s amusement (no one actually threw a coin into Ray’s hat but she did really look the part). We finally boarded the train for home and, although dark, we could see that the weather had deteriorated even further.
To be honest I thought the whole adventure was so extraordinarily different and enjoyable, I suppose all the better as I was the one who had to be ‘talked into’ the whole trip. I remember being so enthusiastic about the experience I asked on the way back “where we were going the next year”, but with the proviso that next time we should fly as the train was really boring.
It was only when we arrived home and caught the late night news that we realised that our train was the last departure from Paris that day as a number of trees has fallen onto the railway lines that evening.