Saturday, March 13, 2010

Cuenca Tour with Panama Hats

Our friend, Nancy, invited us to check out a new city tour with her.  Always fun to see what is being offered for tourists and newcomers to the City.  We always learn something new on these tours, so we were eager to join her. The route is different from the double-decker bus tour, and we visited some new (to us) neighborhoods, as well as a Panana Hat factory.

This tour offers a comfortable ride in a new trolley, along with some walking, and lasts about 4 hours.  $12/each is a bargain. (For more info and pictures see Nancy/Chuck's blog, link on the sidebar.)

We began with the English-speaking guide at San Sebastian Square, bright and early,  at 8:30 am.  San Sebastian is where the first jail was built and the church there is one of the oldest churches of the City.  The Square itself was a bull fighting ring at one time. It marks one of the original boundaries of Cuenca. 

Since we were the only customers, we all got to sit in the front with perfect views. 

We visited the 10th Aug market area on foot (one of our already-favorites).  We never tire of the market and the goats! 

"Broken Bridge".  This bridge used to cross the river, until it was damaged in a major flood in the 1950's.
Details on the outside of the Church near the flower market.

We ended up at a Panama Hat Factory! 
This was a first, the only hats we'd seen in Cuenca are in the retail shops and the markets.  This time we saw a factory where they are made. 
(For more info, see the link on the sidebar.)

Bleached hats drying in the sun...

Sample of the bleach and dye vats, the molds and steam presses:

Just out of the dye vats...

The finish work (tucking in all the ends and trimming), is done by women at home.

Sewing area, where bands, decorations, labels are added:

Our guide showed us the different qualities of weaving.  The one on the right ('fino') is more expensive as it takes more time to make.

We were so impressed with the various hat styles (including multi-colored weavings).
More variety here than in the smaller shops.  Of course, we had to try them on!

Check out this beautiful wedding dress and bouquet (all made by hand, using the same materials as the hats, with crocheted top.)

We ended the tour with this gorgeous view of Cuenca:

We ended up at Akalarre for lunch, and then home for a nap.  Fun day!

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