So one of the things that I love to do when traveling is to get a dose of REAL LIVING in a city and that usually entails going to a local market or to a flea market. I fiddled through my Rick Steves travel book and read something about the Rastro Flea Market. I know that in the past, I have seen lots of awesome antiques that you only hear about. Being that I was in Spain and knowing that the Spaniards dominated history along with the Portuguese during the Age of Exploration, I was bound to find some cool history stuff floating around, or so I thought.
I got up super early in the morning and walked all the way to Rastro Flea Market from La Latina neighborhood. It took me a good 20 minutes to get there because I got turned around a little. On the way there, I passed a local corner bar. I had to laugh hard to myself because I saw a couple guys heeled over at the bar looking like they passed out or were literally just waking up. One of the guys was dressed up in a flamenco costume with a slit that exposed his really hairy legs. His buddies were wearing fedora hats and keeping their bachelor friend afloat. Also, he had a beard that would put a pirate to shame. These guys must have been at a bachelor party and they “fiesta’d” ALL NIGHT LONG! I remember on my walk around the streets, I saw lots of empty beer cans. On top of that, I saw a drugged out couple that were getting hot and heavy at around 7:00 AM. They were completely out of it. You had to be there! Every morning in Madrid, it is not strange to see street cleaners cleaning up tons of bottles and cans. There is also a smell of urine and stale beer, the usual. I still don’t let that bother me. I LOVE MADRID!
I finally came up to a long street where I saw tent stands. The locals were definitely out and I was one of the few tourists with camera in hand. As I strolled along, I got the realization that there was a lot of cheesy items. If anyone could capture the disappointment on my face, it would have been priceless. I would compare it to a small kid eating a delicious ice cream cone, only for it to completely plop off the sugar cone and onto the pavement. I really felt like I was going to waste my time, but I was still optimistic. I saw scarves, a few cheap looking antiques and felt like I had seen all of this kind of tchotchke stuff in other countries. I even recall picking something up and seeing that it was made in China. There were the touristy Spanish fans, T-shirts and leather goods. I’ve seen the same spread in Argentina at the San Telmo market. I was able to snap a few cool shots though.
I felt like I was in a B rated film when I was watching all kinds of locals buying super cheap things. But then again, I had to also remind myself that Spain is going through a lot of economic hardship. I saw people buying spoons, plastic containers, cheap pots and pans and all kinds of little things for their apartments or flats.
Honestly, I would skip the flea market, or literally do a walk through and then just go check out something more interesting like a church tour, a museum tour. Just don’t plan on buying anything. Maybe you can score cheap postcards or flags, but I wouldn’t count on anything super interesting. I don’t want to be cynical, but I felt like my time could have been spent somewhere else. Just remember not to make this a main event for your day.
So, I don’t like to pick up “touristy” things, but I do regret that I did not get one of these posters, specifically a Flamenco one with my name. I would have loved to have put this in my classroom! Oh well….gives me another time to come visit Spain to buy one!
This stand had every little kitsch thing you could imagine that you would find at the airport or at a gift shop. If I was ambitious enough, I would have bartered and found out how much certain little things were to gauge other prices at gift shops just to get a real idea of how much price gouging takes place at the local gift shops. I didn’t bother.