Picture this for a moment. You’re in the metro and you see some posters for an event called the Salon International de l’Agriculture (International Agricultural Show). What is your general concept of what this show entails?
If you are like me, a few things come to mind: farmers, pitchforks, plows, soil, crops, barns. Basically, a whole world of things that are very far removed from me. This is why for two years, I wrote off the advertisements as an event that wasn’t for someone like me. I assumed it was a nice convention for farmers to put aside their road barricades and meet up peacefully to discuss the hottest tractor of the year.
I’m here to do my civic duty of telling you this is NOT what the Salon is all about! Thanks to a post by Expat Edna, and then a huge food post highlighting the event by David Lebovitz, I realized last year that I had it all wrong. I needed to go check it out and -- and if you’re in Paris, you need to as well. It starts on Saturday, February 27, 2016 - so here’s a little of what you can expect.
Note 1: If you are not in Paris right now, you might consider coordinating a trip there to correspond with this event in a coming year. Winter in Paris + the Salon International de l’Agriculture are the makings for a fantastic stay in France’s capital.
Note 2: Brace yourself. Get ready for farm animal overload.
First off, if you plan to go, know that this Salon is massive. Whereas the wine salon I love to visit takes up one pavilion out of many at Porte de Versailles, this agricultural event monopolizes all the space. It’s huge. It is broken up into four sectors though to make navigating easier: livestock, culinary products, crops and plants, and agricultural services.
There was no uncertainty on my part where to head first. I made a beeline to meet some furry friends.
The women in my family have a soft spot for farm animals, though we all grew up in suburban New Jersey. My mom can’t resist a cute cow and has a large collection of cow figurines. My aunt is all for little piggies. My heart melts for sheep.
I really could have spent the day admiring all the different kinds of sheep. But eventually we moved on to check out the other farm animals represented.
This ostrich gives a clue about another group of animals on the scene. I know my bias towards sheep skewed the photos presented here, but know there were many other animals at the Salon - such as birds, bunnies, cats, horses and donkeys.
Moving on from the livestock, we headed over to the plant world. There were a lot of info panels to read and interactive stands (great for kids too) but we whizzed by at a quick pace. Lunch was way overdue as we had lost track of time by the animals!
Even if you don’t have the same attention span that I do when it comes to farm animals, if you’re in France, I think it’s pretty safe to say that food is of interest to you. In the food pavilion, each region of France had its own section full of stands offering meals and selling edible products.
The Bretagne area was the most lively, and we decided to watch the entertainment with a galette in hand (think savory crêpe). It also was one of the first places we found and being ravenous, we weren’t up for too much shopping around. After all, you can’t go wrong with a galette!
After refueling, we wandered around all the regions represented as we tried to control ourselves from wanting to eat and buy everything. If you might be tempted (think honey, confiture, sausages, cheeses, wine, liquors, and more), bring a sturdy bag along with you to haul your purchases off in. I realize for a tourist, it might seem like an odd event to block off a full day in Paris for - but just consider this pavilion alone, offering the chance to sample food and wine from all reaches of France - and I think it’s a great use of time.
Left: We ended lunch with glasses of Languedoc wine (one of our all-time favorite wine regions) from the Sud de France stand. | Right: Then before leaving, we paid one last visit to the sheep to say "au revoir!"
A full day is needed to explore the many facets of the Salon. We went on a weekend due to Michael’s work schedule, but it’s bound to be less crowded on a weekday. I didn't mind much though - I figured the extra people would provide coverage when I snuck a little lamb home to our Parisian apartment, but Michael put his foot down at that pet suggestion. For now I’ll just have to wait for the next time I can visit the agricultural show for a sheep fix.
So...what's your favorite farm animal?
PLAN YOUR VISIT:
Salon International de l’Agriculture [Paris International Agricultural Show ]
February 27 - March 6, 2016
Paris Porte de Versailles
1, place de la Porte de Versailles, 75015 Paris, France
Open daily (dates listed above) from 9:00am - 7:00pm
Admission: €13 regular price, €6 children 6 - 12 years old and students (with valid student card), children under 6 years old get in for free (prices on website here)