Chordeleg jewelry shopping is a great way to get away from what you will soon realize is the hustle and bustle (relatively speaking) of downtown Cuenca. Hop on the bus to Chordeleeg from the Terminal Terrestre in Cuenca, and in one hour or less you will be surrounded by bucketloads of silver jewelry, woven tiny filaments of silver in elaborate hoops and formed into everything from birds to crosses to Playboy bunny-shaped earrings (oh yes they did!). I’m not in a huge hurry to buy nice jewelry for myself, but prices seemed reasonable ($20 for small earrings to $60 for big dangly earrings or $100 for necklace/earring sets). The town is so singularly dedicated to this craft that large replicas of intricate silver jewelry dangle from every lamp post for blocks on the main streets near the cathedral. Other offerings include cheap woven hammocks, the typical ponchos and leather goods, and leather animal – topped walking sticks (an oddity I haven’t seen in Cuenca yet).
On a Saturday there were a surprisingly few number of people milling about, making for a very peaceful environment – no huge fume-spouting buses, and people wandering around slowly with just a few cars. And aside from one Oregon native who stopped me to say a friendly gringo-to-gringo “hello”, all the people seemed to be Ecuadoreans. Setting aside your jewelry shopping for a moment, you can go sunbathe among the trees in the main plaza, which is flanked by a beautiful colonial-style church. For lunch, I wandered around for 30 minutes looking for gringo-friendly options that are compatible with my ballet diet (like a nice caesar salad), to no avail. In that sense, small-town Chordeleeg really contrasts with the international food you find in Cuenca. In other words, you can have seco de pollo, seco de chivo, hamburgers, hot dogs, chaulafaun, guatita, or other typical almuerzos but not much else. I finally settled down to grille chicken, lentil menestra and fresh juice at La Tinaca (near the main square), which was mediocre but edible and reasonably clean-looking. Oddly I think this was the most “touristy” restaurant in town in that they had maps of the Azuay province an flyers for tours.
Back on the bus (perhaps with a pair of earrings or for the less restrained, bags full of Chordeleg jewelry), you can see the houses in the foothills, which have all a beautiful view of the valley, not a bad life…. living peacefully and perhaps bedecked head to toe in silver. But for my taste, back to Cuenca.