Our arrival in Cuenca passed in a blur. Our gracious hostess met us at the airport, complete with Buddy (our newest furred friend), then took us for a quick tour of Cuenca before heading off to Paute our home for the next few weeks.
It seemed to be that no sooner had we arrived at our new house sit in Paute, than we were off again. The following day we were whisked back off to Cuenca to check out the Festival de Artesanias de America.
Artists and artisans gather annually in Cuenca from nearby towns, villages and from as far afield as Peru, Argentina, Bolivia and Chile to showcase their arts. The white canopied tents which stretched along the river bank, spilling into adjacent art galleries and unused courtyards, had gathered a large crowd. Who slowly sauntered along, enjoying the warm sunny day with their eyes peeled for that something special.
In addition to a wide range of paintings and sculptures there were hand knitted alpaca sweaters, scarves, gloves and dainty filigree silver jewellery from nearby Chordeleg. One display featured the traditional Ikat style of weaving from nearby Gualaceo. Each piece is hand woven from dyed cactus fibre, with the weavers holding the complicated pattern in their heads. The finished pieces are then turned into shawls, scarves, ponchos, bags and even shoes.
One enterprising artisan had converted gaily painted gourds into a range of fun and colorful mobiles fit to grace any child’s room. We especially loved the hot air balloons.
After strolling through the exhibits and displays we headed up into town in search of lunch. Our first impression of Cuenca is that everything is up from the river, meaning lots of stairways, many of which are decorated with intricate and colorful murals.
Lunch was at Sunrise café, a popular expat hangout, serving a range of burgers, sandwiches and local fare at reasonable prices. The menu is in both English and Spanish for those like us, still struggling with Española.
Sated we wandered back down to the fair and found ourselves in the middle of the food vendors! This was a surprise to our hostess as it was the first year they had been included. We could have had lunch right there had we known. However as we were already sated we were able to resist the tempting aromas as we walked back to pick up one of our companions new purchases.
As you can see from the photos it was a great introduction to just one small area of Cuenca and some very talented artists.