December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas from our hearts to yours!

May your Christmas sparkle with moments of love, laughter and goodwill, 
And may the year ahead be full of contentment and joy. 

Have a Merry Christmas.

We enjoyed the warmth, love and hospitality of our friends Larry and Dona today. 

Larry and Dona's son Christen and his lovely lady Grace flew in from Kelowna to join them for Christmas and Dianna and Wayne were also there to share in the wonderful Christmas feast. 

Thank you again Larry and Dona for including us and making us feel like family! The meal was wonderful as was the company!

Later in the evening, back at home, we relaxed with a glass of wine with our neighbour Terrye. 

December 24, 2016

Christmas Eve's Pase del NiƱo (the Passing of the Child) parade

It is the event of the year in Cuenca and to the locals, it is a combination of Catholic and indigenous traditions that produces a festival of devotion to the Christ child.

The action begins around 10 in the morning and runs typically for six or seven hours. As many as 20,000 people participate in the parade, with another 100,000 watching from sidewalks, doorways, patios, balconies, and rooftops. In addition to 600 floats, there are thousands of participants on horseback or on foot. The parade focuses on the children, as the name implies.

The procession features floats pulled by trucks and cars, many decorated with flowers, fruits and vegetables, empty beer cans, liquor bottles, banners and streamers.

Literally thousands of versions of the baby Jesus are represented, along with dozens of Biblical characters. There are hundreds of angels with wings; children dressed in colorful homemade costumes, some on horses and donkeys; dogs pulling carts; marching bands, dancing cholas, men on stilts, and a variety of street performers. 

Everywhere children are dressed in colorful homemade costumes.

December 23, 2017

This evening we walked up to the Louisianna Pub again, this time to listen to a jam session of blues.

It was another enjoyable evening.

The band got bigger throughout the evening as more talented people joined in. 

Later we walked back along the Tomebama River.  There are more lights up now than last time. 

Otorongo Square is on the edge of El Centro along the Tomeboma River. Here they have 4-story high statues of the Nativity in lights - quite awesome!

This is what they look like in the daytime....

December 22, 2017

Yesterday we had the privilege of attending Larry and Dona's wine and cheese party!

It was anything but wine and cheese! 

Larry made so many hors d'oeuvres they covered the entire dining room table (and they have a big table!)

They had service for 10 (but could have fed 20) and we were 8 in attendance. 

We enjoyed the company and conversation.

We met Bill and Deb and Mickey and Jackie at the Dinner Club earlier in the month, so it was nice to visit with them again.

Of course the wine and appys were awesome!

And our host never quit moving around - he was just like the Ever Ready Bunny - he kept on going and going!! (From the kitchen to the bar)

A big Thank You to Larry and Dona for a wonderful time! 

December 21, 2016

We did a little road trip to southern Ecuador for a couple of days. The bus trip in itself is always an experience - it is cheap and efficient. 

After a four hour bus ride we arrived in Loja, population about 180,000. 

This is Puerta de la Cuidad - "Door of the City".  From the top of the Clock Tower is a stunning view of the city.

We walked around the city a bit, checked out the vegetable market, had lunch, then walked back to the bus terminal. Not that there isn't anything to see - there are a number of churches and cathedrals, monuments etc., but our mission was to visit Vilcabamba, so on we went! 

This is the walking bridge that crosses the street at the bus terminal. 

Nestled below the steep mountains of Southern Ecuador, a winding one-hour bus ride south of Loja, lies the village of Vilcabamba in the Sacred Valley of Longevity. 
This place was made famous for the high percentage of people over 100 years old. This was actually determined to be a myth, however, overall the people here are healthier into old age!

Vilcabamba is clean, small and friendly. 

The population is about 7,000 people and from what we've heard, about half of these are expats. Many of the businesses around the square are owned by Expats and English seems to be the chosen language. 

In Vilcabamba the weather is almost perfect all year long, the fertile land yields abundant crops, people get lots of exercise, and they drink pure water which cascades down from the Andean peaks.

We stayed at a nice little hostel - breakfast included - which was only steps to the square (the heart of the village).
sharing a cerveza on the balcony off our room

The balcony overlooking the garden 

The garden of the hostel

I can certainly see the attraction to this little village, but it's far too small for us.

It's a nice place to visit, but I sure wouldn't want to live there!

