Grant McWilliams

Travel Trip Journals Paris/Lyon - 2008 Day 9 - Cité, Museum of Science and Industry

Day 9 - Cité, Museum of Science and Industry

I have to weight the things we do when on vacation. People have been prompting me to put together travel videos or guides about how to travel with kids. There's an amazing number of things that kids like to do that are also fun for adults, this museum included. We "discovered" it last year in the same manner that SE Asia or Tenochtitlan was discovered by Europeans (and Pocahontas discovered England). Anyway it was hidden in the "other things to do in the outer regions" of our guidebook. So last year it was a big hit and we decided to hit it again this year.

To give you a bit of a primer the Cité, Museum of Science and Industry is as you have probably guessed a Museum of Science and Industry. If you guessed that then you get special prize. Anyway it's a lot like the Puget Sound Science Center or OMSI in Portland except for one small detail - it's about 10x larger than either! It has a bit of history in that this area used to be farms and later Napoleon dug canals from a basin to the Seinne to provide drinking water to Paris. The canal was also used for very industrial purposes like shipping or grain and other produce from and to the outerlying towns. Because of it's location outside Paris the area became very industrial and a giant slaugherhouse and livestock yard was built here. As the city engulfed the Villette area the famous president François Mitterrand decided as one of his grand projects to provide an education place for Parisians to take their children and the Cite was born. They converted the livestock yards to themed gardens which span the canals and the slaughterhouse is now the museum. On the property there is also a music museum but we've never gone to it. Overall the Cite and adjoining Parc de Villete are one of our favorite things to do. You'll see zero to very few tourists here and it's very educational. The sheer size of the museum is hard to get over. Look at the picture here and focus on the bridges that go into the side of the building. Those are people on them! See the Paris/Lyon gallery for more full resolution pictures that you can zoom in on.

At gret disapointment to Natalya we grabbed a quick bite at Quick (think Burger King but French) and headed to the museum. I really really don't like fast food but if I had to choose between Quick and McDonalds I'd go for Quick everytime. It's a very Americanish burger joint but I don't believe is found outside of France. Maybe I've seen them in Belguim too. Anyway they even call fries fries and not frites so you can tell what they're aspiring to be.

Overall I think admissions cost us about $60 for four people for the day. We didn't do a package because it gave us access to stuff we've already done like the Geode. The geode being a large 360 theater in a giant ball outside. There's no reason paying for something we won't go to. There are temporary exhibits that float through and this one was on sexuality! You never have to remind yourself you're in France. The cheapest way in was to buy four tickets to the sex exhibit which got us access to the planetarium, a lazer light show and then we'd pay extra for anything else. There are still things we've not seen or done at Cite including a submarine parked outside. We've been in subs before so it's not high on the priority list.

When you enter the main Cite building you gasp at the size of the interior. I think in normal floors the building would be about 15 stories but since it's about 25 ft between floor and ceiling you're probably looking at 6 real floors spanned by escallators. On the lower floor there are restaurants which we never go to. The main floor has  a giant map of France painted on the floor that's always fun to wander around on. There's also lab rooms where kids can participate in activities but is aimed at younger people as well as the laser light show which we've still not done. The escallators ascend from the center of the building and the first thing we saw riding up was 3 Citroen 2CVs hanging from the ceiling! This is one of our favorite cars and is so quintesentially French that I'd like to have one just to wander around looking for baguettes in. As our good fortune would have it they were having an exhibit on the 2CV (pronounced doo say vay for you non-french speakers). The exhibit had the history of the 2CV and a model from each era. They produced almost 4 million of them and only stopped about 13 years ago. There was a conveyer belt with 2CVs on it and video that played showing old ads etc... On the floor there was a 2CV missing it's doors that you could enter and pretend you're driving.

A lot of the other exhibits were the same as last year with on provided by Renault explaining how car factories worked and the history of the automobile. There's an airplane in the building as well as many smaller sciense experiments and exhibits. Really too much to mention here. If you're interested follow the link above to see more on the official site.

The one exhibit that we were going to avoid was the one on Sexuality. In America we avoid certain topics. Maybe it's because this country was established by the English and we know how much time they spend talking about anything but crumpets and tea. Anyway I was curious about how the French would teach their kids about sex so the very last thing we did was run through the sexuality exhibit and boy was it an eye opener. It was a really interesting psychological experiment. My kids spent all of their time either shocked or laughing. The French kids were escorted by their parents and they were explaining to them what each section meant and were patiently answering questions. I watched thim in wonderment because to them this was not some taboo subject but something very natural and seemingly important to be teaching their children. Note that they didn't see this as promiscuous lude behavior but as a very normal part of life and should be taught along with everything else.

All of this got me thinking. We'll let our kids watch movie where people are brutally killing each other but if there's any nudity we have to tell the kids to hide their eyes. When I've mentioned this to people they don't even blink because it's so ingrained in our little minds. People will even say "It's only rated R because of violence, it's not like anyone having sex or anything". If you stop for a moment and think about this it's obsurde. What's worse, killing another human or participating in a very natural act? Or what's even more crazy is us hiding nudity. We're all nude without our clothes on should we close our eyes in the shower? You don't start thinking about this stuff until you travel.

Anyway overall I thought the exhibit was excellent and I was a little taken back by how this could be taught if we didn't have the fences in our heads.

I think the woman to the left should have been part of the exhibit! I think the number of "adults" wanting to take their kids to the science musuem would skyrocket. Something tells me she wasn't there to learn about how men and women get along.

Travel Trip Journals Paris/Lyon - 2008 Day 9 - Cité, Museum of Science and Industry