May 1st, "May Day", is a big holiday here in France. This year, the day dawned grey and cold and threatening. So instead of joining the thousands of people who march from Bastille to Nation in solidarity with labor, we showed our solidarity by going out to the Porte de Versailles to the 109th annual Foire de Paris, to admire the end result of all that labor.
These posters have been lining the metro walls for some time, with different faces showing different reactions to the main theme of the fair: "Générosité, Curiosité, Innovation". Over 620,000 people are expected to attend over the next ten days, to experience in one place "all the products and services that enhance your daily life." And most of which can proudly claim to be:
"Made in France".
A long line snaked its way to the entrance of the multi-pavilioned complex that makes up this huge exhibition space. This is where Matthew comes every year to gaze at cars at the RetroMobile show. Today, we'd be gazing at a different kind of French ingenuity.
...to some equally white leather couches with added bizarre sections of bright turquoise and sober gray suede leather.
In an adjacent section were room after room of incredibly garish paintings and prints, this one seeming to extoll all the worst attributes of the USA!
We fairly shuddered at the sight of this "faux" Eugène Boudin painting, especially after just seeing the real thing in a wonderful show at the Jacquemart-André Museum!
Luckily, before we got too despondent at all this terrible taste, we came to one of the things we love best about France: very clever design (think Citroën cars!). Here's a nice set of bookshelves...
...but, wait a minute, what's that behind these shelves...
...yes, a full-sized bed!
...ready for nicely ironed French sheets and a warm duvet!
And if you have kids who like bunk beds, you can slide them up and down the side railings to create more space in a small bedroom during the day.
Moving into the next pavilion, housing all things "kitchen", we were greeted by this friendly mascot, although we could not figure out what he/she was promoting.
What I loved most of all were all the eye-popping colors that would brighten up any space, whether a stove...
...or the ever-cheerful line of products from the trusty folks at Bodum.
What Matthew's late Uncle Ben would have called "a pip of a rig"!
But that was nothing compared to the array of other miracles we came across, like this sewing machine that is embroidering, all by itself...
...or this tiny robot vacuum cleaner that sucked up shiny copper centime coins...
...or this fancy steam iron with wires and controls that make your shirts and trousers look like they've just come back from the cleaners!
"Mais, Madame, je suis Americain, nous ne fumons pas" he explained.
And this clever helmet allows your braids to swing free and clear as you ride along!
Foire de Paris is a bit like going to a State Fair in America, a lot of fun, but way too much to see in one day. There was much to laugh at, but also much to admire in the inventiveness and style of French design. You really can't take it all in. I haven't even mentioned the musical side-shows, the acres of food stands from around the world and the wines and gastronomical products. I did see some of these because, in fact, I went back the next day. Amongst all the tasteful (and tasteless) furnshings on display in the Home Decoration section, we actually had spotted an armoire for our bedroom. And at the discounted prices they were offering during the fair, it was worth the return trip!
Back home, my little posy of Muguet du Bois (Lily of the Valley) was another nice reminder of May Day traditions. It is a symbol of spring, friendship and good luck, especially if the sprig (le brin) has thirteen bellflowers.