Thursday, January 29, 2009

Top Ten Hidden Travel Wonders of Paris - Part 3

This is the final installment of a three part series featuring some of Paris's hidden wonders - those not necessarily found in guide books but certainly worth a visit. Part One is the start of the story.

Museum of Industrial Works (Musée des Arts et Métiers) (3rd arr)

This extraordinary collection is housed in an old priory and showcases French inventions and industrial works throughout the centuries. Broken into a number of topic areas including scientific instruments, materials, construction, communication, energy, mechanical items and transportation, the collection includes an early aeroplane (first photo) from 1897 which is claimed to have flown before the Wright brothers efforts, a quarter-sized model of the Statue of Liberty and a Foucault’s Pendulum used to demonstrate the Earth’s rotation. The museum holds a staggering array of exhibits including inventions and old versions of bicycles, cars, trains, industrial machines, engines, cameras, batteries, televisions and numerous historic and developing versions of everyday items. It is a remarkable treasure-trove of French ingenuity (and pride) throughout the last few hundred years.

Géode and Parc de la Villette

Out past the locks and small bridges of the Canal Saint Martin (a great walk, incidently) and near the expressive Parc de la Villette with its strange furnishings, sits a huge mirrored ball called the Géode, which looks like it's fallen from the ceiling of a giant’s disco. Once finished with taking reflection photos off the shiny surface, wander inside to watch an IMAX-like film projected onto a matching spherical screen (headphones which offer an English soundtrack are included in the price). The Géode is part of Europe’s largest science museum which also includes a planetarium, a submarine, a hydraulic cinema called Cinaxe (where your seat moves with the movie to showcase shows like riding a bobsleigh or being on a small plane through a gorge) and all kinds of hands-on displays.

Branly Museum (6th arr)

Within the confines of the university called the Catholic Institute of Paris (about 500 metres north of the glassy Montparnasse Tower) is the original laboratory, office, instruments, experimental apparatus and related collection of a key pioneer in the invention and development of wireless telegraphy and the radio. It is like time has been frozen. Professor Éduoard Branly is credited with inventing the first radio receiver. The museum gives a wonderful insight into science and the early efforts in developing such a life changing device as the radio. The copper room, a special room with ceiling, floor and walls covered with copper sheet, with port-hole communication to the other rooms is striking, providing an insulated space for experiments. To visit, you must call ahead and seek an appointment (phone number is 01-49-54-52-40). Entry is free, the arrangement is straightforward and it is well worth the effort to visit this hidden Parisian gem.

Bird and Flower Market

Tucked in behind Notre Dame is the well-known flower markets that have been operating for over 200 years. Little known is that on Sunday, this area is transformed into a bird market where traders and breeders showcase birds, both local and exotic for the enthusiastic pet lovers of Paris. It makes for an interesting hour to watch the colour of the birds and the liveliness of the markets as the locals attend to the key business of acquiring new birds.

This completes my list of hidden treasures in Paris. Whatever yours may be, Paris is an extraordinary and uplifting city for wandering and unearthing wonderful sights in the most unexpected locations - small museums, wonderful cafes, local patisseries, small parks, fascinating people and more. Make sure you visit Paris at least once in your life.


Jack from eyeflare travel tips said...

I really loved the Musée des Arts et Métiers. Did you get a chance to check out the Metro station of the same name?

There's a very nice steampunk / Jules Verne look to it, very unique.

Lifecruiser said...

How great with some hidden gems - which isn't so hidden anymore then ;-)

I'd love to see all of those, but especially the Geode!!!

Paris... Ah... Hubby did propose to me in the spring in Paris, so I have very romantic memories from there :-)

Barbara Weibel said...

I've not yet been to France, but will most certainly use your very thorough three-part list as a reference when I go to Paris!

Mark H said...

@jack: I don't recall that station but several Metro stops have some style about them.

@lifecruiser: Proposed to in Paris - what a lovely touch.

@barbara: Paris is special - make an effort to go there one day. Both the familiar and hidden sights make it a remarkable city.

Footsteps said...

-Another terrific post with some unique suggestions...

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