Shopping in Majorca: Visiting a Traditional Market in Port de Pollença

Fabulous, freshly-caught fish

I want to buy. I’m walking through the main square of Port de Pollença, on Majorca’s north-eastern coast, and my freshly-exchanged Euros are burning a hole in my pocket. It might be the sunshine (it does make you a little mad), or the smells of fresh food or the shouts of the vendors or just the fact that everyone else is walking around with bags full of this and that. No matter what the reason I can’t help myself — I want to buy.

The food stalls are just so attractive -– all those colours, so much fresher than I’m used to. The stallholders are calling out but I don’t understand Spanish so I have to rely on my eyes for information. The fish look wonderful, fresh and sleek and silver. But then I take a reality check. Fish? Really?  We’re staying full board in hotel. What do I think I’m going to do-– keep them in the minibar until it’s time to go home?

In Your Bucket Because…

  • The sounds and sights and smells of a local market really help you to get under the skin of a place.
  • You might pick up a bargain.
  • It’s a great place to get all the things you forgot to bring with you.

I keep looking at the fish, though, because each display is a work of art. I’m not the only one, either, as hundreds of others who are clearly too full of coffee and cake to think about eating anything else stop and gaze. “Wow, look at that! I mean, just look!”

Port de Pollença and its Market

The market overflows the town square and laps against the steps of the church which stands over one side of it like a giant. Normally it’s quiet, but it’s manic on market day. Crowds of British and German visitors, all gawping at the strange sight of fresh food, have been struck with holiday madness. I don’t intend to go into the socio–demographics of mass tourism or the implications of Mr. Thomas Cook opening up the Mediterranean to sun-starved Europeans. The only thing that matters is that here it’s nearly 80⁰ and at home it was barely 50. Is it any wonder we’ve all got a touch of the sun?

Spanish costumes are fun — but would you really wear them at home?

Fish, then is clearly an impractical souvenir, so I browse the clothes instead. To my surprise they’re expensive and if I’m going to spend €25 on a bright blue cheesecloth top that I’ll later regret, at least I want to try it on. There’s a stand full of Spanish costumes, in reds, black and garish pinks. Now that’s different at least. My eye strays towards it but my daughter spots me in time. “No,” she says, threateningly, and steers me away.

Port de Pollença has history (Agatha Christie stayed here in the 1920s) but these days it’s really only a tourist resort. Perhaps unsurprisingly its traditional Majorcan market has expanded, adapted and inevitably reinvented itself as a tourist attraction. The same thing has happened in plenty of the other towns and villages – and why not? Why waste a resource that’s made up of people like me, on holiday and wanting to spend?

Souvenir Shopping — With a Little Luck

The foods are wonderful, but impractical unless you’ve
got a kitchen.

In homage to history, I set about investigating something traditionally Majorcan. The pottery’s nice, heavy, and well-made.  But  there’s no point in getting a single piece -– you need a set. Unfortunately that would double its cost in excess baggage, even if we could be sure to get it home in one piece. And of course there’s leather – beautiful handbags, smelling fresh and new, locally manufactured in dozens of styles and colours. Just what I’ve been looking for – so much so, in fact, that I bought one just before I left home.

And so, in the end, I don’t buy.

Walking back to along the sea front past the rows of shops and cafes, the beach umbrellas towards the hotel and my next challenging task (an hour on the sun lounger with a book) I can’t help feeling a little disappointed. Other people have struck lucky: I can see that from the bags bumping agaisnt the legs of my fellow tourists, fragrant with fish and cheese, bulging with knobbly fruits and pecular leafy vegetables. Their heads are adorned with fake designer sunglasses, their wrists with poor copies of Rolexes. But it’s not until we’re back at the hotel that I notice my daughter, too, has a bag. “What’s that?”

“Presents” she says and lets me peep at a stash of notebooks of handmade paper and photo frames decorated with pressed local flowers. They’re beautiful. They’re inexpensive, locally-made, portable. They must have come from the one stall I didn’t spot. At first I feel cheated by the gift that got away, but it doesn’t take long for my holiday optimism to reassert itself. There’ll be another market in another village… and I have Euros burning a hole in my pocket. Perhaps I’ll get my bargain there.

Practicalities

  • Different towns have different markets on different days. We were at Port de Pollença, where the market is on a Wednesday morning
  • Like every market there’s plenty of rubbish on sale – but there are some lovely and unusual gifts to take home. Look for embroidered linen, local pottery (if you’ve got room in your luggage), Majorcan pearls, and leather.

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