Naturally, it goes without saying that we don’t always like the same things. And there’s nothing wrong with that! But it’s also good to be open minded, and sometimes, just sometimes, try something which at first you might think is not right up your ‘avenida,’ yet given the chance, might prove quite rewarding.
Recently, we entertained visitors to the island who didn’t think they would like the hustle and bustle of local markets. Well, she thought she might like them, he definitely didn’t! In fact he made it quite clear that he just didn’t like anything about markets at all. To be honest, part of me knew exactly where he was coming from.
I myself don’t like tight fitting claustrophobic crowds at the best of times, so the idea of dancing the ‘Gay Gordons’ with the world and his wife coming at you from the opposite direction, as you fight your way across a market square, doesn’t usually float my boat either. Yet, since living here in Majorca I have somewhat changed my outlook a tad, and realized that markets can be a lot of fun, especially if you know how to work them!
I discovered that if you simply slow down your own pace, then it doesn’t seem as if half of Majorca is rushing at you in such a hurry! Also, most markets start really early at around 8am and wind up by lunchtime, so by being an ‘early bird’ you can opt to beat the main crowd, park with ease and enjoy the quieter moments the market has to offer.
As I demonstrated to our visitors, the best thing to do is simply amble through the early morning shoppers, and head for an empty table outside a nice bar/café, preferably in the shade of a tree, or under a welcomed parasol. Then, with a home base to retreat to, you can enjoy the market and take it in turns strolling back and forth as the fancy takes you. I love just sitting there, watching the world go by, supping something cold, whilst soaking up the local market atmosphere from a safer, more harmonious distance, without all the push and shove!
I also like playing spot the tourist. This is quite an easy game really. Locals are the ones stuffing kilos of tomatoes, cabbages and huge quantities of onions into industrial size wicker baskets, while the average holiday-maker is the one swanning around with one carrot, a plum, and half a dozen grapes in a see through bag. There might also be a bunch of flowers slung casually over one arm and two ounces of cheese for lunch! You get extra points for spotting twelve olives in a Tupperware container!
Pollensa Town fruit and vegetable market on a Sunday is a particularly good place for a chill out market experience. The sweet, fresh smell of fruit and vegetables as you enter the church square never fails to thrill, greeting the senses like an old friend. Add to that intoxicating mix, cut flowers and potted plants, along with herbs (both fresh and dried), cheeses, olive stalls, and the traditional ‘embuditos’ (processed meats and sausages) and you soon find yourself breathing an exquisite blend of aromas that just screams ‘Majorcan Market’.
Our visitors are really hooked now after only one market visit. Amazing what a little gentle persuasion can do! Pollensa market also boasts artisan crafts, including soaps, hand-made jewellery and other wonderful treasures, so there is something for everyone as you follow the market stalls out of the mediaeval square and into the surrounding network of cobbled streets.
Alcudia market, housed in the historic walled town, also hosts an exceptional market experience on both Sundays and Tuesdays. It’s a lot bigger and slightly more bustling than Pollensa, and in my opinion not quite so chic! But then opinions are very subjective! And all markets vary. Nothing wrong with having favourites!
Sa Pobla Sunday market is another great favourite, showcasing a less tourist, more rural atmosphere with the focus on locally grown fruit, vegetables and plants. (Also decidedly cheaper than Pollensa if you are watching the euros).
Still going with Sundays, the market place at Santa Maria also warrants a ‘must go visit’. It’s huge and rambling and manages to attract an additional crowd by juggling fruit, vegetables, flowers and everything else you expect to find, with an additional flea-market feel, embracing unusual and interesting stalls selling brick-a-brac jumble alongside knick-knack antiquities and local crafts.
Undoubtedly the biggest market on the island is in Inca, and held on Thursdays, proffering absolutely everything from leather goods, clothes, fruit, vegetables, plants, flowers, dairy produce, olives, live poultry, the lot. You name it, they sell it, on stalls that meander and spider their way through most of the central arteries surrounding the pedestrian area which also casually takes in the Town Hall square. Lots of African nonsense as well on offer, that tends to repeat itself from stall to stall. But wooden giraffes and strange tribal carvings probably do have their place somewhere, and are easy to avoid if you are looking for something more Majorcan, less tacky, and with a bit more usefulness and quality.
However, if large markets and heaving crowds aren’t quite your thing, then be warned, as Inca market delivers coach loads of tourists all eager for a spectacular bargain, or a wooden giraffe! Sineu market on a Wednesday is the second largest market after Inca, and probably the most interesting of all. Sineu is geographically the centre of Majorca and was once the capital of the ‘Kingdom’. This island famed market roams authentically throughout Sineu, up and past the iconic Winged Lion (the symbol of Sineu) to the upper levels.
Regarded as the most traditional of all the markets on Majorca, Sineu also boasts shops, art galleries and restaurants which add and enhance the total experience. Roaming musicians also give the market an individual foot-tapping edge as you sashay from stall to stall to stall.
Some people don’t like seeing caged and penned animals, so be warned as Sineu also sells a variety of livestock and poultry. But you must remember that the chickens, birds and animals you see, tightly packed in small cages and pens, are invariably going to become free range once sold. You only have to look at their overall condition to see they have been well looked after, and they are only confined for sale at the market (or so I’m told). The prize roosters and show birds certainly aren’t ‘cheep!’ so are obviously going to good homes. They sell horses, donkeys, sheep, pigs and goats as well, but if you feel that this kind of thing is not for you, it is very easy to stay away from that part of the market and simply enjoy the rest.
Also remember that you need a special license to sell livestock/poultry, and the authorities insist that the precise holding conditions are met by visiting inspectors, therefore the welfare of the animals is legally respected at all times, so don’t fret, unnecessarily. It’s cool!
A much smaller market takes place on Saturdays in Alaro. Again, it has become a personal favourite for its sheer charm and cosiness alone, selling fruit, wonderful vegetables and flowers. There are also the obligatory cheese stalls and olives etc. plus a few crafts, and the wonderful smell of barbeque chicken from a rotisserie van, wafting across the entire square. The aroma of mouth-watering chicken is agonizing when you’re hungry, so you simply have to buy one! Maybe not such a draw for staunch vegetarians, but the size of the tomatoes on the neighbouring stalls is usually a great distraction.
One Christmas we arrived late at the market and all the brussel sprouts had been sold! But the local ex-pats who frequent Alaro market are such a friendly, generous lot. They all opened their little sprout sacks and donated two or three sprouts each. We went away with quite a netfull – it’s that kind of a place!
There is also a free organ recital in the church of Saint Bartholomew every Saturday at Alaro, so it’s well worth a visit. Why not pop along and get some culture with your carrots.
Probably the smallest market on the island is on Monday in Mancor de la Vall. We only have two stalls. One sells plants and the other specializes in bras and big knickers! Happy Market Days. Shop wisely!