One Honduran travel site dubbed Valle de Ángeles a “peaceful, quiet place to unwind.” I’m not so sure about that, especially the quiet part, but it’s definitely a great place to breath fresh air, move about freely, and drop a ton of cash.
A winding forty-minute drive into the mountains northeast of Tegucigalpa brings you to Valle, the closest thing we have to a tourist town around here. The drive itself is part of the adventure. Cars, kids, stray dogs, and various livestock twist through roads placed precariously close to cliff edges – but just far enough to be exciting instead of alarming.
Valle itself is an old colonial mining town that has since been restored and converted into a tourist zone. Picture a cross section of crudely cobbled streets lined with restaurants, cafes, and craft stores: leather goods, woven hammocks, pottery, and phenomenal wood work. Maybe on weekdays it takes on a sense of calm, but on weekends the town batters your senses. You can smell pupusas sizzling on street vendors’ griddles, small children are constantly appearing out of nowhere tugging on your arm to sell you candy, and Spanish music thumps from more touristy shops. Balance that with fresh air and a safe place to walk around and Valle really is a welcome escape from the city.
We’ve made the trip twice now with varying results. The first time was a bit of a letdown. I had imagined a true artisan village, something akin to the Musee National in Niamey where I
apprenticed hung out with a silversmith several times a week. Valle paled in comparison to that experience. We saw a few woodworkers busy crafting stunning boxes, furniture, and custom pieces, but beyond that it seemed a bit of a farce. Too many stores selling too much of the same stuff.
The second time around, with expectations realigned and Christmas gifts in mind, we fared much better. Once you look past the knick-knacks and
get over stumble over the language barrier a bit, there really are treasures to be found. Many of the craftsmen, particularly woodworkers, are more than happy to custom craft something for you too.
Prices are fair, though I’m surprised that haggling isn’t a part of transactions here. You can talk your way into a slight discount (even when your Spanish is as rudimentary as mine!) if you’re buying multiple items, and some shop owners just kick in a discount hoping to draw in repeat business. But for the most part, things are priced to sell.
It doesn’t take much Spanish to understand the signs in most shops kindly asking tourists not to take photos and we don’t want to spoil our anything for our Secret Santa
victims recipients. Once we start commissioning some woodwork, I’ll have some photos worth sharing. Until then, here’s a sneak peek at some smaller purchases:
I’m certain we’ll make our way out to Valle a few more times while we’re here, not only to empty our wallets but also to fill our lungs and stretch our legs. Life in Teguc already feels somewhat suffocating (and I don’t mean polluted, although we’ve got plenty of that, too). I’ve never lived in an un-walkable city. Isn’t mobility the singular, unsurpassed benefit of city dwelling? It’s tough to explain just how frustrating it feels to feel stuck by your own volition. I constantly find myself thinking “I probably could walk there, but should I?” And so I don’t.
Having a breath of fresh air like Valle assures me that we’ll find a way to make it work. Or at least sneak away from it all once in a while…