Subject: Re: Markets, markets everywhere ...
Hello Covadonga and fellow shoppers,

Markets, markets, markets! For us visiting the local markets while traveling is a priority. Undoubtedly, it is one of the best ways to immerse yourself in the culture of the land you are visiting. And practical too, of course. What better way to stock up for the day's drive than a visit to the local market? Some of our fondest memories of our travels pertain to our visits to the local market.

We'll never forget the lesson we learned about Spanish hams from the shopkeeper (his counter is in the very back) at the Mercat de la Boquería in Barcelona nor relishing his suggestions as we sat on the beach in Roses later that day. The Nagycsamok (Central Market) in Budapest is a visual treat with its wreaths of orange, red, and yellow peppers hanging from the various booths. And its a lovely old building as well.

Seafood markets are always a draw for me. It's so much fun to see the different variety of fish, shellfish, and other denizens of the deep. And it's a good way to learn the names of the dishes you'll be seeing on the menus later that day. I used this to great advantage in Venice. In Puerto Montt, Chile the size of the mussels is astounding. But this astonishment is topped by a first glance of picoroccos, a fist-sized barnacle displayed still alive. A visit to the market here is not complete without sampling the the regional dish, curanto(a seafood stew ), in one of the many postage-stamp-sized food stalls. Santiago, Chile also has a wonderful seafood market with excellent restaurants despite it's location at the foot of the Andes.

Mexican markets hypnotize me. I could spend a whole day in a Mexican market. In fact, I may very well have done that in Oaxaca. The wonderful thing about Oaxaca is that there are two large markets, Mercados Juárez and Abastos. Juárez is inside and Abastos is outside. Don't miss either. The ice cream vendors at Juárez are reason enough. Freshly made on the spot with all locally grown ingredients (even the chocolate). Try the tuna ice cream, not the fish but rather a cactus fruit that tastes like an intensely flavored watermelon with a slightly salty finish. At the Abastos maket you can marvel at the various varieties of mole, huge stacks of jalapeño peppers, barrels of cacao beans, and the Zapotec women with their bowls of chapulines (deep-fried and salted grasshoppers). Oaxaca isn't the only Mexican city with a stellar market. They all have them. In Mexico City, La Merced is the only market I know of that has its own subway station right in the middle of the market. And I can't pass through Ensenada without stopping by the seafood market for a nice tasty chunk of smoked marlin.

A real treat while traveling is stumbling upon market day in a small village. I'll never forget the kindness of the Slovenian woman in Piran who helped us select the juiciest and perfectly ripe pears. Or the Nova Scotian gentleman who let us sample his dulse (seaweed), an acquired taste. The fresh preserves we bought on Bainbridge Island, Washington managed to sweep us back up to the Seattle area, at least in our minds, for a full year after our visit.

For us a visit to a market is one of the most enduring memories of a trip. In fact, our garden at home has helped us to prolong these memories. There's the muscat grape vine I planted solely due to the intensely flavored muscat grapes we purchased in Venice. A flavor I didn't know could exist in grapes. And harvesting our rosemary I can't help but think of the shopkeeper in the Barrí Gotíc of Barcelona who gave my wife a huge branch of flowering rosemary that we faithfully carried from hotel room to hotel room throughout that trip.

That's all I have for now. I've got to head out to the local farmer's market.

John in San Diego