Fans, Castanets and Flamenco Dresses: A Real Taste of Spain

Market Shopping on the Costa del Sol, Spain: More than Fruit and Vegetables

Market Shopping: Spanish Style

Fans, castanets, flamenco dresses and flamenco shoes are prominent features of a Spanish market stall. But there is much more to attract both the resident and the tourist to this particular twice-weekly village market on the Costa del Sol. It is filled with vibrancy and so much cFlamenco Dresses on a Spanish market StallCredit: Terrie Plowmanolour, you don't know where to feast your eyes. Necklaces, bracelets and jewellery of all kinds sit on stalls next to ceramic dishes or vases of all sizes, leather handbags, flowers and plants and spices of all colours. Casual clothes, scarves, slippers, sandals, shoes and lace-edged tablecloths intermingle with household goods, watches, paintings, wall art, toys or underwear.

La Cala de Mijas, Costa del Sol, Spain

These stalls are present at my favourite outdoor market in LSpices on a Spanish Market StallCredit: TerriePlowmana Cala de Mijas, Costa del Sol, Spain. I've visited it for over twenty years now and not much has changed in respect of the goods for sale but now there is very little haggling going on. You might buy two of the same with a small reduction but there is not much room for negotiation. You can still find bargains, though.

Market Stalls Opening Times

The market is open every Wednesday and Saturday morning, except when the weather is unusually extreme with heavy rain. Normally, though, you can stroll under the roundabout on the edge of the village, across the road to a large flat open space on which regular stallholders display their goods. It's the place to go every week to get your taste of Spain.

In the hot, sunny weather the market is heaving, not only with the locals buying their fruit, vegetables or spices but the tourists too who are looking for typically Spanish gifts to take home as a souvenir of their holiday.

The Police show their presence and stroll uOlives on a Spanish Market StallCredit: TerriePlowmanp and down the length of the stalls but mostly it is a casual atmosphere. Dogs are brought along but are always on a lead. You'll hear not only Spanish and English spoken but German, some Arabic languages or Swedish or English with an Irish accent. There's a real mix of nationalities. Many of the long-stay British are moving back to the United Kingdom since a downturn in the economy but there are still thousands of British who either winter there or live locally.

In the background you can see properties that are unfinished or for sale or rent. The area has been hit by the poor economic trends but the market remains full of life. There is colour everywhere.

Take a walk with me through the Market Stalls, down one side, along the bottom and back up to the Entrance.

At the entrance to the market you will see a stall of large canvas shopping bags, ideal for all the 'bits and bobs' you might be tempted to buy. Next you'll be surrounded by lots of very good value Sweets on a Spanish Market StallCredit: Terrie Plowmanscarves. The last one I bought cost 3 Euros. In summer the scarves will be of thin, vivid and silky material whilst in winter you will find thicker, warmer scarves.

The next stall is covered with all kinds of sweets, a real treat for the children. Move on to the next stall and you'll find necklaces in boxes, 5 Euros each or 8 Euros if you buy 2 necklaces. It will be cheaper in winter. There are also  bracelets and earrings to match.Handbags on a Spanish Market StallCredit: Terrie Plowman

Move on to a stall full of leather handbags, leather purses and brightly coloured clutch bags. There are styles, shapes and colours to suit all tastes. There'll be more handbag stalls further on, so wait until you've done the round trip before you make your decision to buy. I've made that mistake before and found I could have saved one or two Euros further down the market stalls.

You'll come upon a stall selling lace tablecloths, round or rectangular and a whole variety of table runners. If you're there at Christmas time you can pick up some cream or white table runners with red and gold embroidery on. They are ideal for your dining table either in Spain or at home. Put it on your table and it will bring back memories of your trip to La Cala Market Stalls.

Lace Tablecloths on a Spanish Market StallCredit: Terrie PlowmanFurther along there are stalls selling plants and cut flowers. These stalls are awash with colour, again, the  vivid red of the poinsettia is always available at Christmas-time. The paseos in the village are planted out with masses of poinsettia. They seem to be the symbol of Christmas.Flowers and Plants on a Spanish Market StallCredit: Terrie Plowman

Next you will find a market stall with leather belts for both men and women. Here the stall holder will alter the belt to your measurements. On the same stall you will be able to buy sheepskin slippers or sheepskin mules, and, of course, the inevitable leather handbags.

Flamenco dresses

 I could see the next market stall from higher up the market as it is covered with hanging flamenco dresses in reds, blues and greens. Black spots are everywhere on the dresses and there are sizes for  young girls as well as older mums! Spanish ladies love the opportunity to wear these flamenco costumes and the ideal occasion is the Verbena y Romeria, the street party and pilgrimage, in October when there is a large procession to celebrate Saint Teresa Day, the Patron Saint of La Cala. You'll also find fans, castanets and flamenco shoes to match the flamenco dresses. What could be more traditionally Spanish? And the flamenco music is blaring out from the stall crammed with CD's next to it to add to the atmosphere.

A Spanish market would not be authentic without a Ceramics stall, covered with pots, bowls and dishes of all sizes and vases, too. The patterns may have changed slightly over the years with a recent addition including some  black colouring but the styles are unmistakably Spanish. And you can still find the traditional blue colouring.Ceramics on a Spanish market StallCredit: Terrie Plowman

You will always find a market stall full of huge tubs of olives. Both black and green large olives are readily available and the Spaniards and the tourists clamour to buy vast quantities.

There are many clothes stalls including casual sports clothing for men and women, sweaters and cardigans, tee shirts, men's shirts and trousers and jeans and lots of cropped trousers. There are brightly coloured leggings, too. Sun hats and hats suitable for golf adorn the stall and there are even skirts suitable for the serious belly dancer!

Plenty of household sLeggings on a Spanish Market StallCredit: Terrie Plowmantalls sell bedding, quilts, carpets, cleaning liquids, batteries; in fact, almost anything you may need.

A market stall filled with traditional African wooden carvings is ideal for the tourist seeking authentic  souvenirs. North Africa is just a short boat ride away and, on some days, you can see the outline of the North African coast so African products are readily available.

Finally, back to the entrance you'll find the freshest fruit and vegetables you'll need. Large juicy Spanish tomatoes, mushrooms,butternut squash, onions, potatoes and apples, oranges, water melons, nectarines and pineapples, all the choice you will need. And you will see the Spanish buying from the stall, a sure sign it is good quality and good value!

Before leaving this superbly atmospheric market, you can try the roasting nuts that you could smell further down the market stalls but you might find it more appealing to sip a glass of chilled white wine on the sunny terrace of one of the nearby cafes, either in the sun-drenched summer months or even in January when the temperature is pleasant enough to sit outside.

A tour of La Cala de Mijas Outdoor Market on either a Wednesday or a Saturday is a fantastic way to spend a leisurely hour or more . Meet friends, people watch, soak up the atmosphere of a typically Spanish market and don't forget to buy your fans, castanets and flamenco dresses for that special celebration.