I’m a HUGE fan of food markets. They are something I seek out, wherever I am in the world – from Barcelona’s Boqueria and Melbourne’s Queen Victoria to local street-markets in Cambodia and Thailand, I’ve visited them all. So, a trip around Malaga’s Mercado Central de Atarazanas is always a pleasure, every time I’m in Malaga city, as well as featuring high on the list of places to take visitors to.
The Moorish arched entrance blends seamlessly with 19th century industrial design and the huge, colourful stained-glass window, to create not only a beautiful back drop but also to tell the history of the origins of this bustling market-place.
Set near the heart of the city, Atarazanas has undergone many transformations since it was originally built in the 14th century as a shipyard, when the waves of the Mediterranean Sea lapped at its entrance. Over the years, changes have seen the building used as a convent, military arsenal, hospital and medical school before finally being demolished in 1868 and re-built using the current iron structure, as the city food market, in 1879. Further renovation took place from 2008 to 2010, when Málaga’s Atarazanas market was once again restored to its former glory.
You might not expect to be given a warning when you visit a city food market, but as you walk through the main entrance, which is the only remaining marble archway of what was once a seven-arched shipyard, I can guarantee your senses will explode!
Taste, sight, smell, hearing and touch – the clean interior of Mercado Central de Atarazanas has it all, from pig’s ears to pink Himalayan salt!
The market is structured into three naves – fish, meat and fruit and vegetables, and with more than 250 stalls there is surely something to tickle your tastebuds.
As you wander around, take in the dazzling displays of freshly-caught fish with their scarlet gills and scales glistening under the spotlights. Marvel at the kaleidoscope of colours in the artistically displayed fresh fruit and vegetables that smell like they’ve been picked only that morning. And savour the counters of aromatic cheeses, spices, bread, olives, dried fruits, nuts, sausages and hams, where the stall-holders are usually happy to let you taste before you buy.
A cacophony of sound fills the market, as the competing stall-holders call out to prospective customers and in turn are interrogated by discerning shoppers, eager to discover where the produce is from and how it should be prepared.
I love to watch the locals, who are not only trying to buy the freshest seasonal produce but also socializing with their neighbours as they block the aisles with their roller-trollies, discussing the latest gossip.
Shopping is a much more personal experience in Atarazanas market and, with so many stalls to choose from, cheaper than most supermarkets, too.
If you have time and are ready for some lunch after feasting your senses on all the wonderful produce, then make your way to one of the tapas bars at either end of the market, El Yerno or Cafe-Bar Atarazanas – they are both equally good. Stand near to the bar and you will soon be noticed by one of the staff who will make a space for you. It’s standing room only and always crowded, but well worth it to taste the freshly-cooked, mouth-watering pinchos de gambas, atun o cerdo (skewered prawns, tuna or seasoned pork), boquerones al limón (deep-fried whitebait with lemon) or frito de verduras (tempura-battered vegetables), which you can wash down with a caña (small beer) or vino tinto (red wine).
Whether you are a foodie visiting Málaga or a local living nearby, you won’t want to miss a visit to this authentic food market.
Where is YOUR favourite food market?
Mercado Central de Atarazanas
Calle Atarazanas 10
Open: Monday to Saturday, 8am – 2pm.
Over the past couple of days, various festivities in honour of the Virgen del Carmen, the patron saint of fishermen and sailors, have been in full swing.
Around 16th July each year, many of the coastal towns and fishing villages of Spain celebrate by parading the statue of Virgin del Carmen through the streets, accompanied by the steady rhythm of a brass band, the resounding thump of a drumbeat and the cries from the crowd of “guappa” or “viva” as the statue passes by.
At dusk, after the procession arrives at the water’s edge, the Virgin del Carmen is taken out to sea on a flower-decked boat, accompanied by a flotilla of fishing boats (jábegas),to bless their fishing grounds.
The Virgen del Carmen is of great importance to the inhabitants of Axarquían towns and villages such as Caleta de Vélez, Nerja, Rincón de la Victoría and Torre del Mar because many larger towns and holiday resorts along the coast were once small fishing villages where the sea provided their daily existence.
But we need to look back to the scriptures of the Old Testament, centuries before the birth of Christ, for the origin of the Virgen del Carmen.
The Bible tells us that the prophet Elijah went up Mount Carmelo near Haife, in Israel to pray for rain to relieve a great drought that had parched the lands. Whilst Elijah was on Mount Carmelo, he saw white clouds forming, which would bring the much needed rain. Elijah interpreted the clouds as a sign of the coming of a Saviour who would be born of a Virgin.
In gratitude for the rain, the community dedicated itself to praying for the mother of the Saviour to come, and the Order of the Carmelites was formed.
On 16th July 1251, the Virgen del Carmen is said to have appeared to Englishman, Simon Stock, who was responsible for building Carmelite monasteries throughout Europe in the 13th century. The story goes that when she appeared to him, the Virgen was holding a scapular and she promised that Carmelites who show their devotion should use this as a sign of privilege that they would be “granted the grace of final perseverance and be delivered from eternal Purgatory”.
