Sunday’s are sleepy in Paris. Most of the shops are closed, and people move at a different pace than the rest of the week. I take the opportunity to sleep in, read Harry Potter (in French mind you) and finally leave the house around noon.
It’s warmer in Paris today, without the bite of winter. I work up enough heat walking that I take off my gloves and loosen my scarf. I aim, a little absent-mindedly, for the Grande Mosqée on the left side of the Seine. As recommended by my trusty map-guide., I eat lunch at their tea room.
Stepping through the door is like stepping out of France and into the middle east. It is completely and utterly un-Parisian. I love it. The mint tea is scaldingly hot and sweetened intensely with honey.
The servers are puzzled that I choose to eat alone – usually in Paris no one bats an eye at my solitude – but there is a different feeling inside the Mosque. It’s loud and slightly hectic, with tiny birds flitting around inside the restaurant.
The tables seem to be giant gold serving platters that simply rest on top of table legs. The guests are a wide mix of Parisians and tourists. Clearly other visitors have been tipped off by their guidebooks, but this gem is known to locals as well.
The lamb in my tagine pulls apart easily with a fork, and the prunes just about melt in my mouth, while the almonds are crunchy and sweet. Dessert is brought on a massive platter heaped with assorted pastries. My server leaves the whole platter on my table for me to choose, when he returns he asks how many I took, raises his eyebrows (three!) and whisks the plate to the next table ready for their dessert.
I want very much to come back here in the heat of the summer, when the giant windows must stand open and the patio will be cool underneath the leaves of olive trees. I can think of no better place in Paris to escape from the city while remaining firmly within the realm of easily accessed metros and continual sirens.
After lunch I take my very full and sweet filled belly up to the top of Montmartre, where I listen to exceptional chorale music at Sacre Coeur. Every Sunday at 4:00pm is Vespers, and it is worth going just to hear the way the sound carries in the chapel; the acoustics are truly unbelievable.
From the Mosque on the left side of the Seine to the Church on top of Montmartre, it was a lovely and slow moving Sunday. Satisfying, I would say, in every way.