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A Gamm Vert Surprise

Gamm Vert is a French chain of garden nurseries, but it’s much more than that. It’s a one-stop shop for French treats and gifts!

The original reason for visiting Gamm Vert was that some friends had told us it might be a good place to pick up some kitty litter. First of all, that seemed a bit unusual, as I wouldn’t think of buying anything for my cats at a garden center in America. In my mind, I pondered that the train of thought went like this: farming/gardening + animals + pets = pet supplies.

On our first visit, we were shooed out the door so the employees could enjoy their two-hour lunch break, which is something that just doesn’t happen in the United States. (Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate a pause in the middle of the day, although it does slow things down for better or worse.) We hurriedly found the pet section and picked out a litter box and some litter. Believe it or not, this kitty litter is scented with Savon de Marseille (a very traditional French soap made from vegetable oils that has existed for about 600 years).

I returned to the store and was amazed to find a wide variety of goods, which were quite unexpected.

For instance, the variety of orchids was more than I’m used to seeing in California. But that was only the beginning.

As I fell in love with all the orchids and bromeliads, I thought of the ones I left behind in San Francisco. I happily picked out a small bromeliad and a new little pot for it – the first-ever plant I bought for our house in France. Now it sits in our kitchen window!

There were the usual things I would expect to find such as gardening tools and shoes, lawnmowers, etc.

As I strolled through the store, I was surprised to see a variety of items that I didn’t expect to find in a garden nursery.

These tins were charming and there were all shapes and sizes for cookies, pasta, tea, cereal, etc. You can see a few different styles of cheese boards in this picture, too.

Also on the shelves, I found the famous Savon de Marseille olive oil soap. There are several brands of this soap, but this one was created by Marius Fabre when he was 22 years old. He set up a cauldron and a few stakes inside an old shed in his garden. In 1914, when he went off to war, his wife took over the business for four years, making and selling the soap with the assistance of an Italian foreman. ​Today, three of Marius’ great-granddaughters focus on sales and marketing of Savon de Marseille. It’s truly a classic French soap.

Also, there are bottlesof shower gel with the Marius Fabre mark. The scents are chevrefeuille (honeysuckle), almond, pomegranate with cherry blossom, fig, violet, verbena (very popular in France), etc.

There are many beautiful soaps of different scents to choose from, made from sheep’s milk, clay, and olive oil. I wanted to stock up my basket with so many things but I resisted!

It doesn’t stop at bath and body supplies. There is an aisle dedicated to chocolate. How about some chocolate tools?

Or, a chocolate bar? I especially like the chocolate with the hammer on the bottom shelf!

Le Comptoir de Mathilde has many chocolate designs and this is just one example.

Le Comptoir de Mathilde was founded by Richard Fournier, born in Saint-Étienne. He opened a deli in the town of Nyons which carried products such as olive oil, olives, vinegar, tapenade, liqueur, etc. He grew the business and today there are boutiques throughout France that carry all these products, plus teas, chocolates, etc.

Gamm Vert also has a sizeable wine section, featuring among the wines the Marius mark, not to be confused with the Marius of Savon de Marseille fame.

Both famous in their own right, Marius wine is named after Marius Chapoutier of the well-known winery from Tain l’Hermitage. The Marius wine carried by Gamm Vert is not from the Rhône Alps but from another of the Chapoutier wineries, in the beautiful Languedoc region in the south of France.

A wall of delicious wine to choose from, with many varieties that won’t break the bank.

To be sure, the local wine of Ardèche must be on the shelves.

Of course, one of the cutest things that caught my eye was the Citroën carrying a bottle of wine. Toot, toot!

There are aperitifs in flavors like blueberry, salted caramel, apple chestnut, and peach apricot. I love the colorful, whimsical labels.

I’m always astonished and happy to see how much local craft beer is available.

And many different types of salt and vinegar, with their colorful labels in apple green, lavender, red, pink, and blue. It just makes me want to buy some so that I can enjoy opening my cabinet to see them!

There is even a section with pets, including fish, rabbits, hamsters, chinchillas, and birds. I feel for these little creatures in the small cages. I hope they will at least find good homes and be treated kindly.

And now, with the holidays coming up, there are special goodies like papillotes and these chocolate medallions. Papillotes, chocolates wrapped in foil, are traditionally from Lyon and are now a well-loved holiday tradition in France.

Papillotes and mendiants

Gamm Vert also sells the parts for the Crèche de Noël. I am not religious but I think these pieces are fun. These always feature more than the manger and incorporate many facets of village life. These are more affordable ones but some craftsmen make these “santons” (a traditional handpainted figurine for nativity scenes) from clay, featuring daily life in Provence.

Gamm Vert is a unique and unexpected shopping experience. It’s a great place to find everything from garden supplies to pet food and supplies, to delicious French treats including brioche, cheeses, chocolate, artisanal ice cream, varieties of lentils and teas, etc. I highly recommend checking it out if you’re in France.

Do you have a favorite store in France? I’d love to know about your experiences, too!