How We Shop & Eat in France

February 22, 2011

There have been sweet comments and emails asking more about food in France, so we took the camera to the market this morning and snapped some pictures so I could write a proper post.

We love the food here. We’re so lucky to have easy access to fresh, local produce, and we think it’s wonderful that there’s a focus on what’s in season. When you buy something at the market, it will be placed in a little paper bag and the corners will be twisted up like this:

The bag is filled with 4 small avocados because I’ve been craving guacamole. Question: should I feel guilty if I still crave non-French foods from time to time? : )

dried apricots

We also bought some gorgeous dried apricots. They were placed in a little bag too. We only wanted a handful or so, but couldn’t remember how to say quarter kilo, so we asked for a half kilo instead. Hah!

At the dairy booth, we bought a nice big wedge of Carrouges cheese. We’ve heard it’s pretty mild and really, really good. I can’t wait to try it.

We also bought a pint of fresh milk at the dairy booth. The milk was in big buckets and it was fun to watch them ladle it into this bottle:

I’ve already had a glass full and it is wonderful.

food market Argentan France market in Argentan France

The Tuesday market takes place right in the center of Argentan next to an ancient Cathedral. What a backdrop!

cathedral in Argentan France market in Argentan France

Seeing the variety of citrus makes me smile. And so does the beautiful handwriting on the signs.

food market Argentan France food market Argentan France food market Argentan France

At one of the booths, there were live chickens and duckings (I think?):

food market Argentan France

A woman was buying a live chicken, and the farmer boxed it up in a roomy cardboard box and cut holes for air. Will she keep it for eggs? Or cook it up for dinner? I’m so curious.

After the market, we stopped at the butcher and baker which are right next door.

One thing I never realized before we moved here, is that France (and all of Europe, I think) uses military time. The bakery closes at 19h30 — which means 7:30 pm. I’m still getting used to it.

My observations on food so far, in no particular order:
- There are charming independent shops — like butchers, cheesemakers and bakeries. There are farmers markets almost every day. And there are huge supermarkets as well. Which means you can choose to eat as old school, or packaged and convenient, as you prefer.
- There are bakeries everywhere. No really, they are everywhere — sometimes 2 or 3 on the same block. And they are excellent! We have diligently been trying every possible bakery item so that we can confidently choose our favorites. It’s a difficult job, but we are sticking to the task. : )
- We stop at a bakery daily. We haven’t narrowed it down to one specific favorite shop yet, but like the idea of becoming regulars somewhere. Most days, we pick up baguettes for that night’s dinner, and pain au chocolat (like a croissant with chocolate inside) for the next day’s breakfast.
- Breakfast here is a minor meal. No bacon, eggs, sausage, hashbrowns. Nothing too heavy. A croissant and bowl of hot cocoa seem to be typical. I’ve always preferred a light breakfast, so this works wonderfully for me, and my kids are generally on board as well. I make a pot of hot cocoa each morning and if we don’t have pain au chocolat, then we make toast with honey or nutella instead. (Oscar still prefers oatmeal.)
- Lunchtime is sacred here. Many stores and banks close down from 12:00 to 2:00 so that employees can eat lunch. It is 3 courses, at least. Our kids eat at school, and come home with all sorts of yummy details about their food (which I promise to write up in another post). I confess, I have not eaten a proper French lunch yet. In fact, if I can find an open shop, it’s when I prefer to do my errands, because I have the store to myself.
- For dinner, we have been trying to experiment. We try French meals — like beef stew and crepes with savory fillings. Or sometimes we adapt familiar meals to French ingredients. Last night, we made pizza, but instead of pepperoni and mozzarella, we used a white sauce made from a local cream, and topped it with gruyere cheese, lardons and onions.

food market Argentan France

- As I mentioned, today, we shopped at the local farmer’s market where there are produce booths, seafood booths, dairy booths and meat booths. Then we visited the butcher and the baker.
- But we also shop at the big supermarket too. That’s where we buy flour, sugar, oatmeal — and even staples from our American diet like cold cereal, pizza dough and tortilla chips.
- One last thing. The yogurt section at the big grocery store is an event. The yogurt takes up as much space as the entire dairy section in an American supermarket. I love yogurt. I’m looking forward to trying a bunch and finding a few favorites.

What about you? What would be your ideal grocery shopping experience?

P.S. — Here’s a post Jordan wrote about grocery shopping in Paris.

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{ 96 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jacque Charwood February 22, 2011 at 6:15 am

Those little ducklings are SO cute!!!! Reminds me of my duckling! (His name was Bob.)
I would LOVE to go to France one day! My parents have been there. My step-dad is actually from Scotland. They’ve traveled all over the world!


