Boot Sales, Hippie Markets and Chinese Stores

cliffs by Porto de Mos, Lagos

It’s been a ‘staycation’ kind of summer for us here in Lagos, Portugal, with lots of friends stopping by and making use of our guest room (if you want your friends and family to visit, just move to Portugal!) and day trips here and there.  We’ve met several new friends who have contacted us through the blog and are checking out both Portugal and the Algarve to see what all the buzz is about. We’ve also enjoyed some great conversations as well as mentally filing away travel tips and fascinating stories about future places to visit.  And, over and over, while lounging by the pool, enjoying the beautiful beach near us called Praia Porto de Mos or scarfing down a meal dining with friends, we’ve congratulated ourselves, several times in fact, about our decision to skip visiting the US this year and taking a time-out to enjoy our piece of paradise.

This summer we’ve also indulged in what seems to be one of the Algarve’s favorite past-times: the hunt for a good bargain that you didn’t even know you needed.

 

 

Boot Sales:  Flea markets are held in the villages and towns up and down the coast on designated days with traveling vendors.  The Brits call them “Boot Sales” as the items on sale are (theoretically anyway) sold from the “boot” or trunk of the car. Usually the goods are displayed on a blanket spread on the ground although a lot of the vendors set them up on tables, too.

 

Need your own copper still to make moonshine whiskey?

A boot sale we went to in the Central Algarve Region near Paderne had an herbalist displaying baskets of dried herbs and dispensing advice while a nearby couple deep-fat fried doughy rounds and dusted them with powdered sugar.  It might have seemed that the heat would have dampened our appetites but – no.  In fact, we were just a little tempted to split a third one between us!

 

 

Lagos’s Boot Sale is held on the first Sunday of every month and is as much a treasure hunt as a people meeting and greeting venue.  We always make it an event to visit and drag a friend or two along for the fun.

This may sound strange but by far our biggest score has been a circa 1970’s, pumpkin-orange slow-cooker that weighs about 25 pounds with a Euro-plug that’s been modified from the original UK three-prong.  When the seller saw my face light up at the find (slow-cookers aren’t sold in Portugal) he wouldn’t even bargain with us and we forked over the full €20 for an appliance at least 40 years old.

 

 

Chinese Shops: Every town and village we’ve visited so far in Portugal has at least one emporium (Lagos has several hiding in plain sight) literally stuffed to the gills with all sorts of paraphernalia and staffed by someone of Chinese descent, hence the name.

 

 

From floor to ceiling and usually piled in no particular order, you can find beach toys and bikini panties, thread and thermometers, shower curtains and slippers, paper goods and plasticware and Christmas décor year-round.  We tried to ferret out the origins of these Portuguese versions of the old five-and-dime stores or the newer Dollar Stores and all we’ve learned (unverified so who knows?) is that there are old trade agreements between Portugal and China that allow the owners to import goods duty-free.  If you have a little time, there’s no telling what bargain you’ll find poking around!

 

 

Hippie Market:  Going to this flea market held the 4th Sunday of every month, near the quirky village of Barão de São João, about a twenty-minute drive from Lagos, is kind of a blast from the past for us.  It’s as much fun to watch the retro European hippies, check out the “Pimp-my Ride’ caravans and make a lunch of the vegan/gluten-free pakora with mango chutney, as it is to look at the offerings for sale.

 

 

 

Sounds of live music and the smell of incense float in the scant summer breeze (our friends Roy and Ann hint that other smoky smells can be fired up too) and the whole scene reminds of us outdoor concerts in the 70’s when hair was long, clothing was billowy and we were weekend hippies ourselves.  Wandering about the area, you watch unleashed, happy dogs nosing around the dusty field for anything edible, scruffy kids playing or holding on to young mothers who look almost as disheveled in an appealing, exotic way and men looking laid-back and chill.  Like the other flea-markets we’ve been to, there’s a lot of junk and some interesting antiques and you never know what you might find as you wander round.  We’ve been tempted to buy some colorful paintings and jewelry by local artists, checked out the clothes straight from Thailand, bought some fresh herbs and sipped some fruit-infused water. The vibe is infectious and we always look forward to going – even if we do stand out in our uncool, buttoned-down way!

 

 

 

Of course, there’s always the Saturday farmer’s market down by the bus station in Lagos but we tend to avoid it in the summer as the crowds make the tented area inside a jam-packed, chaotic and sweaty event.  We prefer to wait until the cooler weather of fall and winter to visit the market and check out the fresh produce, baked goods, live chickens and rabbits in cages, and flowers, all offered at reasonable prices by friendly sellers.

It’s always a little sad to say goodbye to summer. But we’re looking forward to getting on the road again and traveling as well as taking advantage of the off-season prices for restaurants and accommodations now that the vacation crowds are returning from whence they came.  Our staycation was an all-around success this year and has us thinking that this might be the way we spend our future summers.  After all, why travel somewhere else during the high-season when you’re right where you want to be?

