January 27, 2017

(L-R clockwise:  Larry, Michel. Chance, Ginger,
Sherry, Brenda, Myself and Donna)
Our last supper... 
at Restaurante Mangiare Bene - quite well known as the 'Best' Italian restaurant in Cuenca. It wasn't our first visit to this restaurant, at it being one of Larry and Dona's favorites, we weren't disappointed. 

We met a few more friends of Larry and Dona's and we chatted and exchanged stories.

Ginger and her husband are looking to move here so she and her friend Sherry were busy looking for places to rent and/or buy. They are our neighbours south of the border in Washington State just south of White Rock.

Brenda and Chance are from Terrace and are looking for a winter place. New ruling in Cuenca makes that a possibility. By next fall it will be in place that visitors can stay for 6 months without a special visa. Up until now it was 3 months then you had to apply for an extention.

This was my plate 'Pollo a la navarra con spaghetti' It was delicious! BUT way more than I could eat so I took half of it home. 

Another great evening, a few more good people - we all said good bye and agreed we'd meet up again next year!

Who knows? If the stars are all aligned and God willing..... 

January 21, 2017

Our time here in Cuenca is just about at it's end. In just over a week we'll be packing up our things and flying back to Florida. We have to say we are looking forward to getting going again, but that is not to say we didn't enjoy our time here.  We've said many times it's "a come-back-to place".  We've enjoyed our time with Larry and Dona, it was just great to get to know them. They love it here, and we can see why. 

There are many things we will miss, and a few we will not....

We will miss our view of the beautiful blue domes of the Cathedral 

We could see them from our window.

Our walks to town every day became a habit that we looked forward to. Our one real outing each day. (for the last couple of weeks anyway).  The streets are cobble stone - looks nice, but not that easy to walk on. 

Then of course there is the traffic. We will not miss that!! Every street is a bus route, so there is a lot of air and noise pollution.  There is good and bad to living downtown!

We enjoyed the square in El Centro  -Parque de Calderon. 

And our walks along the Tomebamba River....

The wonderful old buildings....

The Flower Market - such wonderful scents as we walked by....

The Open Markets - there are two in the downtown area. A great place to buy fresh.... everything! Fruit, veggies and meat. 

Then let's not forget the bakeries! There are bakeries everywhere! Just about on every street. The aroma from these bakeries make it hard to just walk by.  

There are basic bakeries that sell bread and buns, cakes and sweet things, and then there are these "elaborate" bakeries I call them. Beautiful cakes and stuff you 'almost' feel guilty cutting!

So all that being said and done, there are many more positives than negatives about Cuenca, however, it is a little too big for us. We're more the small town kind of people, so a place outside of Cuenca would be more to our liking! 
We'll remember that for next time.......

January 11, 2017

On the outskirts of Cuenca, about a 30 minute bus ride from where we are staying, is a quaint little town called Banos. (There are actually two towns in Ecuador called Banos, the other Banos is near Quito). This little town is the home of Piedra de Agua Hot Springs and Spa, 

Mondays they offer two-for-one on the spa circuit, so it was a great day to treat ourselves. 

Arriving at 11 am we started out in the steam room (Turkish Bath). 15 minutes of hot steam.... it was a long 15 minutes!

From there we moved on to the mud baths.  Here is where the fun begins!!

The red mud pool is for exfoliating. We got all mudded up, including the face, then sat and let it dry.  A quick rinsing off in the red water, then a hot shower in one of the outdoor volcanic shower stalls, and into the blue mud pool. We did the same in this pool as we did in the red.

I have to say here, that so far it was pretty good. We had a few laughs and chatted it up with others enjoying the same treatments.  We met up with Dianna and Wayne in the blue pool, so we hung out with them for the rest of the day.  

After we were all showered off from the blue pool we were taken to an underground thermal pool. They call it the Underground Terrestrial Contrast. It was candle lit with nice soothing music. You can see two pools in the picture (borrowed from the website) - one was nice and HOT, the other was ICE COLD!  We were suppose to sit in the hot one for 15 minutes then dip into the cold one for one minute - and repeat - NOT!!  Pretty much stayed in the hot one - maybe dipped our toes in the cold.

