Beki Grinter

Adventures in Hypermarkets (Cora and Tati)

In European Union, France on August 13, 2009 at 1:11 pm

A few days ago, K and I went to CORA. CORA is the GT-L faculty lifeline. It’s a hypermarket, which has a branch (as it would turn out, a smaller one in the chain, which I think is Belgian owned) close to GT-L which sells everything. Think WalMart in terms of size, but don’t think WalMart in terms of food. The French take their food seriously. So Cora has a patisserie and a bread making shop inside it. And the quality is amazing, perhaps not as amazing as what you would get in a specialist patisserie, but wow, so much better than what you will find in an American hypermarket. I read somewhere that the average French person eats 1.5 baguettes a day, and that they do not keep for a long time. So there’s a need for constant production to meet the consumption and timing constraints. (And as K posted, they make a nice distinction between bread and “industrial” bread, which is where you would find most bread made in the United States… wonder bread, etc…)

The other thing that struck me about the hypermarket was the presence of two bars, and the ability to buy half and full bottles of wine in the cafeteria. There’s a lot that could be written about this, but here are some initial thoughts. First, I really wonder who goes to a hypermarket for a drink. One theory we had is that it’s French men (it was largely full of men) waiting for their spouses to do the weekly shop. In fact, I struggle with any other theory because as amazing as Cora is, it doesn’t seem like a local, and there isn’t that much housing within walking distance as far as I can tell.

The cafeteria is Pandora’s box of choices. Not just in the wine department, but also in the cheese department. I have to say the hot mains looked a bit dire, but man the cold food rocks. Salades of every variety and then of course there’s the cheese section. You can tell the difference between the French cheese and the non-French ones easily, they don’t sell any of the latter, and they’ll sell you something resembling the size of the average human head in the former category for a couple of Euros (but they’ll still tell you what it is in Francs also).

Into CORA and another adventure in culture. The word for foreign is etranger. Stranger. The wine section illustrates this concept well. At the little CORA (more on the big CORA later) there are approximately two lanes of French wines. The cheap stuff is between 1-2 Euros, and the expensive stuff around 40. There’s about half shelf of non-French wine. Of the US we’ve seen Gallo. You can see how the French try to put their people off with US wine can’t you.

Today we set off on another shopping adventure, to TATI and as it would turn out the big CORA. The person in charge of settling the faculty (I dunno how else to describe it) drove us past an area which he described as being good for shopping. It’s sort of like hypermarkets meet outlets. First stop TATI. TATI was our friend Ian’s suggestion. It’s discount stuff, it’s really like BigLots, but it’s in France. We found several amusing translations, like the Science Museum game series, which is not, as you might think, a series of games based on science museums… but a series of games that are branded “science museum” (like one might brand games by Parker Brothers). Then there was my alarming and personal favourite, a toilet seat and lid with a 3minute timer motif on it. Mind boggles. The perfume “Queen Mary” smelt quite similar to the ship, and American star smelt horrendous, but hey for 2euros perhaps that’s just what one must bear.

Then it was off to the big CORA. K thinks its the largest shop he’s ever been in, I have to agree. It was vast. Huge. Small CORA in the Technopole (yes, GT-L is located in something called the Technopole, which conjures up that oft-made remark about Computer Science, if you have to put Science in the title, perhaps it isn’t), will be a crushing let down from now on.

Our plan was to have a late lunch in CORA. But of course that was our plan based on expectations that yes, the cafeteria is going to be open passed 2:30. No it wasn’t. So, we had reheated Croque Monsieur’s and Panini’s (I’d really hoped to make a break with the meat and cheese diet, but not today). And then we started shopping. All was reasonably well (other than the Donkey notebook, the diary complete with all the saints days, and graph paper) and then we entered the food section. One hundred and eighty euros later, we had left. Some wine, a surprising amount of meat and cheese, (including a taste off between two types of regional camembert cheese) and spices, and soups, and well who else knows, we were done. And it only took 3 hours. CORA is an afternoon out.

So now we are home, preparing to start in on the food. Tonight salmon gratin with salad. Mmm… thank you CORA.

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