Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Supermarché 101

leclerc docket

I've had many emails asking about the shopping, the wine and cheese. Hopefully this post provides some insight into our French shopping & supermarket experiences to date.

Most shops are closed on Sunday and Monday. Nearly all shops (except large chain stores) are closed for lunch between 12-2pm. Banks are only open in the mornings (till 12:45) on Tuesday - Fridays.

The weekly shop: Every week we travel to Fumel around 26km or a 30 minute drive. While there is one other closer supermarket, the LeClerc at Fumel/Montayral is a good size store with a wide selection of goods, it is open every day except Sunday. The supermarché is also the cheapest place to fill up the car: diesel (gasol) is around €1.25/litre and petrol (essence) €1.50/litre.

Some supermarché facts:

  • To get a shopping trolley you have to insert a €1 coin to release the lock. You get this back when you return the trolley to the rack, very efficient.
  • There are no free plastic bags. You have to pay for reusable bags or use the trolley. They have reusable freezer bags to keep frozen goods cold, which is handy as we have to travel a bit further to get home.
  • Imported NZ Lamb (Agneau €6/kg) is cheaper than French Chicken (Poule €9/Kg)! I think this is because all chicken is farm or free range.
  • The selection of cheeses is really impressive. There is a whole row of pre-packed cheeses in the chilled food section and a huge selection in the deli section.
  • Fran & Liane your favourite Blue d'Avergne is less than €1/100g and Roquefort is around €1.8/100g. We are consuming a lot of this stuff, as a result I'm having to drink extra large quantities of red wine to keep my cholesterol levels down.
  • Ange thinks that meat is quite expensive over here, mince for eg 350g costs €3.50.
  • There are some interesting anomalies, dairy products for example: cheese is very cheap whereas butter is expensive.
  • We stay well clear of the imported stuff like Coke/ Pepsi. Most soft drink is very expensive.
  • UHT milk is the status quo in France. Ange buys fresh milk for the coffee machine but we use UHT for everything else.
  • Our weekly shop averages around €100 ($200) which is quite similar to what we were spending in New Zealand if we exclude items for school lunches and the like.

The quality of the following pictures is a bit dodgy, I was trying to avoid looking like a total dork taking photo's in the supermarket.


What is a Bastide Town?

Monpazier_2 monpazier-centreadomme 2

I had another question from the ladies of the St Vincent de Paul Opportunity Shop in Timaru. They asked me to explain what a Bastide town is? 

Our local Villefranche and it's rival Monpazier are just two of roughly seven hundred similar towns scattered across the south west of France.

A Bastide town is generally described as "any town planned and built as a single unit, by a single founder".  They first appeared in 1222 and the last Bastide was built in 1372.  They symbolised (and assisted with) the demise of the feudal system as farmers who moved their families to bastide's were no longer vassals of the local lord: they became free men.  These towns attracted trade which in turn attracted more people and the communities thrived.

The bastide towns were usually built to a strict grid layout, with equal space allocated to each house. The grid centred on a square, which often contained a market hall and sheltered arcades around the edges. There was usually a church, often fortified, built adjacent to the main square.

Really these bastide towns were just large sub-divisions built on borrowed money by greedy property developers chasing real estate riches back in 13th Century.

It is quite interesting, today most small villages still have two of everything (at least). It seems to solve the problem that if you fall out with your baker then you can still get bread from the other boulangerie in town.

Deux chiens et un chat


I would like to introduce you to the dogs (chien), Bengie (left) and Oscar (right).  They have settled right back in to their old home and been appointed the positions of Chief Property Guardians and Visitor Early Warning Systems.

It is great for the boys to have some friends to play with around the garden although there is still that language barrier to overcome (fetch sit etc). The dogs went for a short run with Ange today, they managed to keep up but were pretty exhausted by the time they got home.

We also have a cat (chat) lurking somewhere around the garden probably chasing field mice. Morfaet is very cute but is still rather shy, he will come around in his own time.