Chez Ramon

Valencia’s ‘Mercado Redondo’ (Round Market) is a popular place for souvenir-seeking tourists and Valencians with an inclination towards haberdashery. It used to have a song bird market on Sundays before bird flu.

Ramon Gimeno’s great grandmother used to export onions to Britain until trading restrictions bankrupted her business and she had to try her hand at something else. She decided to move from her native village of Albuixech and open a shop in Valencia. That was in 1853 and today her great grandson Ramon and three of his five children are still cornering a sizeable part of the Round Market (yes, I know that sounds terrible) with their shop, which is really a series of shops, as they have expanded over the years, selling an incredible array of furniture and artisan, hand-made ceramics and cast-iron works.

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To walk through the shop is to be carried back to a different era when a key could also be a serious weapon and people needed weather vanes to know which way the wind blows.

On all sides there are telescopes, plant pots, mirrors, fountains, magazine racks, religious icons, milk churns, BBQs, letter boxes, chimneys, poker sets, brass bedsteads, clothes pegs, baskets and chimneys.

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Nearly all of this is made by traditional Valencian companies although Ramon admitted that the best chimneys come from Belgium.

As we spoke, English and German tourists came and went, buying little and Ramon pointed out that tourists were not really his market; that it was the owners of local villas (mostly Spanish) who came to buy his wares, and that those who took his products abroad were mostly Spaniards living abroad who wanted to remember something typical from home.

For the ladies there was a whole shop window full of traditional iron irons and a basket full of those large keys that have become popular as a cure for snoring if placed under a husband’s pillow.

Ramon, semi-retired now, sits outside and lets his children get on with it, content to chatter with anyone who feels like it and to reflect on how times have changed since 1853, not always for the better.

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