Last weekend my husband and I took our boys camping at Lake Moomaw. The campsite is right on the lake, a 2 hour ride from Charlottesville on gorgeous, country roads.
Our plans were simple- swimming, fishing, bike riding and cooking s’mores on the campfire. Oh, and a quick Saturday morning jaunt to the Bath County Farmer’s Market on Main Street in Hot Springs, Virginia- just up the road from The Homestead Resort. I love to go to local markets and though small, this market still delivered.
I ran into local organic farmer Don Henke, who 18 years ago was my telecom vendor and now runs Aeyles Farm. He told me about regional gems like the Garth Newel Music Center, which is a premier music hall for some of the world’s finest musicians, and about the free afternoon tea at The Homestead Resort, welcome to guests as well as non-guests. We also picked up some local honey, a squash and onions for dinner, and handmade soaps that will make special gifts.
In terms of markets, I’ve been to a lot- the Pike Place Market in Seattle, the Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia, the Mindil Beach Sunset Market in Darwin, Australia and the San Lorenzo Market in Florence- but the market that sticks out most in my mind was the Otavalo Market in Ecuador. The market is up in the mountains, about 2 hours from Quito. I went there by taxi and on the way was astonished to see people in native dress walking up the road to the market, many with large containers and baskets balanced precariously atop of their heads. This was not just some dinky market set to make a buck off of the touristas; this market was clearly an essential part of weekly life in the area.
The colors, smells and images at the market were striking and still stick in my mind to this day. Everywhere I looked I remember seeing incredible textiles (linens, woven rugs, hand knit alpaca sweaters, fedoras). The locals were interesting and unusual, with women wrapped in miles of beaded necklaces their black hair pulled back in tight buns. Kids ran around, dirty and barefoot, some trying to sell handmade art out of their backpacks (and yes, one small painting done by a 9 year old boy sits on my desk to this day).
The Otavalo Market, like so many other markets, is a place where a tourist can become a traveler. Where one can truly connect with a people, a culture, a national feeling. So this Saturday, wherever you are, head to market and see what you can find.