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Barcelona Village

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Day-to-day shopping

If you live any where you quickly get used to shopping habits, the reason for including it is that there are a few things that catch you out on the odd occasion.

There are a range of supermarkets from Carrefour and Al Campo (essentially the French Auchan chain) hypermarkets with huge stores in the main shopping areas to smaller chains like Consum, Solidiscau etc. You will also find Aldi and occasionally Les Mousquetiers (also French).

Spanish stores and supermarkets typically open at 10am and close at 10pm. The later start is just enough to mean that you can't pick up a few bits of shopping on the way back home from dropping the children off at school. Smaller shops will take a lunch break between about 2pm and 4pm, but this doesn't usually apply to the larger supermarkets. In general supermarkets are busiest in the evening and on a Saturday.

Supermarkets close on Sundays and festival days. If, like us, you buy milk and fresh products on a day-to-day basis, you'll need to keep an eye on when the festival days are, which could be mid-week as well as Mondays. There are a lot of festival days.

If you need anything on a Sunday, then bakers and Tabacs are open. These shops typically open at 8 or 9am and many stay open in the afternoons even on Sundays. There are also a few convenience Spar shops and corner shops (dubbed 'pakistanis'by the Spanish on account of their ownership) dotted around the city also open on Sundays for emergencies.

Credit cards and shop security

If you are aiming to pay for things by credit card you will need your passport or photo id with you (sometimes a photo-driving licence will be OK). There is currently no chip and pin system here and no system of 'cash-back'. Security is a big big issue to supermarkets and you may also be asked to leave bags in lockers outside the store, or to seal bags from other shops in plastic (eg Al Campo) before taking them in to the store. Almost all supermarkets have security guards floating around and if you are leaving without buying you will need to go back through the entrance - you can't skip through an empty till as you might in the UK.

Fish and meat

Rather obviously products in Spanish supermarkets reflect Spanish tastes. There is a lot of good quality fish and shellfish sold fresh, but also a large selection of tinned fish - I didn't know that tuna and anchovies could come in so many varieties. Even supermarket fish counters will clean, fillet and prepare the fish you buy for you. "Filet" for filleting or "sin tripas" to have the fish gutted.

The main meats are chicken, rabbit and pork. Both chicken and rabbit will be seen 'entire' (ie with head and possibly giblets still inside) in addition to other prepared cuts. Similarly all of the pig is eaten from the ears to the trotters. Beef and lamb are comparatively expensive and it is almost impossible to find a 'joint' as such, with most meats sold pre-cut into thin slices for quick frying. Even mince can be hard to find or expensive. Plan to change your eating habits, even if you are cooking for yourself.

The fruit and vegetables available are generally locally produced or come from other areas of Spain. Quite rightly, they come in to the supermarket according to their season and being local and in season, they are typically tastier than the cooled, stored and air-freighted equivalent in the UK. Having said that the difference in climate means that seasons are earlier than the UK. Strawberries will appear around February for instance. The Spanish menu moves according to the season and it is well worth trying to buy the right products at the right time.

At Christmas, the Spanish eat pasta (canneloni) rather than Turkey. They also eat a greater variety of beans than in the UK.

Dairy

For dairy products, much milk purchased is in UHT tetrapacks, but all supermarkets seem to have a small fresh milk section - often quickly sold out. Cheeses are typically local and Spanish. With the exception of specialist cheeses such as goats cheese or Gallega (shaped like an onion but creamy) the 'standard' cheeses come in three forms - curado, semi-curado and a third milder form. These lack a little of the punch of the strong English cheeses. European standard cheese is also available - Edam, Brie, Emmental often in a packaged form, but the English staple of cheddar can be harder to find.

Surprisingly, French cheeses do not seem to make it across the Spanish border. Despite sharing a border and many of the same supermarket chains, French cuisine and gastronomy seems not to cross the Pyrenees. It's sometimes worth a day trip to pick up a joint of meat, some French cheese, French wine and squash concentrate (this last one in particular is required).

Specialisms

Try Horchata - at least once - it looks like milk but is made from tiger nuts. The spanish hot chocolate (Tasa de Chocolate) is very thick - like drinking chocolate sauce, though Cacoalat is a normal pre-mixed chocolate milk shake.

You will find a good selection of beers - Damm Estrella is the local Barcelona beer. There is also a lot of Cava and cava is often less expensive than white wine in the supermarkets.

Botifara are the local sausages and are much like normal sausages. They also come as blood sausages or Botifara d'ou which are traditionally eaten during carnaval before lent.

Dried ham (serrano) is also a big thing in Spain - supermarkets and specialist stores sell, and people buy, complete legs of ham which are then carved off the bone at home - you also see these in bars for Tapas.

Fuet is the catalan salami which is a relatively mild salami. And of course there is Choriso (Xoriso in catalan) which comes in a large number of sizes and varieties.

UK foods

If you are homesick or in need of your bit of English food, many things are available in the main supermarkets - so tea, HP sauce etc. The one thing we couldn't find was Branston Pickle, but other things make up for this. As mentioned the main thing missing for us were squashes. Juice and water are typically cheap so it seems not to be a Spanish thing to serve squash for children. We now stock up on our occasional forrays into France.


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