Category Archives: Shopping

Barcelona Blog: Barcelona, can you fix it? Yes we can!

Clothes repaired here, Barcelona

I’m the sort of person that doesn’t function too well of a morning. Ideally in my world, there should be sort of central locking device on all hot, sharp or dangerous household objects that doesn’t spring open until I’ve had at least three cups of strong coffee.

Last week I attempted to iron a delicate shirt before work and failed to notice in my befuddled state that I had the iron on the linen setting and that the shirt was literally melting before my very eyes.

Back in England I would have had a slight tantrum and thrown it in the bin. In an age of £5 supermarket toasters and clothes that cost less than a cappuccino, nobody bothers to get anything fixed, darned or fiddled about with anymore but here in Barcelona, the city is full of tiny hidden shops that do just that.

A few years ago the strap on my leather bag broke and after chatting to a helpful pensioner in the street in Gràcia, I was directed to a secret doorway I’d walked past a million times before and never noticed. From a handwritten sign on the door I learnt that it was open for a grand total of 2 hours a day (closed all day on Tuesdays, Saturdays and Sundays, throughout August and on national holidays) and even then they only opened if they really felt like it.

Once I’d squeezed myself past an army of old ladies buying buttons and oddments, I found a dusty old shop that looked as if it hadn’t changed for hundreds of years. Ikea it was not. From behind a long wooden counter, the staff delved about in row upon row of drawers, filled with buckles, fasteners and other bits and bobs. For the old-fashioned price of €2.50, my bag was returned to its former glory by a man who must have been getting on a bit when the Spanish Civil War kicked off. It was a delight.

Sant Pere, Barcelona

With this in mind, last week I scoured my new neighbourhood for someone who could resurrect my shirt. I found Teresa, a plump lady with a wicked smile who works out of the back of a dishevelled shop in Sant Pere. Without so much as a raised eyebrow at my ironing capabilities, she produced pins from a little pin cushion worn on a Velcro strap around her wrist, devised a couple of clever tucks and promised to have it back to me the next day in exchange for €3. True to her word, there it was the following day, good as new. Clearly having deduced that I was a woman prone to pre-noon calamities, she gave me a wink and told me to pop in whenever I needed her.

Call me old-fashioned but I love these quirky little shops that lurk in Barcelona’s backstreets. I like a good counter and parcels tied with string. I feel exotic wandering past the tobacconists with a bread stick tucked under my arm. I think more men should wear aprons. And if you’re interesting in learning a language, there’s really nothing better than a good morning’s haggle at the market.

We sell hats, but only for uniforms mind

Thanks to rent control, Barcelona’s property developers will have a long wait to get rid of some these antiquated old ‘ma and pa’ stores. Primark may have opened its first shop here but for now the Catalans seem quite content with fixing what they already have rather than getting their hands on mountains more stuff. Happy as I am to have somewhere to buy cheap socks, I hope Teresa and those like her stay in business for many years to come. I fear I may need them.

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Tuppersex & Friends with Batteries (Revolver)

Photo Sofia Carvajal

Photo Sofia Carvajal

When a female sex shop owner tells you she loves her rabbit, she’s probably not talking about her pet bunny.

Welcome to Japi Jane, where a girl’s best friend isn’t a diamond ring but a multi-speed vibrator with bunny ears that reaches the places many men can’t find, let alone stimulate.

The first adult store of its kind in Chile, Japi Jane (pronounced Happy Jane) opened for business in November 2006. Starting life in the back room of a house and until recently dealing mainly with internet sales and Tuppersex house parties, Japi Jane now has an unassuming showroom in Los Leones where you can go and inspect the merchandise before you buy and speak to knowledgeable female staff. With 99% of products aimed at women and their playmates, it’s a world away from the harshly-lit downtown sex emporiums that sell grubby porn flicks and blow-up dolls to business men during their lunch-hour.