December 17, 2016

We've managed to keep busy these past two weeks, but not much to blog about - - On December 4th we moved from our apartment which was close to the Fiera Libre to another apartment owned by the same family. Then on the 8th we changed apartments in the same building. We are now on the third floor with this spectacular view! And we are now closer to the center of the city.  We really like this apartment - it is newer and bigger - two bedrooms and two bathrooms.  We are liking it!! 
We walk to Parque de Calderon every day - there is always a new street to explore and something new to see.  

This afternoon we walked to town with Dona and Larry for lunch at a new little restaurant we discovered. We are always discovering new restaurants! Almuerzo for $3.50 each with a choice of 2 different soups,  2 different entrees, desert and juice. 

Almuerzo is the lunch special - and you can get it everywhere - priced from $1.50 to $4.00 depending on where you go. Most of the little Ecuadorian Restaurants only open from 10 am to 2 or 3 - and only serve Almuerso. It includes soup, main meal of meat, rice and beans, juice and desert at most places.

Last night we went to The Broken Bridge Louisianna Pub with Larry and Dona. A friend of theirs, KatieCat was performing. She strummed her guitar and sung us some songs from the 60's and 70's. It was a good time and nice to get out and do something different. 

Afterwards we walked back home and enjoyed the lights of Cuenca.  

This is Iglesia de Todos los Santos - Church of All of the Saints lit up in all of her glory... This is one of the 5 churches in Cuenca that are listed as a "must see".

As we continued our walk we got to Parque Calderon. This is the heart of Cuenca and it is even more awesome with all the Christmas lights. 

The gazebo too is all decked up for the season.

There is a beautiful nativity scene set up inside one of the many court yards that surround Parque Calderon.

We haven't been out in the evening very often so it was great to see everything all lit up - these are the entrance doors to the New Cathedral (the one with the beautiful blue domes).

One more picture of Parque Calderon before we continue on our walk home and call it a night!

More later - thanks for reading!

December 1, 2016

Today we did the Cuenca City Tour on a double decker bus. 

We met up with Larry and Dona at 10:00 a.m., but before that we had the chance to take a peek inside the New Cathedral in El Centro.

There was a service going on, so we didn't take pictures, but thanks to the internet I was able to snag this one for the blog.

It is huge and quite spectacular.... 

Then it was time to board the bus!  There were only six of us on the bus so seating wasn't a problem!

We toured around the south end of Cuenca for two hours looking at the points of interest. The guide spoke in both English and Spanish, but Larry and Dona were better guides for us, as they've done this tour a few times and have gotten to know Cuenca quite well.....
This is Mirador Turi by daylight.
This is the inside of the Chruch

And this is the view from Mirador Turi by daylight. 

While we were up at Turi we visited the studio of Eduardo Vega, who is a reknown ceramic artist here in Ecuador. In this picture you can see him in the back working at his art....

Here is an up-close look at some of his pottery.

Dona and Larry in front of Vega's studio - this is also more of his work.

And this is the walkway into his studio - flowers and vines - absolutely beautiful!
This was the only stop-off on the tour; they gave us a half hour to look around before heading back down the hill. 

The rest of the tour was driving - but it was great to see areas of Cuenca we've not yet explored and to make a point to go back and explore again on our own. 

After the tour we hung around El Centro for a while shopping- there are so many vendors!! Then after a nice lunch we parted ways with Larry and Dona - they went their way home and we hopped a bus and made our way back home.

The day sped on by - it's late afternoon, and we had another great day in Cuenca!

November 30, 2016

Last Sunday Michel and I attended a Church service with Larry and Dona where we got a chance to meet a few of their friends who live here in Cuenca. 
After the service a small group went for breakfast to a little Creperie.  It was very nice to meet Larry and Dona's very good friends, Wayne and Dianne from Grand Forks (BC), who are here until the beginning of January. 

(L to R) Wayne & Dianne, Mara & Glenn, Greg & Brenda, (Michel in the middle) and Larry & Dona. 

Larry and Dona are also part of a "Dinner Club" and they go out a couple of Wednesdays a month and try out different restaurants each time. Last night we were invited to attend and we got another chance to meet a few more of their friends.  Larry and Dona have been living in Cuenca for over a year now and they've made quite a few friends. It was very nice of them to include us. Thank You! We ate at a brand new restaurant called Sajsana - beautiful surroundings and good service. Food was good and served up like a 5 star restaurant. 
(l to r) Gail, Micki, Deb, Michel, Bill, Larry, Dona, Jackie, myself.

After dinner we walked home along the River.