Totally Frenched Out

From the blogger formerly known as Samdebretagne

Monday, May 4, 2009

Last Wednesday, we finished up around 3pm, which is definitely early for us. As we were leaving my client's, one of the employees came up to me and said "Hi, I live in the town you're staying in, would you like me to show you around?" We thought "Oh great, that's perfect - what better way to see a town than with someone who knows it?"

So we hop in the car and make the drive back. He and his friend laugh as a take a picture of this truck. They are such crazy drivers and they pass on the right, on the left, in the ditch, when there's oncoming traffic, etc. Normal two-lane roads are constantly turned into 4 (and sometimes 5) lanes, with cars come at you in all directions. So I had to laugh that these mudflaps were there to remind people to only pass on the left:When we got to town, he drove us straight to.....the Monoprix. Yep, you got that right - to the French supermarket chain. At first I thought maybe he needed to pick something up, but nope, he just wanted to show us around. I got out of it by saying that we'd already been in there and maybe we could see something else. So we get back into the car and drive over to the.....Champion. Another French supermarket chain. There's no getting out of it this time, so we all file out and into the store. We spend literally an hour exploring every single aisle of the two-level magasin. And the funny thing is - 90% of the products are exactly the same in a French Champion! But he was like "Look! We have mandarin oranges! And bread! And ice cream! And juice!" And, and, and. I cannot tell you how hard it is to find a million different ways in French to express how impressed you are by their product selection. And then it was on to the second floor. Look! We have computers! And cleaning supplies! In several different colors! And then we have tents! And feminine hygiene products!

My co-worker and I were both stealing glances when he was looking, thinking "What on Earth is going on here? When are we going to get to the good stuff?" Like the beach. Or the camels. Or the ancient ruins. We both breathed a sigh of relief as we finally neared the exit escalator....Only to have him veer off at the last minute and point out their lovely selection of photo albums and frames.

The only major difference I found between the French and Tunisian Champion was the lack of alcohol and the olive & spice selection:They were really pretty and colorful:And then all the different dried beans and grains used in Tunisian cuisine:We *finally* got out of the store though, only to have him say "Oh! Now we can go to the Carrefour!" I did my best to politely say that we'd rather go to the beach instead, so off we went. And we stayed there for a grand total of five minutes. Apparently it's not up there on his list of tourist destinations. LOL. We did get to visit his mom's house though, where she gave us sweetened tea and we all watched a children's version of Tunisian Idol. I'm wondering now if her house wasn't near your host family's, Sue - it was in the old quartier français, right near the beach.

We didn't end up getting out of there until about 8pm - which left just enough time to get back to the hotel and eat before going to bed. I enjoyed seeing the local side of the city, but man....a relaxing afternoon spent on the beach wouldn't have been all that bad either.....

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Blogger Megan said...

Haha. The same exact thing happened to me in China; Our hosts took us around, and we said we would like to buy "chinese products" like traditional stuff. We got taken to a mall-like place with cheap clothes and other junk. Woohoo.

May 4, 2009 at 7:30 PM  
Blogger Starman said...

I think they were trying to impress you with the fact that Tunisia is just as cosmopolitan as France. Also, I must confess, every time we go to a new city, one of the first things we check is the grocery stores.

May 4, 2009 at 8:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ez-Zahra sure has changed since I was last there in 1975!

May 4, 2009 at 10:58 PM  
Blogger The Bold Soul said...

Georges had a trip to Dakar, Senegal last year and he said that one of his local contacts (or maybe it was a taxi driver) went on and on about this most marvelous new thing they had in his city: a highway tunnel. Not even a tunnel like under a mountain or a river... no, one like the tunnel in which Princess Di died in Paris. And this local man even mentioned that morbid detail: "I tell my children that now they don't have to go to Paris because WE have a tunnel here, just like the one where Princess Diana died!" It is apparently the first such engineering structure in the city and maybe in the whole country, and they are clearly proud of it, and that's lovely. (I guess everything is relative.) But a highway tunnel as a tourist destination? Yeah. Right.

I have to say I wish my Champion had such a nice display of spices and olives. It's such a gray, drab, poorly designed store and the checkout section is HORRIBLY narrow and small. I hate it but it's the cheapest and closest to our house. Our Monoprix is nicer but further away and more expensive.

May 5, 2009 at 10:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

that's hilarious and kind of awful. i'm reading the book about the guy who walked across afghanistan in 2002 and it's just about the same. the locals are, to put it politely, wack. and not in a nice way.

May 5, 2009 at 2:49 PM  

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