Are we in Paris, ancient Rome, or Marrakech?

I didn’t have any plans for the day when I woke up. I looked through my list, but nothing looked particularly engaging, so I browsed through a few walking tours on the Internet and found a few interesting places to see: an ancient Roman arena, an absinthe bar, a ghost walk, a nightclub with a dress code that required you to come as: a Victorian asylum lunatic, a Satanic slut, a Horned Pagan god, the Marquis de Sade, or a silent horror film character. Sadly, I left all my clothes meant for debauchery at home, so I decided to go to the Roman arena and to Grande Mosquée de Paris, which is supposed to be beautiful.

The weather today was absolutely perfect–too hot for Jessica, but just right for me. Ice cream from Berthillon’s was mandatory for everybody in the city, so the line was a mile long. We went to a different shop, which didn’t matter much as every single ice cream shop on the island sells Berthillon ice cream. Only the cones are different. It’s even a little cheaper. Who knew? I had a scoop of grapefruit and a scoop of raspberry. It was delicious.

Jessica had salted caramel, which she enjoyed, but found it to be a bit too rich. We headed across the bridge onto the other side of the island, which caused Jessica great excitement as the Sugarplum Cake Factory was around here, but we weren’t headed there, so she was a bit crestfallen.

We walked along at a leisurely pace looking in on the trinket shops and a very intriguing looking candy store that we need to go back to and try. I saw this road and had to take a picture. “Road of the Bakers.”

It wasn’t much longer until we were at our destination. Jessica wasn’t terribly enthused, she rarely is, but I was thrilled. I insisted that we enter through the vomitorium for obvious reasons. (For those of you not in the know, a vomitorium is the little entrance hall in an arena between the seats of an arena, like what Oprah walked out of at the start of every show.)

It was such fun. We, well I, felt like gladiators as we approached the pit. It was fascinating to see ancient Roman ruins in the middle of Paris. The extent of the Roman Empire was truly remarkable. I want to visit the Roman ruins in Bath, England, sometime, too.

Jessica was not an enthused gladiatrix:

I, on the other hand, could not have been more excited!

We climbed up to the top and sat down to look around. I was incredibly impressed. You could see where the animals were kept before being released to the gladiators (the two black squares.) The seats were not original, but archaeologists believe that the arena once held 17,000 people and had all the typical entertainment: gladiator fights, water battles, circuses, and the like. Nowadays, old men play pétanque and kids practice football. They were better than I’ll ever be. Then again, I don’t care.

After we left the arena, we were both dying of thirst–ice cream will do that to you, so we drank out of a fountain along the way. Not sure if that was the most sanitary thing to do, but it was very picturesque.

A little while later we were at the Mosquée and it was absolutely stunning from the outside. (Sadly, we never heard the call to prayer, which I was looking forward to.)

The entrance was a bit imposing–it was like entering an entirely different world. There were lush trees and tiny metal tables, people everywhere drinking coffee and tea, nibbling on pastries, smoking from hookahs. After a few minutes of confusion, we figured out what we were supposed to do and waited at the pastry counter. I had no idea what anything was called or what it was, so I just pointed at things that I thought were pretty and headed to a table.

It was a beautiful area, the floors were done in herringbone marble (I know! I about died), there were gorgeous tiles all over the walls and there was a fountain right in the middle where birds were drinking and bathing and stealing nibbles from the people. They aren’t shy, they will fly right up to your table and take food from your hands. Jessica delighted in pretending that she was in Beauty and the Beast again.

 

Every few minutes a man with a huge tray covered in tiny glasses would dart about the room and you had to wave him down and pay two euros for a glass of mint tea. It was delicious and very hot. I’m not huge on tea, but I could drink that everyday. Jessica ordered another round and I ate my pastries. They all tasted similar–kind of fruity, I’m thinking they had figs in them, and had the same crumbly dough. My favorite was the crescent shaped cookie.

We admired the area for some time and then went into the shop. There were tajines of every color and size for sale, but I resisted knowing it would be difficult to get home. Jess got herself a bag that is quite lovely.

I wanted to look into the Jardin des Plantes, which is right next to the Mosquée and I’m glad that we did–it was much more than I had anticipated. I was thinking it was going to be a simple park, run of the mill, trees and grass. This had fabulous buildings of the most beautiful architecture, gardens, and a zoo. A zoo! Jessica wanted to head right inside, but I didn’t want to pay the eight euros when we didn’t know how big it would be. We will have to look it up online to make sure it is worth the fee.

I have determined to make this my home. Isn’t it wonderful?

As we walked along the gardens and headed back to the apartment I kept singing songs from Funny Face. Finally, Jessica remembered some of the words so that I could do the duet with her.

We decided not to take the Métro back to the apartment after we discovered that we were so close to our area. It’s amazing what you can discover when you go wandering a little from your front door. We will definitely be going back soon. I was impressed by the variety of cultural experiences you can get in Paris, but that is probably true of any big city–any city at all actually, now that I think of it.

Now I really want to go to Morocco and pose on a camel.

Good evening.

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