November 26, 2016

Yesterday was another bus trip to El Centro. We were in search of one of the two Panama Hat Companies in Cuenca. We got off the bus a few stops past our stop and had to walk back a few blocks but along the way we stopped into this little bar 'Antares Brewery and Restaurant - serving up "the best German craft beer"! 

So we each had a beer -  I am not a beer lover (especially dark beer) so I just had a little one.

And we took this opportunity to take our first "selfie", thanks to Dona and Larry - they lent us a spare phone while we are here in Cuenca. 

Next stop along our walk - Barrancos Panama Hats. 
It's kinda funny to think that the original Panama hat is actually made in Cuenca, Ecuador. 

This company has been making hats here in Cuenca for the past 68 years. 

The factory has become a popular place to visit because the museum offers daily tours to the public on the past and current ways of producing different kinds of panama hats.  We didn't get a tour, but we enjoyed ourselves trying on hats. We were amazed at the wide selection of styles and colors of Panama Hats. 

A lot of work goes into the making of a Panama Hat and hat grades (1 to 25) differ by price because it depends on the time it takes to finish one. And for a fine hat you can pay up to $250.00. 

Most of the ones you see in the stores are lower grades (2-3) and will sell for around $30 - $60.00.

The best place to buy a Panama Hat is from one of the factories. There you will see and feel the differences in quality.

Another fun day - walked back from El Centro, stopped again at Fiera Libre - there is always something to see there!

November 25, 2016

We walked over to look at the place on Munoz Vernaza y Estevez de Toral the other day and we still really like that place so as soon as there is an opening we will move there - December 4th. The top floor - it has 3 balconies and an awesome view of the downtown. Jenny and Juan own this building as well as the one we are now currently living in. This place was just painted and already someone has started with the graffiti. What a shame!

Juan's parents Jenny and Juan prepared a beautiful Thanksgiving dinner for all of us 'Americans' living in their two buildings so we had our turkey (and ham) dinner after all, although the side dishes were different than the usual. 

They cooked the meal at their place and Juan picked us up and his parents drove us back home. 

It was fun and we got to meet the people in the other building, whom we'll be neighbours with for two months - except for one of them - the one who's place we will be moving into. 

We were the only ones in attendance from the building we currently live in, but we have met the others on occasion.

Jenny and Juan and Juan
They are absolutely wonderful people.

These are the people in our neighbourhood!
(the one we are moving to that is)
(l to r) Juan such a gracious and helpful young man, Michelle from Texas who is travelling with her three young boys, Michel, Juan and Jenny - the hosts with the most, Terry from California/Connecticut who has moved here to retire, Herb who was from Mississippi and now lives in Cuena, and Catherine from Oregon who was here teaching and is leaving on December 4th and we'll be moving into her apartment. 
Here is Michelle with her three boys.
Michel and the young Juan.
On our drive back home Jenny and Juan took us up to see Mirador de Turi (The Church of Turi) the best view in Cuenca.
From nearly anywhere in Cuenca, look south toward the rivers you will see a big white church on a hill. The trip up to Mirador de Turi is one of the most popular excursions in Cuenca. It is located in the perfect place to bask in the breathtaking panorama of the entire city of Cuenca.
Mirador means 'lookout' or 'viewpoint'
Turi means 'brother'
This view was breathtaking - pictures just don't do it justice.

Thank you to Jenny and Juan for such a wonderful Thanksgiving! Dinner was fabulous, the company and conversation was stimulating (both in English and Spanish) and the special side trip to the top of Mirador de Turi was spectacular!

November 22, 2016

Today we walked up to Fiera Libre and caught a different bus (#16) on Ave 24 de Mayo to the east end of Cuenca to look at an apartment for rent.

It is not the place for us, but on our return we got off the bus at El Centro. 

The square here  is much smaller than that of Quito, but we walked about and checked things out. 

The Cathedral of Cuenca is also a Catholic church located in the city centre.

Build in Gothic Renaissance style with three domes protruding from the roof, it was inspired by St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. 90 years in the making, it's construction was finally complete in 1975. It fits 8,000 people inside and is one of the main tourist attractions in Cuenca. 

Many people say that Cuenca looks a lot like a European city because of the Spanish colonial architecture. 

Many of the buildings in the center are beautifully decorated in colonial style with red-tiled roofs, and little flower filled wrought iron balconies.

We had a late lunch at a typical Ecuadorian restaurant - boiled corn (tasteless appetizer) soup, juice, corvina with rice and beans (not refried) and a slice of watermelon - for less than $5. for both of us. 

El Centro is a bustling area. A place where many Gringo's hang out because of the shops and restaurants. 

One of the favorite places is Totto Freddo, the  'best' ice cream shop in Cuenca. They have more flavors and styles than I can name. We had to stop there for a rum 'n raisin cone before our journey back home.

Another full day in Cuenca! There is much to explore outside of Cuenca, but for now we are happy just exploring what there is here.

November 21, 2016

Thank you to Larry and Dona for their hospitality - we found this little apartment so we moved in on Friday. So far it is only until the end of November. We are still looking for something for December and January. 

Our apartment is very close to the Feira Libre Mercado and one of the many bus lines runs directly in front of the building to take us to El Centro.  

This is the view from the terrace.

... and this is the view from our deck.  It is nice to have our own outdoor space - 

Cuenca has four rivers running through it and we are only blocks to the Rio Tomebamba.  It has a nice park and walking path along the river.

Laundry day - some people here use the river for washing their clothes. Then they lay them out on the rocks to dry. I am lucky enough to have a washer and dryer in the apartment. 

Dinner last night $1.00 (wine not included) purchased at Fiera Libre Mercado. 

