Writing in trains is something I find both relaxing and therapeutic. Quite romantic too. Perhaps because trains often allow for those precious moments of calmness when to reflect about the place you are leaving behind.
I’m now sitting comfortably next to Lara, in a high-speed train that will take us south to the Rias Baixas. And as we leave A Coruña and I find my moment to go through the mental recordings from my last few days, my brain keeps tricking me back to the same special point: the ground floor at the ‘Eusebio da Guarda’ food market in A Coruña, in ‘Plaza de Lugo’. What a place.
Few old Galician food markets have survived the pass of time maintaining their original aspect. This one is not an exception. Since it first opened to the public over a 100 years ago, the market has gone through several major refurbishments, the last one from 2004, when the current installations were erected here. Many will still remember the previous building, with all the different traders sharing the street level in a miraculously functioning maze of both permanent and improvised outdoor stalls.
Perhaps for some, the refurbishment killed part of the charm and chaos from the previous setup. But even for those who miss it, the new market brought a much more organised and hygienic workplace whilst still keeping the magic of a place which always had plenty of it.
The entire place is market lovers’ wonderland. But there is a special spot that really captured our hearts. One that will stick to our memories for a very long time. It’s the market ground floor, the space devoted to selling fish and seafood… Possibly the best fish market I’ve ever seen outside Tokyo!
Everything is magnificent here. Cross the entrance and you’ll gain access to a large modern venue where dozens of traders compete for the customers’ favour. No need for marketing strategies or even fancy displays. We are in Galicia; home of some of the best fish and seafood this side of the galaxy. A sanctuary for the senses where the product does all the talking.
There are here more species on display that I can recognize. Yet one of the fishmongers tells me that “There hasn’t been a good catch today. Usually we sell way more seafood. You should come another day”. Really? I quick look at the stall and I see all kind of prawns, lobsters, spider-crabs, barnacles, crayfish, clams, scallops… And that’s just one shop out of dozens!
I chat with other trader, an adorable old lady who’s dedicated her life to selling seafood in the market. I express my frustration about being a tourist and not owning a nearby kitchen where to cook some of this amazing product. “That’s not a problem” – she says. “You can buy it here and take it to any of the surrounding bars. They’ll cook it for you”. Now, can this visit get any better? We buy a handful of barnacles and make our way to one of the market bars, where for a reasonable price of 8 euros they cook the barnacles for us whilst we drink a lovely glass of dry, crisp Albariño wine.
By the time we leave the market, our brains are booming, our stomachs full of delicious seafood and our hearts stuck in the ‘Eusebio da Guarda’ market in A Coruña, even though the rest of our bodies are now sitting on a high-speed train, heading south to the Rias Baixas.