2 La Franglaise February 22, 2011 at 6:32 am

I loved reading this post because I enjoy seeing a foreign perspective on France. For instance, the fact that you pointed out the paper bag and the twisted corners – of course, it’s so cute yet us French take it for granted :) What strikes me even after growing up in France is the patisserie wrapping in a boulangerie. You can have 20 people queuing, the boulangère will always make sure your cake or patisseries is beautifully wrapped in a box with ribbons and all. So French!

ps: have you tried Pont-Levêque cheese yet? It’s from around where you live and it’s delish!


3 carolyn k February 22, 2011 at 10:17 am

I second the Pont-Levêque cheese recommendation. yum!


4 La Franglaise February 22, 2011 at 6:33 am

pps: your comment about the yogurts also made me smile. I have the reverse feeling whereby I can’t understand the little choice of yogurts in English supermarkets! ;)


5 jana February 22, 2011 at 6:34 am

I wasn’t hungry until I read your post! ;)
Every morning I look forward to your photos and blog about your family’s time in France. Not sure if I will ever make it there, but your details sure give me a “taste”. Thank you!


6 Kate Sommers February 22, 2011 at 6:44 am

Your french pizza was none other than a Tarte d’alsace or tarte flambe… a traditional northern french pizza of sorts usually eaten around octoberfest. I think you’re catching on to the french way of cooking more than you think!


7 Stephanie Smirnov February 22, 2011 at 6:52 am

Another delicious post! Can’t wait to hear about the yogurt, curious to see how they stack up against all the Greek yogurt brands so popular here. BTW, I think the Blair family needs to bring a live chicken home from market next time, for the fresh eggs. That’d be very Martha of you, you know :)


8 christy February 22, 2011 at 6:57 am

What an interesting post – one of my favorites on your move, so far. Of course, I’m all about food!

Before kids, we used to visit my inlaws in Wales once or twice a year, and always took a side trip to a different european country since we were already across the pond. We flew for super cheap (think $20 for tickets to Amsterdam!) by scouting the online sales prior to our trip. One of my absolute favorite things to do on all these trips was grocery shop. I just loved discovering new foods and trying to read the labels. So much fun.

I hope you all continue having such a good experience in France, and have found yourselves a tutor! I imagine that’s high on the priority list!


9 Sherri February 22, 2011 at 7:03 am

I am loving this post. I am getting all nostalgic about my European stints – my parents and their years in Luxembourg – my little family’s time in Paris. At the time, my two oldests were 8 years old and 6 mos. old. We went for an extended period of time…. lived in an apt in Montmartre ….. and shopped the little markets – got our cheese and croissant for breakfast in the mornings…. our fresh chicken, beef – whatever for dinner each night. So zen – so minimalist in some ways – buy the fresh milk, fruit, etc that you need for the day… walk the neighborhood daily….. And – yes -they do use military time throughout Europe…. You’ll get used to it :-). At least now they have the Euros instead of French Francs, Belgian Francs, German Marks, Lux Francs (all different) ….. Sounds like you and your family are soaking up the experience. Enjoy! Enjoy! Enjoy!


10 annabelvita February 22, 2011 at 7:05 am

French food shopping is as close to my ideal as it comes. I love the characters you meet and the love of the food. I recently went back to the town I used to live in and the family that ran the vegetable stall still remembered me after five years! I don’t think you’d get that in your local supermarket! I wrote about it here:
There are some pretty good markets in London. Borough Market is amazing but totally rammed at the weekend, but lots of farm fresh produce etc. Brixton Market is marvellous and eclectic but totally devoid of the link to producers and seasons.
Just you wait till the summer! The tomatoes alone will blow your mind, they’re every single colour from black to yellow!
You didn’t ask but my favourite ever French cook books are the french kitchen and the French Market by Joanne Harris. They help you make sense of all those vegetables you don’t recognise at the Market.
I don’t know if you know this but I always found the most useful measure to use at the Market was “une poignee” (the g is silent) – it literally means a wrist-full but in this sense it means a handful or fistful. I found it particularly useful when i wasn’t sure of the wieght of things! So “une poignee des abricots” would get you a (no doubt generous) handful of apricots.
I’m so jealous! X
(tried submitting this a few times and it didn’t appear to work, sorry if they all belatedly work!)


11 Mary February 22, 2011 at 7:07 am

G- I RARELY leave comments on blogs (I use reader), but I had to leave one on this post. It fascinated me. Seeing the little booths set up in front of the Cathedral was just so interesting. Remove the modern elements and it could have been market day hundreds of years ago! Thanks for all the posts about the ‘small’ aspects of your day-to-day French experience. I’m riveted.


