We went out for a walk Saturday afternoon about 2 o’clock to look for the third of the three hat factories in Cuenca. The temperature had risen from 59° at about 7:30 in the morning to 69° as we set out. The sun found its way through the dark, rounded masses of clouds, which tend fill the sky at this time of day at our location in the sierras of the Andes. At this time of year, mornings tend to be sunny, but by mid afternoon the sky fills with clouds and a light sprinkle slips through, enough to moisten the sidewalk pavers.
On our way to the hat factory, we walked past Plaza de San Francisco, our first visit there since we’ve come to Cuenca, where we saw kids playing in the central fountain. I have always been fascinated at how kids are attracted to spraying water. They will proceed to get drenched in their attempts to inhibit the spray of a nozzle. Or they jump over them, or run through the spraying water in giddy delight. The plaza was also populated by various vendors selling clothing, luggage, household items, and street food. It seems like such a huge task to set up displays like these; I often wonder just how profitable they are.
Cuenca is really fun to walk through. The city’s historic center, El Centro, has not been taken over by mega-stores; rather, shops of every sort line the streets, and are sometimes tucked into what seem to be the nooks and crannies of the street facade. The city’s street plan benefitted from a French designer, who had the good sense to lay out the city in a grid, like a checkerboard. The streets, however, are narrow by today’s standards, which is not unusual for a 462-year-old city. They are all one-way, which makes crossing the street in the middle of the block somewhat easier than crossing with two-way traffic. Sidewalks are narrow also, and pedestrians need to pay attention to the traffic, which moves very fast and passes by sometimes with only a few feet to spare. The huge city busses speed through the streets and in some places pass us at an uncomfortable distance, especially when they turn corners.
Nevertheless, peeking into each shop as we pass provides an entertaining way to learn about the city and make mental notes about what is where, and hope we remember it. We have not quite yet developed the automatic response of the smartphone generation of taking a photo of everything, all the time. But on occasion we remember and we do take photos to help jog our aging memories.
And so we walked down the street to the address of the hat factory, but found it closed. And by the looks of the storefront, we wonder if it is permanently closed. We’ll have to return on a weekday to see. I wanted to see all of the hat factories I know of to compare their operations. But not all was lost for our effort; now we have another opportunity to walk through the city to learn even more about it.