Why I always visit local supermarkets when I travel

Why I always visit local supermarkets when I travel

When I visited France earlier this summer, I had no intention of eating so many potato chips.


At the beginning of the trip, I imagined croissants, choux à la crème, jambon-beurre sandwiches, not to mention dishes I had never heard of and had yet to discover. And boy, did I enjoy all these delicacies. But while sitting at Charles de Gaulle Airport on my way back to the US, a bag of Lay’s Poulet Rôti caught my attention at Relay! convenience store and I couldn’t help but think, why not? What is another bag? With that, I happily bought the fried chicken flavored chips and crunched while waiting to board my flight back to New York.


Why does this particular snack in France (an American brand, no less) have such an effect on me? That’s a question I asked myself in the checkout line and I’m still wondering now. I guess it’s part nostalgia, part fantasy. When I shop in a French supermarket, I pretend, if only for the moments between browsing the aisles and exiting through the automatic doors, that my time there is not temporary. And that’s why when I travel I always visit the local supermarkets and a few regional chain stores.




don’t worry When I travel I still visit cool eateries that friends, social media, and of course magazines tell me I should try, but grocery stores and local chain favorites really hold my heart.


It all started on a family trip to Philadelphia in high school. I forced my parents to stop by a Wawa convenience store so I could try the coffee because I had heard about the chain from a blogger on Tumblr. Coming from Southern California, I had romanticized the idea of ​​such expansive menu offerings (coffee, hot cakes, milkshakes!) from a place where you could also get gas. It didn’t even occur to me then that my hometown chain In-N-Out Burger could be a tourist destination for others.


The list goes on: Tim Horton’s was an absolute must on a trip to Montreal, and Dutch Bros was a necessary stop on a trip to Oregon a few years ago. It almost doesn’t matter if the food is good, although that certainly helps, but trying to order my morning coffee or get snacks from a place where thousands of locals do it daily is what ultimately gets me hooked in destination. Why should you take the time to visit a local establishment while traveling? Let me count the roads.



You will find delicious foods that can become your best souvenirs.

During my aforementioned trip to France, my friend and I found ourselves in a supermarket in Paris one late afternoon, knowing it wouldn’t be dinner time until at least 9pm, looking for some snacks.


The Poulet Rôti chips immediately caught my attention. I remembered buying them almost as a joke with my brother on a previous vacation, only to discover they were actually delicious. They don’t really taste like chicken, but rather a spicy mix of herbs and lots of salt.


This time, every time we passed a Carrefour or Monoprix, we ducked in for a quick stop to grab some chips, often a much-needed snack between meals, sightseeing and vintage shopping. They’ve become such a staple that on our last night in Paris we grabbed a taste of Poulet Rôti again, along with a bottle of wine, and sat by the Canal Saint-Martin, enjoying the ruthless French breakfast as much as our view of the canal .



You will learn about the local culture of a destination in an authentic way.

Courtesy of Madeline Diamond

As we meandered through the market aisles on our first day in Paris, I grabbed the chips without hesitation. However, I watched as other shoppers (presumably Parisians) grabbed boxes of biscuits, glass bottles of juice, chunks of cheese and fresh produce, imagining what meals they would prepare once they returned home to their posh Parisian apartments. (In this dreamy supermarket, they always return to chic Parisian apartments).


They stocked up to make dinner, feed their kids, or make a dessert to bring to a party, just like I do at home. But seeing, touching and smelling their local ingredients offers a glimpse into the lives of locals in a way you can’t experience simply by walking the streets or visiting museums.




I asked a few friends if they shared a similar fascination with visiting grocery stores when they travel, and surprisingly, I was met with overwhelming agreement. A friend mentioned that she developed a fondness for Jaffa Cakes and Hob Nobs while living in London, and these snacks are deeply connected to her memories of her time there. Another even went so far as to say that growing up, her mother took her to local grocery stores “literally everywhere we traveled.”



You’ll have a reason to come back (and a mission when you get home).

Naturally, it didn’t take me long to find out if I could buy Lay’s Poulet Rôti chips back in New York. I was unlucky at first. I’ve seen Reddit threads and tweets adoring snacks and more online discourse than you’d expect a simple potato chip to muster. And while it’s possible to order online from a third-party seller, you’ll probably bet your sanity (and food safety) to do so.


However, some brands like SnackCrate offer international snack subscription boxes, making foreign treats more accessible to both travelers looking to relive their favorite trips and those looking for a taste of home if they’ve moved far away. But perhaps the elusiveness of these travel-discovered snacks is part of their appeal—you should enjoy them while you can, in the hope that one day you’ll return and savor their salty, vaguely chicken-y goodness again .


While a grocery or convenience store might not be the first stop on your next road trip, I’d recommend sandwiching one between these sightseeing tours, museums, and Michelin-starred restaurants. You’ll get a glimpse into life elsewhere, whether domestically or around the world, and appreciate delicacies and ingredients you couldn’t find at home. You might even find your new favorite potato chip flavor.


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