By Anita Oliver and Richard Nash

 

 

59 comments

  • We both enjoy flea markets whenever we come across them. Looks like you found some good ones!

    Funny, here in Sri Lanka there is a HUGE Chinese store w everything you would ever need at unusually low prices, but I actually hate shopping there and would way rather be outside searching for finds!

    Peta

    Liked by 1 person

    • We’d never heard of ‘Chinese stores’ before we got to Portugal but there are several and so far, they’re in every town we’ve been to. How funny to think they’re in Sri Lanka, too. The prices are really low like you mentioned and yes, there’s a staggering amount of inventory although not necessarily quality. 😁 The flea markets and other markets are much more fun and, one of our favorite parts, there’s the added bonus of people watching included!

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  • Always a Foreigner

    This looks like so much fun! I could almost smell the vegan/gluten free pakora with mango chutney. Flea markets and eclectic shopping places are always fun, but it seems like shopping in Portugal is a blast.

    Liked by 1 person

  • I love checking out flea markets too. I laughed when I saw your “New” slow cooker, advice have exactly the same one, given to us as a wedding present almost 37 years ago. It has accompanied us originally from South Africa, to Germany, Portugal and now Australia. I mostly use it in winter, but it’s still working after all these years!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • This has been our best find so far. Flea markets in a foreign country are a great treasure hunt that we love to embark upon. It’s funny that something we once took for granted in our old lives, like this almost 40-year-old slow cooker, can be so appreciated now. And what a coincidence to find out you have the very same slow cooker. 🙂 It sounds like we definitely got our money’s worth and can look forward to more years of slow cooking. At this very moment, we have a vegetable soup cooking for dinner tonight. Mmmm!

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  • Sounds like such a great summer! And, I’d take that moonshine maker 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  • Great article! I love reading about all those who spend their time travelling from place to place with no base.

    Liked by 1 person

    • We loved our nomadic travels (and current travels, too) and expating in a foreign country gives us a chance to see and appreciate how things are done in other countries. The very differences in ordinary day-to-day routines, markets and celebrations make life in new countries seem fresher and add much more enjoyment to things we used to take for granted!

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  • The summer season here and in most of Europe is certainly a great time to stay at home, and it’s great to see that you got out and experienced some of the local events. We have always enjoyed flea markets and yard sales and the hippie market and boot sales here didn’t disappoint. Avoiding all of the things you want but don’t need is a challenge but then there are the discoveries that you just can’t turn down. Regardless of whether you buy anything or not, it is always entertaining people watching.

    Liked by 1 person

    • We’re thinking, more and more, that staying put during high season in our own piece of paradise is a very good idea and certainly more fun than doing battle with both the crowds and the heat. And yes, the people watching and the hunt for a good bargain is great entertainment. Alas, that human trait that most of us have for accumulating *stuff* is proving difficult to resist when we stalk a good bargain, isn’t it? (P.S. Looking forward to going to the next Hippie Market with you guys. 🙂 )

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  • The Algarve has been on my short list for two years, but just hasn’t been close enough to my other European destinations. I will get there soon. I love that Hippie Market, and wouldn’t have known about it. I’m bookmarking this page so I can find it again!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s almost time for the September Hippie Market, Patti (the 4th Sunday of the month) so keep that in mind when you time your visit to Portugal and the Algarve. But rest assured, whenever you arrive in Portugal you’ll be able to find a flea market, fair, festival and Chinese Shop wherever you go. And make sure to give us a heads-up when you make your plans to head this way!

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  • It sounds like you had a really pleasant summer right where you are! If I could, I’d always avoid summer travel just because of the crowds and prices. Off-season plane fares and hotel prices can be half of what they are in the summer, and you won’t have the crowds of summer either, especially at beachy, warm places. Do the markets you mention here happen all year?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Of all the wonderful benefits of being retired, the joy of managing our own time and schedules has to be one of our favorites. It’s great to be able to take advantage of lower rates and fares during the off-season and if we have to brave some colder weather, it’s much nicer than battling our way through crowds. As for the markets and boot sales – yes, they run year round. And then there’s all the special fairs and festivals. We could keep busy every weekend if we wanted to!

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  • Sounds like a relaxing summer Anita, something we haven’t had. In fact, staying put in the summer is a pretty good idea considering all the tourists everywhere.
    We’re now back in Split and look to have an autumn similar to your summer – just taking it easy and exploring things locally. We’ve had a few people wanting to rent out the apartment but right now we just feel we need a break, just don’t feel like packing or travelling for any extended period of time.
    Felt very relaxed reading your post 🙂

    Frank (bbqboy)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kind of nice to enjoy a place that everyone wants to vacation at during the low season, isn’t it? We’re thinking that we’ll try to make staying at home during the high season a priority – definitely more relaxing than fighting the crowds and paying more for privilege on top of it!
      Enjoy your time at home and your lovely apartment. We’ll both have a good time exploring our adopted countries this fall!

