Market day in Portugal is always an interesting and colourful experience. Regardless of whether a gypsy or flea market I’m always keen to find a bargain as I meander from stall to stall inspecting the merchandise.
This week we ventured to a gypsy market as I needed to buy more lettuce and cucumber plugs (baby plants) for an autumn crop. I’d recently tried growing both from seed, but for some reason they’d failed to germinate. I hate to admit defeat; however time is now of the essence as my summer crops are coming to an end.
It was a stifling hot day with not a breath of air as the temperature soared into the high thirties. The midday sun beat down relentlessly, and such was the intense heat all but reduced me to a mere puddle on the ground. My eyeballs on fire I constantly removed my sunglasses as they “misted” up with the steam! Feeling frazzled, my initial enthusiasm for an amble round the market soon began to wane after only walking from the car park to the market.BBQ’d Piglet – Leitão!
However, there is always a diverse selection of stalls at the market which sell everything from plants and fresh vegetables, clothes and underwear to kitchen utensils and live poultry, so I pressed on regardless of my steaming eyeballs.
Beginning to feel faint from the intense heat I paused in the shade of a large tree to people-watch. I smiled as tourists, oblivious to the scorching sun and their already lobster-red arms and faces, rummaged enthusiastically through the clothes stalls.
Brightly coloured tie-dye dresses and tops at just two for €15.00 were waved in tourists faces by sellers with eager smiles looking for a sale.
“Good price, you buy, you buy! Quinze eur-rosh. Muita Bonita.”
“Good price, Senhora, good price!”
I am not sure if the tourists eventually bought the clothes as a means of escape, or because they genuinely liked the unusual multi-coloured tie-dyed effect of the material. Either way, as I observed from a distance I was almost tempted to buy one of the fun dresses myself. That is, until I realized, the material was see through and I immediately lost interest. The outline of my posterior is definitely not sexy and would only detract from the dress so I smugly continued to observe proceedings from a safe distance as the tortured tourists parted with their money.
I was still chuckling about my lucky escape when I paused at an underwear stall – why I don’t know. Thinking the stallholder was otherwise engaged I casually examined one of the bras. Suddenly, the stallholder appeared waving the same style bra I’d been admiring, but in my size. Before I could say “Bob’s your uncle” Damn. Those market stall folks are very keen to make a sale! She had me in a vice-like grip and the bra was clamped on me and fastened at the back over my t-shirt; there was no escape!
It all happened so quickly I was taken completely by surprise. She twirled me round in full view of everyone.
“Bom…Bom.” she shouted triumphantly, as she nodded her head in approval.
I felt mortified
Blast, I wish I’d at least chosen a “sexy” little number rather than a utility style designed for comfort.
“Errrr…” I was speechless. If I thought I was hot before I was certainly running a fever and convulsing with embarrassment now.
I don’t know about Fifty Shades of Grey, but I was certainly Fifty Shades of Pink! My only consolation – Mr. Piglet had wandered off and missed the whole humiliating spectacle.
Finally, seeing the colour of my money the stallholder cast me a triumphant smile, removed the bra and put it in a bag.
“Obrigada, Senhora! Obrigada”, she crowed triumphantly.
Cursing my momentary lapse of concentration I hurried after Mr. Piglet.
“Where on earth have you been?”, he enquired.
“Don’t bloody ask!” I growled. Grrrr men.
As we continued through the market I discovered a brilliant plant stall. There were so many baby vegetable and herb plants beckoning I felt like a little child let loose in a sweet shop.
I asked the stallholder.
“Um euro.” the guy replied, as he held up 10 fingers.
This was code for 10 plants for one euro. I made my selection by the cowardly process of grunt, point at plant, and then hold up fingers to indicate quantity. There is then NO room for any misunderstanding. Smiling, I grunted and pointed to: six lettuce, two salvia, three cucumbers and one zucchini plant. (OK, I can’t count).
I counted out a euro in change, gave it to the guy, took my plants with a smile and a:
On my return home I potted up my latest additions when, suddenly I realized I’d not paid the guy enough money and he’d not bothered to correct me! Perhaps for 20cents he felt it was not worth the effort (agony) of trying to explain in wordy sign language and let my mistake pass.
Our purchases made we headed to the refreshment area. A cold beer washed down with barbequed chicken and a plate of chips had never tasted so good – delicious!
A list of some of the markets in the Algarve can be found here
Please share your market “experience” in the comment section below.