Many of our Gite guests visit us from other countries. In our experience visitors, particularly first-time visitors, can be very worried about buying food in foreign countries and are often unprepared to try local food which is, after all, eaten by the local population.
On a visit to China years ago we were shocked to see Western visitors arriving at their hotels with bags of their favourite food. Items such as burger buns and burgers! Yes, really! It was sad to see as, right next door to the hotel, there were some truly excellent restaurants and, with a big smile and using gentle interactions with the waiters, we were able to experience some wonderful and inexpensive meals.
I had been reminded about this situation shortly before a visit to a local supermarket and so I took some photographs to show the excellent quality of the food and the calm and uncrowded nature of shopping experience here in France.
Fruit and vegetables are always beautifully displayed and, because the vast majority are locally, or regionally sourced, they are always fresh. Mostly, but not entirely, the produce is seasonal, so it can be very frustrating to ask for apples in June or Strawberries in November. Having said that, there is plenty from which to choose.
There is always a big selection if cheeses in French Supermarkets. Many small farms keep Cows, sheep or goats and have their own cheese production facilities. You can find out more about local cheeses by visiting the Loire Valley Cheese Website.
At this point it is worth mentioning that there is a big difference between the way in which British Supermarkets work with a national procurement system using intermediary purchasing organisations, and the fact that each French Supermarket, although it has a national brand name, is in fact and local franchise.
Bread and Pastries
It wouldn’t be France without a visit to the Boulangerie for some pastries. Our favourites are Croissants, Pain aux Raisin and Pain aux Chocolat. Judging by the number of French people who walk along the street with their daily loaf of bread tucked under their arm, you might forgiven for thinking that Baguettes and long thin loaves of bread are all you can buy, but look closer. There are many fine breads in cottage style; with whole grain; and cereal loaves. All are readily available. Given some notice, most Boulangeries can prepare Gluten free bread to order.
Wherever you are in France there always seems to be an excellent selection of Fresh fish available in the supermarkets. Many establishments have knowledgeable members of staff who can not only recommend the catch of the day, but also, should you wish, a suitable wine to accompany your meal. For many people, fresh fish will appear to be quite expensive, so check out the final price before arriving at the check-out.
Shopping for Wine
Nearly all supermarkets have a wine section and most have a selection of local, regional and national wines. As the supermarkets are independent franchises, many employ Sommeliers from local restaurants to choose the store’s wine selection.
If you want a more traditional wine buying experience many Wine Producers (Producteurs) have shops attached to their vineyards. Close to our Gites in the Indre-et-Loire it is possible to visit many such Caves. Rousseau Freres near Tours has a fine selection of wines based on the Noble Joue grape. Meet the whole family when visiting their website.; Visiting Chinon visitors can find some excellent red wines and a favourite replacement for champagne is the local sparkling Vouvray. The Cave des Producteurs de Vouvray’s website shows opening times and the range of wines and tours available.
Although most of the photos were taken in the Supermarket, SUPER-U, there are other supermarkets available. E. Leclerc, Lidl, Auchan, Inter Marché, and many others.
Of course, it is always a good move to visit the local markets. Even in these Covid restricted times the markets are open.
Fresh produce, straight from the ground, or the bush, or the tree, is available to buy from the actual producers. They are always happy to chat about their products and how you can use them – assuming you make a purchase, of course. Once again, be wise and check the final price before you agree to buy.