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Costa Coffee and the Market of Hope

I was recently in Santander, a major port city on the northern Spanish coast.  While my kids were waking up in the hotel, my wife and youngest son went out in search of breakfast.  Bereft of a map, we wandered in search of some fruit, and some pastries perhaps?  Eventually, glancing round a street corner, I spotted what looked like it might be the corner of a market stall.  On closer inspection, it turned out we had stumbled across one of the most remarkable food markets I have ever had the pleasure to wander around, El Mercado de la Esperanza, or ‘The Market of Hope’. The market opened in 1904, and is widely regarded as one of the finest examples of iron architecture in Spain, being declared a historic monument in 1977.  It is the largest market of its kind in Cantabria, the region of Spain in which Santander sits.  Outside the market was a clothes market one had to pass through in order to get inside the building, which had little that was memorable, apart from a very tight-looking pair of men’s briefs with a picture of a large space rocket on the front and the word, erm, “rocket”.  I didn’t buy them. The market was on two floors.  The lower floor featured seafood (“mariscos”) and fish (“pescados”), freshly caught from the Calabrian Sea.  Shrimps, prawns, squid, muscles, big eel-like things, plaice, salmon, something called ‘bonito’ which I’m not sure what it is but it would take you a few meals to get through one, sardines, and some amazing-looking things that I had only ever seen in fossils.  All laid out on ice, stall after stall after stall. Upstairs was a more eclectic array of food.  Fruit, vegetables, an amazing array of cheeses, bread and pastries, meats, cakes, eggs, honey, preserves, huge hams, all manner of pulses laid out in baskets.  Rather than the kind of market I’m more used to, that sets up on trestle tables and is gone by the end of the day, this was a permanent market.  It was open 6 days a week, all day (bar the traditional siesta break in the middle of the day), and each stall was its own business, each one probably kept within families for generations.  There we no empty stalls. We wandered around, buying a creamy goats cheese, some beautiful flat peachy things that are particular to that area, a bag of amazing greengages that dripped with a juice as sweet as honey, some local brie-type cheese that smelt like the worst teenagers’ trainers you ever had the misfortune to be in close proximity to but which tasted amazing, and some bread.  I have been to similar markets, The English Market in Cork in Ireland, St. Nicholas Market in Bristol, and perhaps a couple of others, but El Mercado de la Esperanza blew me away. The previous day news had reached me that Costa Coffee, the global coffee chain, has succeeded in getting planning permission to open a branch in my home town of Totnes in Devon, a story told brilliantly in a piece in today’s Guardian.  Nothing unusual in that you might say, Costa are opening new branches everywhere, every day.  What was particular to the Totnes Costa was that nobody wanted it.  The ‘No to Costa’ campaign, which Transition Town Totnes was one of the key drivers of, had fought a creative, positive and very high profile campaign against the planning application to turn a former health food shop into a Costa.  It also presented itself very much in the context of the positive vision of how our local economy could be that TTT has been working to achieve for the past 6 years, and which will be outlined in its forthcoming ‘Economic Blueprint’ for the town. Read the rest, and see Rob’s photographs, at

tc Rob Hopkins is the author of The Transition Companion.

A write-up of the 2012 Transition Network conference. The best yet.

Transition folks from around the world gathered last weekend at Battersea Arts Centre for the 6th annual Transition Network conference.  In a week when the Arctic ice reached its smallest ever extent, scientists warned that the world’s weather could be on the verge of running amok and it was suggested that Saudi Arabia, always meant […] Read More..

Off to the Transition Network conference 2012

So, it’s bag-packing time as I get ready to set off to Battersea for the Transition Network conference.  There probably won’t be much activity on these web pages over the duration of the conference as it tends to be hectic bonkers from start to finish and little time to sit and blog.  However, there will […] Read More..

A July/August Round-up of What’s Happening out in the World of Transition

This month’s round up covers two months, because this time last month half of the team that lovingly create these round ups was away when they should have been producing this.  As a result it’s a bit of a whopper.  The latest Transition Bristol newsletter begins “In this issue…. The Bristol Pound is coming, the Bristol Pound is coming, […] Read More..

An interview with Charles Eisenstein: “Something in your heart knows that this is what life is supposed to be about”

About 4 weeks ago, I had the honour of interviewing Charles Eisenstein, author of ‘Sacred Economics’ while he was in the UK visiting Schumacher College to teach a course there for a week.  I had to admit before we began the interview that I have yet to read his book, in spite of the number […] Read More..

The Four Slugs of the Apocalypse

The other day my wife sent me a text while I was at work. “Get some broccoli”. During my lunch break, I duly headed out into Totnes in pursuit of the afore-mentioned brassica. I started out by visiting all the places that might sell local, organic broccoli, but they were all out, one telling me […] Read More..