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Friday, April 29, 2005

heures d'ouverture [or should i say 'fermature'??]

for the most part, life in france isn't that hard to get used to-- retail wise, that is. there are, however, just a few things that would make life oh-so-much easier for those of us who are errand- and shopping- obsessed.

if they asked me how to give the french retail economy a boost, my first idea would be to make all lunch closing hours the same. now, i don't mean that there should be some big legislation on when merchants can and cannot close-- we already have plenty of red tape going on here in france-- but it would be nice, say, if merchants would talk to their neighbors and just kind of agree to all keep the same hours. this would clear up mountains of confusion for the working folks who try to squeeze in an errand or two after lunch, and it would cut down on frustration too. i walked to a shop on the other side of my arrondisement the other day at 2.15pm, thinking i was safe from the dreaded lunch hour closed door. no luck. they didn't open back up until 2.30pm. now, if this wasn't a rainy day and i weren't 7+ months pregnant, i would've waited it out. instead, i huffed and puffed my way home, vowing never to go back. the worst part was that all the surrounding shops were open.

the other big debate is sunday shopping... after being here for 3 years, i 'd like to think that i've gotten used to nearly everything being closed on sunday, but i haven't. it is just plain frustrant to want to be able to get some groceries or drop off the drycleaning on a sunday afternoon, and not be able to. even a half day on sunday would do, and i swear businesses would boom. just look at the few sundays a year when the shops are open, during the sales. stores are packed, customers happy and shiney. so please, someone out there, think towards the future, towards keeping the little shops open....or we will all be forced to drive out to the burbs to go to the huge hypermarche that is open 7/7.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

provencal fabrics at l'isle sur la sorgue
Posted by Hello

marche at l'isle sur la sorgue
Posted by Hello

the chic shopper does provence

Along with fabulous food, inviting sunshine, and chilled rosé wine, Provence holds many treasures for the shopper. Before your trip, check the website of the ville you are visiting or stop by the tourist office when you arrive to get the weekly marché schedule—markets in Provence are particularly inviting and are a bargain hunter’s delight.

At the markets, you’ll find great deals on everything from handmade soaps [including the famous savon de Marseille] and lavender sachets & bouquets to gorgeous Provencal fabrics by the meter and made up into table clothes, baguette holders, pillows and more. The south of France is also the place to stock up on Provencal pottery with its bright colors and patterns and the santon figurines that are used in Christmas nativity scenes.

Don’t forget to leave some room in your carryon for the delicieux artisanal jams, pestos [called “pistou” in these parts], and tapenades—all the yummy flavors of the south, packaged for you to enjoy later chez vous or at an impromptu picnic. Large bags of herbes de provence, a blend of several different herbs used in Provencal cuisine, also make great gifts.

Other regional foodie specialties include calissons from Aix-en-Provence [diamond-shaped sweets made from preserved melon and almonds], Avignon’s papalines [oregano liqueur chocolates], and Carpentras’ berlingots [hard candies in various flavors]. Olive oil is also a big production in this region, along with wine [especially rosé], and liquorish-flavored Pastis.

To carry it all home? Buy a traditional market basket with leather handles or some of the newer versions in fun, bright colors. And if you aren’t over your weight limits yet, snatch up a set of Petanque [or “boules”] to play in your yard when you get back, to remind you of the laid back lifestyle in this part of France.