This past weekend was the 18th annual Science Festival (18ème fête de la science) at la Cité des sciences et de l’industrie, a sort of science museum/exhibition center. It was free this weekend, so this was a good opportunity (code for cheap) to feed my science habit.
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This was great, because I blew all my money during the week and I was running on proverbial fumes on Sunday. I didn’t even have any money for the métro. I decided to walk to this place because it didn’t seem too far away and I thought it would be easy to find. I set out on my way, going east past Gare du Nord and la Chapelle métro stations. By la Chapelle, I made my first great, unexpected find of the day: bike polo! There was an open area under the metro rail bridge and these guys were riding on bikes (some were fixies too) and they each had a polo club (is it a stick?) and they were racing around slapping at this little red ball. The goalies were pretty agile, as they tried to remain stationary in front of their respective goals while on their bikes (their feet didn’t touch the ground!). There was some guy with an SLR taking photos of this “extreme sport” with the zeal of someone filming some soon-to-be-famous underground rock band. That’s when I whipped out my nifty little $150.00 camera to capture some pics for my portfolio.
I began to walk towards the destination. I didn’t even know what I was looking for. Maybe the building would hit me in the face when I got close. Children get distracted when you dangle toys, candy or shiny objects in front of them, and I had my “shiny object” moment shortly after the bike polo diversion. There was a huge, long beige building to my left, with people scuttling in and out as the rain began to fall. I looked to see if there were any regal looking characters by the doors, the ones that take tickets and check bags. No such types. This meant “free entry,” so I walked in.
I wasn’t sure what I was looking at, as there was a huge open space, the size of two small airplane hangars. There were kids everywhere. This was either a good sign (maybe a Toys ‘R Us nearby) or a bad sign (black dude walking solo in a place only for little children). I decided to keep moving. There was a bookstore and it sold a bunch of art and literature books. That didn’t give me enough information about this place. I walked around some more and I took some fliers and pamphlets about the place and the events there. Apparently, it’s called Cent-Quatre or 104 and it’s an art and culture center.
There was an eco fair somewhere in the building and I set out to find it. I stumbled across a large gathering of people meeting for the organization Réseau Education Sans Frontiéres (network for education of children without legal papers and the children of parents without papers). There is a big problem here (like in the U.S.) of illegal immigrants and their children and what to do with them. This organization provides information about the rights of children of illegal immigrants. The people I saw were talking together, sharing stories, laughing together, hugging each other, and getting involved. There were photos of various people and pictures around the city fighting for the rights of the “paperless” and it was cool to see people working to make the lives of others better. This was a community event and it was good to see the community out in support of this worthy cause. I even snagged a few photos.
Afterwards, I went downstairs to the eco fair, called the Festival du Livre et de la Presse d’Ecologie. It was huge, and like upstairs, the community was out in full force. There were different tables everywhere, with people selling everything from “green” books and vegetarian cook books to food and sustainable clothing. I’ve been to my fair share of “green” exhibits and fairs, and this was just as cool. Like I said, I was dead broke, but it was nice walk around and look at all the photos, books, and ideas floating around. I wish I could’ve tasted the vegan snacks some kids were selling (I’m still in the hunt for some vegetarian restaurants).
Wonderful find. I left after a while and I tried to find my original target, as I was running out of time. I got lost, and the rain began to pound harder, so I gave up and began the long walk home. All in all, it was a good day. I’m surprised by something new everyday and it’s nice to be in such a big city. It was really cool to see people fighting for the rights of immigrants and people caring about the environment. Even along my walk I discovered basketball courts under metro rail bridges and soccer fields everywhere and parks galore. Whenever I take a walk, I find something new. I don’t need no stinkin’ itinerary!