15 May 2009

2006: May 15 - Groceries and the Intertubes


From country to country, though grocery stores may look the same on the outside, and frequently on the inside as well, taking the US norm for granted is probably not a good idea. In the UK, cheese can and will take an entire 10-metre long aisle at Sainsbury's or Tesco, with cheddar (and the various cheddar styles) filling at least half of that aisle. Monterey Jack and other North American cheeses are almost impossible to find. In France, Belgium, and the Netherlands, purchasing milk can be fraught with adventure. Years ago, my first milk purchase in Belgium looked right, came in the right-shaped container, was found in the dairy area, and carried the French word for milk ("lait"). Close, but no cigar, as what I purchased was actually fermented, or "sour". An acquired and fairly popular taste to be sure, it wasn't even remotely palatable to me. We won't even discuss "long-life" products.

And just today, I've discovered that fresh veg and fruits cannot be just taken to the Intermarché supermarket checker. First, they need to be weighed, priced, and bagged in the produce area, and given an appropriate barcoded sticker. Then, they can be taken to the check-out and paid for.

Of course, when the checker asked me where the stickers were, I assumed she was speaking of the small label number sticker we see on the side of the fruit or vegetables that tells the US checker what the produce is, and I pointed to same.


She looked at me as if I'd just rolled in off the proverbial turnip truck which, metaphorically-speaking, I had. Several agonizing and embarrassing minutes later, she returned from the produce area with my single zucchini ("courgette"), apple ("pomme"), and pear ("poire") all decked out in their new clothing, complete with weight in kilograms, price in Euros, and bar code to help her scan it directly.

The phrase that works here, and so far cannot be overused, is "Je suis désolé" ("I am sorry"), and after I received my change and was walking to the car, I could imagine the conversation going on between her and the customers in line behind me.


Almost all businesses for miles around close on Sundays. All day Sunday. Every Sunday. This includes the aforementioned Intermarché supermarket. The exceptions include the local baker (at least early in the morning) and the local bar. Most retail businesses during the week observe the traditional siesta, where most workers take several hours for lunch, which can and does include wine.

I provide this information for you to do with as you please. :)


The possibility of using the Internet in Lannion went from inconvenient to unlikely today (Monday). The local city hall ("Hôtel de Ville") and library ("bibliothèque") both offer a few minutes of free ("gratuit") internet daily, but only on their outdated computers, connected by dial-up phone line connections. This arrangement, while it would allow me to at least send an email or two every so often, would not allow me to update my blog or upload photographs to the website. Needless to say, I'm still looking for an alternative that works. Absolute worst case, I save all the writings, all the photos, all the links, etc, and send them when I get home.

Not optimal. However...

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