A few weeks ago, I took on the challenge of braving the grocery stores, or les supermarchés.
I thought I had prepared myself; I had a list and it wasn’t very long. I walked the 20 or so minutes to the local Monoprix. La Ciotat is a very pedestrian friendly town (it’s defiantly doesn’t have a city feel to it), but that doesn’t mean the people driving cars pay much attention to anything.
I don’t want to assume, but I don’t know if anyone here actually knows how to drive safely.
There’s a lot of honking and a lot a tire screeches and, as my window faces a busy road, I hear it at all hours. There aren’t many stoplights; the French are definitely in favor of the round-abouts. And they do work pretty well to keep traffic flowing. But where did these people go to driving school? Do they even go?? (Of course they do…I hope…)
The cars here are all compact. No hummers, no flatbed trucks, no SUVs. The one French woman I know at the point made a comment about how big her car was the other day. It’s a Nissan. M’am, you should come to the States sometime. But, compared to the rest of the cars on the road, it is. And if it’s not a compact car, it’s a revving motorbike.
When that one day comes where I don’t almost become one with the pavement because of some car or scooter whipping around the corner, whenever, and if, that day ever happens, then I’ll think otherwise.
How would I describe Monoprix?
I’ve only been to a few grocery stores in France at the moment, and so far it’s been the biggest. I walked in with a pack of students who must have gotten off for lunch and tried to look like I knew what I was doing. I walked by the carts and had to backtrack through the produce section. I made my way out of there with only 3 kiwis and a box of baby spinach.
Their booze section was just as big as the produce one was. And I say booze because it was everything – wine, cider, vodka, tequila, scotch. I didn’t get anything though because I had to walk back and didn’t know how much my bag was going to fit. However, I could have carried a bottle of wine or 2.
Next were the frozen foods/refrigerated things. They had frozen everything, from pizza, to shrimp, to refrigerated meats (I had to get some bruschetta). Labels with strange words I couldn’t really translate stared back at me. I found some smoked ham and some hummus. And cheese. Of course I didn’t forget about the cheese.
I needed to find some bread to eat with all of the things I bought, as they kind of need bread: the ham, the hummus, the cheese. One day at a time. But I knew that getting bread at the grocery store is a faux pas. You just don’t do that. Why would you do that when there is freshly baked bread right down the street? I didn’t have the guts to stop by a boulangerie today. I will though, and soon. Maybe after a glass of wine or two. It’s not like I’m going to drive anywhere.
(* I wrote most of this my first week in France. Boulangeries are awesome and I’ve gotten over the fear of my accent and make myself go out every day to interact with people.)
I managed to pull myself out of my daze a few times to grab some of the things that were actually on my list: a candle for the kitchen because it smelled funny (not in a endearing, oh, it smells like food, way). There were too many coffee choices from all over the world, so I settled on a small bag with the least obnoxious logo from Brazil. I got a pad of paper and some toothpaste. I think I found granola. We shall see when I open it. (* Wasn’t granola.) I did manage to find yogurt too. (*Actually no. It’s fromage blanc or white cheese . . . It still tastes and looks like yogurt, but now I know why it was a bit funny.) So there we go, I actually got a full meal. I spent a lot of time in that store, but mostly staring wide-eyed at everything. To say I was a bit overwhelmed was an understatement.
After the food it morphed into a pharmacy like section, which I expected. But then I found myself walking through a department store. With clothes. Like sweaters and silk shirts on hangers. Eh, Monoprix has their own clothing brand. Cool. I paraded my groceries through lingerie and children’s pants. And then I found the checkout.
They had the option for a self checkout and the line was shorter, so I decided I could handle it. It yelled at me in French whenever I put my bag on the weighted ledge. There was a little button with the Union Jack on it for English, but I didn’t want to out myself as a foreigner unless I really had to. I scanned everything without any problems. That is, until I put my card in and it was all seemingly okay until it started beeping and flashing red. I didn’t understand everything on the screen, but I needed some sort of employee approval. Great.
The conversation wasn’t that awkward and if she noticed my accent (which she probably did. It’s not very good at the moment. People hear me and go “American!”), she didn’t say anything. I explained that I tried to pay. She typed in some code and a receipt popped out. I had to sign something and I was off.
First grocery trip down. Not too bad. Didn’t really get anything I needed, but there’s always next time.
Technically, I got only 3 things on my list. Tape, a candle, and toothpaste.
At least my teeth will be clean and the kitchen doesn’t smell weird anymore.
*Now that I’m a bit more savvy, Monoprix isn’t really the best grocery store around. It’s expensive, but it’s the only one that will take my credit card on a regular basis. France can take credit cards, though most places just don’t like to and will tell you no. So, if you find yourself traveling Europe, always have cash. I’ve found another store that’s a bit closer and I like more but, as with a lot of stores here in France, the hours on the website don’t correspond with when they are actually open, which is whenever they feel like it. I have yet to see a pattern anywhere.
I went to Monoprix again. I guess it could be compared to our Walmart. It’s not as big, but with the clothes . . . And the last time I went they were playing a jazz rendition of the cantina scene in Star Wars over the speakers. Yeah . . .
They do sell Dr. Pepper and Resses in the tiny American section, right next to the Tex-Mex and Asian cuisine. So that’s a plus.