Since January, we have been learning about France while shopping. You can tell a lot about a culture by shopping in the home furnishing and remodeling stores. We are amazed to find that sales clerks always say, "À votre service," and prove it by providing exemplary service with a smile.
We searched through all of the lighting fixture stores for just the right light fixtures for our wheelhouse. When we finally found what we were looking for, we asked the young sales clerk for four of them. He searched the shelves and didn't find any. The computer listed them as being in stock; apparently, they were misplaced. Instead of just taking the lazy way out by telling us that it must be a computer mistake, he spent at least 30 minutes looking for our lights, and he finally found them. We were impressed. In January, when we bought a mattress for ourselves, we purchased a comforter and told us it would be suitable for all seasons. By March, we found that it was already too warm. When we returned to the same store to purchase our guest room mattresses, we mentioned the comforter problem just in passing. With no receipt and the comforter still back on our bed at the gîte, they told us to take another type of comforter home to try, at no charge, and then to bring back the one that we did not want. We were impressed. On our first trip to the dentist, no one asked anything more than our name, and they told us not to pay until our work was complete. No forms to fill out? No questions about our insurance? They didn't even ask for our address so that they could send us a bill. Despite the problems caused by being strangers in a strange land, like not knowing which stores sell what items, or having to pantomime what we are looking for because we don't know the right words to ask for it, we have enjoyed shopping in France. We love the farmers' markets, but we also go to the enormous hypermarchés. These markets are so big that their price checkers are on rollerblades. Our favorite, The Carrefour in Dijon, has a circular cocktail bar near the checkout stands. You can push your cart over and park it next to your barstool if the stress of shopping has made you feel the need for a drink. Good wine is so inexpensive here in France that when we stock up on food and wine and then see the total bill at the checkout stand, we always think that all of the food must have been free at that price.
We moved out of the gîte last week, and we gave up our car yesterday. We are sad to leave our farmhouse and our wonderful neighbors, and we will miss our Peugeot, but we are happy to be moving onto our barge finally. There are only a few finishing touches to complete, and we will soon be cruising away from this peaceful village that has become home to us in France.