One of our challenges in moving to Spain has been where to find things. I’ve walked around some of the local towns, including Antequera which is a relatively big place, trying to understand where people go to buy stuff. There are shops in the town centre, but not easily accessible, and it doesn’t feel like there’s much choice. And that’s not just Antequera, it’s true of many of our local shopping towns.
Normally we shop in one of the big Spanish supermarkets around here. Carrefour, Mercadona and Eroski all offer really good quality, and great fish, meat, bread and vegetables. An increasing number of Lidls and Aldis are popping up all over Spain too, and I’ve just heard that Tesco is opening up stores in Spain! Living in el campo, the nearest supermarket is about 30 minutes drive away. So it’s essential to make detailed shopping lists, because forgetting to buy ingredients will mean another long drive. And where lists have failed, I’ve been improvising with food that we happened to have in the house. I hope Hilary is enjoying this sometimes very alternative style of cooking!
Most towns have a local market – sometimes indoor, sometimes outdoor – and the tourist office has information on where and when they are held. They usually sell fresh fruit and veg, cheeses and olives, clothes and shoes, and a few plants thrown in. And just like markets all over the world, they are full of bustle, noise and colour.
We were told that Lucena is the heart of furniture manufacture and so THE place to buy furniture. As we needed some bits, we thought we’d have a look. And indeed, we found dozens of furniture factories – but they were all closed. Clearly, Saturday is not a good shopping day in Lucena and we came away empty-handed (though had a delicious lunch and glass of wine instead – much cheaper than buying furniture 😊).
Since then, we’ve been back to Lucena on different days of the week, but still haven’t found anything open to the public. So I’ve yet to enter one of the famous Lucena furniture factories. Instead, we’ve had to resort to Ikea again, and we managed to build a wardrobe in five days – a record I think!
Interesting local shops
Now we’ve been here a little longer, we have managed to find some more unusual and quirky shops. We very much like Juan Dorado (or Johnny Gold as we call him – direct translation from the Spanish). A veritable emporium full of second hand/antique furniture and artefacts, just by the motorway near Antequera. A place for spending hours browsing, and negotiating best offers. And negotiate you must! It’s part of living in Spain, so I’m told – another skill for me to learn during my time here.
And by chance, next to Johnny Gold, we found an area with some beautiful hand-painted tiles – and a phone number. We called it, and spoke with Carmen, a wonderful Spanish artist who paints tiles by hand. We went to see her at her home to talk through designs, and she painted some amazing tiles for us, at a ridiculously low price – no negotiation skills needed here, though perhaps we should have tried to talk the price up, not down.
We’ve also discovered a nunnery in Archidona where nuns sell biscuits to the public. As it is a closed order, you can’t see the nuns, and the only communication with them is through a wooden screen. You state your order, and the nun goes away and picks up the biscuits that she then puts onto a wooden turntable and turns it towards you. We take the biscuits and put our money on the turntable for the nun, who will end the transaction by providing the change. Very interesting buying process and the almond biscuits are delicious!
Another great place for browsing (and buying…) are the pottery factories in La Rambla, near Cordoba. There are dozens of them, and each with its own individual type Spanish pottery, ranging from very traditional to pottery with a modern twist. I could have easily spent a day or two there!
Google vs Facebook
When I’m looking for something, my immediate first step is to Google it. But the results from my Google searches in Spain have been disappointing. When looking for a Pilates class, or stuff to buy, or someone to fix things, Google doesn’t always provide the answer. And what I’ve discovered is that Facebook often does. Away from the coast in el campo, a lot of businesses don’t seem to have web pages, but they do have a Facebook page. So Pilates class found, garage found, plumbing merchants found – thank you Facebook.
If all else fails …
When we really can’t get what we need, there are two options: go to the coast, or order via Amazon. Both are possible, though I’d be happy not to see the inside of Ikea for a few months to come!