This past weekend, the upper portion of the Champs Elysées was transformed into veritable ribbon of greenery. Visitors were surrounded by vegetation from forest and farm, and stands on the sidewalk offered a place to adopt a tree – all in honor of 2010 being the year of biodiversity.
Though one was always conscious of being on the “grandest of avenues,” it was still a huge pleasure to enjoy trees and underbrush across from the Drugstore Publicis, and sunflowers and mustard plants across from the Virgin Megastore. From the Arc de Triomphe to the Rond Point, birch, sequoia, and chestnut trees gave way to grapevines, pineapple plants, melon and cabbage patches, and even sugar cane! Attendants were scattered about, ready to provide responses to questions about specific plants and the exposition in general. Signs displaying information about each plant drooped over just as the tips of wheat or other grain stalks would, requiring passersby to reach out and lift them to read them. This was yet another way of interacting with the exhibit.
Children abounded on Sunday afternoon. Everyone was remarkably well behaved, and it was easy to see that the kids were fascinated by the wide variety of plants that were literally within arm’s reach. In one instance, I saw kids standing atop a tree planter, trying to get a bird’s eye view of the avenue.
Animals were even brought in to complete the farm motif. A beekeeper had a display of live bees that invited onlookers to identify the queen amidst the swarming insects. Cows and goats peacefully munched their feed, ignoring the crowd. The most delightful sight of the day was a giant “Cul Noir” sow nursing two piglets! Somehow, the mother seemed oblivious to her little ones as they butted their heads against the teats as they hungrily suckled.
According to RTL, over 1.8 million people visited the Champs Elysées on Sunday and Monday – twice as many visitors as the ever-popular Salon de l’Agriculture attracts in a week’s time! There’s no doubt that beautiful weather helped bring out the crowds, but this is still an incredible number of people. The organizers can be proud of an event that was likely successful beyond their expectations, and the visitors can always look back with fondness on the days when the Champs Elysées went green!