Last weekend, nearly two million city dwellers crammed together on the Champs-Elysées to see such foreign marvels as goats and tomato plants as part of "Nature Capitale," an outdoor exhibition organized by the farming union Jeunes Agriculteurs (Young Farmers).
It was an attempt to introduce Parisiens to the delights of the country — and to gain support for France's small farmers, who are having difficulty competing with the EU's industrial farming giants. According to most news sources, the event was a hit; President Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife, musician and ex-model Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, were among the guests and most of the coverage was positive. Europe 1, though, declared Nature Capitale a "victime de son success" with too many people in too small of an area and not enough chances to meet les jeune agriculteurs. At least one visitor, who lives in the Languedoc-Roussillon region, agreed. "I live in the country," she told me. "I don't need to fight crowds in order to see a cow."
For many city dwellers, however, turning the LA-style shopping mall that the Champs-Elysées has become back to its original elysian fields, if only for a weekend, was an appealing idea, and some locals have even suggested that the city create a permanently green Champs (an oxymoron if I ever wrote one). For now, though, they'll have to content themselves with visits to the city parks, which have become more natural lately as part of Mayor Bertrand Delanoë's green campaign that includes the discontinuance of the spraying of pesticides and the authorization to let grass to do what it does best — grow.