By Veronica

The eyes have it

The good thing about slow travel is that you notice things you wouldn't if you were just passing through. S had seen an item in the local paper about tours of the fish market in Motril, so he got in touch and booked us in for this afternoon, as hangers-on of a group of students from Granada University.

When we arrived the hall of the fish market was empty and deserted. A young woman gave us a brief overview of how the market worked -- basically a Dutch auction that starts high and decreases (though there are circumstances where you can bid upwards). It's quite a high-tech operation; the cases of fish move along a conveyor belt where they are automatically  weighed, classified, and bar-coded, and then under a CCTV camera which displays them on high-level screens to the bidders. Once bought, a printer at the end of the belt prints out a label with all the details of the fish, who fished it, where, how much it weighed and who bought it, and the crate and label are then moved to the buyer's pallet.

The students arrived with another woman who turned out to have an encyclopaedic knowledge of all things fisheries. By this time the boats were arriving with the catch and fishermen were clattering by with trolley-loads of fish to be weighed and classified, while other workers laid out pallets. So we moved outside and walked around the port and onto a boat where the skipper provided even more detail. S was fascinated and went up onto the bridge with him, but I must admit that after an hour and a half of talk I'd started to suffer from comprehension fatigue. So I wandered off to take photos and then just watched seagulls, egrets and cormorants in the harbour as the sun sank slowly in the west.  More in the extras -- I was particularly taken by the amphorae used for catching octopus (second extra).

Eventually we went back into the hall where the auction was in full swing. It was weirdly silent and very rapid, because the bidders all had remote controls for placing their bids; you could watch the price rattling down on large screens until someone placed the winning bid. The skipper had told us that in cases where the offers are unacceptably low, instead of selling they give the fish away to food banks. Of course this is more likely for run-of-the-mill fish like mackerel than the top-of-the-range stuff like shellfish and sea bass.

After two hours even S had had his fill. We'd planned to go to a film in Motril afterwards, but tiredness saw us head back to Vélez for the sure-fire standby of wine and free tapas in the regular bar, followed by soup at home.

In other news, I was gratified to see that my favourite photo of the Alhambra got Explored on Flickr and has had over 1,000 views as opposed to the more usual five :)

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