Betting on Lunch at the Lonja de Pescado of Calpe

YA vienennnnnn! At the sound of the bell, plastic crates of fish and shellfish descended on a thin conveyor belt. Date prrrriiiiiisaaaaa! Hurry! I screeched to the Novio, having already informed Mikel of A Salto de Mata via Instagram that any red mullets were mine for the taking. Our lunch was being auctioned off, and our salmonetes were at stake.

Big mistake: the other auctioneers were smartphone-enabled, whereas my poor Novio was dealing with a broken machine and not-so-nimble fingers.

We were at the Lonja de Pescado of the village of Calpe, witnessing a daily event in this sleepy fishing town-cum-beach destination for Northern Europeans. Sitting in bleachers around a conveyer belt equipped with large screens, we were willing to pay upwards of 100€ for just a kilo of shrimp.

Just the night before, the Novio and I joined 49 other VIP couples – bloggers, digital media strategists and tourism professionals – as we ate morsel afer morsel at the celebrated El Puerto Blanco restaurant in Calpe. This family run eatery on the Costa Blanca runs on tourism and, indeed, el turismo is Calpe’s economic motor. Eight of 10 Calpinos work in the industry, and the privileged location on two pristine bays means that the mar is Calpe’s lifeblood.

No visit to the small village north of over-touristed Benidorm would be complete without paying homage to the ocean and its important role in Calpe’s economy. We began our day by taking a tourist train ride from our hotel, Gran Sol y Mar, to the port nestled just below the Peñón Ifach. The sun glittered off of the water as we were herded into the humble building labeled LONJA DE PESCADO.

This isn’t my first trip to the fish rodeo: for my friend Hayley’s 26th birthday, we had lunch at El Tintero, a seaside restaurant where you shout for your food as the white-and-black-clad waiters bring around whatever they’d caught that morning. In Calpe, the subasta, or auction, begins around 6pm when all of the fishing boats come in. Fish stink permeated my consciousness far too early in the morning, but as soon as the local fisherman began passing out the remotes that were to be used to bet, I could feel my pulse quicken.

 As the daily catch came down the belt, I craned my neck to see what was in the crates. On the screen, the name of the fish, its weight and the number of buckets to be expected, and a camera affixed at the end of the belt gave us a real-time view of the seafood passing underneath it.

I watched in horror as the prices climbed upwards. “Coño!” the Novio shouted, “I think our machine is broken!” The alarm sounded again, and the boss informed us that he was putting a cap on what we could spend for the next round. We were to pass along our remotes to others and watch the process repeat itself.

After we’d had two rounds of betting on everything from octopus to crabs to lenguado, Mundo Marino treated us to a catamaran ride around the Peñón with a glass of champagne and then it was back to dry land for fried seafood and a paella contest. We sampled half a dozen different types of the rice based dish, all cooked by different restaurants around the port and served up with homemade alioli.

…and now the Novio is beginning to understand my world.

If you go: The Lonja de Pescado de Calpe is located at the foot of the Peñón Ifach on the Esplanade. Look for the fishing boats, the long nets and the smell of freshly-caught fish. The building can be visited from 16h to 19:30h, and the subasta happens around 6pm, once all of the boats have returned with their daily catch.

Many thanks to Calpe Tourism Board for their invitation to #Calpemocion, and their generosity when it came to feeding, housing and entertaining us. For more information about my weekend of san, surf and seafood (with my own opinions, claro), check out all of my Calpe-tagged posts.

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About Cat Gaa

As a beef-loving Chicago girl living amongst pigs, bullfighters, and a whole lotta canis, Cat Gaa writes about expat life in Seville, Spain. When not cavorting with adorable Spanish grandpas or struggling with Spanish prepositions, she works in higher education at an American university in Madrid and freelances with other publications, like Rough Guides and The Spain Scoop.


  1. I do NOT like fish but a stock market for fish is something else, love it! And the way you have written about it. Just been to a Tuna Festival too, Costa de la Luz way. The Spanish have such a great sense of theatre.

  2. Love your posts, Cat – always a good read – very informative and entertaining – thank you for sharing your experiences :-)
    Sue Sharpe recently posted..Cold As IceMy Profile

  3. Melanie Murrish says:


  4. You really are a girl after my own seafood-loving heart. I have a sneaking suspicion that you’re trying to kill me with all these pulpo/caracoles/scrumptious treat posts. Take me back to el sur!!
    Julia recently ode to new york cityMy Profile

  5. Nice one Cat! The fish looked great and it looks as if you had a great time in Calpe. Did you walk up the Peñon de Ilfach ?
    Paddy Waller recently posted..Spanish Wild Food in the “Big Country”My Profile

    • Sunshine and Siestas says:

      No time for the big climb, though the weekend was great. A perfect time to relax and have a refreshing take on tourism in that heavily-touristed area!

  6. Christine says:

    Salmonetes and a few cañas….heaven is what you speak of!
    As always, a great post Cat.

  7. omg how amazing! this looks so cool, so strange, so amazing that this entire world exists. I love the photos, as always. what a lovely experience. thanks for sharing cat. i love it. gabi
    gabi klaf recently posted..Country #12 Contest: Where In The World Is The Nomadic FamilyMy Profile

  8. Fun! I’d love this. I love fish and shellfish. All you need is a good gamble to take your mind off the smell for sure!
    Penny Sadler recently posted..5 Great Places for Jazz Music in DallasMy Profile

  9. Yummity yum yum yum!
    wanderingeducators recently posted..Florida Culture for the Week of June 10 by Josh GarrickMy Profile

  10. Drooling on my keyboard…
    Lillie – @WorldLillie recently posted..12 Strange, Funny Pregnancy Symptoms of Months 1-4My Profile

  11. What an exciting way to “catch” your meal!
    Sandra Foyt recently posted..A Grand Adventure in the Pine Bush Ends with a Little MoxieMy Profile

  12. Oh, how much fun! What a great way to make your dinner so memorable (not to mention fresh).
    Micki recently posted..25 Free Must Have iPhone Travel AppsMy Profile

  13. Wow, that paella looks amazing!
    Mary @ Green Global Travel recently posted..Water Wonders: A Father-Daughter Story of Growth Through AdventureMy Profile

    • Sunshine and Siestas says:

      They were all pretty awesome! I’ve really come around to paella in the past few years – I’ll take it in any form!

  14. This looks really fun — stench and all!
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  1. […] A week later, I attended my first blog trip to Calpe, a small fishing village that has capitalized on the tourism boom from nearby Benidorm. Despite the hotels popping up along the beach, Calpe is laid-back yet bursting with energy. We were treated to tons of water-related activities, including paddle surfing and betting on our lunch at the Lonja de Pescado. […]

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