This week, Ailsa’s Travel theme is On Display.
I’ve never been one for buying lots of souvenirs when I travel, but I love visiting what I call everyday stores — grocery stores, pharmacies, hardware stores — when I am in a foreign country. Although I rarely have something to buy, I have at times found a need for things such as chocolate, sandwiches, bandages, and all-purpose-used-everywhere duct tape. I find it interesting to see those items in the grocery that receive the prominent display spaces, those that are packaged oddly by my local standards, and those that seem to be disproportionately over-priced compared to what I pay at home.
A few years ago, while in Paris, I tried to find a shop that was reported to have the best sampling of all things duck, including fois gros. Since it was in the area near my hotel, I thought I might stop by to see what they had. It took me much longer to find that I anticipated, and by the time I located the store at the end of an alley, it was unexpectedly closed for the afternoon. I had expected a place that was more food products than knickknacks, but from the windows it appeared that it was for those whose taste was for duck-based decorating rather than duck-based cuisine. Either way, I’m not sure how such a store could make enough money to stay in business.
As I walked away from the store and towards the subway station, I passed the windows of a boucherie and a fromagerie. Having stores only devoted to cheese or meat seems such an oddity to me. There are butcher stores in my town and a few speciality cheese stores, but you don’t see them on every other block. You also wouldn’t find raw product for sale in the windows. I stopped for a few minutes to take some pictures of the display cases. Half-plucked chickens and unwrapped cheese are things that I would never see in the United States. But, don’t those little pieces of cheese make so much more sense: just a taste instead of 1/2 lb. As for the feathers: I could do without those!