Owned and run by Jane Morgan, a happily-married American, the company opened to a blaze of publicity, with Chilean journalists and TV stations chomping at the bit to speak to the “sex-mad gringa”. Now considered a Santiago sexpert, it’s all a far cry from her deeply conservative upbringing in the American Mid-West where she was taught by nuns.  After a stint at business school and a year abroad here in Chile, where she met her husband, she still didn’t have much of a career plan. It was only after visiting a traditional Santiago sex shop and seeing the ugly fake plastic penises on display, that she had the idea of bringing quality adult toys to Chile. “If only the nuns at school could see me now” she smiles mischievously, holding up a waterproof vibrating penguin.

Her parents may have taken a while to get used to the idea (they still to this day tell strangers that their daughter owns a lingerie shop), but Morgan says they couldn’t be more supportive. “It’s not everyone that gets to see their dad stuffing suitcases with edible underwear and anal beads” she laughs. In a country where many women would die of shame to be seen entering a sex shop, Japi Jane is the answer to their prayers. Their tiny showroom is hidden away in an office block and all internet purchases are innocently parcelled up in plain wrapping. However, it’s their house calls that have proved most popular. A chance for women to see and hear about the products in the comfort of their own homes and talk about sex with their friends, Morgan’s Tuppersex parties have taken the city by storm. 

Here at Revolver, we decided that the only way to really know what these infamous parties were like was to host one and find out.

So, imagine, if you will, a Santiago living-room full of girls swigging wine and a woman with a very large suitcase handing out vibrators, creams and unguents. “Now then ladies”, begins the running commentary. “This one is called Magic Spot. It has 7 speeds, it’s easy to clean and it’s one of our best sellers.” Each item is passed round and tried on wrists, noses and necks to murmurs of approval. As the sales rep fends off questions like “How much are the handcuffs?”, “What flavours does this come in?” and “Have you got one with more speeds?”, women hold vibrators aloft to compare flexibility, girth and texture. Cackles of “Ooh that one just has to be painful” and “This one looks like my ex” fill the air as experts sagely agree that if it’s bendy, it’s worth paying a little more. When the credit card reader comes out, panic buying ensues. Only deep-sea fishermen in lap-dancing clubs part with their hard-earned cash this happily. Working like a professional drug dealer, the rep discreetly slides wrapped purchases under the table while buyers invent excuses for why they suddenly need to return home. As she packs up her half empty suitcase and friends wave their goodbyes, it’s quietly agreed that no-one will be venturing out for a while. At least not until the batteries need replacing.

Japi Jane Providencia 2250, Oficina 1 (between the bank and the jewellers and close to Casa de Ideas)

Metro: Los Leones Showroom open: Monday to Friday from 11am–8pm Saturdays from 11am–3pm

Tuppersex parties are usually for between 6 and 15 people (women only) with a minimum of four. Check to see if there is a minimum purchase amount required when you book. If you want a party in English, just ask for Jane.

To organise a Tuppersex party: Tel: 02 234 4917 Email: contacto@japijane.cl

http://www.revolver-magazine.com/travel/59-travel/775-japi-jane.html

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Filed under Revolver, Santiago de Chile, Shopping, Travel articles

Bío Bío, Santiago de Chile has it all: old rope, guns, sofas and chewed biros: Bío Bío, Santiago has it all

Photo Natasha Young

Photo Natasha Young

“I’m going shopping. Do you need anything?”

 “Yeah, can you get me a piece of old rope? Oh, and a French maid’s outfit… and some fake hair…and a chocolate penis.  Better get another broken toilet seat too, just in case, ooh and we’re nearly out of doll parts.”

“What about you Carlos, do you want anything?”

“Can you get me a gun and an ashtray in the shape of a human skull please? I’ll give you the money when you get back. And can you see if you can find me a letter L from Scrabble?”

With shopping needs this diverse, there’s only one place to go in Santiago; Persa Bío Bío. The city’s biggest flea market, it’s a world of tat for you to rummage through and while you’re there you can stuff yourself on grilled meat and fried food, have a ride on a donkey and see a clown too.

