So I'm going through old documents and found an article I wrote last year for CONNECT, Barcelona (which is an English mag for expats) and decided to share it with you. From previous entries you will know that I am pretty obsessed with the Encants Flea Market here in Barcelona. Today was my last trip before moving away and I bought this sexy man in a dinky frame:
He set me back a couple of euros even though the vendor wanted ten. Ha! Dream on...
You can see other articles with my flea finds here, here and here. There are loads more, too. You just gotta have a browse!
As a collector of all things bright and beautiful, I am constantly on the lookout for curious ephemera with a history, a charm or a tale to tell. As a Native English lass, I have many haunts in the United Kingdom to seek out such treasures. I miss digging through old wash baskets at car boot sales in the early hours of a Sunday morning with a hangover, scanning the tables for trinkets with my magpie’s eye and trying my luck in every single charity shop that I passed on my merry wanderings.
When I arrived in Barcelona, I spent weeks curling my lip at the prices of antique shops in the Gotic, or vintage boutiques in Gracia. It just wasn’t the same here. Where were the cheaply priced gems hiding? Where could I find a new loot?
I felt lost without my thingamajigs in a flat furnished fully by the bland offerings of IKEA and began to despair that I would never find an outlet for my treasure-hunting desires.
But... I suddenly remembered something! Something that solved the achings of my heart! Somewhere out there I had heard that Barcelona has a flea market. I started to ask my Barcelonian buddies, but they shook their heads at me like I was crazy. ‘A market with fleas?! No, there’s no such market like that, missy.’ It transpires that the flea market here is simply called a ‘Mercadillo’. Nothing to do with those itchy little bloodsuckers. Eventually, with the help of Google search, I uncovered the mystery. If you want to find this market, it transpires that it is as easy as pie. Just catch the red line L1 in the direction of Fondo and clamber off at Glories and take the' Placa de les Glories Catalanes' exit, walk past the old, abandoned park showcasing the odd prossie and when you reach the main road simply cross it, et voila!
And so off I trotted, cookie in hand, and I have never looked back (except to check I haven’t been mugged). Once you walk down the steps from the street into the market, you are immersed in a sea of people, smells, sounds and sights. It’s bustling, it’s hot, it’s busy and the people have no qualms about shoving into you like an angry mule. You have to be aware of yourself constantly and, as a loud American voice announces over the loudspeaker, be aware of your belongings. As a woman, a little pearl of wisdom is to merely ignore some of the men that frequent the market. Just recently I was sniffed by a group of pensioners. I didn't give those dirty old cods a backwards glance!
Encants Market is second to none for the sheer amount of things that they sell. There are the regular market stalls that provide your daily needs on the cheap that are sensibly situated in the shade, and then there are the house clearance guys sweating their souls away under a beating hot sun to sell you the possessions of lives passed by. These chaps are my favourite. They try to charge you silly amounts for a quaint photograph, for example. If you haggle with them, they shake their heads and cluck at you but if you walk away they almost chase you, flapping the picture in the air and agreeing with your every demand and ready to banter away with you like an old chum. I promise you that, nine times out of ten, you can get something for less than half the price they originally demanded or lesser still. You've just got to be a bit hard-nosed about it. They will always try their luck.
There are some knob-head vendors but most of them are nice chaps, which leads me to my next favourite gent... the clothes mountaineer who always seems to be wearing the same tye dye t-shirt. This guy has two huge piles of clothes, literally just thrown on the ground and, if you have the patience and aren’t squeamish, you can just dive straight in and look for gold. Generally, a lot of the things are a little disgusting and stained with Grandma’s breakfast but you can find pieces of brilliance in these piles for 2€ before midday and 1€ thereafter if you are happy to forage and fish like a bear... there is often a little competition here in the form of vintage hipsters, looking to stock their shops on the cheap. Simply regard them with a stern eye and a smile and show you mean business. Finders keepers!
The market is generally quieter in the morning and the late afternoon so, during busy moments, I like to buy a coffee and sit on the steps in the shade. There is also a little indoor bar where, if you’re feeling more dangerous, you can indulge in a beer and a plate of patatas bravas. The ladies in the indoor bar are lovely lasses but the smaller, outdoor bar is a bit fierce. You've basically got to say 'Give me a fecking cortado, bitch' and she will. There's no room to pussy foot around when it comes to caffeine!
Open on Monday, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays until about 3pm, Encants Market is a great, vibrant place to satiate your hunter’s desire, or simply just for a browse and to see a different side to Barcelona. I couldn’t recommend it more.
* Some pictures sourced from my sis at the Curious Cat. You can find her in my 'Cafe Cat Pals' section.
** The market is also great for fabric... see here.
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