November 16, 2016

Arrived in Cuenca last night, got a warm welcome from friends Larry and Dona even though she's been sick in bed for the past few days. I'll post a few pictures of them when Dona's up to being photographed. 

This morning we went shopping at Feira Libre Mercado (Market). This is one of the biggest outdoor markets in Cuenca. 

What a cornucopia of wonderful food.

If you like fruits and vegetables it is a great place to shop. Every kind of fruit and vegetable imaginable can be found here.

Not only fruits and vegetables, but meats of all kinds as well.  

Here is a shot of Michel and Larry. 
Larry is trying to make a deal with the 'potato' guy!!

Ecuador grows more than 500 varieties of potatoes. They have a variety of types noted for their taste, texture, shape and color. 

November 14, 2016

Our second (and last) week in Quito went by as fast as the first one did although we did not keep as busy. Presidential Elections will take place here in Ecuador in a few months and as we walked down the avenue we encountered a rally. Many, many people gathered around chanting and waving flags. If I spoke Spanish I might know what they were saying, but....

We also met new friends amid the hustle and bustle of the crowd .... 

Don and Sue Barnes are from Michigan. Maybe I should say they were from Michigan as they have sold everything and are travelling. They will be here for nine months, immersing themselves in the Ecuadorian language and culture, and volunteering at an elementary school teaching English. 

We're getting pretty used to travelling by bus. We've been back and forth to Old Town a couple of times this week. There is a great bus system here in Quito, you can get to anywhere for only 25 cents, so there is no need for a car. But I will warn you all - the trolle busses are usually always 'standing room only'! And you are packed in there like sardines!

It was nice to have La Carolina Park so close by. We really enjoyed our walks every day (well just about every day - lol)

We leave for Cuenca tomorrow. We decided to fly rather than endure the 8 plus hour bus ride (we did that last year), but we will take the Metro bus to the airport. We did a dry-run this week - we caught the Metro to the Terminal Norte, then did our inquiries about the bus to the airport. So, I think we are good to go! Wish us luck!

November 07, 2016

Bienvenidos a la Cuidad Mitad del Mundo!
Welcome to the Middle of the World City!

Quito may not be unique in its position on the equator, but the Mitad del Mundo monument, built in 1981,  made it the most famous example of a city in two hemispheres. 

The monument stands 30 meters high. (98 feet) and from the top you get panoramic views of both hemispheres. Inside the monument itself there are nine levels that highlight the multi-ethnic and multi-cultural diversity of Ecuador. 

Here stands Michel with one food in the Northern Hemisphere and the other in the Southern Hemisphere. 

The City of Mitad del Mundo is 30 kilometers (19 miles) north of Quito. The yellow painted line represents the equator.

Within the little village itself,  there are a number of other museums and pavilions, gift shops, restaurants and bars. 

November 06, 2016

I caught my sure-as-shootin' after-flight virus - complete with sinus headache and sore throat so I have been under the weather for the past two days.  But this morning I woke up feeling pretty good, so after breakfast we walked up to the Parque La Carolina. This is our apartment. It is centrally located in the upscale district of New Town. The bus stop is only a half block walk and grocery stores and restaurants all close by.  

It is only about a two block walk to the Parque La Carolina. This is Quito's "Central Park" with pathways and a waterway meandering through it's 165 acres. A small Botanical Garden occupies about 18 sq. meters of this park. 

There are paddle boats and canoes and it is a very popular place for local families to spend a Sunday.

There are food vendors and hot dog stands, playground equipment, pony rides for the kids, soccer fields, volleyball courts, bike paths and running lanes. 

November 4, 2016

Yesterday was our first full day in Quito. It was a beautiful sunny day - not too hot - and we walked about familiarizing ourselves with this area that we will be living in for the next two weeks. We stopped for coffee at a little bakery then wandered around a huge park before we found our way to the MegaMaxi, where we shopped for a few grocery items.

Today was a different story. We boarded a bus and made our way to the Historical area of Quito where we visited two of the top tourist attractions that we didn't get to see last January - The Basilica and El Panecillo. 

Firstly, we walked up this steep hill to the Basilica. It was a very long walk but we took our time and I had to stop for a rest about half way up.  My knees are just not what they used to be. 

The Basilica is a Catholic Church and it is the largest neo-Gothic basilica in the Americas. 

When we arrived at the Basilica we realized that the $2.00 entry fee was to go up the towers and that there was no entry to the church area itself. 

So Michel went up and I waited. It's a good thing he's got good knees - lol - or we wouldn't have any pictures. 

The path up to the top of the Basilica's towers is through a series of stairs.  

You'll walk across a narrow wooden bridge which is directly over the Basilicas interior arches.  

At the end of this bridge are these 'stairs' to the top.  This is only about the middle of the tower. 

Many, many stairs leading you to the top of the towers 115 meters above the ground. Don't look down!! Pretty scary for me. 

Michel enjoyed every moment of it. 

He said it was just fantastic, the views were awesome. He's so very glad he went, and I'm quite happy I chose not to. 

A few fun facts about the Basilica: 
There are 22 chapels inside.
It is 115 meters in height.
It opened in 1924.

We caught ourselves a taxi for the ride down this steep hill and up yet another steeper hill to our next destination - El Panecillo. It is a 200 metre-high hill; its peak is at an elevation of 3,016 metres (almost 10,000 feet) above sea level.

The statue, built in 1976, is a 45-meter tall stone monument of the "Virgen de Quito". It is made of 7,000 pieces of aluminium and stands on a high pedestal on the top of Panecillo.

Views from the top of the pedestal were wonderful. 

A nice restaurant awaits at the summit of this hill, so we "topped" off our day with this view of the city of Quito and a small glass of wine (beer for Michel)!