The Champs-Elysées – or Elysian Fields – rediscovered their roots yesterday in a colourful jumble of crops, fruit, vegetables, flowers and farm animals. Nearly 2km of the cobbles of the beautiful Parisian avenue have been covered by 8,000 small fields of imported soil, or giant containers, planted with wheat, beans, vines, mustard, bananas, pineapples and a hundred other species of cereals, fruit and vegetables.
The two-day "Nature Capitale" exhibition – stretching into today's Pentecost bank holiday – is intended to remind the 2 million Parisians that food does not grow on supermarket shelves or market stalls.
More than 600 young farmers and 150 foresters, helped by 100 freelance stage and cinema technicians, worked all through Saturday night to "plant" the avenue with blocks of soil and containers, separated by footpaths of wood-chippings.
Gad Weil, the chief organiser, who promoted a similar "Big Harvest" on the Champs-Elysées 20 years ago, said that the intention was "to remind people that man lives at the heart of nature".
William Villeneuve, the president of the French Jeunes Agriculteurs (Young Farmers) association, said that his members were in Paris not to "cry about our problems but to show our profession in its best light and remind people how food gets on to their plates".
Even in France, where city-dwellers like to think that they retain rural roots, the lesson may be overdue. One young Parisian, Samuel, was overheard to say: "I didn't know that wheat was green. I thought that it was yellow."
The event is expected to draw 2 million visitors, including tourists, in the two days.