Handbags and Haciendas

Cotacachi Crossbody Bag

Cotacachi Crossbody Bag

After Otavalo, our next stop was a small town named Cotacachi, referred to as the leather town.  I don't have any photos because there wasn't anything to photograph.  There is one street lined with shops on both sides selling local, handmade leather goods: bags, jackets, shoes, for men and women.  We arrived during siesta time, so some of the shops were closed.  Of the open ones, some were better than others, and I found two great ones.  

Pensaqui Leather Bucket Bag

Stella Shoulder Bag

Be sure to visit the site to see the other bags I brought back.

At the end of this Eucalyptus tree-lined drive is Hacienda la Cienega, the magical home turned inn where we stayed after shopping in Cotacachi. 

Walking the grounds of this beautiful, old estate was full of surprises. There was something picturesque around every corner — ruinous walls, ancient fountains, an old swimming pool.  I can only imagine what it was like to be here in the 1600s and 1700s when the Spaniards who built La Cienega were the residents. 

Don't get me wrong; the hacienda is very well maintained.  We can thank the original architects for the solid construction. Stone walls almost two meters thick and swampy land around La Cienega have protected the hacienda over the many years from the "geological" activity.  The website does a great job describing the history and it is worth taking a look.
While it looks gloomy on the exterior, it was cold and drizzling, it is warm and inviting inside.  A staff of men dressed in black tie take your suitcases, start a fire in your room, and offer you food and drink.
The private chapel used by the residents and those in the surrounding village
A glass cabinet stored old vestments
The ceilings had woven straw material in between each of the beams.
The swimming pool which is not in use
One of my favorite discoveries was this curious couple of alpacas; they live by the pool.
There were great bars in every hacienda and hotel fully staffed.  It was cold and people usually were coming in from a long drive.
Breakfast and lunch are served in one of the dining halls, but dinner is more formal.  Like Hacienda Pensaqui, we were one of three parties staying there, so we had the place to ourselves.
I include this image to give you an idea of the stone construction.
There are built-in china cabinets around the main dining room that house some original china.
I have to share one last thing that really amused Duncan and me.  It is very challenging to get a fire started much less keep it going due to the altitude.  We noticed at every place we stayed, whether women or men building a fire, they would pour something on the wood to make it ignite.  When Duncan asked one of the ladies at breakfast one morning, "What are you pouring on the wood?", she replied in the thickest Spanish, "Diesel."  I guess that explains the state of every fireplace mantle; they are all charred.