The next stop was the Baths of Drawer - steam boxes. This was definitely a first for us! We were able to control the amount of steam that came in with a valve on the inside of the box. 

With all that being done, the last place we visited was the Japanese Swimming Pool. 

Here we just relaxed and finished out our day in the nice warm thermal waters.  

Piedra de Agua has three outdoor pools including the Japanese pool, set in a beautifully landscaped area with a fountain and gardens. They offer massages for an extra fee, and they have a nice restaurant (which we never ate at). 

It was about 2:30 when we decided it was time to shower once again and head for home. 

We had Almurezos (lunch) in the little town with Dianna and Wayne, then made our way to the street where we caught our bus.  A full day, it was 4:00 when we got home - and we both sure slept well that night.  

January 5. 2017

Chordeleg makes a nice day trip from Cuenca. We met up with Larry, Dona, Chris and Grace at the Bus Terminal and boarded the bus. One-hour later we arrived in Chordeleg. 

There are many adorable small towns nestled in the hills of the Azuay province near Cuenca (the new hub for American retirees). The picturesque town of Chordeleg is one of them. 

Chordeleg is one of the towns in Ecuador that still adheres to the guild system established during Spanish colonial times. The guild system required each town to have a certain skill or craft that they specialized in. There are towns in Ecuador that produce pottery, leather goods, weave scarves, as well as make incense, soap and oil. The people of Chordeleg were metalworkers. Today those metalworkers are silversmiths and are the jewelers that produce silver, nickel, and brass jewelry here. 
Entire streets of this town are lined with jewelry shops. 

There are dozens of jewelry stores lining the streets surrounding the park, and scattered through the side streets as well. I’ve never seen so many jewelry stores in such a small area! 

The abundance of silver jewelry is almost overwhelming.

A short taxi ride took us back to Gualaceo, and to Hosteria Santa Barbara, where we had lunch. 

Hosteria Santa Barbara is a large resort located on 15 hectares of beautifully landscaped land in the city of Gualaceo.

Here there is a restaurant, a spa, Turkish baths, sauna, a heated swimming pool, a gym, games room, games courts .....

A little walk afterward to wear off our lunch, we strolled to the 'market'. Here is where  you can try BBQ CUY (pronouned kooee). We've seen this everywhere in Ecuador, (even in some restaurants) - it is a national delicacy here - but you won't catch me trying it!!  It is guinea pig!

Gualaceo has a population of about 42,000 people, and like all towns, villages or cities. there is a beautiful park "square" in the middle.  We were quite impressed with Gualaceo - it is a nice clean 'little' city.

Another wonderful side trip; a great way to spend the day.  Good food, and a good time with good friends.

January 01, 2017

Feliz Año Nuevo !

May god give you success and bless you in this new year.
We wish that all your dreams come true and  that
this new year be full of happiness and joy.

In Ecuador New Years is one of the biggest celebrations of the year. One big part of the festivities for New Years Eve in Ecuador are "los años viejos" (the old years). 

People make large dummies (effigies)often of the people they dislike or of notable people from the past year. Some come complete with signs detailing their sins. 

Old clothes are stuffed with sawdust or newspaper and a mask is added (most of the masks are paper maché and hand-made and sell for $2 to $5 everywhere in town).  

Then at mid-night everyone lights them on fire. The symbolic meaning of course is "forgetting the bad of the past year and hope that the coming year will be better".

This year Donald Trump was very popular - or maybe I should say 'un' popular.  

We walked to El Centro just after dark to see what was going on, but we were much too early for the "action", although the music was blaring and the parties had already begun. 

There were many little fires in the streets along our route.  I can only assume they were burning their 'effigies'. They are sometimes filled with fire crackers so they really light up!!

We were back at home early, so we watched a movie and had a glass of wine to bring in the new year.  We didn't miss the fireworks by being home. With a 180 degree view of the downtown from our 3rd floor apartment, we had the perfect vantage point.  The skies were lit up with wonderful lights bursting everywhere for over 15 minutes.  

The pictures I took turned out awful (as you can see) but you can see how great our view was.  It was a spectacular light show!