Thursday, March 11, 2010


The supermodels were in town last week and at the Paris Expo halls, the excitement was palpable. Although Paris Fashion Week was in full swing, there were no ultra-thin mannequins in this crowd. Aida, the star of the show, is a beautiful redhead with liquid brown eyes, who weighs 700 kilos (1,540 pounds). She's a cow - a Saler cow from the Cher region of central France - and she's the mascot of the 2010  International Agricultural Show.

Aida was joined at the show by 3,500 other cows, bulls, horses, donkeys, sheep, goats, pigs, rabbits, cats, dogs, fish and birds. This is no Noah's Ark with just two of each animal - where a cow is a cow and a horse is a horse.  Instead, with its 330 different races, it is, as the show's web site says: "an open window on agriculture in all its diversity."  

Holy cow or as the French say, "la vache"! What was I doing my last week in Paris standing face to face with a 1,500 pound cow? Shouldn't I be dining at a gourmet restaurant or contemplating the treasures of the Louvre? In fact, the Agricultural Show is a quintessentially French tradition. The Paris show, the largest in France, has been going on for 140 years. Most French people, even city folk, will tell you that France is at heart an agriculture country. It's Europe's largest producer and exporter, and the sixth largest agricultural producer in the world. It's the second largest agricultural exporter in the world, behind the United States. 

In addition to the animal halls, there is also a Regions of France Hall, selling food and wine from every corner of the country, as well as from the outre mer departments, such as  Guadeloupe, Martinique and New Caledonia. There are 38 restaurants, vegetable markets,  flower stands, cooking demonstrations, and lots of great samples, like Belon oysters from Brittany or olive oil from Provence. A separate international hall is brimming with food stands and restaurants from 18 countries. You can apply for an agricultural job and buy everything from farm equipment to natural beauty products --  or even a donkey to keep the grass nice and neat on your Norman estate. 

Last year the paid admission was almost 700,000. For this reason, lots of politicians show up to meet and greet the people. One person we did not run into was Nicolas Sarkozy. French presidents usually inaugurate the show, but this year, Sarkozy did not make an appearance until the end of the show. This did not sit well with French farmers, who are looking for support from the government for their ailing industry. Their disappointment, however, did not seem to affect the show goers and, in spite of the crowds, the atmosphere was festive and friendly.

My friend Marcelle and I arrived at nine-thirty in the morning and were surprised to find ourselves still having fun at six in the evening. It may have helped that by that time, we were sitting in an Alsatian pub being serenaded by a band of musicians in red fox hunting outfits. 

It was dark by the time we wiped the farm off our shoes and headed back to the bright lights of the big city.  

To see more photos, click here.


                                    A bientôt,

Photos by Geraldine Calisti Kaylor

1 comment:

  1. What wonderful photos you got, Geraldine! That place looks really interesting. I'll bet that was fun. Thnx for taking me along!


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