The last week in February is one of my favourite times of year in Paris. Despite the grey skies and cold temperatures, the city heats up with the arrival of France’s finest birds and beasts at the Salon International de l’Agriculture, an annual showcase that takes Paris by storm. Farmers arrive in Paris with their prized livestock–from the heavily muscled Bleu-Blanc cows to Silkie Bantam chickens—and take up residence in the sprawling pavillons at the Parc des Expositions de la Porte de Versailles. This year “the biggest farm in France” welcomed 691,000 visitors to ogle 4,000 animals.
There are vegetable-inspired fashion shows, dog herding contests, cooking classes, children’s ateliers, and, bien sûr, cow beauty pageants. (This year Filouse–a cow of the Rouge Flamande race–was the mascot of the show, and her face was plastered on ads all over the metro.) For a quarter of a century, the Salon has also served as an important political stage, with French Presidents (and sometimes, ahem, their rivals) staging photo ops amongst the agriculteurs and their livestock.
The best part of all: visitors can embark on a veritable Tour de France by tasting products from each of the 27 regions of France. You might start off with some saucissons, a taste of foie gras, or what about a raclette sandwich? Then head to the “Auvergne” section for a healthy portion of aligot, the traditional dish made with melted cheese and mashed potatoes. “Bourgogne” is awash in wine tastings, while Outre-Mer is always the rowdiest bunch with rum, exotic fruit punch, and live music straight from the islands.
Mark your calendar for next year! The entry fee for 2015 was 13 euros for adults, and 6 euros for children between 6 and 12 years. For more information, visit www.salon-agriculture.com