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The World War I and II museum is part of the enormous Invalides army museum (129 rue de Grenelle, metro Tour-Maubourg, Invalides, or Varenne). It’s 8 euros to enter, but free if you are a European resident under 26 or a gendarme (and also probably for senior citizens and disabled people). A gendarme handed me his barely used ticket as he was leaving, but I later saw that it would have been free for me anyway. Saved a wait in line, though! The ticket grants access to many, many rooms filled with objects and documents that serve as reminders of France’s military past. Included among them is Napoleon’s tomb:

The area devoted to the two Great Wars of the 20th century includes propaganda from France’s colonial pursuits in Africa and Indochina, weapons and uniforms, footage of Hitler addressing crowds and Russian military posters of the Cold War.

The Far East martyr’s room at the Foreign Missions of Paris (128 rue du Bac, metro Sèvres-Babylone) is accessible via the crypt of a large church. This free museum exhibits clothing worn by the Christian martyrs of China and Tibet, who died during a wave of persecutions from 1830-1840. Check out these sweet shoes:

Also displayed are Christian symbols concealed beneath the appearance of everyday objects from Japan.

This is a representation of the Virgin Mary, disguised as a Buddhist statue

There is so much to be explained here, from battle paintings to missionary’s Japanese prayer books (see above) that there are seemingly countless drawers underneath the displays containing long descriptions of the artifacts.This place is worth a visit for anyone interested in religion and history, especially given that it’s free and not crowded (at all. I had the place to myself).

The Buttes Chaumont public garden is the most beautiful park in Paris! Everything I said about parc montsouris applies, but at 61 acres, this treasure of the 19th arrondissement (metro Buttes-Chaumont or Botzaris) is much larger and boasts beautiful cliffs, bridges and waterfalls. The flora of the English and Chinese gardens and the majestic views, especially of Montmartre, are impressive.  Here is the outside of the Italian restaurant Pavillon Puebla found inside the park:

For more photos, click here.

Located at the Université René-Descartes (12, rue de l’Ecole -de-Médecine, metro Odéon) in an impressive, scholarly-looking stone building, the history of medicine museum presents the chronological and thematic development of surgical tools and medical appliances. It costs 3.50 euro to enter, 2.50 for students.

Although the museum is just one long room, there is a lot of information displayed behind those glass cases. Learn about 11th century Egyptian alchemists, 18th century dentures, and Pasteur’s vaccination experiments. Also, you can check out some scary-looking ancient syringes and urology instruments.

Dr. Eugene Doyen (1859-1916)

Here is a book and some specimens of nature’s little mutants.

I was thrilled to visit the Louis Pasteur museum (25, rue du Docteur-Roux, metro Pasteur) after having taking a class on the history of medicine, that focused on some of Pasteur’s breakthroughs (thanks for the rabies vaccine and for making milk and wine safe to drink, Louis!) The entry fee is 5 euros, 3 for students. They offer guided tours at 2:00pm, 3:00pm and 4:00pm. The tour was wonderful, starting in his lab where you can see the test tubes he used to conduct experiments. There is a detailed written guide that walks you through each display in the lab.

Then there is a tour of Pasteur’s apartment where he spent the last 7 years of his life. It has remained largely the way the family left it, in the French decorative style of the late 19th century. The tour guide explains the portraits, prized possessions and gifts that Pasteur had accumulated over the years. There I learned that Pasteur was also a talented painter, who probably could have gone to school for art rather than chemistry!

The visit finishes up with a look at the crypt where Mr. and Mrs. Pasteur are buried. Pretty elaborate, huh?

 

I loved the Post Office museum (34, boulevard de Vaugirard, metro Montparnasse-Bienvenue)! It’s free to enter if you’re under 26, 5 euros otherwise. It takes you through room after room of courier history, focusing on the evolution the postal service in France within a global framework. Did you know that legend has it that King Cyrus the Great of Persia set up a postal service as early as the 6th century B.C.E? I learned how to do Morse Code through this cool machine that lets you practice important phrases like “SOS.”   

Rooms decorated with model ships and air crafts and posters announcing the invention of the steam engine and commercial planes document the beginnings of overseas mailing.

Representing the real aeropostale

You will learn how new postage stamp designs are chosen each year:

They are big on interactive displays, like this one where you can see what it’s like you virtually post a package in a computer-generated postman’s hat:

There is also a computer simulation that allows you to sort pretend mail according to zip codes in France, while racing against a timer. Unfortunately, the machine determined that I was not fast enough to work for the French postal service.

I am disappointed that it took me this long to discover Culture Rapide, a café/bar in the 20th arrondissement (103, Rue Julien-Lacroix, metro Belleville or Pyrénées) that offers a fun atmosphere, inexpensive (by Paris standards) drinks, pleasant outdoor seating, frequent live music and twice weekly spoken word poetry.

At first I thought that the plaster men hanging this billboard outside were real:

"Il faut se méfier des mots" or "Be wary of words"

Monday night is poetry in English, Tuesday in French. Anyone can sign up to read or recite original poems, songs and skits. I went on an anglophone night, and it was packed. There is a five minute limit per person, and when your time is nearly up, a bell will ring. If the performer continues much past the bell, he or she will be prodded from a distance with a plastic claw. If that doesn’t end it, the person assigned to use the claw may just enter the scene and carry the performer away on piggyback, as was captured in the not-so-clear photo below:

The brief performances were hit or miss, which is to be expected. Overall, I greatly enjoyed the spectacle and wish I had enough time left in Paris to become a regular.  Culture Rapide also often hosts musical guests. You can check out their events page here.