12 Shannon February 22, 2011 at 7:08 am

Oh! My! Gorgeous! Cathedral! I would never get any shopping done looking at that beautiful architecture. The food sounds wonderful too. What an adventure and great opportunity.


13 Nancy February 22, 2011 at 7:18 am

Do you shop every day? Or every few days? Do you have a regular size fridge? or a smaller one like in Germany…


14 K February 22, 2011 at 7:23 am

Your convincing me that France must be on my “to do” list for life. I was sold on the whole post but your last point about yogurt clinched it for me. I would love a whole post on that alone!


15 ChantaleP February 22, 2011 at 7:45 am

Wow. This market is beautiful, the photos are gorgeous. I am jealous of all the fresh fruit. Especially being outdoors! Too cold here. My husband prefers the european way of shopping for food, buying what is needed for the day. But I’d prefer being in France than here for that! Fresh croissants and all… Mm.. bon appétit!


16 Brenna February 22, 2011 at 8:33 am

Oh, it’s all so charming. It’s very enjoyable seeing it all through your eyes… the pictures and descriptions are perfect!


17 Betsy February 22, 2011 at 8:38 am

great posts! My sister in law lived with a french family for a few weeks…she said they went to the market every day. She also said the produce was AMAZING and the food they cooked her in their home was awesome! She was only 17 at the time too.


18 Summer February 22, 2011 at 8:54 am

I agree with Jana – Every morning I wake up excited to see what you’re going to post.

As for military time, whenever I’m in Europe I just cancel out the 1 on big the big numbers, subtract 2, and add pm in my head. ;) Example: 17h, cancel 1 = 7. 7 -2 = 5pm.


19 Eliza H. February 22, 2011 at 1:02 pm

I do this too – it sounds a complicated, but much easier than using my fingers to count up from 12 o’clock!


20 Frieda February 22, 2011 at 9:06 am

The best thing about French supermarket is the yogurt-selection, hands down. I can’t really visit a super-u (I live in Germany, but close to the French border) without buying La Laitière Vanilla yogurt, it’s the best there is and it comes in cute little glasses that are great for putting candles in.


21 terina February 22, 2011 at 9:20 am

sounds like you had a creme fraiche pizza! how i miss lardons!

european yogurt is the best stuff. i have a hard time in the states eating it because it does not taste anywhere near as good as it does there.

and i actually prefer military time. between living in europe twice and my husband in the army….it just makes sense in my head.


22 Meghan Beutler February 22, 2011 at 9:37 am

My mouth is watering now! When I visited france with my mother right after I graduated high school, we concluded that the best food we ate was when we stayed in a little mountain town in the Alps where we shopped at the local markets and my mom cooked in our condo. The food is unbelievably fresh, even more so than most organic things you can find in the states. It really makes me want to live out of the US, even just for food. I do love to eat…


23 Hannah S February 22, 2011 at 9:41 am

Lovely photos, especially the chicks!
I have to admit that I looked forward to shopping at the local Franprix because first, I wanted to try the many cookie varities they offered and the sugary syrupy stuff that you add to water (now i can’t remember the name of it). There are so many flavors! Then I grew to liking lugging all the boxed milk (the fresh sounds much better tasting) home because it meant losing weight :) I didn’t end up buying one of those handy carts because we didn’t have room in our apartment to store it plus it’s hard to manage w/a stroller :)


24 dunski February 22, 2011 at 9:52 am

french syrups are so cool! they have all imaginable colors and tastes and even tastes from flowers, you’d never imagine someone would make a syrup of it. But it’s better to buy “homemade” ones, than the artificial ones! The taste is soo much better. :)


25 Kristina February 22, 2011 at 9:42 am

Oh my. The thing I miss most about Europe is the bakeries.


26 Michelle February 22, 2011 at 9:48 am

My favorite thing while traveling is the markets, there’s always something new to be discovered!


27 dunski February 22, 2011 at 9:49 am

Interesting. I’ve never heard of the term military time before. But it’s true, all over europe usually shops close by 1830, except on special occasions or thursdays’late shopping or saturdays, where every country has its own laws.. or italy, where the lunch break is even longer, but the shops are open later in the evening.
And yes, Yogurt is great, but german and french friends would say swiss yogurt even tops them all. Actually I can never shop enough yogurt. the kids just go crazy about it.
Breakfast sounds great! You’re doing it really european style.. ( I miss home made marmelade ;) ).
sundays or saturdays we add more good bread, yogurt, a soft boiled egg and maybe when mommy’s in the mood for it scrambled eggs… and when she’s having a extremly good day we’ll have pancakes or a real “müesli”. ;) The real swiss Müesli I usually do for dinner. Though it would be the best day starter.
I love to read about all the fun details you can see, that we don’t see anymore! I love it too, when they swirl the paper at the ends and when they box up my pastries really nicely.


