questions of organisation: City of Sciences, Mecca, the human salad spinner, the Qabr, remember your vote counts so long as it’s the right one, La Villette, post-industrial park, a look in at the City of Music, out on the street in Les Abbesses

We went to La Villette, Cité des Sciences, an area of Soviet-style indoctrination – with the democratic, positivist twist of being pro-participation and pro-tech-progress – and ideologically driven from start to finish. Advertised as one of the newest parks, it boasts gardens, a canal cuts through it, themed ‘follies’ – wrought from red-painted I-beam girders – music venues, the building housing the interactive science museum itself – a kind of Pompidou, duct-heavy on the inside, on the outside aesthetic-industrial – and a ‘Geode’ – a reflective ball, housing a wrap-around cinema where Imax films are shown.

Arriving late, we had to decide what to see at the Geode. I wanted to see Le Grand Voyage de Ibn Battuta. A cinematisation – courtesy National Geographic – of the fourteenth century travelogue of Ibn Battuta from Algeria to Mecca. Although originally in English, we saw it in French with pully-down ear-devices, by Sennheiser, offering the original dialogue – in English – de-timed so it could be heard over the French. It was great to see here, a primer for the Muslim world, and a pro-enlightenment Islam document. Cool to see the people at double speed circling the Qabr, Mecca, like a million stars, so said the commentary. And equally cool to be in this venue. Beautiful electro-static flat speakers. A trailer showed off the assets of the thing.

The interactive science part was cool perforce too. The highlight a thing called an Inertial Carousel (they seem to be following us around, the carousels). Enclosed without exterior reference we spun around in a salad spinner – these also are an ongoing theme, W. & L.’s and ours here, trying to rid lettuce of grit. Experiments to conduct: walk in straight line. Impossible. Throw ball at target. Misses. Walking one way is easier than the other. The pull being to the right. Watch water jets that would under normal conditions coincide arc away from each other. And run around and fall over. Throwing a ball through the middle was interesting, it hit the midpoint of the spinning room and veered away.

The ideological components came in various varieties: energy – how to save energy, you be in charge and remove things from a virtual environment that are too energy-hungry; you choose – ought it to be working with existing technologies to achieve savings or developing information technology to act smarter about energy use; genetics – you vote on the ethics involved; brands – find out what a real brand item is as opposed to a fake (done semi-seriously).

The usual French thing after, arriving at another attraction we’d thought part of our comprehensive entry ticket only to find that it was not included – the actual-size submarine. Then wandering into the wasteland of an organised space, gardens, parks, buildings, with no indication as to how to navigate it, no previous advice as to where it might be good to go, given the time of year, the day of the week, and so on.

Home to paella from the freezer. Not bad.