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Hoses of the Holy in the Parallel Universe

May 25, 2005

Super Super-U, Where Are You?

originally uploaded by mcmrbt.
The picture shows locations of Super-U in part of the Vendee. The circled one is in Bretignolles-sur-mer - and there are Huper-U stores in St Gilles and St Hilaire. Further inland, a Marché-U in Coex - but be aware that smaller stores like this will be closed from 12.30 to 2.30 in the afternoon, which is usually the time you want to go.

With the weather picking up in the Vendee I'm now officially excited about our trip. It's showing 24°C and unbroken sunshine for tomorrow. Which is Super, and makes me think of one of the other pleasures of France, the supermarkets.

I used to think you could somehow find a correlation between French supermarkets and British ones, but it makes my brain hurt to try. It's hard to find an equivalent to Waitrose, for example. Waitrose type shoppers in France tend to forego the supermarket altogether, and buy their fresh produce from a proper market.

And there are regional variations. In the urban areas of the East, where my in-laws live, Super-U tends to be a kind of grubby pop-in supermarket, generally of smaller size and less well stocked than the bigger Cora and Auchan. But on the West coast, in every other seaside town, you'll find the only supermarket in town will be a Super-U, and they're much better (apart from their complete inability to stock pasteurised milk)*. Oddly, you can get completely "raw" milk - straight from the udder place, but not your traditional pinta.

Super-U, Hyper-U, all part of the holiday experience, and I can't wait to get there to buy turkey kebabs for the barbecue, maybe a capon, Petit Louis soft cheese for the kids, and raspberry ice tea etc. Another holiday taste is Bückler, an alcohol-free beer brewed by the Heineken/Stella people but not imported to the UK. It's got a great flavour, doesn't give you a headache, and is perfect if, like me, you love the taste but will probably have to drive - or just can't cope with hangovers any more.

Back in the East, we tend to go to Cora or Auchan - though I still haven't really forgiven Cora for the time we were stuck in their car park for 45 minutes on an Alsatian bank holiday. A fatal combination of a public holiday in one part of France causing a lot of rigidly Germanic people to (a) cross the "border" to go shopping on their day off and (b) all try to leave the supermarket at the same time because it was 5 pm and they all intended to get home for their evening meal, which they always, always eat at the same time of day, no matter what the circumstances; oh, and (c) to be complete bastards about organising themselves to get out of the car park. But the joke was on them, because we were just inconvenienced whereas they had to eat late.

10 years or so ago, when my Mrs first took me back to her home village, the first supermarket I visited was E Leclerc but it's not one we go to much these days. After a while you realise that, of all the supermarket visits you make, it's in E Leclerc that you encounter the smelliest people. A certain class of French men don't think it's macho to wash regularly, and France is the only place I've seen deodorant boasting that it will last 48+ hours. If they do wash, they'll put a smelly shirt back on afterwards. These people all shop in Leclerc.

One we haven't mentioned is Casino. Just as Super-U have their larger Hyper-U and smaller Marche-U, Casino cover everything, from your village shop (as in Plancher-Bas) to a Géant. They also own Spar and Monoprix, which is a kind of shitty department store you'll find in town centres.

The French supermarket, er, market goes deeper and further. There's Champion, and Intermarche, which many people will be familiar with. You find these stores, like Super-U, in smaller towns and on the edge of rural villages. I think the Coccinelle stores have mostly been replaced by Colrit, which is a Lidl like el cheapo place, with odd checkout procedures.

While I like to visit Cora and Auchan for the sheer size and scope of what they do (everything you might find in a big Asda or Tesco Extra, and more - a fuller range of CDs, DVDs, and books, computers, digital cameras etc. I think I've even seen food in there), it's Super-U that lives closest to my heart, because Super-U means holidays, beaches, Bückler, and sunshine.

*Here's a clue, French people: Pasteur was French, you dolts. You don't even have your usual nationalistic excuse for drinking that UHT pap.


  • Dagnabit, James just mentioned Mammouth to me - a chain which had a great logo (a Mammoth, surprisingly enough). Some Mammouth stores were taken over by Auchan in 1996. Others were taken over by Carrefour in 1998.

    Which is a double dagnabit, because I forgot about Carrefour - another huge brand (whisper: only the biggest in Europe and second biggest in the world), who own Champion and Ed, as well as 8 à Huit and other brands.

    Given the robust competition between huge supermarkets in France, it is even more gobsmacking that Tesco have managed to take over the UK, leaving the others trailing in their wake.

    By Blogger bot37363838, at 2:29 am  

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