My Love Affair with International Markets

Everywhere we travel, the first thing I look for is the local market. Local markets are bursting with heritage breeds and heirloom varieties of vegetables, fruits and other mysterious food items known only to the locals. Walking through a local market helps me to connect with the community’s roots.

Patzcuaro, Mexico had an open air market bursting with everything imaginable. Join me in a walk through the market. Fruits galore! We found many of the same fruits that we have in Nicaragua, only slightly different varieties such as the mangoes. Fresh strawberries…mounds and hills of them all over the market. It was such a treat to buy fresh strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries daily.

We had irresistible cravings for sweet yellow corn and we found it in the market. We heard that the vendors recently began to sell yellow corn as opposed to the white field corn, so we took daily walks to the market to buy fresh succulent yellow corn. Mexico is known for its chilies and the market didn’t disappoint.

“To me, life without veal stock, pork fat, sausage, organ meat, demi-glace, or even stinky cheese is a life not worth living.”
― Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly

Yep! The smoked pork loin was superb! I couldn’t say the same for the dried white fish or the chicharrones, fried pork skin. I was surprised how fresh the meat and fish market smelled. Usually, the meat markets are festering caves of blood and flies. But, this market was so clean and odorless.

Desserts…my downfall. I was intrigued by the jello art! Yes! The jello flowers are completely edible. Fascinated by how they were made, I found several Youtube videos on  jello flowers. It is a tedious process. How do they sell them so cheap?

We wandered through tiny alleys packed with flowers, formal party dresses, hand-woven baskets, traditional blouses, shoes galore, and other handicrafts. Of course, we got lost. Yet, around every bend there was another unique item. Do the vendors make any money selling their items? How many things do they sell in a day with so much competition?

We passed a small beauty shop! “Ron, you need a hair cut,” I commented. Thirty minutes  and three dollars later, Ron received a buzz cut. “Como se dice no pelo en espanol?”

We ended our market trip everyday with lunch. Sometimes we would sit at the crowded lunch counter for a bowl of soup or a shredded pork torta. The hot sweet tamales were excellent, too.

I do love the markets! Here is a list of some of my favorite markets in the world.

1. Mercado de Artesania in Pisac, Peru

2. Santiago Atitlan Friday Market in Guatemala

3. Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo, Japan

4. Tangiers Market in Tangiers, Morocco 

5. Otovalo Market, Ecuador

6. Mercado de Bazurto, Cartagena, Colombia

7. Harbourside Market, Wellington, New Zealand

8. Albert Cuyp Market in Amsterdam, Netherlands

9. Marché aux Puces Puces de St-Ouen, Paris, France

10. Masaya Handicrafts Market, Nicaragua

What are your favorite markets in the world and why?

15 thoughts on “My Love Affair with International Markets

  1. I love street markets too and have often wondered, like you, how much money the vendors really make. Your mention of the strawberries and raspberries had me nodding my head (I love the fruit we have in Portugal, especially the strawberries) but the description of the sweet corn really had me drooling. Every time we visit the States I make sure to have a few meals with corn-on-the-cob! Anita

    • We ate corn on the cob almost everyday for the month we were in Patzcuaro, Mexico. Frest picked avocados, buttery sweet corn, and zucchini dinners were our favorite. Of course we had to make the daily trip to the bakery, too. Ugh! So glad to be in Yosemite where I can hike everyday and try to lose the extra pounds I put on in Mexico. I love Mexican food!

  2. Come to Oaxaca, Mexico… Big markets, small markets, weekly village markets, and city markets. I love them all! And, they are where I do most all of my shopping. Also, if you are ever in Mexico City, check out, Mercado Antiguo de San Juan.

  3. When you make it to Vancouver you’ll love the Granville Island market. Mind you the prices will be in $$$ not Pesos. Bruno

  4. Oh, the colors, the colors! You put a lot of work in this post!

    I love the markets, too, but I also reach saturation really fast and have to bolt! I like to see the markets on the busiest day, but when shopping, give me the slower days with fewer vendors as well as buyers!

    • The last day we were in the market in Patzcuaro, it was a hot, hot day. The tarps covering the stalls were very low and the aisles were packed with people. I felt like I had a panic attack from the heat and crowds. We got lost and it took us over an hour to find our way out of the web of stalls and narrow passageways. From now on, we will only go to the markets early in the mornings. 😰

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