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Enjoying The Paris Wine Salon And The Paris Fair

What To Do In Paris If You Hate Museums

We began our one-month stay in Paris at the Wine Salon and ended it at the Paris Fair.

The Wine Salon features hundreds of winemakers pouring thousands of wines, all free for the tasting. Salon rules dictate that winemakers must pour, so your host at each stand can answer questions. What kinds of grapes are in this wine, in what percentages? Who are your customers? Do you ship to Panama? How many bottles do you produce a year? Many winemakers or their spouses or kids at the stands speak English.

Admission to the four-day event costs very little, and once you’re inside the winemakers will give you free passes for visits on subsequent days. Just ask.

The Wine Salon hits Paris twice a year, in late March and late November, and in between travels to other cities around France. Do a search on “vignerons independents” for the complete schedule (in French).

Near the end of our stay in Paris my friend Jose and I went to the Paris Fair, in the Paris Exhibition Center at Porte de Versailles. I saw a table the size of a small desk that spreads out with leaves to accommodate the multitudes.

Patio furniture that stacks up into a tiny haystack-like pile. A steam cleaner that steams, washes, and dries all in one. I wouldn’t be surprised if it makes coffee, too, with a special attachment. Shoe polish that doesn’t require polishing. A robotic vacuum cleaner. Eyeglasses painted with designs that force eye muscles to kick in and improve vision. Those weird glasses really worked, I could see almost as well as with my prescription glasses.

For lunch at the fair, Jose and I shared a ham leg, called a “jarret” in French, in my experience available only at the fair. The jarret came with cheese potatoes, and we ordered a half-bottle of French Shiraz to add to the festivity.

Both before and after lunch we tasted cheese, pâté, chocolate, wine, cognac, sausage, salami, pastries, and nuts, all at nearby vendors.

The day after the fair, for our final days, Vicki and I traveled to the French countryside. We stayed with French friends who speak only French. But if you lack French friends and speak little French, head out on your own. Choose a town on one of the high-speed train lines heading out of Paris. Or rent a car and hit the road. So many towns and villages around France charm visitors with medieval churches, Saturday markets, narrow streets with stone houses, and cafes and bakeries with friendly locals.

I’d choose someplace in nearby Normandy, but you can hardly go wrong no matter which direction you head out of Paris.

In between the Wine Salon and the Paris Fair we went to museums and churches around Paris; Paris has over a hundred museums. I mention this as an aside, because in my experience most people quickly tire of museums and churches. I speak from personal experience. When we lived in Paris full-time I noticed most people running around the Louvre trying to find the Mona Lisa. What a waste of time. So I came up with a quick tour for friends that included the Mona Lisa, Winged Victory, Venus de Milo, and Medieval Louvre, all in just a half-hour. I guided friends via back passageways and hidden elevators to get around in record time.

My idea was that afterwards our visitors could visit other parts of the Louvre, whatever interested them. But in every case these visitors decided to leave with me. Been there, seen the big guys, no need to add Rembrandt or Delacroix, Gericault or Corot.

If you’re like most people who hate museums, stick to the wine salons, fairs, countryside, markets, walks along the canals, and sculptures in the Tuileries. Window shop. Enjoy the cafes and restaurants, try the pâtés, foie gras, and duck confit. Picnic on stinky cheese, fresh baguettes, and champagne and chocolate.

One final note. The euro seems overvalued, no one knows why. Many observers predict the euro will weaken. Perhaps you should postpone your Paris trip until the fall, when you might enjoy fewer tourists and a better exchange rate.

Paul Terhorst

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