It is of course in The Rules that we visit the local market in our ports of call.
And whilst the markets of Portugal and Turkey have definitely been amongst the biggest and best,
most memorably Matisinhos near Leixoes and Fethiye,
buying local didn’t come better than a simple stall in a layby on the road to Antequera in Spain where we picked up a huge bottle of olive oil and some lemons or on Rhodes where we bought an enormous bag of oranges and some marmalade and honey!
Wherever they are, markets are a great way to buy all the fresh fruit and veg we need, always seasonal and not wrapped in plastic,
as well as stock up on local dried goods, great for storing on board.
And wherever we were in the Med there are always olives and tomatoes!
Big or small, even if we don’t need anything, markets are a great place to wander round and people watch and the beauty of Spain, Sicily and Turkey, in particular, is that it felt like our food miles have definitely dramatically reduced. Nearly everything we wanted by way of fruit and vegetables has been local. Ok, so the bananas might travel from the Canary Islands but nearly everything else we have been buying feels like it comes direct from the growers.
Some of our favourite market experiences have been in the noisy, smelly fish markets of the Med. The fish market at Catania on Sicily was a truly immersive experience in every way and at Fethiye in Turkey we bought our fish and then sat and had it cooked for us at a restaurant on the edge of the stalls watching everyone else come and go.
Sometimes, especially in Greece, the fish market was an altogether simpler affair – just a local fisherman selling his catch directly from the boat moored up next to us, as in Argostoli and Korfos.
We would of course love to buy all our food in this way, giving our money direct to the producers, not buying anything wrapped in plastic, but we’d be lying if we told you we hadn’t used the faceless supermarket giants.
We have developed a league table of supermarkets as we have travelled through. Continente was our firm favourite in Portugal after we discovered they would deliver direct to the boat! Pingu Doce, however, wins the prize for best name. In Spain we worked through most of their offerings – Dia, Dialprix, Supersol, Carrefour, Mercadona and Eroski – and in Italy we became familiar with Familia, Conad and the cheap and cheerful Eurospin.
We were introduced to the ubiquitous Lidl and Aldi by The Germans and quickly learnt that, even if they didn’t satisfy all our shopping needs, they are very useful for stocking up on chocolate and very cheap but tasty wine.
In Greece as well as the tiny mini markets selling nothing more than a few tomatoes and potatoes we discovered their AB and the unreadable and unpronouncable supermarket we came to know as “upstairs, downstairs” on account of it always having, you guessed it, an upstairs and a downstairs. In fact in Pireus the “upstairs, downstairs” was four storeys with travelators between each and a range of produce that, after months on tiny islands, we found completely overwhelming.
Just sometimes, though, we manage to bag stuff for free –
whether it’s figs or pomegranates scrumped from trees and perfect for our favourite salads,
a welcome snack of lemon juice and fresh walnuts from a sponge diver on Kalimnos in Greece or
the bags of eggs, lemons and grapefruits gifted by friends and strangers alike.
Whatever it is, whether we pay for it or not, the Med has ensured that we have never gone hungry for fresh produce.