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  • You two do seem to be living the charmed life. I’d say Portugal agrees with you. We must get there soon.

    Liked by 1 person

  • My goodness! I’ve never heard of Boot sales or Hippie Markets! Looks like quite the adventure!

    Liked by 1 person

  • We have such things in America, too but I’m sure the goods are quite different in Europe. Must be fun treasure hunting…in Lagos and the Algarve!

    Liked by 1 person

    • We went to some of the yard sales and flea markets when we lived in the US but, just like grocery shopping in a foreign country, the things for sale here seem just a little more exotic which ups the fun level. There’s definitely more old junk but there’s also lots of things that made us take a second look like a game called “Whiskey Chess,” a few barnacle encrusted octopus pots and, of course, the big copper still. A treasure hunt for sure!

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  • We can fully attest to the comfort of the “guest room,” the view from the balcony and the hospitality of the hosts. And, the gelato. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  • Flea Markets? NOW yer talkin’ my language! Looks like you had a great summer. And lol – ’tis an awfully nice life when… your “staycation” is most folks’ travel DREAM! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have no doubt that you’d agree Dyanne, since you live in Cuenca, that it’s rather nice to live in a place where people come for their vacations. Of course, you have to dodge the tourists during high season but it’s awesome to be able to enjoy the views and have the beaches almost to yourself during the off season. Life really is pretty darn good!

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  • If you’re going to have a staycation then Portugal must be a good place to do it! Those markets look great fun – quite often when we have them here in Britain we have to cope with rain rather than the glorious sunshine in your pictures…

    Liked by 1 person

  • What a fun mix of markets! I would have never guessed that there were Chinese shops in Portugal. The hippie market isn’t as much of a surprise. . . the Algarve seems like it would draw hippies to the country!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is a fun mix and then there are all the fairs, festivals and farmers markets to visit, too. We loved the contrast of the boot sale, which draws an older crowd and tourists and the hippie market which was younger with lots of kids and a whole different vibe. And yes, who would have thought there’d be so many Chinese shops here!
      There’s something for everyone in the Algarve!

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  • The photo of the little girls and their orange parasols is so sweet!

    Liked by 1 person

  • Haha! You should have just waited till you got here to get your slow cooker, but it probably wouldn’t look like that though :-). There is a boot sale close to us that we’ve never been to. Might be something to check out and see what sort of things we can add to our burgeoning stuff. It’s insane how much stuff we have accumulated. We also stayed in Valencia for the summer and are looking forward to jump starting travels again with the nice weather and thinner crowds. We’re off to Rome in a couple of days and it’s raining cats and dogs.. Bah! Good to know about the Chinese stores. It must be the same here as they are plentiful.

    Liked by 1 person

    • We might have do a little shopping while we’re in Spain, Kemi. No telling what we might find! Not sure if that’s a good or bad thing because we also are feeling the stuff multiplying here. It’s a good thing we don’t have a big place like you because I think it’s human nature to just fill the space you have! I imagine that your staycation was just as nice as ours and probably the downtime was welcome since you’ve really been putting on the miles. However, getting out and on the road again is always fun. And I know you’ll enjoy seeing your Roman family, too. Enjoy!

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  • What a beautiful life 😍

    Liked by 1 person

  • A bargain hunters paradise!

    Liked by 1 person

  • Love reading your posts and seeing all the pictures. These are particularly beautiful. I still have to find my way to The Algarve region. I miss Portugal – maybe next winter.

    Liked by 1 person

    • We’re so glad you’re enjoying the posts and pics. We love to share! As you can see, we’re happy with our adopted home in Portugal and we’re having a great time finding new places to explore and things to do. It doesn’t take much to entertain us. HaHa! When you make it to the Algarve, make sure to reach out. We love meeting fellow travelers!

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  • I can’t remember the last time I was at a yard sale. That is one thing that I miss in Nicaragua. But, the markets…oh the markets look fantastic, especially the hippie market. That is my kind of place! I found a toaster in Sinsa, the giant hardware store in Managua last week. I was thrilled. I didn’t see any crockpots, though. You’ll have to write a post with recipes for your slow cooker next! I am so happy for you! 😜 Glad you enjoyed your staycation. Presently I am quarantined in my house because there is an epidemic of pink eye on Ometepe Island and my doc said I cannot get pink eye in my healing eye. So, I will live vicariously through your shopping at the flea markets and eating delicious fried dough with powdered sugar on top!

