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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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THE SECOND-biggest event on the New Orleans social calendar, after Mardi Gras, is the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, held over two weekends the end of April and the start of May. The 2015 dates are Friday 24 April to Sunday 26 April and Thursday 30 April to Sunday 3 May.
The festival started as a jazz weekend in 1969, but now covers a broad swathe of musical styles, as a partial list of this year’s headliners makes clear: Jimmy Cliff, Buddy Guy, Allen Toussaint, Dr. John (interpreting Louis Armstrong), Taj Mahal, Elton John, The Who, Jimmy Buffett, Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga, Keith Urban, Lenny Kravitz and Chicago. Performances take place on five stages and in five tents at the Fair Grounds racecourse. Up to 100,000 attend.
Music is the main attraction , but food is also a strong lure: vendors come from all over the region to offer crawfish bread, cajun jumbalaya, hot sausage po-boy, pecan catfish meunière, alligator pie and deep-fried just about anything you can imagine.
68 shows worth travelling to
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