Saturday, October 24, 2009


After 12 hours of sleep, we woke up to a gloriously sunny day. Breakfast on the balcony, with a view to the north and east of the city.

Now that we’re fully awake and have a good look at the apartment, wow, it needs a cleaning. We’ve learned over the years that although you’re required in the rental contract to leave the apartment clean for the next renter, this just never happens for us. I guess the apartment doesn’t need to BE clean; it just has to LOOK tidy. It reminds me of when I first moved to Germany in the ‘80s. Everyone had a putzfrau (cleaner) but mine just seemed to move the dirt around my apartment, instead of removing it.

Need to get some groceries (and cleaning supplies) and Nathalie – my brother-in-law’s girlfriend – offers to take us to a Carrefour outlet. (Carrefour is one of the major grocery shopping chains in France.) Although grocery stores in Canada and in France are laid out in the same way, the products are different and it’s fascinating just to wander up and down the aisles to see the stuff. The glorious diversity that you can find at the cheese counter in almost any chain grocery store in France fascinates me. So much to try! But, of course, the BIG difference is the wine. Always a good selection of affordable regional wine (~5 Euros, or $8), some wines from other regions in France, and a few wines from other countries if the store is a larger one. So, first wine that I buy on this trip? Valpolicella! We’re going over to my brother-in-law’s place for an Italian-themed dinner, so it’s an Italian wine. OK, I also bought a Picpoul de Pinet.

Picpoul is a white grape varietal that’s native to Languedoc and Picpoul de Pinet is an AOC. We had a bottle recently in Ottawa and I’m anxious to try a bottle that hasn’t travelled across the ocean. (Travel is no friend to wine.)

These big grocery stores seem to be very popular. I’m curious to know how much shopping patterns have changed in France. I keep hearing that the traditional way of life is disappearing. Neighbourhood bistros and cafés closing; local butchers, bakers, fishmongers, cheesemongers gone (monger, a favourite word). All pushed to towards extinction by national grocery and restaurant chains. We know this phenomenon in Canada. Is it so in France? There isn’t the same automobile culture in France that we have in Canada, so in a society that relies more on public transit and walking, is there still room for local shops and restaurants to thrive? I mean to find out.

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