24 May 2009

Monday: weather, shopping, photos

Have I mentioned what a good Memorial Day Weekend we are having? Of course, it's not Memorial Day in France. Today is Monday, and everybody is returning to work today after the four-day weekend kicked off by last Thursday's Ascension holiday. At least those who could take Friday off. And there are supposed to be strikes tonight, affecting the railways.

In France, the media and the whole prevailing culture would have you believe that everybody takes all these long weekends and holidays for granted as a part of their right not to work (too hard). And Americans seems to believe it. The fact is, a huge proportion of the people in France were working hard this weekend, as every weekend. They work in the outdoor markets, supermarkets, restaurants, hotels, and all kinds of tourist-oriented businesses. Nearly all the supermarkets were open all four days of the long weekend, for example, even if it was only for the morning on Thursday (the holiday) and on Sunday (as every Sunday).

I went over to Intermarché, one of the supermarkets across the river in Noyers-sur-Cher, Saturday morning. As usual, I choose which supermarket to go to on the basis of the weekly specials they advertise. Most of the time, it's fresh meat or poultry that's advertised at special prices, but sometimes it's fruit, vegetables, or cheeses. In this case, Intermarché had two beef specials that attracted me: rumsteak for 7.95€/kg, and basse côte for 5.50€/kg. Both are good cuts of beef and the prices were attractive. There is room in the freezer.

But as usual at Intermarché, when I got into the store there were two problems. First, the place was really crowded. It was a zoo. And the line at the butcher counter was really long. One of the butchers there — the one on duty Saturday morning — seems to have long-standing relationships with all his customers. He asks each person he waits on all kinds of questions about their work, health, mutual friends, and families, and tells each one his life story. After a while he gets around to what they might want to buy. Everybody else just waits. Some wait patiently, and some shuffle their feet and huff and puff in frustration. I'm among the latter — when I actually decide to wait in the line.

The second problem is that about 50% of the time, even when I do wait in that long line, I finally get up to the counter to find out that the item I wanted to buy is sold out. There's always a vague promise that they'll get some more in tomorrow or the day after tomorrow — but no promises on Saturday, because that's the last day of the weekly specials. Saturday, I bypassed the line just to go look at the cuts of meat and their prices in the butcher counter, and I saw rumsteak at 18.95€/kg — nearly three times the advertised price. So I went on my way, getting some olives, coffee, and other things we needed, but no meat. I did get a nice 1 kg bag of ripe red tomatoes for 1.19€.

At SuperU, it's a lot easier to shop for meat. When the store announces a special price, it has a good supply of the product 95% of the time. And rather than make customers stand in long lines, the SuperU butchers package up a good number of the steaks or roasts or sausages and set them out in refrigerated cabinets. So you can find what you want and serve yourself. As a result, I've nearly given up on Intermarché, which used to be my favorite supermarket. Now I head for SuperU instead.

Such is life in retirement in France. I feel like a hunter-gatherer most of the time. I hunt for good products at good prices. Like a hunter, I can never be sure I'm going to bag what I'm looking for. By the way, the U.S. dollar is back down to 71 cents against the euro. A few weeks ago it was up to 80 eurocents. Now it's again on the decline, and nobody knows for how long. So every penny counts, as do all those supermarket specials.

When I'm not hunting and gathering, I'm gardening or cooking. Cooking is no problem. I have the time and the inclination. Gardening, however, is subject to forces beyond human control. For now, it's warm and sunny. Thunderstorms will roll in later today, and predictions are for 25 mm (1") of rain before tomorrow morning. If that rain comes, this May will turn out to be the wettest month we've had a long long time.

As you can see from the pictures in this post, I've enjoyed nice walks in the vineyard over the weekend. There are flowers, of course, and there are a lot of bugs all around.


  1. Are you trying to "faire la nique" to Le Jardin de Lucie. Your pictures are gorgeous.

    Susan will tell us what names those various bugs go by in their short lives. I sure can identify the white lupine. Daisies and roses are easy.

    Right now, it's sunny and warm. Hope the rain will stay south of the Loire!

  2. thankfully they've had rain here in western NC too......and seem to be out of the drought conditions of the past year or so....i don't remember a single thunderstorm last summer ....but this yr it's already rained several times since I arrived last wed.....i have lots of cleaning & bed making to do to keep me busy indoors tho....the garden beckons when the sun returns

  3. Ken, beautiful photos but too bad about the butcher.

    Eastern NC has had a late and rainy (thank God) spring. We're hoping for a nice summer.


  4. 1&6 Painted Lady butterfly Vanessa cardui (La Belle-Dame).

    3. Female Knapweed Fritillary butterfly Melitaea phoebe (Le Grand Damier).

    4. A Longicorn beetle (Cerambycidae) – very distinctive, but I don't know what species.

    5. A Harvestman (Opiliones). One of the ugliest things I've ever had to look at under a microscope!

    7. A beetle Trichodes alvearius (Le Clairon des abeilles).

    All beautiful shots and well done for achieving such good photos of difficult subjects.


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