Show & Tell with Fournier on Bolivia

May 11, 2010 3 comments

Anabel Fournier, founder and designer of hand knit luxury label Fournier tells us all about family life in Cochabamba where she currently lives with Daniela 10 years old, Sebastian 6 years old and her husband. For BozAround, she shares an itinerary and valuable traveling tips in Bolivia.

I am originally from Costa Rica and over the last 12 years, we have lived in Panama, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Kenya and back to Bolivia. In a few months, we’ll be off again somewhere, to be determined…

I started Fournier as a poverty alleviation project in the city of Cochabamba nine years ago. Even if I move, I keep coming back to Bolivia at least 3 times a year to design each collection and get inspiration from the local culture. For Fall Winter 2010, I got inspired by the earth tones in Bolivia and the natural colors of the alpaca yarn. I have also used velvet, widely seen on women’s skirts and accessories.

Bolivia is a country of contrasts, rich in indigenous cultures. Traditions are deeply rooted. They stand out the minute you arrive. Indigenous women maintain a unique way of dressing for everyday, combining colorful fabrics and always a hat. A different shape of hat, for example, or the length of the skirt can differentiate where they are from.

Bowler hats are typical to a “Pacena”, a woman from La Paz:

Bolivia is a very friendly country and one of the few in Latin America where you can still safely walk the streets.

Pros – Once here, you will be amazed at how cheap your family vacation will be. All major cities offer good basic services for a traveling family, from restaurants to an abundance of ATM’s (with US$ and local Boliviano currency), internet cafes and comfortable /affordable lodging.

Cons: A bit hard to fly into. From the US, American Airlines has a direct  6 hour flight from Miami. For Europe, local airline Aerosur offers direct flights to Madrid 3x a week. It is best to adjust the family to altitude gradually as these are some of the highest cities in the world. Arriving to Bolivia should be done planning your first days into Santa Cruz instead of La Paz which is 4,000 meters above sea level.

Suggested itinerary:

DAY  ONE – Arrive to Santa Cruz and take a break from the long flight.

DAY TWO & THREE – Road trip to visit Jesuit Missions of Bolivia located in the Chiquitania.

DAY FOUR – Fly to Cochabamba, slowly adjust to altitude. Visit the Simon Patino Mansion and Museum and the Cristo de la Concordia Statue (almost as big as the Christ in Rio de Janeiro). Also visit La Cancha, the largest air-market in South America.

DAY FIVE – Fly to Sucre known as the white city, slightly higher than Cochabamba. Very colonial with beautiful architecture. Take a tour to see dinosaur foot prints and visit the Textile Museum-ASUR. Walk around main square and downtown.

DAY SIX – Road trip to the town of Tarabuco to get  the most amazing handicrafts.  Fly to La Paz and chill to adjust to altitude. Try the Coca leaf tea as it will sooth your stomach. Drink lots of liquids!

DAY SEVEN – La Paz. Visit the Handicraft market and gear up with fine alpaca wear, the San Francisco Square and Museum. This restored religious complex has housed some of Bolivia’s most important historical moments, including the birth of the Independence Revolution of 1809. Climb the church tower to get a panoramic view of both the indigenous and Mestiza quarters. Then walk up the Calle Sagarnaga, just south of Plaza San Francisco, La Paz’ main tourist strip. The Witches’ Market (mercado de las Brujas) is on Calle Linares. Vendors sell llama fetuses and dried frogs for Aymara rituals, as well as soapstone figurines and aphrodisiac formulas! This street is the best place to pick up a charango or other Bolivian musical instrument.Visit the bohemian Sopocachi neighborhood.

DAY EIGHT & NINE – Take a tour to the highest fresh water lake in the world, LakeTiticaca and visit the Totora floating islands.

DAY TEN- Enjoy the wonderful views of snow capped mountains surrounding La Paz.  Drive up to the “Cumbre”  at 4800 meters and get to see herds of llamas grazing.

EAT – Grilled meat is a must in Cochabamba. The flavor of a grilled sirloin at La Estancia is hard to top. Viva Vinto is a typical restaurant in the outskirts of the city, with very nice outdoor setting. The wood-oven pizza served at Il Sole Mio is the best we have had in all the places we have lived. It’s one of our regular family-hangout. In La Paz, do not miss the llama beef at Chalet La Suisse. Wagamama is very family-friendly in the bohemian Sopocachi neighborhood. Or catch up with a sandwich and a great cup of coffee at Alexander Coffee.

SHOP – For local materials used in designs with an edge, you must go to this exciting new shop called Walisuma. Otherwise,  La Casa de la Llama in La Paz is a small shop in Calacoto that sells Llama and Alpaca products with a very fine finish and lovely earth tones. You cannot leave Bolivia without an aguayo (photo above). I buy mine from an old lady in San Antonio in La Cancha, Cochabamba. She brings hers from Potosi every week, and her prices are very reasonable. Also, get some knit finger puppets for the kids. And if you can make it during the Alacitas fair in La Paz in January, you will find interesting gifts of almost anything made in miniature!

SLEEPHotel Camino Real is my favorite in La Paz as the rooms are spacious with lots of light, great service and a very good location in the southern part of the city.  Downtown, I like the Hotel Europa, walking distance from the most important museums and galleries.  In Santa Cruz, Los Tajibos or El Camino Real are my two choices.  In Cochabamba, the newly renovated Gran Hotel Cochabamba is nice.  In Sucre, I highly recommend two very cozy colonial hotels, the Parador Santa Maria la Real with its own terrace in the rooms, or El Hostal de Su Merced.

Fournier is distributed in many countries. Try Chasing Fireflies for online shopping or Amaia in Notting Hill, London and Koh’s Kids in Tribeca, New York. You can also follow Anabel around on her blog And So I Whisper.

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