Sunday, 2 March 2014

Paris International Agricultural Show

I'm so used to A&P shows, being a kiwi, but I haven't been to one for decades. The last would have been in Christchurch. My childhood included being dragged around the annual show, getting animal poo on my shoes and being assailed by excremental odours. But there was a charm to it; watching horse and cart races, ladies in fancy hats, sheep dogs demonstrating their skills. The difference with the one in Paris is that everything is indoors and it happens in winter.

It's huge. It covers several giant pavilions and there are four sections to it: livestock breeding; products and gastronomy; crops, plants, nature and lifestyle; agricultural services and professions. there was also an area for cats and dogs, I don't know why.

The mascot for the show this year was Bella who belongs to the Tarentaise breed of cattle. This site provided information in English

Her personal information

  • Date of birth: 7 May 2006
  • Place of birth: Haute-Loire 
  • Mother’s name: Leila 
  • Father’s name: Notaire 
  • Her children: 5 daughters! Douce, Etna, Fushia, Gaillarde and Hella

Bella, like the other members of the Tarentaise (or Tarine) breed, has eyes framed by black rings, as if she’s had her makeup done! Her coat is tawny in colour, uniform and light. Her hooves, mucous membranes and extremities are very dark, protecting her from the ill-effects of the sun. Finally, she has lyre-shaped horns, the tips of which are also black.

Bella has an easy nature, and is gentle and curious.

We started with the pavilion displaying food specialities from each region of France. Chocka with people, we just had to have patience. I tried a pineau wine from the Poitou-Charente region (my ancestral home). This is not to be confused with a Pinot. A pineau is a wine mixed with cognac, from the same region. I quite liked it but then I quite like ruby ports, muscat grapes and late-season dessert wines- sweet stuff!

Chocolates and other confectionery, meats, wine, artisan ice-creams, more wines, cheeses, jams and other preserves (especially duck products), even more wines, perfume products from Grasse, it just went on and on and we barely scratched the surface. One unusual product was the tourteaux fromage, 5euros each. They were cheese cakes which looked a bit like canonballs because the cheesy top is cleverly burnt to look like metal. My feet were killing me from my poor choice of boot for walking around so we headed off to see the animals.

Sheep of every kind, races I'd never seen before, dear old Rambouillet sheep who helped NZ's fledgling merino wool industry, hello Southdowns (I recognised you). Most of them had had enough of people and had their backs firmly to us. Cattle were chained and had handlers to protect them and the public against any interspecies conflicts.

I liked the engraved cattle bells many of them wore. Goats of every imaginable type of horms. Pigs in all colours, there was even a performance area for animals to ponce about in, doing their thing like rolling in the dust. The show is equally interesting for children, especially the chicken-hatching, right before our eyes. Such a struggle for some to get out and clearly there were the strong and the weak.

JC was much taken by a giant tractor, quite the Rolls Royce of tractors. Too big for most farms it nevertheless won admiring glances. This show is worth a visit if you're in Paris for a few days while it's on. Wear comfortable flat shoes and allow 4-5 hours minimum.

Beware traffic. On the day we went Paris was at it's worst and it took 3.5 hours to make a 1.5 hour journey and the parking problem was evident, even with a parking building nearby. Take the train if you can.


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