Thursday, March 6, 2014

France's Overseas Departments Well Represented at Paris' Annual Agricultural Fair

Over 700,000 people visited the 51st Salon International d'Agriculture (International Agricultural Fair or Show) in Paris this year. This hugely popular event features the finest farm animals, dogs and cats, produce, flower and plants, and other agricultural products from France, its overseas departments and territories, and other countries of the world.

The show occupied six of the seven pavilions at the Parc de Versailles. The entire second floor of Pavilion 7 was devoted to France's regions and overseas departments and territories and there was no shortage of black business owners and agricultural professionals in this part of the show.

My husband Tom represented Discover Paris! at the fair and decided to spend his time exploring the regions with which he was least familiar - the Overseas Departments. He gives the following report:

France has five overseas departments, and I found all of them there: Martinique, Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Reunion Island, and Mayotte. I also found New Caledonia, a French overseas territory.

One of the first persons I met was Janine Salomon who had flown in from Martinique to display her beautiful flowers. I purchased a bouquet and took them home to present to my wife, Monique, in advance of her birthday. Madame Salomon has a flower shop in the town of Ducos in Martinique called Panier des Iles.

Janine Salomon of Panier des Iles
© Discover Paris!

Nearby was a stand called Tropicales Fleurs, attended by Daniel Ambroise from Guadeloupe. He looked quite dapper the way he was dressed, so I asked if I could take his photo.

Daniel Ambroise and his tropical flowers
© Discover Paris!

At a stand touting the benefits of bananas from Guadeloupe and Martinique, I met Anne-Sophie and Joan. They are both from Guadeloupe and live in Paris. Note the image of a banana to the right of Joan—it’s sporting a beret! Yes, Guadeloupe and Martinique are part of France, just as Hawaii is part of the U.S.

Sophie and Joan
© Discover Paris!

I met five lovely ladies at two different stands that represented French Guiana, a French overseas department located on the north Atlantic coast of South America. All five women hail from Guiana and live in Paris.

Florence and Christ-Laur
© Discover Paris!

Aurelia, Paoline, and Gwen
© Discover Paris!

Marie-Hélène, from New Caledonia, represented that French territory, which is located in the southwest Pacific Ocean east of Australia. She is currently a student in the town of Limoges in central France.

© Discover Paris!

Naoilou Yahaya is manager of fruit promotion at the Chamber of Agriculture in Mayotte, a French overseas department located in the Indian Ocean between the African continent and Madagascar.

Naoilou Yahaya
© Discover Paris!

I walked over to the Reunion Island stand where I met several young men from that far-away land, located east of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean. The three men in the photograph were there to give information about the plant extracts (essential oils) that were on display.

Guillaume, Dany, and Yannis
© Discover Paris!

And over at the cooking stand, Thierry Elie, president of Les Toques Blanches de Martinique, and Babette de Rozières, popular television chef and author of several cookbooks, were engaged in animated conversation about the dishes that Chef Elie and his staff were preparing. Elie hails from Martinique and Babette, who moved to Paris at the age of 17, from Guadeloupe.

Thierry Elie, President of the Toques Blanches in Martinique,
chats with Chef and TV personality Babette de Rozières of Guadeloupe
© Discover Paris!

Later, I caught Chef Elie and his staff as they were posing for a photograph. I didn’t get a chance to taste the food that they were preparing, though, because I wanted to keep moving from stand to stand.

Thierry Elie and His Staff
© Discover Paris!

My most memorable experience was at La Bonne Crêpe stand where Chef Janick Ancete whipped up a rum and banana crêpe for me. The crêpe is a traditional pancake from Brittany, but here at La Bonne Crêpe Chef Janick gives a Martinican twist by making them with banana flour. He uses Clement rum from Martinique on his rum-flavored crêpes. Delicious! In fact, so delicious that I decided to order a second crêpe, this time made with Elot chocolate (a locally-produced chocolate). Delicious again!

Chef Janick making Martinican crêpes
© Discover Paris!

Nearby, I purchased a bottle of Darboussier – Rhum VieuxHors d’Ages from Raymond. Hors d’ages is a blend of very old rums that have been aged in oak casks.

Raymond and Darboussier rum
© Discover Paris!

I left the agricultural fair with good memories of the people I met and the products that I tasted there. I look forward to returning next year!


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