It’s massive. Costco may seem massive to many an American used to the standard warehouse-esque design aesthetics we use in American retail stores these days, but it’s nothing compared to Auchan in France.
We left in the morning from Spain and headed up to Perpignan. The drive isn’t as arduous as it may seem being a scant 45 minutes through truck stops like La Jonquera and a border full of cheap, southern French with their god awful manner of speaker. All of these low class souls come in to Spain, as far south as Figueres (30 minutes from the border), to seek better deals on alcohol. It’s something of a sad scene for those of us who envision the French as swimming in cheap wine and it puts in to perspective how tacky these particular French are.
But then here we were, a group of Catalans and a Catalan-in-training (me) heading north in to France and the culinary heaven that is Auchan in Perpignan. To the French, I’m sure it doesn’t seem like anything other than a place to get good deals. For a person coming from the US and used to having to go to Whole Foods for good food (and there, with the exception of the cheese island, the selection is still limited) it’s like you’ve sneaked in to god’s pantry. I did happen to see a number of donkeys on the back of cars, which means that the appeal of making the trip to Auchan is not lost on Catalans either.
Let me put this in to perspective. Imagine a store with two whole aisles dedicated to cheeses, two aisles for meats (one of which focusing on Catalan specialties ironically), one side of an aisle just for mustard and mayonnaise, and a whole aisle for bread. Oh yeah, there are almost three aisles for wines of course and you can find any number of great bottles for under €3. This about sums up Auchan, along with the fact that each of these aisles are about 20 meters long (50 feet in metric-so-scary-land).
My glowing accolades can’t really stop because I’ve never seen anything like this before. Where we’re happy with one or two blue cheeses, they have six types of Roquefort alone, along with others, including one that the family described as “sweaty crotch smell” yet was delicious nonetheless. I mean, it’s the first place I’ve ever found a Mascarpone and Gorgonzola cheese for sale and yes, it’s about six times more delicious than it sounds, even given Cambozola a run for its money.
Naturally, the only catch for a place like this is that it’s in France, which means that beyond having to deal with the French, you have to actually go to France. I don’t think that even if Whole Foods opened up a store in the vein of Walmart would they succeed like Auchan as in addition to the fact they have everything under the French sun for sale (as well as other countries), they have it at a good price. I wish I could bring back my €0.35 baguette and jab Boulangerie in the eye for having the balls to charge me $1.50, but, c’est la vie, eh?