 A truly tourist-free zone, locals will have you believe that you’ll get stabbed, robbed or shot the moment you set foot out of the metro. However, if you keep your wits about you and leave your bag, mobile and credit cards at home (unless you want to see them all on sale here next week) it’s really not that bad and far more entertaining than the out of town malls.

Spreading out like a rash from Calle San Isidro to Franklin metro station, the market takes in furniture, antiques, computer parts, collectables, live animals, stolen bikes and everything in between. Think of something really weird and you’ll be sure to find it. Gas masks, dog dresses, old record players, gerbils – they’re all here. Also, unlike the city centre, where everything is locked away in cabinets and you have to ask to see a toothbrush, here you can delve about until your heart’s content.

Open from 9am – 7pm on Saturdays and Sundays.

Metro: Franklin.

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The Resident – Eco Christmas Shopping From The Sofa

Like Christmas but hate shopping? Can’t face the thought of elbowing through the frantic masses in El Cort Ingles? Make friends with modern technology and all your Christmas shopping could be done in a few minutes with the click of a mouse and a couple of phone calls. Of course, the tree-huggers would say that shopping locally is far kinder to the planet, and in some ways they’d be right. However, there are ways of reducing your carbon footprint whilst on-line and there are also plenty of websites that specialise in eco-friendly pressies and organic treats; you just need to know where to look. Some of our favourites are below. For those who feel guilty about not buying locally, the Carbon Neutral Company’s dedicate-a-tree scheme (www.carbonneutral.com/shop) is a nifty way of helping the environment and solving last-minute present worries. For £10 (€12.70), they’ll plant a tree in one of their native forest projects and send a dedication, by email or post, to your loved one.

For Kids

Who wouldn’t want to be an astronaut when they grow up with one of these at home?  For kids with inter-planetary ambitions and wild imaginations, the Cardboard Rocket Playhouse is a real find. Young astronauts can decorate it both inside and out with paint, collage, pens or crayons, before zooming off to galaxies far, far away. Made from very robust and sturdy re-cycled cardboard, the rocket can be dismantled and folded flat for storage when not being used for space missions. Suitable for toddlers who are stable on their feet up to about 7 years, it’s sure to be a hit at Children’s parties and can be packed into the boot of the car if they refuse to leave home without it.  The rocket costs £29.99 (€38) & VAT and usually ships within 24 hours to the UK with delivery at £6.95 (€8.80). Delivery to Spain costs a much heftier £25.99 (€33.20). Space cadets can find it at www.nigelsecostore.com, where they’ll also find wind-up toys, eco baby wear and a rather fabulous baseball cap that has a built-in solar-powered fan to keep kids cool. This is also a great site for green gifts for all the family, from energy saving devices to planet-happy clothes and accessories. They also stock eco-friendly Christmas cards, lights and decorations and give advice on how to have a greener festive season.

 For perfect pampering

If your loved ones are tired of toiletries or ties and sending them yet another Amazon gift voucher is out of the question, a day of pampering at Magma, a thermal leisure centre just outside Girona, might be just the ticket for stressed out mums, busy dads or friends who deserve a treat.

Located in the pretty spa town of Santa Coloma De Farners, a few miles from Girona airport, Magma is a bit of a one-stop shop when it comes to relaxing. Posher than an ordinary pool but not as snooty as the average spa, 25 euros buys 3 hours in the centre (prices and discounts vary, see website for details). Visitors can splash about in the thermal area’s indoor and outdoor pools, Jacuzzis and massage jets or dare each other to try the ice pit. For those who tire of the water, there’s a body care zone with saunas, Turkish baths and heat beds, and a special baby spa for miniature VIPS. To make a day or weekend of it, there’s a buffet restaurant on site and the Hotel Spa Termes Orion is just down the road.

For those that really need to be spoilt, there’s also a Spa Club that offers everything from body wraps to manicures. Have them slathered in chocolate for €52 or massaged until they are whimpering quietly with pleasure for €45.50 for 45 minutes.

