Monday, February 28, 2011

The Salon d'Agriculture

I really don't like crowds (600,000+ visitors), but I make an exception for this fair. It really is the pride of France - even the President makes an appearance. It's basically an enormous 7 pavilion celebration of the culinary roots of France in an animal loving agricultural gastronomic smorgasbord.  

Each region presents their very best: award winning livestock all dolled up, sausage and cheese stands, foie gras sorbet, wine tasting and martinique rum, leather goods, horse and donkey shampoo (I've heard it works wonders), herbs and aromats, and more and more...

I just go prepared, which means we arrive early (parking is a real adventure) tickets in hand (a nice man gave us a free invitation), snacks packed (not like there is not enough food there, but you never know what could happen!), kids rhythms are respected (napping, meals and such) and for the rest we go with the flow.  Oh, and get out early - it get's really crowded!

(And when I say you never know what could happen - Our day ended at the ER at Necker Pediatric Hospital.  My son twisted his finger tripping on a grate in the parking lot as we left.  See! glad I had those snacks.)

For photos of our visit keep reading...

Fancy silky-smooth horse and donkey hair.
We generously added to our home farm at the Schleich toy stand.  
The monotonous roar of the fair was perfect to lull her to sleep.  
 Real man food.  We ate in Alsace.  Men so happy!  Aren't you glad you're not dieting.
Le spectacle.  She's loved cheering the horses on.
Beet sorbet, yummy.  But, so was the foie gras sorbet.  Everything is better with foie gras, non!
Donkey love.
Geese.  They just have so much personality.
Crêpes, yes please!  As if the mashed potato filled with cheese wasn't filling enough.
Candy, the star of the show.
Notes for next year:
1. Be prepared to carry your stroller through a maze of stairways if you have come by car and park in the fair garage which costs a fortune by the way.
3. Don't eat at the first restaurant you see - shop around by looking at people's plates and the levels of expressions of satisfaction on their faces.  
4. There is always a huge line for the ladies toilet.  Take the escalator up another floor and there is another restroom nearly empty.
5. If you have a stroller, don't go anywhere near the stands for France Outremer (Martinique, Guataloupe).  They serve rum and amazing cocunut cocktails.  The traffic jam around each stand is worse than the rue de Rivoli at rush hour.  
4 1/2. If you have come with children, you may want to leave in the early afternoon as the wine tasting picks-up fervor around apéro time.  Even without the apéro, leave early.
5. And don't even bother with a stroller in the afternoon.
6. There are some fun stands where you can test your nose at aromats, learn about veterinary medicine, healthy eating or just draw with your kids.
5. Don't be surprised if your children's favorite part of the exhibit are the tapis roulant (rolling walkways like at the airport) between each pavilion.  Yes, you paid 12 euros for your ticket so your kids could ride the "rolling carpet"!
6. Hand sanitizer, hand sanitizer.

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