Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A Quiet Day In Dijon, August 11, 2010

Shopping & Other Clues

Certain Rules Of Shopping

Carrefour Wines of the Bourgogne

Today is a quiet day. That is because I'm going to cook (or I have already done so) for our friends in Couternon, a short 10 minute drive from here. Since they have a nice hot tub and the weather is gray today, they've asked that we bring our prepared meal to their home and after dinner we will enjoy the hot tub.

In preparation for this fête, we ran some errands. Yesterday and today to Carrefour as well as to Picard today. Yesterday, while at Carrefour, the strangest thing happened to me. I was busy looking at some pork tenderloin and some chicken breasts to put into the two curries I had planned for tonight. Suddenly I heard my name being called and I looked up, in shock of course since not a sole knows me locally and it surely wasn't the voice of our friend Greg who was beckoning me, and a tall nice looking older man was pointing at me, definitely saying my name and walking toward me. I quickly checked to make sure I hadn't dropped my purse (crazy thought since I had a pouch firmly hooked around my waist--a nice Gucci that I have my husband to thank for--and then the man said: I saw your pictures, I read your blog. Then I put two and two together, realizing that I'd seen this man before and that his picture is on the bedroom wall of the adorable little girl and boy of our exchangers. Of course! It was their grandpere! Soon their grandmere appeared also.

They knew we were going to be at the Carrefour as we'd chatted with their son earlier, and they were also there buying groceries while also looking for us. I had to laugh and I asked grandmere if we looked like Americans. She also laughed and said, "No, we saw your pictures already." That was a relief as we try very hard not to look like tourists, ha!

So, in addition to the previous engagements I told you about in yesterday's posts, we are now adding more. First, we've been invited to have another french meal at the Blondeau residence about seven kilometers from here. We are so excited about this, since sharing in the culture of this wonderful country is something we enjoy immensely. We've made such endearing friendships this way. Also, I forgot to mention that before leaving Honolulu our friend Liliane, a wonderful person and artiste in Lourmarin (Provence) invited us to spend two nights with her. So we will be taking photographs of our added adventures and sharing them with you as well.

Now, back to today. When you shop here in Dijon (and in France), there is a "green" philosophy permeating the country and because of this groceries bags are not provided. Instead, reusable bags may be purchased by consumers. We have several of these wonderful bags--made of recycled materials--that we carried home and used in our own state. Also, our exchangers have many of these bags, so we are never without. The bags are inexpensive, running about .60 cents and you may purchase them at the check-out stand where the cashier will mark on the bottom of the bag a number showing that you made the purchase. That way, when you return to the store at a later date for more shopping, it will be clear that you've already purchased the bag.

Another interesting aspect of shopping is that you must pay for use of a shopping cart. There is a small coin slot at the handle of the cart with a lock and chain hooked there. You insert a one euro coin into the slot and the chain will release. The euro is inside the slot and cannot be removed to be replaced in your pocket, until you also return the cart. Once the lock is re-inserted, the euro will be released. This is also something we found at the aeroport in Marseille. So, before leaving the U.S., it is wise to have a few euro coins in your pocket. We keep our one euro in the car so that we always have one when needed. This way, the store doesn't have to hire people to gather up carts and carts are not strewn all over the parking lot, nor do people try to steal away with them. This is an excellent idea, for certain. If you are making just a small purchase, there are small plastic pull carts inside the store and there is no charge for use of them. However, they do not hold a lot and most people take the large carts even for a small purchase. It's not inconvenient.

The Carrefour store, as previously stated, is huge. They have a wonderful wine section with wines that have been produced throughout France. It's very convenient to locate a particular wine, since they are displayed by regions. We easily found the Bourgogne wines and have been experimenting with them. For $15-$20 we've found some young but drinkable wines and when served with local cheeses and such, they are quite nice. Today, for instance, we wanted a German Gwertzimiener to go with our spicy curry tonight, and we looked for the wines of Alsace and found a good one right away. It now sits in the frigo, getting its chill.

After the rest period today, we also went to a small store called Picard. This is a very clean store with only frozen foods, all packaged nicely and marked clearly in sections. We found the section for appetizers to accompany an aperitif, and voila some delicious bites--20 to a box--were just what we wanted. We need only pop them into an oven for a few minutes and we'll have our snacks.

Carrefour has a huge bakery section and the French buy their pastries and bread fresh daily. So, we also picked up some delicious creamy mousse de canard (paté) to serve tonight, along with a lovely apple tart, some vanilla ice cream and a fresh baguette of french bread. In addition, we put a bit of fresh cheese into the cart just in case that is the preference of our friends. While going to Picard, we passed by a small fruit and vegetable vendor.

We know what the rules are, but you may not, so I'll tell you. Never, I repeat "never" assume that you may pick up anything you see and handle it. The people who sell these fruits and vegetables--or any product for that matter--prefer to not have people touching everything. They take great pride in what they sell and especially in fruit stands they don't want anything bruised. So, we selected the carton of lovely strawberries we wanted and madame gratefully picked up the carton and placed it into a special paper, then put it into our bag that we carried into Picard. She wished us a good day and thanked us and we reciprocated, waving as we left.

One more cultural difference we have discovered and which is worthy of sharing, is that when you buy gasoline you first pump the gas and then pay. There is a huge element of trust in this behavior, one that we admire. It is as though the French say: We know you would not take gasoline without paying, so please go ahead and pump first. In the U.S., one must first put the credit card into the machine or give money to the attendant. We like the way it is done here.

In driving on the streets we also know that the French are very polite when it comes to yielding to someone to the right. Even if nearly through the intersection, they will stop and yield. Very nice indeed.

Well, that's a bit of culture for you. Tomorrow we venture out and we'll have more photos to share regarding local communities.

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