Spain, Valencia Market, Final Part

The Patterned Plate 101In this post, the last of the Spanish saga; I feel I’ve saved the best for last. The food market of Valencia, Mercado Central is, without question spectacular, housed in an impressive, almost church-design like building with iron, glass and ceramic components and boasts the largest indoor market of it’s kind in Europe.  As The Scotsman and I walked towards this grand building, I remember thinking we’d got the wrong place. Valencians, it seems, take food seriously!

The tall and wide stained glass windows, along with the 30 metre high central dome, allowed light to pour beneficently into most parts of the market. Inside, the huge space was clearly divided into sections –  fish, meat and vegetables. We got in just as it opened but the locals beat us to it, trolley bags tugged along behind them, immersed in rapid spanish banter with the trades folk. If anyone took a picture of me at that point, I’d have decked them. I stood gawping, like a fish out of water, head whipping in all directions, eyes bulging trying to take in the monumental space dedicated to great food. I didn’t quite know which way to start, but took The Scotsman’s lead, while trying to ready camera lenses, settings and cross bags over my body and bumbled into the seafood section.

I’ve never seen such a gorgeous display of seafood. Prawns, shrimp, langoustines, razor clams, cockles, crabs, lobster, crayfish, you name it, there they were in shades of pale grey to bright coral. Flat fish, thick fish, short, long, elegant and ugly were laid out attractively side by side, smelling of the sea with plump flesh and glossy skins. Squids, octopus, cuttlefish, dried fish (bacalao), anchovies aplenty. Vendors shouted aloud at passerbys, bantered hard with the old ladies, sang and wrapped their wares in paper or bags, winked at you as you walked past. As much as I squealed aloud and tugged at The Patient Scotsman sleeves in delight, I wailed at not being able purchase all this oceanic goodness right under my nose. Oh, the agony!The Patterned Plate 103The Patterned Plate 78The Patterned Plate 72The Patterned Plate 75The Patterned Plate 80The Patterned Plate 73The Patterned Plate 79The Patterned Plate 76The Patterned Plate 74The Patterned Plate 777The Patterned Plate 87The Patterned Plate 86

Zig zagging through the stalls, we eventually emerged into the central area and right in front of us, was the most impressive display of ham I have ever seen. Row upon row of Serrano ham, cured sausages and all things preserved meats were laid or hung like ornaments, producing an irresistible display. The Scotsman actually gasped, he found his bit of porky heaven. The photo of this particular stall was the only thing he captured on his phone and promptly uploaded to Facebook. Such was it’s charm! While this was the best looking stall, there was no dearth of meat produce. Buttery Iberico Ham, with creamy fat stripes and their deep maroon colour was shaved carefully and laid slice by slice over waxed paper. Coils of deep coral orange coloured chorizos – small, fat, thin, long, curved, dried, fresh, sweet, hot – graced most counters. As they could be vacuum packed, we indulged and got a few packets at a wallet pinching price. I can tell you, it was worth every euro! And the locals prove it. Everywhere you saw little ol’ ladies carefully lay out coin after coin from their well used purses, for a few slices of excellent serrano ham. Good produce is worth it’s price, even in these penny-pinching days.

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Huddled at the back of the stalls, in a dark corner, sits the long, brick lined, renowed Mercado Central Bar. Using produce from the markets, on the day, the cooks bring out everything from sandwiches and tostados, to tapas and proper plates of food. The food is fresh, delicious and the coffee is utterly divine. What is it about coffee in Spain? It’s so darn tasty! Sat on a stool, sipping his cortado, The Scotsman said it was always a wish of his to eat at a cafe in a food market, a need created by watching a lot of Rick Stein programmes! Next to us, sat two women, chatting away and chomping at a delicious looking baguette sandwich. The Scotsman kept peering over to get a better look and with much digging of elbows, got me to enquire in broken Spanish, what they ordered.  Through sheer enthusiastic endeavour, some meagre understanding of Spanish on my part and a lot of sign language on both sides, I understood that it was scrambled eggs, mixed with the deliciously creamy salchichon sausage and a type of Spanish cheese. One of the women ordered on our behalf, (half a baguette for me and a full sized whopper for The Scotsman) and watched carefully, as I took my first bite. Gosh, it was SO good! Tangy, creamy, meaty, spicy and the bread was soft inside and crusty outside. ” Muy, muy bien!!!”, I spluttered and they whopped, clapped hands and gestured that I should’ve order the larger size! I agree! The chefs seemed to think the same…

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A bit more of a wander around after elevenses and we made our way through the beautiful streets of Valencia, the Old Quarter. We took our time, I took lots of photos, we sat at cafes, where he had beer and I had a local drink called Horchata (not to be confused with the rice drink of the same name from Mexico). It’s a cooling, traditionally Valencian drink, made from dried tigernuts blended with water and sugar, which isn’t a nut but a tuber. It comes either as a drink or a slush. I could best describe the taste as being milky-melon like to start with, finishing with a nutty, earth note – so darn good!

