Screech of tires. Wait? what is all this fuss about Cora? How do i spell that? Corra, Coreah, Cora. Why is everyone so obsessed with this place?
France is about an hour from the Kaiserslautern area of Germany where we are based. This is one of the crazy awesome things about living in Europe – we can be in another country: France, Luxembourg, or Belgium in less than 2 hours. The European Union and the Schengen Area has made it possible to cross borders almost entirely unhindered. There are still sporadic border checks, but transporting purchased goods for personal consumption isn’t usually an issue.
Many expats living in the Kaiserslautern and Ramstein areas seek out CORA as a food experience: a rite of passage of sorts. Frankly, we have been hankering for some excellent butter, being that we very much miss the Amish butter we had available to us in New Mexico. Once you know butter can taste that good, it is very hard to go back to the general fare.
So, if you are going to drive to one of the many stores along the French or Belgium border (I have heard tell of a Cora in Luxembourg also), what do you need?
The basics for international shopping
An international driver’s license and your passport (if you are in Germany with the US military, take the one with the SOFA stamp in it). Oh, and money. We generally find no issues with our Visa or MasterCards in Europe, or our debit cards. We have friends who find their giro cards worked fine. However, if you have any doubts be sure to withdraw some Euros (because if you wait and do it at the ATM in the store you will have to pay hefty withdrawal fees).
So what is Cora?
Cora is one of the bigger supermarket chains in France, and many Americans compare it to Walmart in terms of size. Many Americans seem to like Globus here in Germany, which is a similar size, but I find Globus completely overwhelming and prefer to stick to smaller stores like Edeka or Wasgau.
What can you buy at Cora?
So that comparison to Walmart is apt on this front: bakery goods and patisserie, fresh seafood, wines from all over France, dairy (French yoghurt, butter and cheese are highlights), a deli (with cold meats, fresh quiches and savory boulangerie and baked items), along with clothes, jewelry, school and gardening supplies.
There are also small storefronts across from the register area, along with a bistro and restaurant. These storefronts are being refurbished at the St Avold location as at July 2020.
A Little French will Help
My French is better than my German, so the reality that the staff at Cora speak French, and not English or German doesn’t bother me: but I am being explicit about this because it is a complaint made by some American visitots. If you don’t speak French, use google translate, say merci, and don’t demand the staff speak English!
When should We Go?
Anytime of the year. However, Cora holds wine markets in the spring and fall (autumn) with a huge tent in the parking area. This is famous among American expats and the phrase “Cora wine tent” is used repeatedly.
Be prepared for a day of shopping and pack those canvas shopping bags (shout out to Tim Minchin for writing one of Dwight’s favourite rock anthems) along with cooler bags and/or a cooler (esky, yeti, or whatever else you call it).
- If you forget bags you’ll have to buy new reusable ones there as that’s all they have available.
- If you buy produce you will need to weigh and print a sticker before taking the items to the checkout.
- When using the self-checkout area you will need to scan your receipt before the gates will open to let you leave
- Take your time. It can all feel a bit overwhelming at first.
- The gluten-free packaged food aisle (at St Avold) was underwhelming – although almost all of the fresh items were gluten-free so it isn’t a reason for us not to go. In addition to the German Schaar brand, they have Girble, which is a widely available brand in France and Belgium.
The address for Cora is: Avenue de l’Europe, 57602 Forbach, France
If you head 15 minutes further into France you have another CORA option: Zone commercial du Heckenwald BP10014, 57740 Longeville – les – Saint – Avold, France.
The Saint Avold option was suggested to me as a cleaner store. We ended up deciding to go to that one the first time because it is just down the street from the Lorraine American Cemetery. This is a military cemetery that we had been wanting to visit. The Lorraine American Cemetery was dedicated in 1960, there are 10489 Americans killed during WWII buried here.
There is also a store just inside the Belgian border that famously offers Belgian chocolate galore.