Nov 27, 2012

A Continentalist in Paris: Dinosaur special exhibit, Grande Galerie de l'Evolution

A great child-friendly perspective on the coolest reptiles ever to roam the earth.

So last week I was struck with either a bad cough or a mild case of my old friend bronchitis - my rattling inhalations pointed towards the latter. In my pre-child days I would have spent these days curled up on the sofa watching Arrested Development with my laptop by my side. But having to take care of a preschooler and non-put-offable chores means that I've used every spare moment to catch up on sleep, neglecting my coursework, the less urgent (but still necessary) household things, and the blog.

The non-put-offable tasks included baking a slew of cookies for T, to be sold at the school's Christmas Bazaar this upcoming weekend. I tried to limit my involvement in the process but there are obviously things a 3-year-old can't be expected to do by herself. Especially when it involves electrical equipment and an oven. And I don't think she would have fared too well measuring out I prepared and baked the dough. My germs didn't survive a 300 degree ride in the oven, right?

Sisters 2 and 4 helped T decorate the cookies. Though this decreased the presentability factor in T's case, everyone had a lot of fun. The above specimens were not decorated by T.

By the weekend I was feeling better so a group of us (my mother, T, sister 4 + a friend, and I) went to the Jardin des plantes de Paris. As said before, T loves dinosaurs - so she was thrilled to see the special exhibit "Dinosaure: la vie en grand."

{ Detail from the Fontaine Cuiver | side-view of the Grande Galerie de l'Evolution | winged-animal sculpture in front of the Grande Galerie entrance | Galerie de Botanique | Gare d'Austerlitz metro station | fish sculpture in front of the Grande Galerie }

My main criterion for a museum visit is: could I have gotten the same experience from a website or book? If so: not worth it. But this one definitely was - the information was presented in a great visual way (e.g. the volume of leaves a sauropod ate per day), and the interactive parts of the exhibit included a mock paleontological dig. It's sauropod-focused, so not much about t-rexes, stegasauri, or triceratopses, but will likely appeal to dinosaur-enthusiasts from about 3 upwards (it's specificlly aimed towards 5-11 year olds). So for anyone in, or planning to visit, Paris before May 13, 2013, this is definitely worth checking out.

{ Galerie de l'Evolution | paleontological dig | carousel in the Jardins | L'Amour captif | the Jardins' greenhouses | entrance to the Grande Galerie de l'Evolution }

The dinosaur exhibit is in the building "Grande Galerie de l'Evolution," which also houses the Galerie des enfants (a child-focused wing which we haven't been to yet) and the "Grande Galerie de l'Evolution" itself. This features some 3,000 life-sized animal sculptures representing the diversity of (mostly mammalian) fauna - I'm not sure if they're stuffed or really good reconstructions, but T loved finding her favorite animals. Again, it's worthwhile seeing this "in person" because at the zoo you can't examine the animals so closely nor compare their relative sizes. It was pretty dark though - I agree with the visitor who wrote "trop sombre" in the comment book.

We went back through the park, stopping by the carousel. The picture doesn't show it, but it's pretty amazing - the steeds are a mix of living (panda), extinct (triceratops), and cryptozoological (awesome giraffe-thingies). Looking at "Captive Cupid" (also called "L'Amour prisonnier" from what I can see), I overheard the following exchange between my mother and T:

My mother: Oh look sweetie, there's an angel.
T: I'm quite scared of angels.
My mother: Why are you scared of angels?
T: They were really scary on Doctor Who.

As a non-Brit whose geekishness is generally outside the sci-fi realm (with the exception of Star Trek: The Next Generation) I used to think of Doctor Who as a sometimes-scary children's show - but still one fundamentally aimed at kids. It only took one traumatized child to correct this impression and remove the show from our "family viewing" list.

T prefers to remain anonymous.

PS: Some of the links are to French websites - hilarious mistranslations aside, Google Translate is a great tool for non-Francophones.

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