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And we come to the end of a very long, photo happy post! I hope you liked seeing Spain through my lens. It’s a warm and wonderful country and I don’t mean just the climate. I found people to be so engaging, easy going, ready to smile and enthusiastic. Much as I looked forward at the end to being in my own home, it was a shame to leave too.

So for now, hasta luego!

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25 comments

  1. Isa

    Wonderful photos & wonderful city!!!

  2. I have said this before.. U really know how to sell a place and evoke the envy!!! :) Unfortunately, I haven’t even been to Spain even once.. although its been on the agenda for more than a few years… soon ..I hope .. soon!!

  3. Thank you for the beautiful photos.

  4. At last I’ve caught up with your Spanish saga, and oh, how it makes me long to rush straight back there,. although I’ve only been home just over a week. Never in summer for me, mind you… I know just what you mean about Spanish markets: as I’m always staying in hotels, the frustration of not being able to buy more than what I can eat on the spot is immense ! Yes, the occasional vacuum pack, but the fresh produce wouldn;t keep, and tins (often amazing and so different from what we can get at home) are too heavy for the weight allowance on the plane back. I’m already looking forward to my next trip (and to yours, so I can see your lovely photos and read your beautifully evocative descriptions !)

  5. Thanks for sharing these great photos.

  6. Rushi!

    Carrie, can I come on holiday with you the next time???? :D I’m pretty sure Spain would hire to be part of their tourism campagin soon, you’re that good.
    xx

  7. Beautiful photos, beautiful post. I love Spain, and will definitely have to make time for a trip to Valencia just for the market. And make sure I go hungry! That bocadillo with scrambled eggs looks amazing!

    • BOCADILLO! Thank you! I was racking my head for days trying to remember the name for those baguette sandwiches! Valencia is definitely worth a visit. The Old Quarter, as you can imagine, is majestic with beautiful architecture and cobbled, winding streets. And then you have the thoroughly modern end, with buildings that seem to defy gravity! Plus, shopping is good!

  8. Great post and photos…Definitely the best way to see a country’s food is a local market. Being in the centre of all the action is so fascinating!

  9. George & Irene.

    F A N T S T I C …. just ….. F A N T S T I C …. You have done the Valencia Mercado Central proud – You should send these pics to the M.D. of the Mercado … I’m sure you can pick up the email address !
    You must be so delighted that your ” Mum & Dad in law ” have a villa close bye … ha ha ha ha
    These foodie pics and candit pics are just wonderful – Simply a joy to look at – love the ” Mercado Dome ” and far off wall ( will email you about that one !!! ) …. You should ” print and Frame it “.
    From a very, very proud ….Dad & Mum in Law !!

  10. First, I love your blog! Second, I studied abroad for a semester in Valencia and loved it! Seeing your pictures of the Mercado Central brings back a ton of memories that are so dear to me! Great photos and glad you had a great experience!

    • Thank you Courtney :) Oh I wish we could have stayed more than half a day. But my kids were in Javea with my in-laws so had to go back!!! Must make a point of having a long weekend there in the future.

  11. Wonderful shots felt like I was there!

  12. afracooking

    It has been years since I have been to Valencia, but your pictures take me straight back. The market is actually one of the first things I saw in the city. I still remember buying some tomatoes and eating them right rhere and then – fabulous!!!!

  13. I’ve never been to Spain! :(
    Your posts make me want to change that immediately. Wonderful photography as always.

  14. This is giving me the travel bug :) It reminds me of the markets in Brazil!

  15. I have not been to Europe before, but I know it is full of history and culture. You pictures on the market makes me really hungry and I really want to pack my bags and travel.

  16. Great pictures and so nice to see all the colour and vibrancy that I loved when I went to Valencia. Have you travelled to any other parts of Spain? I spent a year there and gained so much inspiration from the food. I wrote a blog post about Valencia actually and it has its very own masturbating gargoyle (very strange I know). Here’s my blog just in case you wanna see! http://thirdtimelucky13.wordpress.com/

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