Wednesday, July 24, 2013

La Lonja: the fish market auction in Isla Cristina in Andalucía

Isla Cristina in Anadlucía and its Lonja fish market auction
(Isla Cristina is in the lower left part of Andalucía in Spain near the Portuguese border)

Isla Cristina is not an island, but almost. It's a beach town with the second most important fish port in Andalucía.
Here, In the morning boats arrive with seafood while most of the fish arrives in the afternoon. The boats unload their seafood or fish and take it, few meters away, to a place called La Lonja which is a big loft where a fish auction takes place all day from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. (except from 1 to 4 p.m. during Spanish lunch hours). After the fish has been sorted through the auction, it's loaded on the refrigerated trucks of the different buyers which will take it throughout Spain and Europe to be in the major fish markets the next morning.

Buyers use remote controls to choose what they want that is running on the tape, there is' a device indicating the starting price which quickly descends only that you might press your remote control after someone else pressed it maybe one cent before....and loose your choice, all very interesting.

The tourist office gives a tour of the Lonja on Mondays 'and Wednesdays' afternoons. I managed to be there on my own and nobody told me out, I was very silent and discrete.

Obviously also locals go to the fish market since the town has many seafood restaurants where, specially in the port area, you can eat very good tapas.

I realize that while in Portugal I missed the Spanish cuisine with its not only excellent gourmet food but also informal eating and late hours, more in tune with my metabolism.

Once I arrived at Isla Cristina I went to the harbor where the tourist office is located, got my map with all explanations (great Spanish tourist offices, the best; Portugal has much to learn in this respect). I checked 3 hotels that were the only ones located directly on the sea, choosing the little 2 star hotel, only one that is truly on the beach, "bueno bonito y barato", you'll see the pictures, it also has a covered free parking with a key for private access to the parking grounds, a real luxury. It's called Hotel Sol y Mar. I had a room overlooking the sea,

The big surprise is that this hotel has an excellent restaurant opened only at noon (and only Saturday and Sunday during the low season) with a choice of an area with self-service of tapas or a full restaurant with service at the table

On the beach in front of the hotel, morning and evening a couple of people park their car (when the weather is still cold they'll wear thermal clothing) and go into the sea to collect "coquinas", small clams that are similar to a Venezuelan "chipichipi", which they sell right afterwards, next to the car. The coquinas I had for lunch were excellent, cooking time was just perfect. 
Just great, to try and  enjoy!