The smiling bearded man handed me an extra green pepper and our eyes met with instant agreement. He owed me 3 cents and did not have this small change yet.
It was 8am in the Devesa Park, a green treasure on the outskirts of Girona. It’s full off tall straight trees that shoot up to the sky and mesmerise you as you walk through. By the time you reach the market stalls your mind and soul have been prepared nicely by this feast of nature.
Louise and I have shopped at this open air food market every week for the past 2 years. It’s one of my favourite times of the week. I grab my extra large backpack and recycled plastic bags from last week, the fold-up bike and head across the Old Town.
Stopping at the cash machine, I withdraw a 20 Euro note, knowing that I won’t physically be able to carry that much food.
I ride over the red iron gate bridge, designed by the same chap that did the Eiffel tower (at least that’s what I keep telling people anyway). There it is, one of the most breathtaking views ever. The cathedral, colourful buildings, flowing river and passing birds. It forces me to stop every time and enjoy just 30 seconds. I smile, relax and roll on. I smile at next person I see and they smile back.
Zipping across Plaza Independencia I follow my honed short cut to the park. It’s taken the full 2 years to get it perfect.
And there it is… stands and stands of fresh fruit and veg.. and hardly a soul around yet. At mid day the place is heaving so I go nice and early and get the best pick.
I know most of the stall owners and they know me. But I still cruise up and down once eyeing up the cheapest oranges (they’re all from Valencia), the best looking tomatoes (it is worth spending a little more on these) and checking what’s in season. Right now that’s strawberries. Today I bought 2 kilos of strawberries for 2 Euros. I had them for breakfast with yoghurt, with my recovery shake after my training ride (apparently berries help the absorption of protein) and I’m eating them now with chocolate. Yum yum. They were always a luxury for me in England.
One thing I love about England and missed greatly when I lived in California is the seasons. Spring brings blooming flowers, summer green meadows, autumn colourful leaves.. you get my drift. Eating what’s in season is part of that for us here. Sweet potatoes are in vast supply all through the winter but impossible to find now. When figs appear we find every possible way to eat them. On their own, with yoghurt, in a tart, with fish… Then they disappear and we move onto the next food.
After over-viewing what’s on offer I start with the hard and heavy stuff (don’t want to squash my bananas now do I) and select a stall. There is always, always a “Bon dia” and some friendly exchange before a purchase decision is made. No food is bought without a look and feel, even a sniff. It’s just the way everybody does it. You also don’t offend them with tiny quantities. Forget about buying one orange. It’s a kilo, or half. Never be afraid to ask if it’s any good. “Are these apples sweet?” They’ll be sure enough to point you to some better ones.
Then comes payment. The bill is never more than 3 Euros no matter what you buy. It’s unbelievable. We literally live on 15 Euros of fruit and veg for a week and we eat plenty!
My bag is full, I am smiling and spinning back home thinking of what to have for lunch and dinner. After all, what is a better joy in life than planning the next meal!