Tuesday, August 12, 2014


The store on the corner with the fresh fruits and vegetables has been an oasis for more than a quarter century to those living in the 'centreville' area of Argeles-sur-mer, France. It belonged to B and J-P and his grandparents before them.

It reminded me very much of my grandfather's neighborhood grocery, which was only a block away from my house and which I visited daily, often multiple times in a day, as I was growing up. Grandpa Adams' store was actually a converted garage, and he specialized in great cuts of meat, which he would cut himself from whole animals, skinned of course, that he had hanging on huge hooks in a freezer with a big window so customers could see the source. He was a relatively small man, and I wondered sometimes how he summoned the strength to hoist the heavy slabs of beef off the hooks.

Grandpa also had an enormous - at least to us - glass candy case, at least six feet long, with all sorts of tempting treats. You had to be careful when you looked, though, because the front glass tilted backwards and you could lose your balance as you drooled ever closer to the licorice and Mary Janes.

Even the sign above B and J-P's is a personal reminder. My grandfather frequently said I grew up on Oreos and Seven-Up!

You may have noticed the past tense reference to B and J-P's. While we were up in Switzerland for a couple weeks, they shuttered the store and began a very well-deserved retirement.

It's uncertain whether someone else will re-open the store. There are a couple other green grocers within easy walking distance.

It's uncertain, too, whether a different business would open there. It is a great location, right on one of the three main streets of the village, almost directly across from the church, and on the route of the marche which teems with locals and tourists two days a week.

Unfortunately, more businesses are moving out of the village than are moving in. One of the two pharmacies moved out to the 'commercial' zone near the 'highway.' (However, the tabac did move in their, a larger space then their previous one right across the street.)

The local politicians don't seem to focus much on bringing business into centreville. Their preference seems to be developing the beach and port areas and new (and rather ugly) villa developments outside the village. Understandable in some ways but the quaint village is a huge asset and could be more so with some forward thinking.

Many towns around the world, large and small, struggle with the decay of inner cities as the 'suburbs' take precedence. Argeles-sur-mer is no different.

Sometimes I paint a rather idyllic picture of ASM and life in Europe generally. It's not all perfect, of course. We have the occasional pile of dog merde in the street, left by the pets of lazy owners (but little different from, say, Dallas, where the dogs crap in someone's grass - you won't step in it, but the property owner still has to deal with it.) I'm told there are drug dealers in the village, but I've heard they deal drugs in America, the UK, and other places?

On balance, ASM is a wonderful place to spend a week or a lifetime. It's been here for hundreds of years, and I imagine it will be around for hundreds more.

Just with one less favorite green grocer.

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