When in Fort Lauderdale, we always make sure to spend some hours at the huge Florida Swap Shop. A fun bargain hunter’s paradise, filled with sensory fireworks. This is a refreshing antidote to sterile shopping centres, clone malls and high-end boutique streets. (Places we do admit enjoying as well, though).
Florida Swap Shop is an inside-outside flea market (inside area vendors all seem to sell new stuff), combined with farmers market, flower market, food vendors, a carnival. You can get your car washed and windows tinted, buy pre-paids to countries like Jamaica or Columbia. Fix your watch, sell and buy gold. Get a massage and find Chinese lucky charms, table fountains and Buddha figurines. Make affordable fashion finds and hunt for cheap souvenirs or mementos. Buy your flip-flops, beach towels and baseball caps. Traditional clothing of different cultures is sold next to über revealing lingerie, kitchen utensils and power tools along with umbrellas, dentist’s instruments, baby powder and insence. And they also have this fun, free Ferrari exhibition there. And the huge drive-in movie screens. According to Swap Shop this is the largest drive-in of the world – we counted seven screens.
If you park next to the Swap Shop (more parking across the road), the first thing you’ll see are the car fixers and the farmers market. A lot of the shoppers and shop keepers appear to have roots outside the continental US, the variety of languages and dialects is thrilling. It must be a heaven on earth finding familiar fruit, vegetables, spices and various farm to table items waiting to be taken home, cooked in a certain, traditional way, eaten with family and friends.
You can imagine specialities from the Caribbean islands, cuisines of South American regions, Mexican recipes and various African and Asian flavours when browsing through the Farmers Market of Florida Swap Shop.
There’s a guy selling fresh sugar cane juice and fresh coconuts to enjoy. A stall selling hot churros, you can order them plain or with hot chocolate dipping sauce. Next to veggie vendors there’s an outdoor (well, under the canopy) seafood restaurant El Tiburon with very yummy looking menu (overheard people praise the mixed ceviche) and active sales personnel. We’ve had a couple of Coronas there once, but can’t give any real suggestions for food. Inside we’ve enjoyed some Cuban, some Jamaican, Greek and Mexican. It’s fun, tasting stuff.
Any given Saturday or Sunday the asphalt fields are filled with vendors selling both second hand stuff and brand new items from the trunks of their cars. Electronics, car parts, cosmetics, shoes, clothes, adult DVD’s. Smell the sweat and the heavy perfumes, this is a bazaar kind-of-a place.
The guy with rasta locks is selling African natural potions, lotions and herbs. From the car behind him Bob Marley beats suggest it’s time for some chilling in the afternoon heat. “Looking for a hookah or pongs?” they ask people passing their tables.
This place has it’s own, unique athmosphere that draws us back each time we come to Fort Lauderdale. Maybe one day we come for the movies as well. Florida Swap Shop is open 7 days each week, 365 days a year.