As we prepare to go abroad for a research trip in Europe, we’re reminded of some of the little things that we love about traveling to other countries…
One of my favorite things to do while traveling abroad is to go to a supermarket, a grocery store. I become a local as I shop – squeezing fruits and veggies, choosing from an array of unique cookies, selecting just the right cheese. I watch the locals doing their daily thing. And, I love to take in all the differences. From shopping carts and baskets to all the different foods. It’s such a wonderful cultural experience.
Today, I drove the 7 kilometers to Ponterio, the closest town to the agriturismo where I have been staying. I am technically in the village of Frontignano, but there are no services. Ponterio is where the action is. As I drove around looking for it (I had heard there was a supermarket here), I noticed a communal shopping area, a strip mall really. I didn’t see the supermarket facing the road. But behind the strip mall and to the right there it was: the MI Superstore. I smiled broadly. This was going to be fun.
As I walked in I looked for a basket to carry, but there were none. Instead, there were these blue baskets that were about as tall as a laundry hamper, made of plastic. Hmm, this was odd. I looked around and saw a local man pulling his around. Well, this laundry hamper/grocery basket had wheels. Why didn’t we have these in the States? I grabbed one and began to pull it. This was awesome, I thought. I must have looked like a silly kid, smiling as I dragged my blue laundry hamper/grocery basket behind me.
I spent most of my time in the produce department, choosing apples and plums, tomatoes and cucumber. I took a plastic glove thing from the spool and used it to pick up all my fruits and veggies. This was quite hygienic, I thought. Score another point for the Italians.
I put the fruit into a plastic bag then weighed the fruit on the automated machine that spits out the label, bar code and all. Clever.
Then came the wine section. Like you aren’t going to find some lovely local wine here. Choices on top of choices. A bottle of Montefalco Sagrantino made it’s way into my laundry hamper/grocery basket. The blue basket with wheels was filling up.
Milk. Latte. I hadn’t had any milk in days and was craving it. Last year, in Santorini I made the mistake of buying buttermilk. Of course, I didn’t know any Greek. This time I was in luck as I know a bit of Italian and should do okay. There it was, latte. Just plain latte. The only size was a liter and I don’t have a refrigerator in my room. Oh, well. I was thirsty for milk.
The cookie section is always interesting in other countries. We have so much that is overly sweet in the US. Here in Italy there are biscuits, chocolate covered butter cookies and just plain butter cookies. I spot Oreos, but these are the only ones I really recognize from back home. I decided on something less sweet, a granola type of cookie that will be good for my long walks. Into the blue basket it went.
I was finished. I got in line and bagged my food and paid the nice lady.
Walking back out into the fresh air, I grinned ear to ear. Yup, grocery shopping is more fun when in a foreign country.
Oh, and by the way, I drank every drop of that liter of milk…before I even got back to my room.