Thursday, 7 April 2016

Vejer's Mercadillo: the New Town Market

Pedro packs my bargains - 4 cotton shirts for 4 euros.

Underwear unlimited
A Spanish classic.
Fun fabrics
Jeans like a catch of fish
Winter warmers 
A treeful of teashirts.
  I love the kind of arts and antiques markets you find in most cities, but I don't wear short skirts, 'strappy tops', polyester or sparkle. I've never considered buying clothes in a street market. I usually  get my clothes from charity shops, Ebay or big department stores. But with summer coming on, I needed a cotton shirt with short sleeves, something I could wear over a sleeveless dress or top. I decided it was time to confront my prejudices and check Vejer's weekly 'mercadillo' in the new part of town. Like most street markets, this one specialises in cut-price apparel. 

Most of the stalls sell clothes of one kind or another.
Many varieties of olives are
available in the mercadillo.
  The market can be found behind 'Los Molinos' school, near the Post Office. At 10 a.m., it was still quiet, with a handful of women looking around. The first stalls sell food, and this is obviously the place to buy olives, with rows of different varieties lined up in buckets. Sweets, nuts and pulses are also on sale though at 2 euros a kilo, chick peas would be cheaper in the supermarket.

  Clothes on sale are a very mixed selection, with (as expected) a lot of polyester dresses and tops. It's surprising that artificial fabrics are so popular in hot countries, but this is probably because they are perceived as more economical. In northern European countries like Britain and Germany, natural fibres are in demand, and tend to be less expensive than they are in Spain, though cotton production in particular can be harmful to the environment. 

Beans, chickpeas and garlic.
  Nevertheless, on a hot summer's day in Vejer, a polyester dress must be both clingy and sweaty. My friend Marcel once remarked that if Andaluc√≠an women wore cotton in summer there would be fewer cries of '¡que calor! in the streets as the temperature rose.

  The delicate subject of underwear, as viewed from the perspective of the street market, is not delicate at all. I still remember Mexican street vendors around some of the nation's most respected monuments yelling 'pantalettas, pantalettas!' (knickers, knickers!) all day long.

  Street market underwear is not presented as delicate, girly or sexy, but is offered in king-sized packs, for all sizes, shapes and genders. Not much is cotton, though microfibre is easy to find. Some of the underwear on offer is formidable and would certainly increase the 'que calor' effect. 

Proudly presented underwear.
  I didn't expect to find my cotton shirt, but then I came upon Pedro's stall, specialising on shirts and tops for women and men, all at 1 euro each. Reading between the lines, these are second-hand garments selected from the many which are sold or donated for sale in the developing world, but they were in good condition and I didn't ask. A determined search turned up not one but four cotton shirts with sleeves, one by the designer Gerry Weber. 

Four cotton/linen shirts for four euros.
  Other stalls sold jeans, t-shirts and shoes. Curtain fabric was a bargain for 4 euros and 2 euros a metre and there were plenty of colourful cooking pots, bed covers and blankets. 

One of the bonuses of visiting the market was the variety of calls, cries and chants used to attract shoppers' attention. And although, like anybody else, I didn't find everything in the market to my taste, I was pleasantly surprised by the range and quality of the goods on offer.

T-shirts full of light
A popular jumble-type stall, but not as cheap as you think.
One of the many clothes stalls.
Espadrilles at 12 euros
This formidable underwear would surely be hot to wear in the summer months.

Vejer's street market takes place on Callej√≥n Benitos del Lomo every Thursday morning. There is a small car park on Calle Ventozano, but note the one-way system.  

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