La Grande Epicerie

Monday’s rainy day adventure was a trip to the city with my host mom Agnès and the three children. Starting their second week of Spring Holiday on Monday, we were running out of ways to keep the kids entertained around the house. It was a perfect excuse to load them all onto the train and do a fun shopping and lunch excursion in Paris.

Agnès promised to show me some “real” sections of Paris with nary a tourist in sight. We first stopped at BonTon, a super trendy children’s shop in the 3rd arrondissement. Although the store has many well-known patrons such as Victoria Beckham and Angelina Jolie, we didn’t run into either one. Not only does the shop specialize in expensive children’s clothing, but they also feature furniture, linens, and an adorable collection of party planning necessities. We crammed 5 people into a photo booth with huge sunglasses and wigs, and wandered around looking at 60 euro infant clothing for a bit before heading on our way.

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Next up was another ultra-trendy store called Merci. You could choose to make an entire day’s experience out of this store if you wanted, although with three kids in tow, it was not an option for us. The store specializes in trendy, expensive men’s and women’s clothing as well as design accessories including furniture, linen, and other household products. The design of the store alone is enough to entice visitors whether you plan to spend 300 euros on a cotton dress or not. We walked out with nothing but a Merci bracelet medallion for me and a huge mural to color for the children. I can’t wait to see how long it takes us to finish, here we are on day 2.

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It was now time for lunch and some window shopping at Le Bon Marché. Opened in 1852, this is the oldest department store in Paris. The building was designed by Gustav Eiffel if that name rings a bell for you. Just like its counterparts Printemps and Galeries Lafayette, Le Bon Marché is filled with pricey designer clothing and accessories that I haven’t the budget for (ironic considering it’s name means the good deal in French).

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My favorite part of the day had to be our trip to La Grande Epicerie, the grocery counterpart to Le Bon Marché and most expensive grocery store in Paris. With over 5000 different items from all around the world, La Grande Epicerie is an experience in and of itself. One look at the prices told me I was not going to be purchasing any food at this store, but it was still fun to look around. Like my Giant Eagle at home, they have an area devoted to food from various other parts of the world. However, unlike my North Canton grocer, they sell a package of Oreos for over 9 euros, that’s over $12 folks!

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Needless to say the bakery and meat selections were phenomenal. As is typical in France, there was an entire section devoted to cheese and another to yogurt. La Grande Epicerie stocks bottled water from all over the world, fancy some l’eau from the North Pole? A basement level wine cave houses quite the collection of great vintages. The only American beer selection on the shelf was Budweiser, sorry college students. Fresh ground spices introduce a fantastic aroma to the center of the store while the pâtisserie up front is impossible to pass by without notice.

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I should have been more impressed by the artisanal cheeses and meat products from every part of every animal, but the thing that interested me most was the États-Unis (United States) food aisle. So what do Parisians associate with American cuisine? Here is your answer (some of which I am ashamed to admit), there was a lovely selection of: Pop-Tarts, marshmallows, Campbell’s soup, pickle relish, Easy Cheese, microwave popcorn, packaged dessert mixes, peanut butter (more on this later), Hershey’s syrup, salad dressing, A1, peanuts, beef jerky and various others.

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At the children’s insistence, we picked up a bag of marshmallows. Dessert tonight just happened to be roasted mallows over the grill (it might not be a campfire, but we’ve all done it this way at one time or another). Let me tell you that I honestly felt right at home eating this. Tomorrow’s plan is to go all out and do the full s’more, I can’t wait.

I would love to introduce the children to other sweet treats from America although I fear they would not like much of my favorites. It took me a few weeks to realize that French people hate peanut butter. Apparently it is extremely hard to find and incredibly expensive if you do. My host mom heard me talking about how much I love it so she hunted some down for me. I don’t even eat that much of it at home but for some reason the total abstinence was way too much to bear. The children literally cringe when I eat it. HOW CAN YOU NOT LIKE PEANUT BUTTER?! I am realizing that this is more of a staple in the American diet than previously understood. I always feel terrible for kids with an allergy because how can anyone live without Reese’s cups? And what child hasn’t had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? Peanut butter cookies, peanut butter on celery, peanut butter crackers, peanut butter pie, crunchy, creamy, with apples, with bananas…I would eat it with just about anything! I feel like if you have never had the roof of your mouth glued to your tongue with a giant spoonful of peanut butter, then you have never truly lived. My time in France is supposed to be all about trying new things, but sometimes it just feels amazing to have a good old PB & J (on baguette of course!)

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