28 Jenna {Jenna Sais Quois} February 22, 2011 at 9:50 am

Thanks for the post. Have you tried the French supermarket yet? I think I would definitely prefer to immerse myself in the French Market scene (it sounds much more quintessentially French) but I am so curious as to what the supermarket setup would be!


29 Kristi February 22, 2011 at 10:04 am

Oh, yes, I remember the yogurt aisle from visiting France. Calling it an “event” is a good description. I love the ones that come in little glass pots. If I lived there I would save those up for a craft project. There are little chocolate custards in that section as well that are very good.

You should read David Leibowitz’s blog. He lives in Paris and is a chef/food writer. He has some hilarious and useful tips about cooking and food in France.


30 Andrea February 22, 2011 at 10:12 am

I am loving your posts! The open air markets look fabulous. That would be my ideal shopping experience. All the colors and textures and smells. As I sit and look out my window at the 5 inches of snow we got yesterday, your pictures make me long for summer and my garden. I always look forward to your next post.


31 Emily February 22, 2011 at 10:12 am

I hope you’ll describe your church going experience as well! I’m interested to hear how your branch compares to mine here in Japan!

Sounds like you’re having a fabulous time!


32 Jen February 22, 2011 at 10:12 am

Have you tried a cafe eclair? Yum!


33 Erin February 22, 2011 at 10:16 am

I, too, want to hear (and see) more about the yogurt! :) Maybe after you’ve had a chance to experiment a bit…


34 Danielle February 22, 2011 at 10:24 am

Thanks so much for sharing! I can’t get enough of your French posts!
I’m glad to hear of your good luck with local bakeries. I read recently that it’s hard to get good bread in the French countryside – good to know that’s not always the case!


35 Kayla February 22, 2011 at 10:56 am

SO jealous. I was dying over Jordan’s post too. I live in the wrong place.


36 laurenjanelle February 22, 2011 at 11:19 am

The food looks so much purer and less processed than it does in America. Beautiful pictures.


37 Heidi February 22, 2011 at 11:24 am

Something about the markets and specialty shop sounds whimsical. And wonderful, and FRESH!


38 Natalie February 22, 2011 at 11:30 am

Love it.

So you go to a different market everyday in a different location? That seems very complicated to me. Of course I know I’m coming from the land of superstores and such. But I would think if people have to go grocery shopping everyday or such, the markets would be in the same location. What do I know?


39 Design Mom February 23, 2011 at 1:47 am

Good question, Natalie. We are still figuring out our ideal shopping schedule, but right now, it’s like this:
-bakery every day (because it’s easy — we pass a dozen every time we leave the house and it’s a five minute stop or less)
-farmer’s market once a week (depending on which day we schedule this errand, we have different locations to choose from, but the one in the center of town is the biggest and my favorite)
-big trip to the supermarket once a week

And then, of course, we have extra trips for items we’ve forgotten.


40 Amanda Jose February 22, 2011 at 11:43 am

It’s almost unreal that you actually picked up and moved the whole family over and are now living the French life!!! I’m so proud and envious and happy for you guys at the same time! Life seems so simple and naturally artsy over there!


41 Jen E @ mommablogsalot February 22, 2011 at 12:11 pm

That’s it, I’m packing my bags!


42 Amy February 22, 2011 at 1:02 pm

Oh my goodness this looks so amazing! It sounds like your kids are so great at eating adventurously- any tips? How did you raise such adaptable eaters?


43 amanda February 22, 2011 at 1:16 pm

I lived in a neighborhood outside of Paris for a time and I dream of the market; wish we had a blip of one here.
When you do try the yogurt see if you think they’re not as sweet. That’s how I felt when I came back to the states… things tasted sweeter over here in the States.
Enjoy your adventure,
an Ex-Pat.


44 Ashlea Walter February 22, 2011 at 1:20 pm

ooooh. I am craving really good yogurt now…
great post – transported me to the french markets and away from our 9 degrees and decidedly mid-winter reality!


45 alyson boehr February 22, 2011 at 1:24 pm

i think you are living my food dream:)! i wonder, is the evening meal as big of an ordeal as lunch?


