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THE FAMOUS PANAMA hat isn’t from Panama at all, says the sixth edition of Moon Handbooks Ecuador & the Galápagos Islands. It should “be called a Montecristi hat,” after the Ecuadorian town it was born in.
The guidebook explains that the mistake dates to 1906. U.S. president Theodore Roosevelt, visiting the then-under-construction Panama Canal, was photographed wearing an elegant, tight-weave, white-straw chapeau. “The president and his Panama hat,” read the photo caption. The name stuck.
The hat is made from the toquilla palms that grow around Montecristi, about 250 kilometres southwest of Quito, near the Pacific coast. You can buy it there (“one of the best places...is the home of José Chávez Franco [Rocafuerte 386]”), but the Panama hat capital is Cuenca, Ecuador’s third-largest city (pop. 331,000) and “arguably its most beautiful,” about 450 kilometres south of Quito in the southern highlands.
The guidebook has some suggestions of where to buy a hat in Cuenca:
• “One of the oldest and most renowned hatmakers in Cuena,” says the guidebook, “is octogenarian Alberto Pulla.” His shop is at Tarqui and Córdova.
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ENGLAND’S LARGEST arts festival (and the U.K.’s second largest, after Edinburgh) celebrates its 49th anniversary this year. The Brighton Festival runs for three weeks, from 2 to 24 May.
Unusual among such events it features, along with the expected categories of music, theatre, dance, art, film and literature, “circus.” Think more Cirque de Soleil than Ringling Bros. One of this year’s two contributions is L’Oublié(e), with six performers who fly, glide and dive. The story is of a woman wandering through the ruins of the memory of a man she loves. “A touch of Lynch here, a scent of Kate Bush’s gothic romanticism there,” says Libération.
Seaside Brighton, 75 kilometres due south of London, uses various venues that nicely show off the town’s considerable Georgian architecture, notably the Brighton Dome (completed 1805). The Dome stands across from the Royal Pavilion (completed 1822), the extravagant Oriental palace John Nash designed for George III’s decadent son, the Prince of Wales.
The festival kicks off with a 5,000-strong Children’s Parade. Invited names include French director Agnès Varda, English author Jeanette Winterton and American performance artist Laurie Anderson. About 450,000 are expected to attend.
67 shows worth travelling to
including this one in Amsterdam
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