The French pharmacy is legendary for its trove of affordable beauty treatments. The French droguerie may sound like a drugstore, but it’s a pharmacy for the home.
The advice is what makes it special. Sure, there are mom and pop hardware stores in the U.S. and elsewhere where the owners know every detail about every product they sell, and they are more than happy to take the time to teach you.
But more and more, consumers go to gigantic retailers that sell everything for a few pennies less, and where the minimum-wage employees have zero training about what they’re selling. Yet for a few centimes more, the droguerie offers invaluable advice with your purchase.
Most of the stuff in the droguerie can’t be transported on a plane in your suitcase. A few products–savon de Marseille, pierre d’argent–are safe, though.
I went into a Carcassonne Caoutchouc, a droguerie in Carcassonne (caoutchouc means rubber) recently to find a solution (in more than one sense of the word) after a young visitor had an accident on our sofa. I spent half an hour going over various products with the vendor. Ammonia was good, and I was given detailed directions as to how to use it. An organic spray was new–expensive but made in France, in Toulouse. I bought both. The spray worked great, by the way.
They also sell …. everything. Hardware, though it isn’t a hardware store, called a quincaillerie–one of the most musical French words, in my opinion, all the more wonderful for its unglamorous meaning. Pots and pans. Oilcloth by the meter. Bead curtains to keep flies out of the house. Tools. Bug spray. Shopping caddies. A rainbow of dyes for clothes.
The clothing dyes, as well as medicines, originally were the base of the drogueries’ trade.
It’s the sort of place you’re apt to pass by, especially if you’re a tourist. But inside, you just might find something more useful to take home than another souvenir T-shirt.