    Liked by 1 person

    • A toaster! Now that I think about it, I don’t remember seeing a toaster anywhere we stayed in Mexico, Guatemala or Nicaragua. Funny what you miss, isn’t it Debbie? I do remember that we browned our bread in a frying pan a few times when we really wanted toast but gradually we just adapted. Kind of a make-do or do without thought process! Hope your eye is healing exactly on schedule and yes, keep it healthy. You’ll be back in the thick of things in no time!

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  • Looks like you had a great summer. No crock pots?!? I wonder why. I would be lost without mine in Panama as turning on the oven is never a good idea in the tropics. We can’t wait to see you later this month. Email to follow soon.
    Suzi

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    • Speaking of visitors, Suzi – you’ll be glad to know we’ve been practicing just for you! 🙂 And isn’t it strange about the crock pots? We’d read on an expat forum that they were almost impossible to find which, of course, sent us on a big (snipe) hunt. There are pressure cookers galore (neither of us have ever used one) and rice cookers abound but, like we said, slow cookers are rare. And it really is wonderful to put a few ingredients together in the morning and have them change into something quite delicious by the evening!

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  • Delighted to hear from you again. Looks like there is a yard sale everywhere in this world! Glad to hear you are both well.of course, you heard about our hurricanes
    in Tx and Fl. And the Caribbean Islands have been devastated. I am so glad I did all my island hoping before this crisis. Who would believe that on foreign soil you would be so busy entertaining.
    Thanks for this post, as always.
    Keep well.
    Maida

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    • So glad you enjoyed the post, Maida and that the hurricanes have spared your area. Yes, we too are saying we’re happy we spent our time in the Caribbean while the hurricanes were quiet for several years as this season seems to particularly vicious. And we are SO happy that we sold our house on Padre Island and no longer have to worry about it. It really is crazy that we’ve had so many people visiting (and more to come) but what fun! Like I said, if you want people to visit, move to Portugal. LOL!
      As you can see, we’re happy and enjoying our adopted home and hope you’re well too. Maybe our paths will cross again one of these days!

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  • Sounds like a lot of fun. Each market sounds a bit different. I love the hippie caravans!

    Liked by 1 person

    • The caravans were wonderful, Donna and we had a great time wandering around checking them out. I get the idea that a lot of them are full-time homes for many of their owners and it sounds like there’s quite a clandestine community in the area. There’s been some talk of trying to do away with the under-the-table payments of the flea markets and trying to regulate the places selling food but it seems to us that it would be hard to enforce all the regulations. All the markets are peaceful, people are there to have fun and, in a country of innumerable fairs and festivals, this seems to be just another facet of the tradition.

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  • I love all the different types of markets! If I lived where you live, I think I’d stick around for the summer too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I remember when we moved to Padre Island off the Texas coast years ago with the dream of wanting to live where people came to vacation. And now, it looks like we’ve repeated the dream as the Algarve is one of the most popular places to visit during the summer in Europe. And lucky for us, we avoided most of the hellish heat wave that the Europeans called ‘Lucifer’ this year, too. Staying home and getting a chance to visit with old friends and new was a lot of fun and a great way to avoid the high season prices that so many places charge during July and August.

      Liked by 1 person

  • This post makes me even MORE excited to visit Portugal. Love the markets European towns have and these look great! Your summer “staycation” looked wonderful!

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    • Oh, you’ll love it here, Janice! Our summer was terrific and how fortunate we are to live in a place where all of Europe comes to beat the summer heat! This is the first time we’ve been in the Algarve during August and September and, many times, we stuck close to our apartment and pool to avoid the tourist craziness and visited the beach in the morning before the mad midday rush. Our ‘staycation’ was a great success and might become a summer tradition!

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  • Good article. Love the Chinese stores. I don’t like you guys had a relaxed summer. Where to next? Jeanie Glenn and I are headed to Oaxaca Mexico for December and then back down to Granada for January and February.

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    • I love Oaxaca… have a great time! One of these years – hopefully soon – we’ll get there for the Radish Festival in December.

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    • I was wondering if you’d seen any of the Chinese stores while you were here Linda, but of course you spent the whole month walking all around Lagos and probably discovered a few bargains for yourself! How awesome that you, Jeanie & Glenn are going to Oaxaca for December and I can’t wait to see what you’ll be painting after that visit. Kicking ourselves that we didn’t get to Oaxaca while we were in Mexico 2012/2013. 🙁 A radish festival would be great fun and would definitely make some colorful paintings!
      Speaking of vegetable festivals, some friends told us about the annual ‘Sweet Potato Festival’ where all things sweet potato-ey will be cooked and available for tasting in the nearby village of Aljezur in either October or November. We’ll definitely be checking that out.
      As for travel plans, we’ll be playing host at the end of September for friends, going to visit friends in Valencia in October and back to play host again for the last part of the year. In between, hopefully some day and overnight trips around and about!

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