46 Holly February 22, 2011 at 1:29 pm

I love your France posts. My husband and I spent our sophomore year in college in Angers. And now, j’ai faim.


47 Jennifer February 22, 2011 at 1:33 pm

Do they sell Muller Corner Yogurt in France? It’s a UK product and it is divine. If you see any, be sure to try it.


48 Tanya February 22, 2011 at 1:33 pm

So fun and cute! No one blames you for craving avocados. They’re amazing!


49 Damaris @Kitchen Corners February 22, 2011 at 1:44 pm

I know I keep bugging you about this but I think you’ll love David Lebovitz. He wrote a series of great posts about the citrus in France and this one is my favorite about French handwriting



50 Cindy J February 22, 2011 at 2:02 pm

One of the things I love about visiting Europe is bakery breakfasts. Your talk of hot cocoa and pain au chocolat makes me a little homesick for Paris, and we’ve never even lived there. I have a friend going this weekend. I may have to try to stowaway. ;)


51 creole wisdom February 22, 2011 at 2:08 pm

Ah, looks to die for! I would love a shopping experience like yours.

Ideally, it would be a market everyday. I would shop a few times a week just for planned meals. I’d use the market to get inspired for future meal ideas, too.

Sounds like heaven!


52 Cori February 22, 2011 at 2:17 pm

My family and I are just hanging on to your every word. Your diaries from France have been magnificent bedtime story-time material. I gather the family around the computer with bedtime snacks in hand and read aloud your entries. My children (5 and 3) are so interested in every detail of the culture and your new lives — What does the cheese taste like? How do the children like school? And they imagine all sorts of things. It really is a beautiful thing. Thank you for being so open so that we may live vicariously through you!


53 Camille February 22, 2011 at 2:19 pm

How fun!! I have dreamed of the day that I could shop for food in Europe. My dream place that I would choose to live for a year would be Italy, but I am loving reading about your families experiences in France, I might have to put it on my Bucket List too. I look forward to your next experience share to live vicariously through.


54 Mom in Mendon February 22, 2011 at 2:42 pm

The photo of the open market in front of the cathedral couldn’t be more picturesque. I’d say that alone is worth the trip! : )


55 Kathryn S. February 22, 2011 at 3:39 pm

I love this post! I’m studying abroad in Spain this semester (I think I might be one of your youngest devotees!) and I’m still getting used to all the changes! The first time I visited a supermarket here I wandered around for over an hour just looking at what they had to offer (..and trying to read some labels). The biggest difference by far is the late lunch (between 2-3:30 here), but I love the light breakfast as well. So interesting to see how they do things in France!


56 Holly February 22, 2011 at 4:06 pm

I knew I would love this post even before it opened on my screen. Thanks for letting me live in France through you!


57 kim February 22, 2011 at 4:31 pm

Divine – thanks for sharing. Your village and it’s market sound delightful, and that homemade pizza? mmmm. Markets are fantastic, and it is certainly a shame that the weekly village farmers market has died out in other cultures, because fresh food IS the best, isn’t it. (Relieved you found a source of fresh milk as well – my family (with a 3 litre a day milk addiction) certainly wouldn’t be happy to go without fresh milk!).


58 jodi February 22, 2011 at 5:35 pm

I love your photos!! It looks and sounds like you all are having a blast and I’m just the tiniest bit jealous! :) I think I would crave non-French food from time to time as well and I think it’s so amazing that your children are getting such a great mixture of cultures. Thanks for posting!!


59 Erin Defoyd February 22, 2011 at 6:47 pm
60 the emily February 22, 2011 at 7:01 pm

I cannot imagine grocery shopping there. What a beautiful place.


