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Jul 21, 2012 01:47 PM

Can i find some sort of cooler and ice packs in France?

My husband and I have been to Europe several times and prefer picnics for lunch and restaurants for dinner. We have never found a way to keep our picnic lunches cool when we travel from town to town. Are coolers and ice packs just an American thing?

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  1. Have you looked in the housewares section of any country/small town supermarket? Carrefour, Auchon, Intermarche, etc.

    1. certainly available in Europe but far less common than in the US... in French the generic term for a picnic cooler is "glacière camping" which can be bought at a camping supplies shop or at any of the large department stores... most people use an insulated textile bag with shoulder strap as their "glacière camping" but you can also find glacières rigides (more like the American version) ... sometimes you have to buy the ice compartments/ holders separately.

      ice is a problem... in Paris, for instance, just a very few Franprix sell 3-kg bags of ice cubes as do a couple of Total gas stations (usually on the periphery i.e. Porte de Clichy) ... in the provinces I think you are stuck with throwing yourself on the mercy of the local fishmonger who might be willing to give you a few handfuls of shaved ice or to suggest where you else you can go... an alternative to ice might be the gel packs sold at camping supplies shops but these tend to be expensive and inefficient

      1. We found a small soft-sided cooler with ice packs in the Carrefour in Sarlat last month. It was with the seasonal merchandise.

        1. Coolers are relatively easy to find, especially in the summer months.

          As mentioned, ice is an issue. It's hit or miss at gas stations (and I've never looked on the motorways) -- around here, some (but not all) of the Elf stations sell bags of ice.

          For our annual Independence Day party, the fish department at Auchan will sell me ice (for 0,50 per kilo) -- with the stern admonition that it's for cooling, and not to be added to drinks.

          If you have access to a freezer, the liquid-filled plastic blocks are easy to find next to the coolers int he summer time, or you can go the low-tech route and freeze a ziploc bag of water (double bagged, as they inevitably leak a little). You can find those at the larger supermarkets, all of the hypermarches, and at sporting-goods stores like Decathlon or Intersport.

          If you don't mind an investment in money and space, you can get a cooler that plugs into a cigarette lighter (the better ones can be plugged into a wall, as well) -- they work reasonably well.

          5 Replies
          1. re: sunshine842

            Safer and less leaky than the ziploc bags: fill plastic water bottles with water, and freeze. Sparkling water bottles tend to be made of thicker plastic and are less fragile.

            1. re: Ptipois

              I use ziploc bags because I can lay them flat in the freezer, which means I end up with a block of ice that's narrow enough to fit easily into the cooler or just to lay on top.

              If we're going to be on a long day or it's very warm, I'll freeze several and use them to line the walls of the cooler, then lay one on top. Keeps things very cold for a very long time.

              1. re: sunshine842

                Thank you all for your answers. In summer it's probably less of an issue than when we usually travel which is Sept or Oct. Since we will be in a cottage in Brittany I think the frozen water bottle and frozen zip locks will work well. Thanks to all for your advice!

                1. re: pepisstud

                  Brittany is cool even in the peak of summer. You won't have problem keeping things cool in September and October.
                  We usually travel in June and September too, and picnic all the time. An insulating bag can keep things cool (or hot) for a long time. You can buy a big insulating shopping bag at Picard in Paris. It works very well.
                  In a market, if you buy cooked shrimp or crab from a poissonnerie, you can ask the poissonniers to give you a handful of ice to put in an outer bag, wrapped around your bag of seafood. They are always happy to oblige. Normally I shop for a picnic in a market, then picnic not long afterwards, usually wthin an hour.

                  1. re: pepisstud

                    sticking with things like sausage and hard cheeses can help, too -- neither require refrigeration, especially just for a few hours at a time.

                    We regularly visit a market in the morning and purchase goodies for lunch at the same time - cheese, sausage, fruit, a few tomatoes, and a fresh baguette (and a bottle of wine, if we happen upon one!)