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April 26, 2007
From journal Say Hello to San Antonio
September 2, 2004
There are over thirty vendors within the main building, collectively attempting to create the aura of a market in Mexico. This Mercado is generally recognized as the largest one outside of Mexico. I would imagine some of these items would be dirt cheap in Mexico, but they appear reasonably priced here. You can always comparison shop amongst the various storefronts to see if you can get a better deal, but they seem to be evenly priced throughout the complex. The items have marked prices, so you cannot bargain down as you would at an actual market in Mexico. The shopkeepers all seem very low-key, so you are not hassled into purchasing anything. Almost every store posts a sign begging tourists not to wear sombreros or other articles of clothing while posing for photos, at least not until you have purchased them. It is fun to browse through the boxes and racks of knickknacks, but it is easy to knock something fragile over because the places are just brimming with merchandise. Be careful!
There are all sorts of colorful and amusing items on display along with your typical selection of t-shirts and trinkets. If you are buying t-shirts, be sure you are not taking the "old" ones on top of the piles. Plenty of little toys are available for under a dollar if you have a boatload of kids to shop for. Leather goods run the gamut from purses, belts, whips, gun holsters and even saddles. Traditional gifts like pinatas, tortilla warmers, blankets, pottery and jewelry are available in all shapes and sizes. Try to look at the tags to see where the stuff is produced, as what is the point of buying a "Mexican" armadillo made in China?
Just west of the Mercado is the Farmers Market Plaza, which has about eighty specialty shops of food and wares for sale. It seems like a big annex of the Mercado. Enjoy a snack here or just read the signs to see what you may have eaten in street stalls in Mexico but did not know what it was that you ate. Mariachi bands play lively music outside the Mercado to add another layer of atmosphere to the area. Some of the shops set up some extra tables outside, so have a look around. The Mercado seemed much more interesting and festive than the historic La Villita district near the River Walk, or did we catch La Villita during a collective Sunday siesta?
El Mercado is open from 10am to 8pm during the summer. In the winter the stores close a bit earlier at 6pm.
From journal Bill in the USA - SAN ANTONIO
October 27, 2003
Market Square is the best cultural shopping experience in downtown San Antonio. Located west of the River Walk, it is a good fifteen minute walk to reach Market Square. On your journey above ground you will pass the San Antonio government buildings, San Fernando Cathedral and the Spanish Govenor''s Palace. If you choose to drive, parking is $5.00. You can also take a streetcar ride from downtown for $0.50.
Stalls in the indoor El Mercado sell everything from Mexican blankets and cowboy hats to high-quality crafts from the interior of Mexico. Shops sell more than just Mexican items. Here you can find goods from aroudn the world. You will find things like Chinese porcelain jars and hand-carved religious figurines, but most people come here for the Mexican crafts. You won''t miss the colorful skeleton figurines for the Day of the Dead. You''ll also find plenty of salsas and hot sauces to bring home. One store had an entire wall of hot sauces on display. I could have spent hours looking through to pick the perfect one.
Also, look for a variety of colorfully decorated pottery items such as crosses, bowls, plates, and jars. There is a large selection of hammered silver mirrors as well. Most of these items are very affordably priced, but unfortunately, they seem too difficult to take home in the suitcase, so you should be prepared to ship your items home. You will also find leather goods, Mexican apparel, glassware, hand-crafted furniture, jewelry and more.
You can enjoy some great Mexican food at either Mi Tierra or La Margarita. Both serve up traditional Mexican and Tex-Mex items and are popular spots for lunch and dinner. Mi Tierra is open 24 hours, so you can stop in to get some huevos rancheros, chile rellenos, chalupas, or other meal at any time. The mariachi band plays into the wee hours of the morning. Their bakery offers Mexican pastries that I have never seen before, along with standard cookies and cakes.
From journal San Antonio: The Fiesta City
Bayside, New York
August 14, 2001
This time around, we were freer to roam, and stop at every little thing, as I often do. The day was sunny, and we went into every bodega (store) that lined the promenade. To its side, there is another hidden treasure, and when you go through the doors, you'll see a huge hall with small shops offering some very beautiful native arts & crafts. Shopping here has a definite cultural angle and it's hard to focus, because there is so much coming at you, but if you go in one direction and make a circle, then you can start moving toward the center stalls.
El Mercado is the the largest Mexican marketplace outside of Mexico; it is a Mexican style plaza replete with fabulous restaurants, decadent pastry shops, specialty shops and craft galleries. If you love pottery, as I do, then this is a must-see. Especially the indoor area. My eyes were not large enough to take in all the different styles of pottery and ceramics fashioned by Mexican artisans. I did get a terra cotta vase, with a green gecko cleverly painted on its top side. Chuck found me an identical one on the other side of the plaza, and we also managed to pick up a matching candle holder. They made it to NY in one piece!
Papier maché objects line the tables; lots of jewelry with turquoise stones; leather keychains, wallets, belts which they will engrave for you free of charge, or for a very nominal $1.00. Sombreros, Mexican style blusas (blouses)which have elasticized sleeves that you can lower to the shoulders. Flamenco style skirts galore. What else?? Tiled picture frames; wooden carvings, and oh! brightly colored paper maché vegetables and fruit! You can buy them in single large pieces or bound together by a string so you can hang it up as decor if you like.
They hold a festival here on a yearly basis which is free and open to the public. Attendance apparently is a hair short of half a million people. You can bet you'll hear all the Tejano music you yearn for! I think it's held in late July.
I found this to be thoroughly enjoyable; families come with their children both during the day and at night. The market bustles with activity.
From journal Hola San Antonio
February 14, 2001
There are markets indoors and outdoors, selling mostly souvenirs and gifts, in private booths and stands. Food and refreshments are available everywhere. There are also musicians, bands and constumed dancers that are always putting on a show somewhere in the area.
Among its shops is the "oldest pharmacy in San Antonio," which is an apothecary-style relic. Restaurants include Mi Tierra (see other journal entry), La Margarita, and many street vendors, and market stands.
The Market is a short drive from the Rivercenter Mall and nearby Marriotts. There is public (fee) parking around the Market, and many merchants validate parking.
From journal San Antonio
October 11, 2000
From journal San Antonio - I can't wait to go back