Friday, June 29, 2012

The Last Mornings

As usual, the first thing I did in the morning was step out onto the balcony. This was what greated me the last day in Cuenca.

And this was the last morning in Ecuador. Quito, Ecuador from my hotel window.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

My Favorite Park

My favorite of the parks that we had time to visit was San Sabastian. I don't think it was as pretty as Parque Calderon, but it was further out from the city center thus much quieter and more peaceful.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


In addition to the beautiful Panama Hats that are original to Ecuador, the artisans also weave beautiful wool fabric from alpaca, angora, and other hair and fur then make beautiful scarves, shawls, blankets, clothing etc.

The artisans in Chordeleg are well known for their filigree. The delicate ornamental items of fine silver, gold, or other metal wires are a delight to behold.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Some of my Favorite Things

The amount of fresh fruit and vegetables that was available and cheap at the indigenous mercados was absolutely amazing. The produce was truly vine-ripe straight from the farms. It wasn't produce that had been picked before its time so that it could be shipped to grocery stores before it rotted. The mercados were similar to the farmer's markets that can be found here if you are lucky enough to live close to one. The difference is they were prolific. You didn't have to walk more than a few blocks to find one anywhere in the city. There were several really large ones scattered around the city as well. In the outlying towns, they would fill the entire town square on Wednesdays and Sundays.

On Wednesday, they fly in fresh fish from the coast. If you are there when it arrives, you can get several types of fish, shrimp, and tuna almost as fresh as if you had caught it yourself.  Otherwise, I am told, it is wise to forget it.

Monday, June 18, 2012


We took a drive to a couple of small towns outside of the city. We stopped at a commercial orchid grower's facitily and took a tour.

The growers seal the seed pods inside these glass bottles with only the air that exists in the bottle. They create their own micro-climate. There are 100's of orchids growing inside each bottle. When they reach a certain size, they transfer them to pots. It takes several years to complete the process.

Monkey-faced orchid.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Someone's Birthday and other stuff

My youngest Granddaughter's birthday was the day we arrived in Cuenca.
We had dinner at Tiestos the next night to celebrate. Rated simply the very best restaurant in Cuenca! Family-style servings, fabulous food and a great atmosphere. She and her Dad had been planning this night for months. Because she was the birthday girl, she was given this piece of cake to celebrate. I am not sure what it was. I believe it was a hazelnut cake, but whatever it was, it was absolutely delicious.

It was served on an artistically decorated plate. The design was handpainted onto the plain white plate with some kind of pink, green and yellow jam-like fruit glazes and chocolate syrup.

OK. I admit it. I was a little obsessed with taking pictures from our balcony.
The thing is, with different lighting, different times of day, different weather, things looked different.

These were the flowers that were planted in the pots hanging from our balconies.

One evening, after dark, I looked down from the balcony and saw this young couple spooning rather heavily across the street. Spooning. Isn't that such an old-fashioned word? But it suits. To me, Ecuador was a wonderfully old-fashioned place.

As I watched, a car pulled to the curb and a young girl got out. She did a quick double-take of the entangled couple; then ran down the street and around the corner. What her mission was, I don't know, but the couple never even looked up.

While we were there, we looked at homes to purchase. This would be the view from the front windows and roof-top terrance of one of the homes.  Sigh!
Can you see the blue domes of the New Cathedral?

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Tour of the Cty

The first thing we did after exploring Parque Calderon was hop on a double decker tour bus. We wanted to get an overview of the city to help us decide what areas we wanted to spend our limited time exploring more fully.

Ecuador has two seasons, a wet season and a dry season. We arrived at the beginning of the dry season. We were lucky in that we did not have to contend with rain except for one day. The day we rode the tour bus. Although it did not last long, it did limit picture taking and at one point got heavy enough to drive those of us riding on the top outside deck down to the inside deck.

This image of a sidewalk vendor cooking outside a small shop was taken through wet glass splattered with rain drops.

Our bus tour took us to Turi. Turi is a town and parish perched on a hill overlooking the city of Cuenca. From there, you have a panoramic view of the entire city of Cuenca and the mountains ringing it.

With binoculars, or a telephoto lens, you can see the domes of the New Catherdal.

The architecture, both old and new, was fascinating.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Parque Calderon

After a full service breakfast that was served at the California Kitchen and was included with the hotel room rate, we walked to Parque Calderon, the city’s beautiful central square.

It was still fairly early and the narrow, cobbled streets and sidewalks hadn't filled with the hustle and bustle of people and cars. That is one of the things that surprised me the most about Cuenca's downtown....the amount of people and traffic in the city center.

Did I mention how perfect the weather was. A high of around 68-70 degrees with lows in the mid 50s. Don't get me wrong, even though it is in the Andes mountains, it is on the equator as well as high in elevation. In the direct sun, even at those temps, it was HOT! But, sitting under the canopy of a tree or other structure or when the clouds blocked the sun, it was near perfect. I could sit there all day observing and/or photographing the flora, fauna, and people.

The old Cathedral with the large blue domes of the new Cathedral showing behind.
The Old Cathedral of Cuenca was constructed in the same year that the town of Cuenca was founded: 1557.  Its location is on ancient Inca ruins.
The blue domes of the new Cathederal are constantly appearing on the horizon. Construction started in 1885 and lasted for almost a century.
The three giant domes are covered by sky-blue glazed tile from Czechoslovakia.

The old Cathedral

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The first morning

Our plane arrived in Cuenca after dark. There wasn't much that could be seen on the taxi ride to the hotel. We stayed at Hotel Los Balcones which was an old colonial home that has been restored and converted into a hotel. As the name implies, many of the rooms have Juliet balconies. I took these images the next morning before the city became too busy.

This was looking up the street to my left towards the busiest part of the city although I did not know that at the time. You can see a street vendor pushing his cart in preparation for the day's business.

Cuenca, which means basin, is indeed in a basin surrounded by the Andes mountains. This was looking straight ahead from the balcony.

And this was looking to the right.

The Spanish settlement of Cuenca was founded on April 12, 1557. The center of the city is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Trust site because of its many historical buildings. With only a week to explore, all we had time for was a sampler plate of beautiful, and often very old, architecture, perfect weather, friendly people and marvelous food.

This is looking down from the third floor indoor balcony, where our room was located, to the restaurant in the courtyard. The California Kitchen is owned by a couple from California who have moved to Cuenca to escape some of the "fundamental transformations" that are occuring in our beloved country. Thus the reason for our trip.