61 Katherine M. February 22, 2011 at 7:12 pm

Here are my all-time must have’s everytime we return to France…

- La Laitiere (as mentioned above) Petit Pot de Creme chocolat and Petit Pot creme caramel (Not the regular creme caramel but the Petit Pots de…). Defines the word UNCTUOUS. I die for these desserts! My daughter’s godfather works for one of the hypermarche – Auchan – he confirms that dairy products is one of their most important departments – they have someone solely in charge of this section! Imagine my husband’s shock when we visited a supermarket in Princeton NJ – we had a hard time finding the (real) butter section (bec. it was tiny – like maybe 10 SKUs) and the horror of seeing “I can’t believe it’s not butter!” in the butter section.
- Ficelle – skinny baguettes that are only sold for breakfast (they don’t keep beyond noon). Because they are skinny, you get more crunchy crust. We slather it with good old fashioned butter with big salt crystals.
- Beaufort and Comte cheeses – the hard gruyere family of mountain cheeses. Beautiful nutty/parmesan-like flavour. There are summer and winter cheeses when the flavour changes with the grass diet of the cows.
- Lu Petit Beurre Nantais – I don’t know why these cookies were named after hubby’s hometown. Maybe bec. the Lu factory was originally founded in Nantes. But these are the most buttery supermarket biscuits without the heavyness of shortbread cookies.
- Other Lu classic biscuits my kids love – Petit Ecolier but only the dark chocolate and the white chocolate versions. L Paille d’Or – they look like thin sheafs of hay (hence Paille) sandwiching rasberry jam. Barquette 3 Chatons (cake like cookies with jam in the middle).
- Picard! Before you dismiss the idea of a store selling only frozen foods…Picard is French style frozen food i.e. the most amazing selection of gourmet french food. My mother in law swears by this place for little cocktail nibbles (delicious!) and desserts like their oozing warm chocolate fondant. My absolute fave is their salty butter caramel ice cream. I will kill for a tub of this!
- Le Petit Marsellais shampoos and body wash – I love the smell of my kids’ hair after using Le Petit Marsellais.
- Baby products – sigh, we are no longer in this market. But I love my Mustela and Mixa (a good solid supermarket brand for lotions and baby toilettries). The baby ready food section is amazing too.
- French pharmacies are another world of discovery! Love them and their 101 cremes for every wrinkle or cellulite you can think of even if you are not into it. I esp. just love the seriousness and knowledge the staff treat your search for say anti-dandruff shampoo.
Enjoy discovering food and supermarkets in France.


62 katy February 28, 2011 at 2:59 am

I second the recommendation for Picard. The food is amazing and affordable. I also use Le Petit Marsellais on my girls – we have framboise right now.


63 Katherine M. February 22, 2011 at 7:16 pm

P.S. To ask for a quarter of a kilo of anything – just say “un quart” i.e. a quarter.


64 February 22, 2011 at 7:21 pm

I love European markets though I tended to shop at the grocery store most of the time just out of the fact that I could use my credit card there. Try hazelnut yogurt if they have it in France. It is my favorite in Germany along with the cherry.


65 anne keane February 22, 2011 at 7:30 pm

this post is absolutely adorable. great photography and writing. thank you for sharing!


66 Dina February 22, 2011 at 7:33 pm

You are making me miss France so much…and my husband (who is French) is drooling over your photos. Definitely try to get a fresh chicken from a local farmer, they are wonderful. And as for yogurt, my French favorite is Yoplait’s “Le Panier”-pear, peach, etc. THE BEST!


67 Rosebud February 22, 2011 at 8:31 pm

I absolutely love your observations. I wish I could be there! Please keep up the stories so I can live vicariously through your experiences!

Tell the chicks hello for me!


68 Erinn February 22, 2011 at 8:35 pm

Have been enjoying reading about all your preperations and now time in France. I was telling my nine year old son about it said wouldn’t it be wonderful to so something similar in Germany as that is where mybrother lives. Yesterday I overheard him telling a friend all about how we were moving to Germany for year. Nothing like positive thinking I guess!


69 Lily February 22, 2011 at 8:44 pm

It’s exactly what I miss from my country!!! fresh market, boucher, fleuriste, boulangerie…. I love leaving in US but I love my country and its food!!! ENJOY :)


70 RebeccaNYC February 22, 2011 at 8:57 pm

This makes me so homesick for Uzes. There is nothing like food shopping in France. Even the Carrefour is an adventure. I still have many large grocery bags I got there…perfect size! And the yogurt…trying to remember the brand of my favorite one, never never have I found one even close to it here in NYC. big sigh.


71 Anneliese February 22, 2011 at 9:08 pm

I have been to that market! I was sixteen, on an art trip with Parsons, and was browsing around the market after touring the cathedral and a purveyor gave me a wedge of cheese–just gave it to me, I guess because he assumed I decided I couldn’t make the purchase. It smelled delicious, was very soft and gooey and slightly stinky (goes along with good cheese in my opinion). I’m embarassed to admit I ate the whole wedge, the whole wedge, on the bus ride back to Paris and proceeded to feel entirely nauseated. Not the cheese’s fault. Anyway, this post makes me long to be there! Why is the shopping experience in Europe so much fun? Is it that it seems frozen in time a bit, or is it just pure differences, or is it that it’s treated as an experience rather than routine or a chore? Whatever the reason, it’s great! We’re taking all three of our young daughters to Italy in a couple months and I can’t wait! So fun to read your posts about France and anticipate the trip. If only we could stay a year…! Thanks for sharing! -A


72 Bettijo @ Paging Supermom February 22, 2011 at 10:56 pm

I love the photo of the Clementines. This looks like a much more fun way to grocery shop, and right in the shadow of the breathtaking cathedral. I’m jealous ;)


73 Sarah February 22, 2011 at 11:35 pm

wow~sounds so so amazing!


