Monday, June 15, 2009
Shopping is a part of everyone's life, like it or not. I like it. In France, shopping takes on challenges that we don't seem to have in the United States. First there are the hours shops keep. Forget Mondays (unless you are really lucky), forget Sundays, and Saturdays after 6pm. Then, there is lunch time. In larger cities, some shops maybe open during lunch, maybe not. In the countryside, it's best to do as the French do at lunch, eat.
The French have really taken a shine to the "loyalty" cards. Supermarkets, hardware stores, all kinds of shops are asking if you want to sign up for one. But please bring your own bag to the super market, and a one euro coin if you want a shopping cart. (you get it back when you return the cart)
The super markets can be a treasure trove of new and unusual things; along with all things French, I have found wasabi, nori, and salsas making their way into the local market. Even though the produce area is huge, it will generally be filled only with what is seasonally fresh and by in large "local". You may get tomatoes from Spain (only two hour drive from here), but you won't get loads of imported, exotic items.
Many villages and towns have "plein aire marches". This would be a farmers market, but also hardware, clothing, shoes, etc maybe sold. Many market towns have had markets on the same day for hundereds of years. My village has a market every Tuesday. Some markets are prettier, some more functional, all are a social get together. The French Government rates the prettiest markets. I think towns and villages are more interesting on market days, and it's worthwhile to visit on those days.