I just love going to a neighborhood market for a quick cultural glimpse and some good deals on local stuff. Sure, some of them cater to the tourists and offer items no more unique to the area than Miller Beer is to Milwaukee. But sometimes, you’ll run across a market that’s made for locals. Either way, the people are always interesting and watching them is great way to spend an afternoon, getting a feel for the community

Today, Erin and I visited the annual Addison Art Fest. Erin was on location for her radio segment.

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I was optimistic, in spite of the rainy weather, that we’d have a local cultural experience in this northern urban neighborhood in Dallas. Peruse lots of regional and national artists and their crafts; hear a little live music; munch on some festival food. Good times right?

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But, the never-ending rain dampened everything, but it did put me in a market state of mind. Got me thinking about the variety of festivals and markets I’ve seen, and got me hungry to visit more.

Summer in Chicago means street festivals galore. I swear, there’s one or more every weekend! And if you’re heading to the windy city, look one up. I went to the Oyster Fest several times in Old Town. Rock n’ roll set to Guiness and raw shellfish – it’s always like 100 degrees too. A combustible but fun mix.

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Also festive, the Paddington market in Sydney. We found all sorts of unique artisans and surveyed their crafts. It felt more like a local thing than part of the tourist itinerary, as plenty of Sydney folks not only suggested this market, but also joined us on the bus from downtown.

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Speaking of markets made for locals, Erin and I spent many a Saturday morning trolling the Union Square green market in New York City. Surrounded by the towering buildings and bustling city, it’s a chance for city folk to sip the apple cider and stop and smell the fresh cut flowers. Lots of cheeses and jams, too. My favorite: the wheat grass.

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Then there’s the farmers market at Matakana, which is serves the surrounding small towns and the weekend warriors from Auckland, New Zealand. It hammered home the point that fresh and local go hand in hand. Tasty goodness.

In Huanglongxi, China, a town near Chengdu and famous for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, we experienced a market that is vital to the farmers in the communities. This is, in many cases, the only place farmers conduct commerce: buying, selling and trading for all daily essentials. I attempted to buy a roll of toilet paper and spent 5 yuan. That was apparently worth about 5 rolls, and they felt bad for taking my money – language barriers make markets even crazier.

Hong Kong is known for all types of markets. Kowloon feels like one sprawling market, block by block. Burned in my memory are the bird market and women’s market. The island is no slouch either. For example, strolling this market district in central Hong Kong, near Happy Valley, after picking up a batch of laundry. Yeah, lots of live creatures waiting their turn to be fresh dinner for locals.

Are you in the market for a good cultural exchange?

Check out this cool site, world wide panarama, and this 3-D group of famous markets around the world – starting in Huanglongxi.

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