Paris has also been rainy and cold, though not quite so bleak as Cologne. Despite the weather, there have been some slightly unexpected pleasures.
We visited Rue Mouffetard in the Latin Quarter on the recommendation of a knowledgeable work colleague. She said there'd be dancing in the streets around midday Sunday. But given the weather, you would have had to be absolutely impervious to cold and damp to dance in the streets and so, understandably, the dancers were absent. But the street was charming
and the small specialty shops - for wines, cheeses, chocolates, charcuterie, more cheeses, fruit and veg - were opened for the Sunday morning market
It was lunch-time and we were completely seduced by the appearance and buzz of the clientele of this small restaurant, Le Verre a Pied
and by the sign on the door informing us that the specialty of the day was 'tete de veau', ie, calf's head. We subsequently discovered the restaurant had been operating since 1870 and is the only 'original' local restaurant still left in this stretch of eating places. What did we eat? (I do read my comments, Wittyknitter). I had a bowl of minestrone that was more like a stew than a soup - chunks of carrot, courgette, celery and bacon with barley in a rich broth - followed by a delicious slice of rhubarb tarte where the tanginess of the rhubarb was perfectly balanced by the sweetness of the simple custardy topping. My friend was much more adventurous. She actually had the special - deliciously glutinous chunks of meat from the calf's head combined with tongue and served with a sauce gribiche (a thin mayonnaise type sauce with chopped egg-white and lots of capers) and simple boiled potatoes.
Still in the Latin Quarter and a within a pleasant after-lunch stroll from Rue Mouffetard is the Paris Mosque. What a surprise! What an inspired public relations exercise on the part of whoever runs it! First, it is very beautiful:
[See? another tile photo - I can't resist them].
Secondly, most areas of the mosque, which was built in 1924, are open to the public as long as you're 'modestly dressed' - a bit hard not to be modest in such cold weather. The prayer hall is, of course, off limits, but even it is largely visible as you wander past its entrance from the courtyard. And thirdly, the mosque offers a range of interesting services to the public - a wonderfully tiled and decorated restaurant with middle-Eastern food, a pastry shop with honeyed pastries of all kinds, a souk-like shop, and a courtyard in which you can sit and sip overpriced mint tea (as we did).
The mosque also has a bath-house with steam-baths (with separate days for men and women) and you can buy all sorts of surprising packages of experiences - a steambath with massage, facial and dinner in the restaurant, for example. I think the Paris Mosque is on to something here, integrating itself so pleasantly into the lives of its visitors. Much more fun than most of the Cathedrals we've visited!
We've been to see Verdi's comic opera, 'Falstaff', at the Theatre de Champs Elysees. The performance was fun and well-produced and in one or two cases beautifully sung, the theatre was full, and the audience responsive. Probably all that was expected. What surprised us was the theatre itself. Opened in 1913, it's one of the few examples of grand Art Deco architecture in Paris. It's such a delight to see - especially the ceiling - though the size and comfort (or lack thereof) of the seats means you really have to suffer for your pleasure.