74 TN February 23, 2011 at 3:32 am

No worries I was craving Mexican food too…for some reason. I never ate it at home. But for some reason after just 2 months here I needed it. Luckily they sold Old El Paso Tortillas haha! But the salsa is all mild…so I am going to have to start making my own ;-) The French do not like spicy foods.

The markets are wonderful. Every week I make my rounds to the butcher and the local fresh fruit/veggie stands. It is way more expensive than the grocery stores BUT I find that the food is better quality (even than in the US). For example the bananas here last soooooooooo long without turning brown. I was from Florida and bananas are easy to come by all year round but man they would turn brown in a few days! Here they last well over a week and a half!

We don’t do the bakery as we have a bread machine and enjoy eating our own bread (as do my French in laws!). But we try to get croissants on Sunday mornings (not every week but occasionally). But there is nothing like a fresh baguette! Usually when we have friends over we will pick up a few.

For the kilos…I usually order in grams…so deux cent(s) cinquant gramme(s) would be a 1/4 of a kilo ;-) Or just go easy and say trois cent(s) gramme(s) remember the silent letters! Or they even do livre (pounds) for measurements…I haven’t used it yet but my French husband says it is done at the butcher/veggies markets. 1 livre = 5oo grammes

Good luck!


75 TN February 23, 2011 at 3:35 am

o i forgot for my normal everyday grocery items (yogurt, milk, toilet paper etc…) I order them online and have them delivered! In Paris it is very hard to haul stuff from the grocery store home without a car and no elevator ;-) This saves time and strength! I use Carrefour – And also we don’t have big markets here I have a tiny grocery store the size of a US Walgreens! And it’s actually dirty! But for my meats, cheeses and veggies we get them at the markets ;-)


76 Olivia February 23, 2011 at 6:54 am

Thank you for this! I lived in Italy for a semester and doing the daily shopping is one of my favorite memories. And thanks for the lovely photographs!


77 Lori February 23, 2011 at 12:20 pm

France has the best yogurt. The best flavors, a lovely texture and it’s so good for you.

Definitely try them all!


78 heather m February 23, 2011 at 12:57 pm

Love love love this post. Brings back memories of a few things: our trip to paris when the 14 yr old was 2, and we let a flat for 8 days, shopped for most meals at a local market, and ate the best tomatoes and strawberries I’ve ever had. Even now. Fresh fresh fresh, red, red, red, sweet, sweet, sweet. The bread, everything was fabulous. Your posts overall are reminding me of a week when I was 17 that I spent in Normandy, not far from Caen either, in a little own called Thury-Harcourt. I was an exchange student in southern Belgium at the time, and the family I lived with was visiting friends. We ate the most fabulous home cooked lunches daily, toured all the hotspots (Bayeux, Mont St. Michel, St. Malo- oh my furst mussels!-, D-Day beaches, etc.). But mostly I loved being in the small town, enjoying their lifestyle. Plus they had a son who took me out with his friends at night, which was fun. :) So many memories. Wish we could uproot our family and do the same as you, but it isn’t in the cards. Work is too complicated. Enjoy it for us!!


79 heather m February 23, 2011 at 12:58 pm

BTW, I’m @DelMarin DC. Just so you know. I just left that long rambling post…. I could go on and on about travels and local eating, etc. etc. :)


80 Suzanne from pretty*swell February 23, 2011 at 6:42 pm

Oh my goodness, this is just heaven! How I’d love to shop at farmers’ markets and bakeries every day. Your descriptions and photos are just lovely!


81 Kelly February 23, 2011 at 7:49 pm

So I’m wondering, is that “raw milk” (not pasturized)?


82 Manda February 23, 2011 at 8:10 pm

This post makes me want to move to France! Mmm…wishing I had some of that yummy looking cheese! Thanks for sharing your adventures with us!


83 Sarah February 23, 2011 at 8:35 pm

Yum! ;)


84 Jennifer February 24, 2011 at 6:57 am

Gabrielle, I am loving reading about your days in France. So excited for your family! I just read your market post and thought you’d enjoy Gwyneth Paltrow’s fairly recent goop post about her favorite French pharmacy products.

