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Have you ever been to a salon de l'agriculture?

Have you ever been to a salon de l'agriculture?

The first week of March, the cars of the Paris Metro bound toward Mairie d'Issy fill with tweed-coated men, their faces ruddy from working outside. At the Porte de Versailles station, they jostle off to the exposition, leaving the pallid Parisian straphangers to reflect that spring is officially here; the Salon International de l'Agriculture has opened.

The huge show fills the vest halls and spills onto the surrounding grounds. There are rows of gleaming tools and equipment for the mechanized farm, beauty contests for every imaginable two-and four-legged domestic creature, and finally, in an immense food hall, a buffet of specialities from French fields and shore, every bit and sip-of it for sale.

If you are Europe-bound this month, try to squeeze in a half-day during the show, March 4 to 11. With a year to plan, you could make it a focus in 1985 (March 3 to 10), with several forays to take it all in.

Foreign visitors pay no admission charge. Simply bring your passport to the small building at the right side of the Metro exit marked Accueil des Etrangers. Get a pass here, and you can come and go between 9 and 7 as time and tired feet dictate.

You can't get lost at the fair; silhouetted heads of animals direct you to exhibits until the sign of the crossed spoon and fork proves irresistible. The food hall's broad walkways are lined with signs marking regions with food and wine specialties Alsace, Champagne, Provence, Perigord, Brittany. You have been mouth-watering challenge of trying to eat your way across France in an afternoon.

You can stand at a counter for a plate of Belon oysters just plucked from the shores of Normandy, sit down at a checkered table cloth for sausage from Lorraine, purchase bottles of wine or tins of foie gras for your suitcase. Prices are slightly below local shop levels, but selection and convenience are the real attraction.

Photo: Food-hall fare ranges from eat-now sandwiches with ham from Auvergne to carry-home tins of hazelnut oil

Photo: Satyr's the name, bacon's the game. He was one of 1,772 animals in 45 categories exhibited at last year's Paris fair

Photo: "Les Tracteurs' will be title for school essays by these city kids, brought in droves to the fair

Photo: You can stroll on a misty, morning across the Champ-de-Mars to the uncrowded Eiffel Tower to build an appetite for lunch at the fair
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Copyright 1984 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Mar 1, 1984
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