Magma’s detailed website is available in Spanish, Catalan, English and French. Unfortunately bookings can’t be made online, but gift vouchers can be bought by ringing the reservations line: (0034) 972 843 535. They’ll send a form to fill in via email through which treatments can be booked for yourself or others. For those worried about their language skills, there are operators who’ll speak enough English for you to muddle through.

For stocking fillers

 Remember when sweets came in big glass jars, all lined up in rows at the corner shops, and friendly folk in aprons weighed them out? Remember when kids spent hours salivating, with eyes the size of flying saucers, deliberating between lemon sherbets or a bag of rhubarb and custard? If so, help is at hand this Christmas, thanks to www.sweetthingsdirect.co.uk.

This family-run company originally started as a gift shop in Warwickshire over 30 years ago, but they expanded to sell traditional, old-fashioned sweets 4 years ago when part of the team moved over to Catalunya and realised how great it would be if they could send sweets to family and friends.

Big kids with a sweet tooth will be leaving the Turron untouched this Christmas when they tear open the wrapping to find their old retro favourites, and dentists will be pleased too. Sweetthingsdirect really do have it all and if they don’t, they promise to try and source it. From white mice to black jacks, rum and raisin fudge to Parma violets, kola cubes to chocolate limes and the fabulously noisy Spacedust. Sugar-free, gluten-free, gelatin-free and organic ranges are also available, and for Christmas they stock chocolate tree decorations, advent calendars and boxes of Christmas crackers.

250 grams of aniseed balls will set customers back £2 and a pack of 5 gobstoppers a mere £2.25. Orders can be placed through the website, and they deliver to anywhere in mainland Europe. Postal rates range from £1.60 to £5.99 within the UK and start at £2.50 to Spain.

For Organic Smellies

If the man in your life could smell of anything, what would it be? How about the smell of your favourite cocktail? Mojito Man is a gorgeous range of organic shaving products from Californian based The Grapeseed Company that can all be bought online. The luscious combination of fresh mint and citrus will have you dreaming of drinks on the terrace every time he wafts past and what could be better than that this winter?

Made from 90% organic ingredients, the Mojito Man gift box contains an 8oz shave gel, a 2oz moisture mist and an old fashioned shaving brush, all wrapped up in a recycled paper gift box. Go the whole hog and include their scrub and shaving prep too, which is designed to eliminate nasty razor burn, remove dead skin and prepares the skin for a smoother shave. The gift box is priced at $20 (€14.75) and the shaving prep retails at $9 (€6.64).

For the girls, Grapeseed have a divine list of naturally fragranced products that includes Freshly Cut Herbs, Lemon Cake and Sunshine Day, a summery mix of orange and vanilla. A Grapeseed Gals gift box costs $29 (€21.40) and includes sugar scrub, lip balm and bath and massage oil in your choice of scent.

Pooches haven’t been forgotten either. Dismayed by the lack of natural pet care products on the market, Grapeseeds’ founders Kristen and Peter introduced Dirty Dog Organics, an eco-friendly range that have all been tested out on their rescue dog Surf. He recommends their $10 (€7.37) gift box that includes pet wash and fur freshener.

Shipping from the U.S. doesn’t come cheap, and here it’s certainly worth thinking about placing a larger order to save on the crippling postage costs that affect orders under $40 (€29.50), and don’t forget to allow plenty of time for delivery.

Published in The Resident  (Costa Brava) — December 2008

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Barcelona Metropolitan – Second Time Around – Second-hand Clothes Shopping in Barcelona

The smell of old ladies’ cardigans. Jigsaws with missing pieces. Well-worn paperbacks. Frankie Goes to Hollywood 12” singles. Faded wedding dresses. Clothes with a story to tell. Back issues of Reader’s Digest. Mournful, empty photo frames. Souvenir teapots from Whitby. People may not have realised they’ve missed them until now, but there’s an alarming lack of charity shops in Barcelona.

Barcelona Metropolitan – Second Time Around – pt 1

Barcelona Metropolitan – Second Time Around – pt 2

Barcelona Metropolitan – Second Time Around – pt 3

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