I think it’s fair to say that when most people visit Paris they head for the beautiful old monuments, like Sacré Coeur. And in fact when we stopped in briefly, nuns in fluttery white habits were singing some kind of plainsong, and it was pure loveliness.
But the truth is that we were in Paris for the cows. Sure, we’re flying out of here tomorrow, so that’s the principal reason for our visit. But that aside, it’s the annual Salon d’Agriculture that really drew me. I’ve been wanting to go to that for years, and the fact that it’s right now, right here, was way too good to pass up.
The Salon is the chance for French farmers to strut their stuff. There’s serious judging, emphasis on saving ancient breeds, like this Salers beauty, and thousands and thousands of animals patiently ignoring the mad influx of strange humans into their lives.
I probably shouldn’t say this in a family blog, but the Salers have really cute butts, with their blond pompom tail tufts. Actually, most of the breeds were really cute.
There were Blondes d’Aquitaine,
Pie Rouge des Plaines,
Vosgiennes, and dozens of other breeds. I could go on and on, my photo file’s overflowing with French cowdom, but I really do think there’s a limit to what I can ask of you.
Although I’m pretty sure you’ll love this big boy. We had the chance to watch the judging of the Parthenaise bulls, and I was inordinately proud of myself for having picked the winner out of the field of five mega-bulls, each one weighing in at right about a ton. This is a meat animal, and they were being judged for their qualitiés boucher, which is all about the meat, and not about their beautiful curly ruffs or their buffalo-like heads, but still. I guess I know bull when I see it.
A big emphasis of the Salon is on the future farmers of France, and this stand was designed to encourage young people to go into farming.
French farming is in something of a crisis, just as American farming was some years ago, as more and more small farms are lost to big agribusiness. But whereas it’s probably too late to save the small American family farm, France is still very much an agricultural nation, and there’s a huge push to save today’s farmers and make it possible for young people to stay on the farm.
Every evening of the Salon you can visit the milking parlor, and there’s a milk bar to buy fresh milk, which was always swamped with thirsty visitors.
If you missed the real thing you could see milking demonstrated on a plastic cow,
and there were also goat milking demonstrations, although the only time you could get anywhere near the stand was between the actual shows. Have I mentioned that this Salon is evidently one of the most popular events in Paris? There were at least 100,000 people there yesterday, which made for an exhausting crowd. And it lasts for 10 days, although I don’t know if it’s always as as busy as it was during our visit. And we didn’t even begin to see everything, for in addition to cows there were
including some with newborn lambs,
pigs with baby piglets, and also goats, draft horses, dogs, cats, fish, and birds, that we didn’t have time to see.
The spirit of internationalism was alive and well, and there were stands with food and agricultural information from many countries, including Japan,
and Tatarstan, where as soon as I asked if I could take his picture this guy ran and got his drum and struck a dramatic pose for me.
There was a planted stand showing how barley and hops make beer,
and a workshop showing kids how to pot plants. And…and…and…I give up, you’ll just have to go next year and see for yourself.
It’s a prize-winning event, and I could have happily spent another day there. But you know what? We have to pack. Again. We’ve spread out all over this Paris apartment like we meant to stay here forever. But no. Jour J, which is the French equivalent of d-day, is tomorrow. The day we leave France, which now feels like home to us, and head back to the Pacific Northwest, a strange new world.
I’m on my way, and I’m bringing a cow. That should make the transition easier, don’t you think?