Under some past blog post, Paul Boddie had recommended visiting the Musée de l’Aire et de l’Espace to see some life-sized rockets. Huge thanks for this excellent recommendation!
Today I got up a bit earlier than yesterday, meaning I had to actually pay for breakfast again ;). Unfortunately the coffee was already running out, so I only got a single cup which had to do it. Milk was also empty, so no cereals this time. Well, there was yogurt as a worthy replacement.
Afterwards I left for the metro to the train station Charles de Gaulle Étoile. From there I was supposed to take line B which would bring me within walking distance to the museum. The metro system in Paris works with gates which would only open if you have a valid ticket. Sometimes you’d also need to present the ticket when exiting the station, but normally the exit gates would just open by motion detection.
To get to the platform for line B, I had to once again cross another gate. I presented the metro ticket I had used to get to the train station and the gate opened. Nice. Apparently this ride would count as one single trip.
The ride on the B train was rather short. Only about 10-15 minutes later I exited the train at my destination. I went to the exit and there was another gate. I inserted my ticket, but the gate did not open. I tried again, but the gate only sounded an alarm. Another try, this time with the ticket flipped around, but no success either. The display read something along the lines of “non valable”, invalid.
I looked around to see if there was personnel somewhere. Next to the gate stood a woman in uniform, but she explained that she worked for the airport and could not help me. I walked back to the station building and tried to get in to talk to a person at the counter, however to get there I would need to pass another gate. Fantastic.
Being stuck in a deadlock, I walked back to the gate I wanted to pass. There was a box with a button and a telephone symbol. I pressed the button and after some very loud ringing a person answered the phone. I explained that the gate would not let me pass. After describing the type of ticket, the person told me that my ticket was not valid outside of Paris. Oopsie. The man agreed to send an agent to my position. If nobody arrived withing 5 minutes I should call again.
Some minutes later, nobody had showed up and I was fed up with waiting. While I had stood next to the gate waiting, multiple people had either jumped over it or simply had closely followed others passing the gate. So finally I resolved my issue on my own in some way (details are not important) and continued my way to the museum.
After crossing over a highway bridge, I could suddenly see some white tips reaching over some distant buildings. Exciting! I finally reached the building and eventually found the entrance. I decided to be patient and first visit the “l’Aire”-part of the museum. They actually had a lot of models and even real planes there. One building focused on the pioneers of aviation and displayed some of the first planes humanity ever built.
Another building housed WWI military machines. Yet another hall contained helicopters. Finally one hall was dedicated to space exploration. Here they displayed a plethora of satellites hanging from the ceiling, lots of sounding and ballistic rockets and capsules. Awesome!
Unfortunately my images from inside the museum turned out kind of blurry. Also, I heard some museums don’t like visitors taking pictures, so let this be the only image from the inside. Let’s compensate that by letting me tell you; if you have the chance to go to Paris, check out the Musée de l’Aire et de l’Espace! It’s worth it!
Finally I made my way to the yard outside, where they displayed a dozen or so airplanes and – two full sized Ariane rockets! I had hoped that being able to walk up to one of these behemoths would allow me to fully grasp their scale. However, I have learned that my brain just isn’t capable of making sense of those dimensions.
Taking this image was problematic, as I had to position my phone at quite some distance to the vehicle in order to get it in frame fully, but at the same time my phones camera only had a ten second timer, so I had to sprint to get in position in time.
After drooling over the rockets for a while I got lunch at the museums restaurant and then checked out the other exhibition halls. One of them housed two Concorde hyper-sonic planes. You could enter them and visit the inside. What a marvel of flawed technology.
After watching some more war planes and inspecting some posters of military recruitment propaganda, I ended the day by taking the rocket selfie above and then left for the hostel once again. This time I bought a ticket before boarding the train and half an hour later I was at the hostel. There I sat down in the community area to write the last blog post, as well as parts of this one.
Later I returned to get a pint of beer to let my last night in Paris come to a close. Now its time to go to bed. Tomorrow I will return to Germany.
3 responses to “Europe Trip Journal – Entry 29: Prepare for Reentry”
@vanitasvitae It is a very neat museum! Do they still let you walk through the Concorde?
Great that you made it there! I seem to remember thinking that Ariane 1 was big, so I imagine that an Ariane 5 will have been quite something. Of course, you will have to travel a bit further to see one being launched…
Although the UK is not exactly part of any European tour these days, the museum at Duxford Aerodrome (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imperial_War_Museum_Duxford) has Concorde and lots of other interesting aircraft, including some iconic and rare ones. You could walk through the Concorde and some other airliners many years ago, maybe still can. Sadly, I don’t think they have much, if any, space hardware: the UK stopped making big rockets in the early 1970s, but there is an unused Black Arrow at the Science Museum in London, apparently.
Another interesting thing about that exact Concorde at Le Bourget is that it was used to observe a solar eclipse in 1973 for 74 minutes, flying supersonic over Africa with special portholes cut into the roof for the observation instruments: