Salon de l'Agriculture 2014
March 02, 2014
If I were in front of a group of foreigners and asked the question “when I say France, what is the first thing that pops to mind?,” most of the people would mention the Eiffel Tower, but there is a good chance some would shout “French cuisine!” I could not agree more, as great food is France’s trademark, passed on and improved from generation to generation. Although the secret to fine gastronomy lies in the recipe, it also clearly lies in the quality of the agricultural products…
There is no better to way to discover both the original products behind great French culinary specialties and the specialties themselves than by going to the Salon de l’Agriculture (Agricultural Fair). I wouldn’t miss it for anything! This very popular fair, held every year at the end of February, is where all the best agricultural products and food from all over France and the world are shown to the public. Lucky Parisians and visitors get to taste the finest French specialties, and meet face to face with some very impressive farm animals. This was my 5th time, and yet again, the Salon de l’Agriculture never ceases to amaze.
It was raining cats and dogs when I left my house, but it would have to take much more than that to stop me from seeing the cats and dogs, as well as all the traditional farm animals, on the Salon de l’Agriculture. The fair is supposed to open at 9AM, but French punctuality also never ceases to amaze (me)! After elbowing my way through an already dense and wet crowd, and a 10mn walk to the main hall, I find myself at 9:30AM in what could be considered as the highlight of the Fair: the huge farm. The ground floor of Hall 7 is where you will find the cows, sheep, goats and pigs and the smell is noticeable from a distance.
One would think that after having been to the Salon de l’Agriculture 4 times already, nothing could impress me, yet for some reason, the huge size of the bulls and cows remains fascinating every time. Cattle breeds such as Limousine or Salers are impressive by their mass, the bulls weighing over a ton, and you can get up close (touching is not allowed for the tranquility of the animals) as they eat, drink, sleep or when they are groomed for the bovine fashion show. Many compete, yet there can only be one winner.... As you walk through the alleys, you will see many different kinds of pigs, sheep and goats found in the different regions of France.
Getting up close and personal with the large animals is one thing (although you do have to muscle your way through the dense crowd, as the Salon the l’Agriculture is very popular), but there is no way I was going to leave the fair without tasting some of the mouth watering French specialties found on the second floor of Hall 7. All of the French regions have one or more stands, including the territories outside of France (tropical islands of Guadeloupe or Martinique). This is the perfect place to taste some of the best dried meats, cheeses or wines. And if you really are hungry, why not have a meal in one of the many regional restaurants found here!
Parisianist Tip: Go to the Guadeloupe or Martinique stands (the tropical islands of France) for great ambiance, tropical fruit and free-flowing rum!
French culinary specialties are not the only great tasting pleasures you will get at the Salon de l’Agriculture! Try going to the third floor of Hall 7, and you will not be disappointed. Here, food from all corners of the world can be tasted: delicious Parma ham from Italy, colourful dried fruits from Thailand, sweet dates from Morocco or exotic specialties from Africa. The friendly ambiance and animation added to these delicacies translates into an awesome time guaranteed. One of my all-time favorites is the dried meats stand of Spain. I never leave the Salon de l’Agriculture empty handed. Both on the French level and International level, there are some great deals, such as 6 “saucissons” (dried sausage) for 20€! Delicious!
If you want to see some cute and fluffy rabbits, head towards Hall 4. Most of this hall is dedicated to the services and jobs in the agricultural world, also including the special agricultural or biology schools but in the back of the Hall is where you will find the farmyard animals: ducks, geese, pigeons, turkeys and rabbits, my personal favourites. But don’t think that the rabbits here are the dwarf rabbits found in animal shops. No! We are talking 10kg rabbits, with ears more than 15cm long.
Parisianist Fun Fact: the rabbits are for sale, should you feel like bringing one home (as a pet, not a dish)
Cats & Dogs
It’s always a mystery to find a special hall for Dogs and Cats on an agricultural fair, but why not? Since the farm animals really do attract a lot of people, throwing our canine and feline friends in the mix would theoretically not disappoint. Au contraire, Hall 5 is also very busy, as kids and adults gather around the cute puppies and kittens on display. On special occasions, there is even a beauty contest for our 4 legged companions so the dogs and cats at the Salon de l’Agriculture “brushed” to the nines. In Hall 6 is where you will find the horses and donkeys.
Although it might not be the most interesting part of the Salon de l’Agriculture for most visitors, taking a glimpse at the stands of Hall 2 is always worth it. The gigantic agricultural machines, among other farming or gardening curiosities, are truly impressive and will surely leave you amazed. And because this area is usually more for the professionals, the alleys are generally less crowded, a perfect get away from all the elbow to elbow visiting going on in the other more popular halls.
You got the picture: the Salon de l’Agriculture is all about fun. Many local Parisians mostly go the fair to have a great time and taste some of the finest French and International traditional food. And because we are in France, a good meal (or finger food) always come with good wine. After having tasted a few wines, that’s when the fun really starts! So away with the boring ambiance that can be found on most trade shows, the Salon de l’Agriculture is definitely a fair should not be missed under any circumstances.