Morocco in Paris
Chéri and I had a weekend to ourselves recently with Bébé Chéri at my in-laws, and we decided to stay in Paris, but had a desperate need to feel like we were somewhere else. So I came up with a plan for a day of exotic travel that was accessible by the Paris metro. Since we only had the Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning (which was to be spent on the luxury of sleep), we had enough time for about three things. First we headed to the 5th arrondissment to the La Mosquée de Paris quarter, where there is a fabulous boutique, Maison Franco-Oriental, just around the corner that sells everything you could hope to find in a Moroccan street market.
I was in need of a new pair of slippers. This treasure chest of a boutique had walls of slippers to chose from. So many colors and designs, I had a hard time picking one. I settled on a grey carved leather pair for around 30€. And then spent the next half hour poking around the shop that was stuffed full of lamps and baskets, leather goods, scented oils and so many delightful little things. The gruff gentleman behind the table which served as a register was more than happy to show me anything I displayed the slightest interest in and if I hadn’t had a bit of restraint I may have ended up going home with several things I had no use for but found terribly lovely. I did manage to select myself a few scented oils though, for candle making I told myself (I still haven’t made any candles).
We left there with the exotic fires stoked in our travel deprived heads and skipped over to the tea room at the mosque for some mint elixir. We had two servings as it warmed us up in the chilly spring rain had taken us by surprise. The tea room was packed full of Parisian families and young trendy kids enjoying one of the best foreign treats you can find in Paris. Somehow I managed to resist the temptation of the pastries that glistened in heaps behind the counter. 2€ for tea and a feeling of being elsewhere, not bad.
We hoped on the bus back to the Batignolles, where we wandered until it was time to head to our dinner reservation at Villa Mimouna, an absolute jewel of an address in Paris, and right in our own neighborhood! Hidden on a small side street this darling restaurant is run entirely by women. The owner greats you at the door and kisses you on both cheeks as if she has known you for years. You almost feel like she’s welcoming you into her home, and the warmth she exudes is so inviting (and rare in Paris). I was immediately drawn in. The perfect place to find good food and comfort on a cold dreary day or an escape from a blistering heat wave, this is also the best place to find authentic Moroccan cuisine.
We enjoyed a copious and caloric meal that was everything you could hope for if you were in Morocco. I had a tagine of course with juicy lamb, almonds and apricots. So perfect. Chéri had couscous. We ate like royalty and finished off with ice cream dessert. The Moroccan wine was rich and went to our heads slowly over the meal, opening up like a velvet flower soft and intoxicating.
Our thank you’s and goodbyes were friendly and familiar with our lovely host who gave us orange blossom water on our hands as we left and graciously repeated her thanks for our stay. I almost don’t remember paying for dinner it felt so much like being at a loved one’s home. We floated back to our apartment on a cloud, a soft and delicious cloud of dépaysement, as if coming home from a weekend away in a beautiful land across the Mediterranean sea.