Tiddley-Bits tea

Tiddley-Bits tea

Sunday, 15 February 2015

{day trip to Otavalo}

If you follow my blog regularly you'll know I spent Christmas in Ecuador. I celebrated New Year's Eve with my sister & her family (who live there) and in early January we took a day trip to Otavalo. Otavalo is a small town north of Quito (about a two hour drive), with a large market. Saturday is market day, and the market spills out into the streets of the city.
Otavalos take pride in their heritage and they still dress in the traditional way--the ladies with a white embroidered blouse, strings of gold necklaces, and long black skirt, accompanied by traditional shoes (called alpargata) and a hat. The men wear white-cropped trousers, a poncho and a hat as well as the alpargatas. (for more on the symbolism of their costume, check out this Ecuador travel website).
Otavalo is a great place to visit, but nearby there are also fantastic places for lunch--old haciendas that speak to a yesteryear, which offer visitors a wonderful place to enjoy the local cuisine and to get a peek into the colonial legacy of South America.
{Otavalos in traditional dress}

It's recommended you stop off at the Lago San Pablo on the drive down to stretch your legs--there's a cute little restaurant on the lake, and you can also stay the night in little cottages that look like something out of the Swiss Alps. The views are breathtaking...
{Lago San Pablo}

{my sister and my nephew}

We arrived in Otavalo in the late morning, when the hustle and bustle of the market was in full swing:
{traditional dress on sale}

 The market sells everything from fruit & veg and spices, to more touristy items, such as traditional blankets, embroidered table cloths, hammocks etc.. to more mundane stuff such as socks & underwear. There are also food vendors selling fried fish and other local delicacies.

{Otavalos picking out the gold beads they wear around their necks} 

{me, finding it hard to choose what to buy!}

I couldn't resist buying a beautiful black & white blanket, some embroidered bun warmers for friends, and a lovely fedora hat, which has served me well here in the UK (left)...

Once you've filled up your bags and emptied your purses at the market, head to one of the nearby haciendas for lunch. Hacienda Cusin or Hacienda Pinsaqui are both great options. They sometimes have strict set menus, so call ahead of time to check & to reserve. We had lunch at Pinsaqui, where live music was being played, and waiters serve you in bow ties and the waitresses, in traditional dress. Pinsaqui has a fantastic history of hosting illustrious figures, including Simon Bolivar. Indeed, the peace agreement between Ecuador and Colombia was signed on its very premises, known as the "Treaty of Pinsaqui". The family has a historic ambassadorial past, reflected in pictures of Frida Kahlo and Simon Bolivar gracing the walls...
{the main hall}

{filled with gorgeous antiques & chandeliers}

{the grounds are a great place to work up an appetite or burn off a big meal}

{stunning blue & white decor in the hall leading to the restaurant}

{as it's rather high altitude, the mornings and evenings are a bit chilly, so a warm fire is welcome}

{ the family's coat of arms on the menu (and on the back of the chairs)}

{traditional food}

{live music accompanies the lunch--they play in the outside hall so it isn't too loud or invasive}
We also stopped in at Hacienda Cusin, just to walk the grounds. It has sentimental reasons for us and especially for my sister & her husband, as we had a big lunch here a few days before they were married in Quito. The house dates back to 1602 and some of the grounds include a monastery--it's a wonderful place to walk around, and if you stay overnight there is a library and other wonderful guest facilities to enjoy...
{some tiles dating from to the early 17th century}

{the library for guests at Cusin (through the doors)}

Otavalo and environs is certainly worth a visit! (for more on Otavalo, you might want to read my blog from 4 years ago when I visited; for more on haciendas in Ecuador check out my blog post from a few years ago here).

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