For the past three years, Parisians have known springtime is beckoning when the posters for the Hermès International Horse Show, better known as Saut Hermès, begin popping up all over the city. This year the event took place this past weekend, Friday through Sunday, and I had the great pleasure of being there.
First of all, I must explain that the pleasure I derive from such an event stems from that fact that I am an avid equestrian. Having competed myself as a Show Jumper for over ten years, I am in my element at a horse show. And Saut Hermès has yet to disappoint. Some of the best equestrians in the world compete at this event over jumps measuring between 1,45m-1,60m (4’9″- 5’2″) in height, for the final purse on Sunday afternoon of 200,000€. The total prize money, should a single competitor take all, adds up to a grand total of 455,000€ ($600,000). Not bad for a weekend!
The Saut Hermès event is classed as a CSI5* competition, meaning that the event is approved by the IFE (International Federation for Equestrian Sports) and the starring system indicates the level of competition and the category of prize money. Five stars is the highest level. Rules also exist as to the age of the horses permitted to enter a particular category of show. In a CSI5* event, for example, the horses must be at least seven years old.
Set in the lavish surroundings of the Grand Palais, near Concorde in central Paris, tickets for the event are a little hefty, more than Ladies’ Day at Cheltenham Festival (March 13-16) or Royal Ascot (June 19-23) in the UK. And spectators dress for the part. Like you may have experienced at the Kentucky Derby or at one of the many equestrian events in the UK, ladies wore lovely spring dresses with matching heels; gentlemen were in blazers and with quite a
few ascots around the most distinguished necks. Despite the elevated ticket price, people don’t go all out with their fashion choices as they do for Royal Ascot. Rather than top hats and fascinators, as is the British tradition and as is customary in France at the Chantilly Races in June, women at Saut Hermès tend toward designer silk scarves (Hermès, of course) and oversized sunglasses.
The second event that took place this weekend was the Salon du livre which is running from Friday to Monday. Paris is renowned for its Salons: Salon du vin, Salon du mariage, Salon du livre, Salon de l’agriculture and Salon du chocolat, to name but a few of my favorites. Held at various times of the year all over the city in large convention-type settings, this year’s Salon du livre is being held at Porte de Versailles Exposition Center in south Paris. The program and theme differ from year to year, although perpetual events include conferences on various literary and publishing topics, children and young adult programs as well as meet and greet events with authors and the buying of books, book and more books. On the final day, the Prix littéraires du Salon du livre (the Literary Prizes of the Salon) are awarded. For a mere 9,50€ for adults and free admission for those under 18 – less than a show at the cinema these days – it’s a well spent Saturday en famille.