Titillation near the tinned goods, passion in the preserves and flirting amid the fruit-and-veg. Welcome to Paris' first singles' supermarket night.
Sex and shopping has long been the stuff of fantasy, but now a Parisian department store is bringing the heady mix to life with an event that allows lonely hearts to shop for their suppers and potential partners at the same time.
The "Dating Market" at Galeries Lafayette Gourmet, the store's posh food and wine section, targets the capital's 800,000 singles with the promise of good shopping and the possibility of a good time.
Launched this month in conjunction with a French dating web site www.rencontres.yahoo.fr the soiree takes place on Thursday nights between 18.30 pm and 21.00 pm.
Shoppers on the look-out for love are provided with a special purple basket to be easily picked out of the crowd and hopefully picked-up. A dedicated till is reserved for those wishing to be chatted-up at the check-out and a happy hour at Le Bar Rouge, the store's chic wine bar, makes asking someone out for a drink that little bit easier.
So by 7.30 pm the shop is thronged with singles, all the special baskets have been snapped up and a queue of 25 people are waiting patiently at the entrance for their turn.
Elsa, a student of 22 who prefers not to give her full name, has been queuing for 10 minutes. "It's hard to meet people in Paris," she says, hoping that the "Dating Market" will provides an opportunity to meet lots of suitors in one fell swoop.
Those lucky enough to have bagged their baskets wander through the aisles drawing curious glances from married couples on their weekly shopping trip.
Proving that love has no sell-by date, students and pensioners alike brandish their baskets and browse the goods.
Melissa, 32, was so keen to start her shopping that she swapped her phone number for a basket from Serge and Hubert who have come hunting together.
She says she's at the event for a little "sexy food shopping'" and intends to buy only "attractive things." Serge and Hubert go one step further announcing their intention to fill their remaining basket with "seduction tricks" and "breakfast!"
Thierry, a 50-year-old manager, says the event provides a new way to meet people in an age where communicating with strangers can be difficult. He confides that the grocery shop setting also allows him to use his best chat-up line: "Thank goodness you're here, there were no flowers in the shop until you arrived!"
He tries it out on Natalie who is nibbling on a fresh fig and seems suitably impressed. The sensual fruit is the only item in her basket because, she says "It's a dating evening, I really can't see myself buying something from the frozen food section!"
The contents of one's caddy seem to be all-important.
Most of the women have low-calorie products, salads and mineral water in their baskets while there's a preponderance of designer-beer, meat and sweet treats among the men. The forlorn-looking man with a basket stuffed full of cat food will presumably appeal to animal lovers whilst gourmet girls might be drawn to the caviar placed on top of one dapper chap's bag.
Product placement and aisle lay-out are also important.
Natalie says she's had "lots of success" in the wine section, Thierry recommends the more concealed areas at the back of the shop whilst Anita, 42, is a big fan of the tasting areas.
She rates the smoked salmon stand but says she really wanted to hang out in front of the Serrano ham where one can have a glass of wine with the cold cuts. Unfortunately on her last trip to the stand, there were so many people enjoying the tasting that she couldn't find a place to pause and peruse the goods.
David, a 32-year-old Irishman, is hiding out in the international baked and preserved goods aisle. Hovering among the Marmite, scones and marmalade with a curry and Custard Cream biscuits in his basket, he hasn't found anyone that night. His friend, Marie, 28, who was looking to get a guy with her groceries says she's too shy to seduce someone in the supermarket. "I got one `bonsoir' but I ran away," she said.
Timidity isn't a problem for Guido, an estate agent aged 24. Busy impressing Anaide, 30, and Mona, 29, next to the mineral water, he slips up when asked what he's hoping to achieve from the event. His answer of "A one-night stand" is badly received by the girls who tell him he doesn't know how to talk to women and refuse to continue the conversation despite his protestations that "A one-night stand can easily turn into something more!"
At the end of the evening the bar is packed and some of the singles seem delighted with their combined retail therapy and relationship hunt.
Martine, 51, and Daniel, 49, met in the wine section and are busy getting to know each other over drinks. She declares that everything is going "very well" while Daniel gushes that things are coming along "marvelously."
Others have been less lucky.
Back in the food section thirtysomething friends Barbara and Thierry have filled their baskets with the ingredients for a sumptuous and sexy feast for four. Oysters, swordfish and a tomato salad are on the menu but Barbara says they're still "Looking for two people to invite to dinner."
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