Sunday, October 11, 2015

El Mercado Artisenal - the Art Market!

11 October 2015

We've been talking about going to the arts and crafts market, so decided Sunday was a good time to visit.

This is one of those places you want to visit just before heading home, so you can buy souvenirs for yourself and everyone you know.

Everything was gorgeous.  Everything seemed to be made in Ecuador.  And, well, I wanted one of just about everything!

Alpaca scarves.  Alpaca ponchoes so soft you'd swear you were touching a baby bunny or kitten or cashmere.  Alpaca sweaters.  Alpaca hats, mittens, gloves, socks.  

I bought an alpaca circle scarf from this lovely young lady, similar to the one she's wearing.  And she let me take her photo.  (If you look to the left of the young woman, there are alpaca toys - I think these are lions with alpaca manes!  Many shops had little alpaca animals made of alpaca fur - and of course I had to pat them on the head and tell them how cute they were.)

Then there were all the embroidered items - shawls, scarves, blouses for men, women, children.  Embroidered tablecloths, napkins, table runners, pillow covered.  Crocheted lace clothing and household items.  
I kept telling people, "No casa, tiene no casa!"  ("No house, I have no house.")  Didn't stop them.  I'm wearing sunglasses and am approached by the sunglass seller.  You get the idea.  People were friendly, but they were trying to sell their wares.  Not as pushy as the markets in, oh, SE Asia.  But kind of pushy in a nice way.  

Oh, and these hand-painted bowls and dishes!  So gorgeous!  The lady was very nice and didn't mind as I stood there taking photos, telling her how pretty they were ("Muy linda!"), and then not buying a thing and just walking away after a big "Muchas gracias!"  

The market stalls were in rows, with entrances/exits at each end.  I realized that at the street end, not the plaza end, there were wonderful mosaics featuring scenes around Quito.  It looked as if the blank tiles were laid out, maybe 5 tiles by 8 tiles, and the glaze (or underglaze) painted on to create the scene.  If underglazed (just pure pigment, essentially), then clear glaze applied on top.  Then the tiles would be fired in a kiln, and then cemented on the wall together like a puzzle.  They were just wonderful!!!  So of course I had to take a photo of each one!  (And not all of them are here, that's how many there were!)

Across the front of the building were painted panels, maybe the same size as the mosaics, featuring different arts and crafts sold in the market.

I should add that these items tend to be the traditional arts of the indigenous people of Ecuador.  So people in the city refer to this as the "Indian Market."  

But the original Ecuadoreans are comprised of a diverse group of tribes, so there are all kinds of traditional clothes, arts, crafts, etc.

In addition to my alpaca scarf, I bought an alpaca stocking hat to keep me toasty warm, especially if we get further into the Andes.  Some hand-made dark chocolate, 100% chocolate, grown and made here in Ecuador.  A sleeveless blouse with crocheted yoke and flowers.  And an embroidered dress which I'll shorten into a blouse.  Gorgeous cotton, all handmade, and, well, my friends and family all know how much I love ethnic clothing.  (And had I had more money with me, I may have kept buying.  Things were that wonderful!)

Oh, I forgot all the beautiful leather goods!  Purses, shoes, backpacks, luggage.  And of course leather jackets in all sizes and all colors.  Seriously, I could have bought a bright pink leather jacket if I wanted.  (It was a great color, but no, I don't do bright pink leather jackets.  Purse, okay.  Jacket, no.)

And mirrors all over, just ornamental mirrors with decorate frames.  Wondrous metal work.  

Did I mention all the adorable alpaca toy animals?  SO soft and cuddly!

The sales people were predominantly indigenous Ecuadoreans, judging by their clothes, height (or actually their shortness), and their faces.  I had some interesting discussions with the women about their clothing - the blouses are white and colorfully embroidered, then flounces of laces added or not, length altered - one woman kept showing me items and saying "This - woosh!" and making a pulling-it-off motion to show me that this part was optional.  Really interesting to the fashionista in me!

There were also adorable babies and children in the market, kidlets whose parents were working.  One baby was fussing while the woman was looking for a tee shirt for Richard, so I went in the stall and chatted with the baby.  Of course, she didn't understand a word of English, but I think she was lonely so she got a bit quieter as I talked to her.  Then there was a toddler, sitting on her brother's lap, but quietly crying.  I offered to hold her but she gave me an emphatic NO, and her brother and I burst out laughing at the same time.  He kept telling me things, I kept saying "No comprendo," but we both saw the humor in his little sister's NO!

Anyway, we had a great time.  

I found a great new food item here, arroz con camarones.  Rice with shrimp.  The waiter told me this is a specialty of the coast - it's similar to arroz con pollo, but with different herbs and spices.  Sort of yellow rice with lots of diced peppers, carrots, peas, and tons of shrimp.  Not those tiny bay shrimp, no, good-sized shrimp.  Probably about 20 shrimp in my pile of rice.  It was so huge, I ate half of it and took the rest back to the hotel for my dinner.  We're really enjoying Ecuadorean food, which seems to feature grilled or quickly cooked meat/chicken/fish, with tasty sauces or herbs cooked in, and a basic starch to go with it.  

And I'm thrilled to report that the coca leaf tea seems to be helping both of us tremendously!  We're each drinking two cups a day, and I no longer huff and puff on level ground.  I can even walk up three or four flights of stairs!  We both have normal pink fingers, no vague lavender tint in there!

So we'll enjoy our next week in Quito, and finally get around the some serious exploring!


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