La Mosquée de Paris, 75005

tea

Escapism. It really is a wonderful thing to clear the mind. To sit quietly by yourself, in a place outside your comfort zone (by that I mean, not your local coffee shop.. y’know, the one with the free-wifi, where you sit in that same spot by the window…)

Time turns to a standstill. You are acutely aware of your surroundings. Psychologists would call it becoming mindful. More present. Going to the Mosque is not something you often find me doing, nor recommending that others necessarily make a point of doing, but from time to time, it’s just the ticket.

The Mosque – roughly speaking – is comprised of three parts: the prayer rooms, the extensive scholarly library and then the restaurant, tea room and hammam, which are open to the public. I haven’t been to the hammam yet (still one of these things that I haven’t checked off my to-do list) but my friend and fellow British expat Nikki Bayley has:

One of my favourite spas in the world is La Mosquée in Paris, it’s… a series of beautiful marble-tiled rooms, each hotter than the next, where you steam and soak, take an icy-cold plunge and then steam and soak some more. It’s a traditional cultural ritual and I found it surprisingly reassuring to be in a room of (mostly half-naked) women of all ages, shapes and sizes. However, it can be a baffling experience; there are no instructions. You get handed slips of paper which you exchange for a ‘gommage‘ (a body scrub) or massage but there’s no real system of how or when that happens. And although, yes, … I was a tad alarmed by the brutal scrubbing I got from an elderly Arab lady (which I genuinely feared would leave me nipple-less), I really enjoyed my afternoon there.

(See Nikki’s full blog post on her blog The Maple Life here.)

I’m sure it would not come as a surprise to learn that the aspect qui me parle le plus (that’s most appealing to me) is the tea room.

You sit outside in a courtyard, under a gazebo-style awning. There’s a fountain in the middle. Trees. Birds. (N.B. Just for peace of mind, try and bag a table that is not directly underneath one of the branches!) The tables are a beautiful deep sapphire blue that photos simply do not do justice.

A smartly-dressed waiter circulates with a tray of mint teas. Catch his eye. Each thimble will set you back 2 euros, which you pay there and then. Each thimble will also give you easily twice your recommended daily allowance of sugar!

If that’s not enough, there are a selection of North African pastries to choose from – baklava, m’hanncha etc – most of which are priced at 2 euros too.

Even after just half an hour here, you’ll have completely forgotten the hustle and bustle of “regular” Paris just outside.


Essential Information

Address: 39 rue Geoffroy Saint Hilaire, 75005

Telephone: 01 43 31 368 20

WebsiteLa Mosquée

Opening Hours: (tea room) 9am until 11pm every day.


 

P.S. The hammam is strictly women-only and is open all day, every day, apart from Tuesday.

 

Paris Ladies System Defense

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Paris Ladies System Defense class 16/11/14. Can you spot me…?

Another late night last night and another early start this morning. (Why do I put myself through this again?!) This time, though, I was heading to the rue de Babylone in the 7th for a three-hour women’s self-defence class.

Three hours very well spent. We learnt how to maintain distance from someone and how to execute effective blocking movements with our upper and lower body, in case of attack. We did some situational work (i.e. putting down the pads and pretending we were on the streets for real) and then there was a lawyer who spoke for twenty minutes, advising us of what French law considers to be “legitimate defence” and of the importance of going to the police and porter plainte, as soon as possible after an assault.

The attendees ran the whole gamut of sizes, ages and abilities: from two petite girls (in early teens) who’d come with their mum to a couple of ladies who were fifty plus but could really pack a punch.

What was also really cool was that our instructors were actual policemen who spend their weekends giving these classes empowering women. There was also a kick-ass lady Bénédicte, who, let me put it lightly, well, may Hades have mercy on any man who tries to have his way with her in a dark alleyway.

You can find the upcoming dates on their website or Facebook page. (N.B. Classes are in French but they are pretty easy to follow as the teaching is done through numerous demonstrations.)

It’s also worth watching this video to get an idea of what the class is like and the practical uses of what you learn. (Obviously, we were at a much lower level and limited to women only, but there’s no harm in aspiring to something else, right?)

At 30 euros for the session, it may seem like a fair bit of moolah for something that won’t ever happen to you… but let me say, it was worth every centime and not only that, but I strongly recommend it to any and every woman. Even just having a basic training in self-defence is hugely empowering and it’ll hopefully make me less of a target in the métro and on the streets of Paris. And yes, I’ll be going back for another class next month and in the meantime, much to my (male) housemate’s discomfort, I will keep practicing those defensive jabs to the genitals around the flat.

Afterall…

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This post was not in any way sponsored by the Paris Ladies System Defense. It’s just something I feel very strongly about.