Supermarket Shopping in Provence

Jun 3rd, 2012 | Shopping

We hear much about the Markets of Provence and the small specialty stores that sell the very best of produce, cheese, charcuterie and so on

These shops are all around you and they are very much a part of the French life. For instance, it’s not uncommon to hear our friends talk about making a special trip to Vaison-la-Romaine, to see Josiane Deal at Lou Canestou for their cheese course at a special dinner – and Lou Canestou is an extremely good choice as they have excellent cheese!

But …. many of our guests vacationing in Provence at Maison des Pelerins and la Baume des Pelerins, have to balance food shopping and cooking the perfect Provencal Dinner, with getting out and about to visit all the sites and scenery that they have come to see, maybe with their young children, and don’t have the time to devote to finding and visiting the specialty stores. In Sablet we are very fortunate to have a wonderful little Mini Market, but not all villages have that luxury.

       Intermarché Supermarket on the Route de Nyons in Vaison la Romaine

To everyone who falls into this category – I have good news for you! Provence has excellent Supermarkets! The quality is excellent – the stores are generally very large and well laid out, carrying a very wide range of foods and other household items.

           Carrefour Supermarket – Orange – just off Exit 22 from the A7 Autoroute

The larger Supermarket chains are: Intermarché , Carrefour, LeClerc, SuperU and Auchan (this is a humungous store that carries everything from groceries to automotive supplies, clothing, household items and appliances). I’m sure I have missed some, but you will commonly see these stores.

Super U Supermarket in Vaison la Romaine – Avenue des Choralies 84110 Vaison-la-Romaine

If you are planning a “self-catering” vacation at a rental home in Provence or anywhere in France, it’s very easy to find a Supermarket near your destination to stock up on supplies, without having to hurriedly brush up on your French for fear of starving!

The entry to Auchan Market (“Hypermarche”) near Avignon (Centre Commercial – le Pontet).. now this is a Supermarket!

It is easy to recognize the layout of most Supermarkets in Provence since they follow a pattern that will be similar to the US, the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and many other countries.

Do you think there’s an adequate choice of cheeses? ….. browse at your leisure … and then pick your fromage



There are sections for fruit and vegetables, deli items, fresh meats and poultry, bakery, dairy etc., In Provence (and throughout France) there are however a few practical differences that it will help to know about before you get there.

Let’s take it from the beginning …..

1. Grocery Bags (Sacs) ….

…. Always take your own bags – Supermarkets in Provence will charge you per bag if you do not have any, and do not want to carry your items out to the car loose in your cart (Chariot).

Isn't this what a Provencal shopping bag should look like?

2. Grocery Carts (Chariots) ….

Carts are stored at various points around the parking lot, where they can be picked up and dropped off easily

…. Most Supermarkets make their carts available outside the store – some have carts stored in various parts of the parking lot as well as by the doors.

3. Keep a 1 Euro Coin handy! ……

Slide a 1Euro coin into the slot – it releases the lock on the cart .. and you are free to walk around the store!

…. In order to get a cart, you will have to slide a one euro piece into the mechanism that keeps it locked in place to all the other carts

When you have unpacked your cart at the end of your shopping trip, simply take the cart back and slide the catch back in and your Euro will pop back out.

Don’t forget it!

4. Once in the store, when purchasing fruit and vegetables – place them in your plastic bag, seal the bag and weigh them on the nearest electronic scale.

Produce must be bagged, weighed and priced prior to checkout. (Picture from Americans in France website)

You will see pictures of all the fruit and vegetables available, right on the scales. Find your choice and press the appropriate button. An adhesive price tag will be printed out and ejected from the scales. Be sure to stick the tag on the plastic bag of produce. If you miss this step, the checker will send you back to do it! (Yes…. it was embarrassing!)

5. Checking Out …

When you get to the checkout, as usual, you will have to unload your cart, but you will also have to do your own bagging. There will be no one bagging, and the checker does not bag your purchases – here is where you need the bags you brought.

Just one more hint: If you are renting a vacation home, I strongly recommend going to your destination and unloading your luggage, before going to the supermarket (perhaps after a cup of coffee or even a glass of wine). That way, you will not be leaving your luggage in an unattended car whilst shopping, AND you will have an opportunity to do a quick stock take on items that may already be provided with your rental as this varies.

I hope you won’t have to put the top down on your car to fit all your purchases in!


Practical Items:

Large supermarkets close to Sablet are:    Intermarché on the Route de Nyons in Vaison la Romaine, Super U on the Avenue des Choralies, Vaison-la-Romaine and Carrefour in South Orange right off Autoroute 22 from the A7.

Most large supermarkets are open from 8am to 7.30pm continuously

(no closure for lunch).

Here are a few words that may be helpful when you are shopping:

la banque – bank

le boucherie – butchers

la boulangerie – bakers

le bureau de tabac – cigarettes, also sells stamps, sometimes newspapers and often is part of the local bar

le bureau de poste – post office

le centre commercial – shopping centre

la charcuterie – traditionally the pork butcher, but is more

like a delicatessen, selling

cold meats, quiche, salads, pates

le coiffeur / la coiffeuse – hairdressers

l’épicerie – grocery store

le marché – market

la patisserie – cakes/pastries (also sold at the bakers)

la pharmacie – drug store – chemist

la presse – newspapers/magazines

le supermarché – supermarket

le chariot – cart – trolley

les bonbons – candy – sweets

le beurre – butter

le fromage – cheese

du lait – milk

le sucre – sugar

un œuf – egg

le pain – bread

le poulet – chicken

le poulet fermier – free range chicken

la viande – meat

une tranche – a slice

le vin – wine

le café – coffee

le thé – tea

jus d’orange – orange juice

jus de pomme – apple juice

les allumettes – matches

un sac – bag

un timbre – a stamp

entrée – entrance

sortie – exit

sortie de secours – emergency exit

tirez – pull (on shop doors)

poussez – push (on shop doors)


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