Shopping in France is so much more than just baguettes and berets. There is something special about doing a bit of shopping abroad, you’re more likely to have something unique that people back home don’t have and it’s exciting to visit a foreign supermarket and see what different tasty treats they have an offer.
I know my usual port of call is a newsagent or supermarket to stock up on Carambars! (Mmm so tasty and they remind me of coming to France as a child). However, it’s not Carambars you come to France for though… It’s all their delicious baked goods, meats and cheeses, the fresh markets and unique boulangeries and the stylish clothes and the unique French style.
They may be small towns, but Charleville and Sedan have all you need for your holiday treats, picnics and extravagances.
The Markets and Bakeries of Charleville
There’s nothing better than exploring the local delicacies in a new place. The pastries, the fruit, the wine… Charleville has a number of local baked goods that are famous to the region which we couldn’t wait to try.
Boulangerie du Mont-Olympe
We were informed that Boulangerie du Mont-Olympe was the place to go for the best baked goods in town and they certainly didn’t disappoint. Olly headed there early in the morning to pick up a few treats before our bike ride along the EuroVelo route 19 and they were the perfect treat to enjoy by the river when the sun came out.
These are the three local bakery items we were told to try…
Galette à Suc
Galette à Suc is made from flour, sugar, butter, eggs, water and yeast, and is the recipe of Jean Dundin, a baker from Bogny Sur Meuse who created this recipe in the 1950’s. The bread/cake is a cross between a thick sweet pizza and a pancake and is a delicious way to start your day.
We had our first Galette á Suc with a coffee in Place Ducale on our first morning in Charleville. Many of the bars allow you to eat food from the local bakeries if you buy a coffee or a drink. It was a lovely way to spend a morning overlooking the comings and goings in the main square.
Without realising at the time, we had our second Galette á Suc while sat at the train station at Bogny Sur Meuse; the very town that the Galette á Suc was first created.
After a recommendation we tried the Galette Ardennaise too, which is very similar but with a delicious creamy filling.
The Gâteau Mollet is somewhere between a cake and sweet bread. Made from flour, butter, eggs, salt, yeast and sugar, the recipe was invented by Jean-Remi Tisseron, a baker from Viel St Remy, in the 1980s. It requires a special Mollet cake mould to make it and looks a bit like a hat made of sponge, or a jelly made of sponge!
We had our Gâteau Mollet half way through our bike ride along the Meuse and it was a perfect treat after a cycle through the rain along the EuroVelo route 19. The sun came out and we enjoyed our sweet Mollet and a well-deserved rest.
The Gâteau Mollet is a bit like an Italian panettone, with a similar light cake or bread texture. I quickly munched my way through over half the cake before I realised I was supposed to be sharing it with Olly. Good job though as Olly had more than made up for his lack of Mollet by eating most of Le Petit Carolo.
Le Petit Carolo
The Le Petit Carolo is a much sweeter dessert than the other two and something you might have as a cake in the afternoon or dessert after a meal.
It’s made from almond powder, starch, caster sugar and egg white and the cream filling is made from praline, vanilla, butter, egg yolks, water and sugar. It is a melt in your mouth multi layered cake that is a cross between a macaroon and a meringue. It was first made in Charleville and can be found in the Boulangeries across the city.
Olly could have quite easily inhaled this in one, but I managed to get a look in when I tentatively gave up my Gâteau Mollet for a minute.
When visiting Charleville make sure you head to Boulangerie du Mont-Olympe and try ALL the local treats. Maybe try and squeeze in a Pain au Chocolat too as… when in France!
Charleville’s Indoor Market
Charleville’s indoor market is just off the square on Rue Noeël. It is open on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays and has a mix of fresh fruit and vegetables, baked goods, meats and cheeses. We didn’t stay long as we were already stuffed from our Boulangerie buys, but if you’re staying in self-catered accommodation it’s the perfect place to fill up on fresh food for your stay.
Charleville also has a Sunday market at Quartier Ronde Couture and the occasional special market in the main square Place Ducale. See the full list of the markets in and around Charleville.
Shopping in Charleville
It’s not just the food that can keep you busy spending your money in Charleville, but fashion, books, interiors and more in the middle of town too.
Rue de la République
The Rue de la République is the main shopping street in Charleville. It is a long thoroughfare starting at the main square, Place Ducale, and ending at the large statue and fountain of Charles Gonzaga, the founder of the city.
