Cumbaya, like Tumbaco, is considered to be a part of Quito, but is really a suburb of the capitol city; perhaps, by North American standards, a “bedroom” community for the thousands of professionals that work in Quito. But it is more than that. It is home to internationally renowned San Francisco University and many upscale gated communities with beautiful views of the Andes in all directions.
We have been through and to Cumbaya many times, however, two weeks ago we decided to make a deliberate trip to the “square” or Cumbaya parque in the older section of town. It is a beautiful parque, not unlike many that we have seen in every Ecuadorian town or city.
Our motivation for this trip was an artist’s festival to be held in the parque. There were about a dozen artists displaying their crafts, items made from native woods, seeds, stones, plant fibers and even handbags made out of plastic grocery bags. The creativity was fascinating to see.
In addition to pottery, handmade jewelry, woven and knitted and wood crafted items, there were necklaces made from native polished stones and seeds, like the ones below.
A young man crafted the bowl below from native wood and plant fiber. Each bowl takes him several days to make. His asking price was $200. A fair price for such beautiful craftsmanship and his time.
Like all the communities we have visited, the Parque de Cumbaya is bordered on the north edge by a Roman Catholic church, the Parroquia San Pedro de Cumbaya. Not a major cathedral, but more of a mission-looking church of modest scale.
The parque is well maintained and features many native plant species and colorful flower plantings. There are many park benches for weary shoppers or for those that just want to rest and take in the beautiful vistas.
The parque is bordered by many fine restaurants (restaurantes), both large and small, including a steak house, a sushi bar, a Scottish pub, an Italian restaurant, grill and many small cafes. After looking over many of them (it was a tough choice), we decided to try the small Italian restaurant. It was excellent and inexpensive. We hope to try some of the other spots in the near future. There is also a delightful French bakery on the parque where we purchased a couple of eclaires (not seen elsewhere) and a two-foot biquette for $0.98.
Also on the west side of the parque is a nice, very attractive strip mall that houses many unique shops, including Al Forno Italian pizza, which have heard a lot about. We have found Ecuadorian pizza to be very good but it does not contain any form of tomato or marinara sauce. So, we have been hungry for a good Italian-style pizza. We hear that Al Forno will satisfy our palate.
About a mile from the Parque de Cumbaya is a thriving hub of modern development near San Francisco University. Centered around a large traffic circle is a bustling commercial district of independent stores, banks, restaurants, SuperMaxi mall and on the east rim a huge modern mall is under construction which will house well over one hundred stores. A little further east toward Tumbaco another large mall is nearing completion.