Now, don’t get too excited. I don’t have tales to tell about the fabulous luxury boutiques like Hermès and Louis Vuitton which you’d find on the Right Bank in Paris. Well, no, there is not even one department store or mall (unless they are well-hidden) in this town of fewer than 3,000 people. Not that I’m complaining. The kind of shopping I’m talking about involves groceries which is actually my favorite kind. A girl’s got her priorities and she has to eat, you know.

So, what we have here in town is a small store called Carrefour City. The “mother company” Carrefour (like its main French competitors Auchan, Casino, and Leclerc) has different levels of supermarket size, no doubt based on an area’s population. And our “City,” while small, has all of the basics and we’re very happy it’s here. On a typical grocery day, a couple of times a week, we gather up our backpack and other reusable bags (no free plastic bags handed out here) and take the 12-minute walk from le faubourg (“the suburbs”) to la ville (“the city”). We pick out our fruits and vegetables, meats, wine, and any other products we need. Clerks have started to recognize us by now as we do them. They are friendly and come to our assistance in locating things, like the day we were having a hard time finding the sauerkraut. 

Twice a week—on Sundays and Wednesdays—the marché (or farmers’ market) is set up in two adjacent parking lots downtown. It’s really a lot of fun wandering around all the stalls, looking at everything from pottery, thread and material, to tee-shirts and beach towels, to the normal food items. We have our favorite vendors here. There’s the young Maghrébin from Morocco who just has a few things to sell but is always friendly and smiling. Then we drop by to see the cheese lady who typically wears her sheep/goat hat complete with horns; we’re never disappointed in the great assortment of cheese she has! We usually stop by another fruit and vegetable man named Alain and an organic bread guy to round out our trip. So many stalls, so little time, so little energy to carry a really heavy load back home! If truth be told, there are a few people we try to avoid at the outdoor market: the nice guy selling candy-coated nuts (a bit too sugary for our taste) and the salami man whose products are very good but quite expensive. Learned that lesson the hard way!

When we’re in the mood for a bigger selection or just a change of venue, we take a short bus ride to the Intermarché in Argelès-sur-Mer. This neighboring city about three times the size of Collioure has merited a hypermarché; think Wal-Mart Superstore. The difference from Carrefour City is apparent the moment you set eyes on the place from the outside. It’s gigantic! Once you walk in, you’re amazed by the variety of products for sale. Lots of fruits and vegetables, sure, but also dishwashers, TVs, and an enormous fish counter which we always take advantage of before catching the bus for home.

One luxury item we do have in town, I cannot lie, is a shop run by Olivier Bajard. This twice-winner of the title Meilleur Ouvrier de France (“Best Worker of France”) is a dessert chef with a pastry school in nearby Perpignan. Mmmm! Aren’t we the lucky ones to be able to enjoy his pastries, ice cream, and chocolates by just taking the short walk into town! Paris has nothing on us…well, almost.

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