Wishing you many wonderful days. . . :)


85 Heather February 24, 2011 at 7:44 am

A French friend of mine introduced me to caramel tea. It’s a Lipton flavor, but she’s only been able to find it in France when she visits her family. It’s amazing. Enjoy a cup for me if you try it!


86 J February 24, 2011 at 9:52 pm

Mmmmm…I remember lardons!!


87 J February 24, 2011 at 9:56 pm

Oh….and one more thing…(maybe). I used to love getting the plain yogurt and adding a packet of sucre de vanilla (I think that is what it was called). Not for an everyday thing, but as an every once in a while treat!. The crunchy vanilla sugar was a wonderful texture treat with the cold creamy yogurt. A MUST TRY!!


88 Lindsay February 25, 2011 at 9:58 am

Wow I think I would be so much happier food shopping in France. I wonder how they are on the pesticide front. I love the typography all over the little shops. Is it all that beautiful all over the country? Do people keep live animals at home to raise and eat?


89 Jen B February 27, 2011 at 4:48 pm

You’ve made me homesick for my little Mornant . . . I haven’t lived in France since I was 9 (gosh nearly 30 years ago), but I loved being in charge of buying the baguettes on the way home from school for lunch & the lovely pattiseries – my sister & I were usually nearly late to school because we would be spending too much time staring at the treats in the window of the choclatier.

I wish that we had markets like this (the local farmer’s market is wonderful, but just not the same) here in the states.


90 katy February 28, 2011 at 3:08 am

I couldn’t agree with you more about the size of the yogurt section in the grocery store!! I’ve been living in Lux for over 2 years and I’m still not sure about all the different kinds of white stuff available. I’ve been meaning to post about it, just haven’t gotten to it. We have an Auchan supermarket here which is a French chain. Do you have it there? It carries considerably more yogurt than the Belgian, Luxembourgish or German grocery stores in Lux.

Perhaps even more surprising than the vast yogurt selection is the number of refrigerated desserts available. Have you noticed this? I don’t think we have anything comparable in the U.S. Pots and packages of tiramisu, mousses, puddings, flan, and creme caramel. It is insane!! When do they eat these? I’ve only purchased one, the Bonne Maman Rice Pudding and it was delish. Too dangerous to keep around very often. Check them out. You’ll be amazed!


91 v-ro March 9, 2011 at 7:21 pm

Just found out your blog from wisdom from mom bloggers and I like it.
I’m from France. From South east of France, near Marseille. And I live now in Montreal, Canada. So I read you and I remember disappointment, surprises, questions and so on from my husband, born in Qc, in France. Or mine the first times I went in North America.
You are full of humor and it’s really pleasant to read you.
Bookmarked and linked on my own (and really less interesting) blog :)
Have fun in ” douce France, le pays de mon enfance”


92 Debi June 27, 2011 at 3:24 pm

Memories and emotions flood my mind and heart as I read your posts. I was blessed to live in Germany, very near the French border for about 5 years while my husband was stationed in the Military. It’s funny how it’s not the places we went as ‘tourists’ that are my most precious memories, it’s the little things, such as the restaurants, the roads and signs, the markets, the shops and mostly the people. My only regret was that French was not one of the languages that we were strong in to communicate well enough to learn/do more. On my visits to Carrefour, I was completely intimidated at the cheese market/department but sooooo wanted to learn about the many varieties and maybe to try a few. And I was shocked at seeing a whole large aisle JUST for yogurt!

One thing I especially loved was their varieties of herb teas (infusions)… I don’t drink black/green tea and loved finding some lovely infusions, especially “Vanille et Cannelle” YUM!!!

We had planned to spend many more years living overseas but weren’t able to, so thank you for allowing many of us to live vicariously through your experiences!


93 Anna@HGTV June 29, 2011 at 2:23 pm

So neat to hear about the food and shopping for food. I didn’t realized the French are that passionate about yogurt. Please share about school lunches!


94 Keri Bryant September 2, 2011 at 7:53 am

This makes me miss my mission in France, Gabrielle. So glad you posted this. Love it and now I want a Pain au Chocolat for breakfast. Vive la France. Elle me manque TROP!!!


95 Kevin Johns July 9, 2013 at 9:15 am

I miss my 2 years spent in France in the 80′s while I was reading your wonderful and so true article. I miss all these food so bad, I found a very wonderful online French Grocery Store where you can find everyday life French products, so that you can shop like a real French person except you are in front of your computer and the products are delivered straight to you. Here is the link if that can help:


96 keltie December 8, 2013 at 8:58 pm

I’m so glad I came across this! I’m moving to France for 2 months–not long enough!–and I was thinking about how grocery shopping might be different than in Canada. This was an adorable post!


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