Mercado Central

Mercados tell you a lot about the people. El Mercado Central, all the way down Manabi Street on Pichincha, sells fresh, and I do mean fresh flowers of all kinds among produce and other things.

The charge is $1.00 for five roses, but I look for street vendors close to Iglesia San Francisco, and I'm not disappointed. I've counted 8 to a bunch, 6, or 7, but not 5.

Outdoor mercado, Feria de las Flores, on Venezuela y Buenos Aires blooms with specials on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays in the morning.

Roses sell for $1 a baker's dozen... carnations for $1.25 a dozen, and their entire selection boggles the mind - all easily affordable. Asters sell for 50 cents to $1 a dozen.

Besides flowers, Mercado Central features meat and fish, which I skip and buy from the mall supermarkets... but their organic super size fresh produce saves me a bundle.

I especially like their cantaloupe - big as a small watermelon - onions, green peppers or whatever I need at the moment.

I don't drink their juice here because I'm not sure of their water quality though.

Since it's on one of their "be careful" zones, if you feel safer going by taxi, by all means do so. Personally, I walk.

Mercado Artesenal Mariscal Sucre

Two blocks across from El Ejido - The Chosen - Park, down the street from Hotel Colon, steps away from El Espiral, Mercado Artesenal Mariscal Sucre reigns in the rain or in the sun.

Once you know, I mean really know the exact location, you can sprint down from Centro Historico.

Sometimes I hop on the trole - trolley. Two stops and I'm there... almost. At least, I'm at El Ejido Park. Of course, how many stops depend on where you board. Then I just keep walking. Or I go on the bus that stops closest.

I follow one rule anywhere in the world I'm not familiar with: Ask at any store for directions if you think you're lost, or catch a taxi. It helps to know where you're going! Some new taxi drivers will ask you for the shortest route.

The sunburst mirrors, leather clocks, and tahua miniature carvings tickle my desires. Tahua, a vegetable ivory, used to only provide buttons, but now carvings of a menagerie of animals and gorgeous bracelets and more have exploded.

Very interesting and welcome gifts to give to anyone on your list any time cling to walls and shelves just waiting to jump into your shopping bag in exchange for cash. Any occasion lends an excuse for a gift.

I take care of all my Christmas shopping in the mercados of Quito no matter what time of year. The prices propel my heart to sing, "Oh, the money I saved, ka-ching, ka-ching."

El Ejido Park Craft Mercado

The other mercado of two mercados (coming from Otavalo) within walking distance from each other claims attention first.

Tents stretch across the park like a giant caterpillar every day offering everything from Otavalo up north.

From any park entrance, paths lead to the long train of tents that display Panama hats made in Ecuador as always, scarves, ponchos, capes, leather wallets and coin purses, alpaca goods, wood carvings, among hundreds of other things.

Any taxicab driver knows his way to El Ejido Park even though they may not understand English. Ejido is pronounced "ehido."

Never forget to check that the taxi exhibits a big number on the windshield, the name of the cab company on the side, and that he charges according to a running meter that usually starts at 50 cents - and orange license plates grace the front and rear of the cab.

Artists display and sell their masterpieces or copies of other masterpieces all along the sidewalk as you follow the art from either direction of this highly commercial and popular park... why else would it be El Ejido (the chosen)?

Sometimes soothing Andean music resonates throughout the area as musicians at the entrance to the mercado play intermittently, hoping to sell you their CD's. Sundays they also play in the centro (colonial center).


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