Travel: Latin America - The Shopping Forecast

Journey to the Source: Hammocks

What could possibly be more pleasant than lounging in a warm, shady spot, dappled by the sun and cooled by the breeze as you gently sway back and forth on a hammock? Not many things, except possibly visiting the country in which their manufacture has become an art form, and incorporating a bottle of Sol and a beachside cabana into the scene.

Merida is Mexico's self-styled hammock capital, so it's a good place to head for if you're looking to buy. The old colonial streets, especially around the main market, are packed with hammock vendors, so make sure you have a good look round before you make your choice.

Hammocks come in all shapes (from simple banana leaf to sophisticated chair), colours and patterns, materials (cotton, sisal, nylon) and sizes (from "single" to "family" - hey, why not have a hammock party and hang out in there with some friends?) and range in price and quality.

Some are are simple cotton slings with hanging threads attached to each end, while others are nothing short of finely threaded cotton webs. Generally, the more threads, the more expensive. If you buy from one of Merida's shops, a single hammock will cost you around 140 pesos (pounds 10) if you are happy to haggle a little.

Wait until you're back in the UK and a basic, single hammock at Graham & Green (4, 7 & 10 Elgin Crescent, London W11 2JA, 0171-727 4594) would cost you pounds 27.50, so buy up a couple of dozen in Mexico and spend the profits on a Continental flight (pounds 420 return) from Gatwick via Houston to Merida with Journey Latin America (0181-747 3108) and drift off to hammock heaven on the Yucatan's sunny shores.

Gadget of the Week:

The travelling espresso set

Colombia's most notable legitimate export is coffee, which helped to convert our nation of tea-drinkers. Then, everyone started ordering tall, skinny americanos and latte frappees and the coffee craze got out of control. But sitting down to drink is passe these days: you need a shot of caffeine on the go, preferably in a nifty paper cup. Try to drink from the thing, though, and you'll end up with an embarrassing blob of froth on your lip line. So, if you're going to be on the move, make sure you kit yourself up with the correct equipment- a zip-up leather travelling espresso set.

This will set you back pounds 650 from Connolly (32 Crescent Mews, London SW1X 7EX, 0171-225 3883) and includes a percolator (that will heat up when plugged into any car lighter but should be used with caution if you don't want your elevenses to out-shine your motor), two stainless steel espresso cups and saucers, two linen napkins, four hornbill spoons and two leather- bound aluminium jars for storing coffee and milk or sugar. The set is available in black, blue-black, chocolate brown, or racing green but rather disappointingly not yet in americano, mocha, latte or even plain old cappuccino.

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