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Wednesday 23 January 2013

3BM in Paris: Day 4

Having finally hung up our dancing Louboutins at 3am the night before, when the first day of 2013 dawned in Paris, three partied out Mice were fast asleep in their snuggy little beds at Le Citizen Hotel. Yawning and stretching we finally tumbled out of bed at around 11am only to get straight back in again to gobble up a much needed breakfast in bed. Coffee, juice, croissants, yogurt and fruit, the perfect morning-after pick me up, especially when all wrapped up in fluffy, white robes rehashing the events of our Parisian New Year's Eve!

With slightly fuzzy heads we packed up the room, dropped our cases at reception and headed out for a last day of meandering around the streets of Paris.

First stop, Notre Dame for a wander along the Seine and lots of open-mouthed gawping at the stunning Gothic Cathedral whilst keeping a beady eye out for Quasimodo (no sightings sadly).

Being New Year's Day, lots of shops, restaurants and other tourist spots were shut, but we decided that heading for a little stroll around the Marais would be nice, so we trotted off in that direction with a bit of messing about in between...

All of a sudden our collective hangover hunger kicked-in, but faced with a slew of closed restaurants, we decided we'd skip a white table-clothed sit down lunch and go a bit street instead with a falafel feast from the legendary L'As du Fallafel. Unfortunately the queue snaking down the street seemed to suggest that everyone else had had the same idea... 

Luckily the streetside service hatch was manned by fallafel assembly pros who were churning out takeaway wraps at the speed of light. Meaning that before the onset of severe hunger, three very happy Mice were munching on huge, pillowy pitta cones stuffed to bursting with crispy, garlicky fallafel, smoky chunks of aubergine, red cabbage and shredded cucumber all liberally doused with the most delicious sauce that you've ever tasted. This was a fallafelly gem so good that it almost had us declaring ourselves vegetarians... 

Approximately seven minutes later, all three fallafels had been inhaled while sitting kerbside in the sun. Tossing our rubbish into a bin overflowing with L'As du Fallafel wrappers from hundreds of devoured lunches, we decided to work off a few calories with a bit more wandering.

After an hour's window shopping, despite the blue skies and afternoon sun, we were all a bit hangover, weary and frozen to the core. Spying a little cafe we ducked in and nabbed a window-side table for coffee, people watching, Orangina and a couple of fortifying macaroons. Just the refuel required before embarking on the last part of the day's adventure ... Montmarte and the Sacre Coeur.

Hopping back on the Metro we whizzed round to Montemarte where we skipped along the winding, cobbled streets with an Amelie-like spring in our steps.

Despite being thronged with tourists, we picked our way up the bustling steps, around pushy tat touts, street entertainers and even a random man with a guitar, en route up towards the Sacre Coeur which glowed shell pink in the setting sun.

Reaching the Sacre Coeur's perch, right on the crest of the hill, we stood gazing out at Paris spread beneath us as the sun slowly slunk towards the horizon thinking how lucky we were to be starting the New Year all together in such an incredible city.

Following the flow of the hoardes of tourists we were swept inside the church. Suddenly the chatter in a multitude of languages died to a silence and we gazed awestruck up at the swooping archways and byzantine domed ceiling illuminated by thousands of flickering prayer candles. Unfortunately we were just too late to make the last admission for the viewing point at the top of the dome. Instead we made our way back down the hill via a little cafe for a warming Vin Chaud stop, before zipping to the hotel to pick up our cases and with heavy hearts, heading to Gare du Nord.

In an unusual twist, we arrived at the station early with an hour and a half to spare before our London bound Eurostar. As usual though, we were all hungry, so we nipped across the road from the station to Terminus Nord for one last supper on French soil.  

The lighting may be a bit brash and the art-deco style interior a little tired and faded around the edges but that's all part of this stalwart brasserie's charm. With a menu stuffed full of French favourites we opted for a suitably cliched meal of onion soup and steak frites with a floating island and three spoons for dessert.

After polishing off our final French feast, we paid up and wandered leisurely back across the road and then through check-in, security and passport control. 

But it wouldn't be a Robinson Girls' adventure without a last minute panic. Post-passport control we stopped to browse in a magazine shop only to spot a few people clutching British passports running towards our platform. Surely they couldn't be on our train, we still had ages to go until our train departed. A quick glance at our watches and yup, we still had four whole minutes to go before our train departed ... And our reserved seats just happened to be in the very last carriage! Cut to three girls in heels running at full pelt along the platform dragging bulging cases behind them as whistles blew and station staff shouted helpful things like "hurry" and "quick"...  

Puffing and panting we reached our carriage with seconds to spare, hurled our cases on board and jumped on after narrowly missing the doors sliding closed behind us. Nothing like a little nail biting drama to kick off the journey home.

The two and a half hour hurtle back towards St Pancras shot by in a blur of train gin & tonics and iPad Scrabble (the London Mice won, but only because I let them). The perfect end to a perfect trip and a wonderful start to what will hopefully be a wonderful New Year...

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