The street is filled with handsome houses, now turned into boutique and chain shopping stores. There’s a good mix of fashion, interiors and of course books. The side streets offer a number of cafes and eateries, alongside more unique shops including a famous comic book shop.
We wandered up and down on our first morning and bought a couple of presents ready for Christmas too.
At the opposite side of the Place Ducale the straight street continues towards the Arthur Rimbaud Museum. When we arrived, the street was in the process of being covered in beautiful pink umbrellas hanging above you and by the time we had left they had all been opened and formed a pink street that was both colourful and a place to shelter from the rain. The umbrellas were to promote Breast Cancer Awareness month.
Jeanteur is the biggest store in Charleville, a department store that fits across two sides of the square and covers 3 floors of all the clothes, shoes, jewellery and interior shopping your heart desires.
Olly and I spent a fair bit of time wandering through the shop and I soon spotted a few new clothes I fancied. I settled on just the one thing, a beautiful new grey coat with the biggest, snuggest hood ever! Ok, so I got some earrings as well. Two things. I think I did very well.
The department store has been running for 131 years and is a popular and friendly place to work. I found the staff really helpful and could have easily spent longer and more money in this beautiful old store.
Charleville is less touristy and well known by the English compared to many parts of France and I enjoyed being one of very few tourists around. I was able to practice my French without people automatically talking back in English and you can quickly start to feel like a local in this small and friendly city.
Fresh food shopping in Sedan
After a busy couple of days in Charleville we hopped in the car and headed to Sedan, a smaller town most famous for its towering, thick walled castle, Chateau Fort Sedan. As with Charleville we had some particular places to visit and treats to try, but we started with lunch in our hotel inside the castle. Yes our hotel was INSIDE the castle! So very cool.
Read more about our stay at Le Chateau Fort Hotel.
The Boulangerie Guénard is the most popular bakery in Sedan and when we arrived Saturday morning people were queuing out the door to pick up their weekend bread and cake supplies.
The Boulangerie offered a range of food from a variety of breads and cakes, to sandwiches and macarons. I mean no French bakery is complete without some colourful macarons right.
Macarons weren’t on our list, but they were winking at me and I couldn’t leave without buying a few. It was our last day in France and I, of course, needed something for our journey home.
I managed to avoid all the other cakes and focused on the task at hand – trying the Pain du Poilu.
Pain du Poilu from Boulangerie Guénard
Pain du Poilu is the bread of French soldiers from World War I. It is made with leaven, a lactic acid bacteria and yeast developing in the flour and water mixture giving it a more acidic taste to other more traditional breads. Leaven is a substance that causes fermentation and expansion of dough or batter.
It is a crusty bread and was popular with soldiers because it would last a few days without losing its taste and texture. The bread has only recently been “rediscovered” by Sedan boulanger Christophe Guénard and I think would work perfectly with a big bowl of hearty homemade soup!
Market of Sedan
We were lucky enough to be in Sedan on a Saturday morning, the perfect day for a French market. The market in Sedan is more than double the size of the one in Charleville and stretches outside and around the building and into the neighbouring carpark.
It was a busy bustling market both inside and out, with many local people filling their shopping baskets and trolleys.
Stalls ranged from homemade basket ware to bright flowers and plants, from bric-a-brac and clothes to fresh fruit and vegetables.
Head inside and you will find stall after stall of piled high pastries, cakes and pies and a number of butchers and fishmongers selling the latest catch. Fresh multi coloured carrots were stacked next to giant radishes and leeks, while giant and tiny pumpkins were piled high beside them.
The smell of hot chicken guided my nose to the big rotisserie stalls and we treated ourselves to some local homemade honey. Despite having just had breakfast my mouth was watering again and I was sad I didn’t have a big house in Sedan and space to cook up a feast for all my friends and family.
Though England still has a fair few markets around, there just doesn’t seem to be the same appetite for such a busy bustling weekly market in smaller towns and cities. Perhaps supermarkets don’t have the same pull as they do back home, I know where I would rather shop! These markets have everything you might need to cook up a storm and are much more reasonably priced than the boutique, occasional markets we get back home in England.
Whether it is a spot of food shopping to try local delicacies while on holiday or a full on shopping spree Charleville and Sedan offer a unique mix.