A scapular was originally an apron, forming part of the dress of a religious order, but for the lay-faithful, scapulars usually bear images, or verses from scripture. Devotional scapulars typically consist of two rectangular pieces of cloth, wool or other fabric that are connected by bands. One rectangle hangs over the chest of the wearer, while the other rests on the back, with the bands running over the shoulders.
The Virgin Mary of Mount Carmelo (the Virgin of Carmen or Virgen del Carmen) is also known as Stella Maris (Latin for Star of the Sea) which is the name given to the Pole Star (Polaris) used by mariners for centuries as celestial navigation.
EDITED TO ADD: These photos were all taken during the evening of 16th July 2014 in Torre del Mar. I had to wade out into the sea, above my knees, to take them because there were so many people on the beach, it was the only way of getting the chance of some good shots without thousands of heads or bodies in the way. My sundress was soaked and I had to try to hold it up with one hand and take photos with my other. Happy days :)
Which is your favourite Spanish festival?
When I got to point #2 in a recent article entitled 10 Ways To Save Money When Buying Your Spanish Property, it had me casting my mind back almost nine years to when we were about to buy our first property abroad, here in Andalucía.
We had sold our house back in the UK in record time, and were renting a town-house in the pretty, mountain village of Frigiliana.
Having never rented a property before, it seemed sensible to see if we liked the area as a place to put down roots, as well as to experience the full range of the seasons of the year, before we actually bought somewhere. After all, the weather may have been hotter in summer or cooler in winter than we had imagined – and indeed, it was!
We made many house-hunting trips to various towns and villages, both inland and along the coast towards Málaga, and eventually as far along the western Costa del Sol as Estepona. For various reasons, but mainly because of fewer high-rise buildings and built-up areas, we decided that the Axarquía region, to the east of Málaga, was the place for us.
We knew we would be transferring a sizeable chunk of the proceeds of our UK house sale via a currency firm (into Euros) to pay for our new house, so we took the opportunity to keep an eye on the fluctuating currency market.
As a result, we were able to jump in right at the top, to bag a cool €1.50 euros for each £1 sterling. This gave us almost ten thousand euros more than we had originally been expecting, which was enough to put a brand new kitchen with matching appliances into our new property. Quite a bonus!
And yes, I do know that the market could have gone the other way, but on this occasion, it didn’t.
Over the next few years, the British Pound made a steady decline against the Euro until it almost hit parity (when £1 only bought €1.08, at its lowest rate). This meant that for many British expats living in Spain and relying on an income, savings or a pension from the UK, their income in real terms had reduced by almost one third.
Then, of course, came La Crisis, as it is known in Spain, when the difficult economic situation has meant that some British expats who may not have carefully planned for their future (as well as some who did) have been left in the unfortunate position of having to sell up and return to the UK.
Things have improved a little over the last few years, with the current exchange rate against the British Pound being €1.26 as of today’s date (15th July 2014). But there are still anguished mutterings amongst British expat house sellers that they are having to accept lower prices than they paid for their properties, several years ago.
I want to look at this in more detail, using reverse psychology to see if the situation is really as bad as they think.
Back when I bought my house in January 2006, with the exchange rate at £1 buying €1.50, a €300,000 euro house in Spain actually cost £200,000. To keep the figures simple, let’s assume that almost nine years later the price of that house has not risen at all and is sold today for €300,000. Converted back into British Pounds (again keeping it simple, so let’s use €1.25 for each £1) then the initial £200,000 investment now converts from the €300,000 sale price, to £240,000 - an increase of 20%, due entirely to currency fluctuations.
Even if that self-same house were sold for only €280,000 (€20,000 less than was paid for it) the conversion into British Pounds would be £224,000 – which is still an increase of 12% over the £200,000 that was initially paid for the property.
So maybe the situation is not quite as bad as some people imagine.
Of course, my example above is a simple one and does not take into account any of the following:
- Capital gains (or any other) tax which might become due once the house is sold.
- Where under-declarations were made at the time of purchase (when everyone in Spain was expected to pay for part of the price of the house in cash, and furtively sneak €80,000 to the vendor in a plastic, Mercadona shopping bag).
- Legal and/or estate agents fees.
Whilst the above example is only applicable if someone is selling up in Spain and moving back (or at least sending their money back) to the UK, if you are selling and want to re-purchase in Spain, because of the current housing market, you are now in a powerful position to negotiate prices when buying your next property.
To illustrate my point, I have only used simple, rounded figures, and it’s always wise to take legal and financial advice when making substantial property purchases.
The purpose of this post is to indicate the advantage of never under-estimating the fluctuation of the currency market, which is a point often missed, or at least not discussed, as it should be.
This post is not meant to offer legal advice, merely an observation.