Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

Our first Thanksgiving in Cuenca. We celebrated by sleeping in and then joined our friends Jaci and Micki for lunch at our favorite Chinese restaurant. Afterwards, we did a little shopping at Sukasa and SuperMaxi. Doesn't sound very exciting but we had a great time. I had a salad for dinner and Mike had pizza. Now we are watching a holiday classic "White Christmas." We leave for the US in a few weeks. I'm looking forward to celebrating Christmas with friends and family. 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Cuenca, Ecuador ...One Year Later

Today marks the one year anniversary of our initial trip to Cuenca, Ecuador. The purpose of our trip was to decide whether we wanted to live in Cuenca or Quito. Quito is the Capitol of Ecuador. After exploring the City of Cuenca it was a no-brainer that we choose Cuenca. The scale of the city is so perfect. We live in El Centro. This is the center of Cuenca. We can easily walk three miles, in any direction, and find anything that we could possibly ever need. Quito seemed too busy and dirty. Cuenca is moderately busy, the population is about 500,000 with more than half concentrated in the center of the city. Quito has a population of 2.5 million. Taxis outnumber people here, buses are $0.25 a ride, we recently purchased bicycles, and we got our driver's licenses this past Monday. With that said, getting around is a snap! While we were here, last year, we found the apartment that we currently live in. When we first walked in it just felt right. So, we rented the apartment and started making our plans to move to Cuenca. It was one of the best decisions we've ever made!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Driver's License

Today we took the computerized written test and got our Ecuador Driver's License. We hired a facilitator which made the process a lot easier. The test is in Spanish and you are required to answer 16 out of 20 questions correct in order to pass. We now have our permanent resident Visa, Cedula, and Driver's License. This is home!!

Cuenca is not "set up on the system" to process Gringos seeking to get their License. We did what is known as a License swap. Since our US Licenses were still valid, we were able to skip the required Driving School. This would cost around $200 each for a two week class.  Today, our facilitator, Victor, drove us to Giron, Ecuador (30 minutes outside of Cuenca) where we completed the process. $293.00 later, we can now join all of the other crazy lunatics on the roads of Ecuador. 

On the way to Giron we saw cows, pigs, sheep, and this beautiful view. That is the City of Giron in the distance. 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Orchid Exposition

Yesterday was the first day of the 4th International and the 5th National Orchid Exposition held at Mall del Rio in Cuenca. There were thousands of orchids on display and for sale. 

The Bonsai Club of Cuenca had a nice display as well. 

And there we some very nice flower arrangements. 

If you enjoy flowers then Mall del Rio is where you need to be this weekend. The show runs through Sunday in the Convention Center. Cost to enter is only $2.00. 

These are the three orchids I purchased. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014


After months of talking about it we finally bought bicycles. There is a street in Cuenca, Calle Remigio Tamariz, that has about eight upscale bike shops. We looked at bikes in all of them. The prices ranged from around $399 up to $16,000. Some brands we recognized from the US ... Trek, Specialized, Cannondale, and Mongoose. There were several brands we have not heard of until now. So, we stuck with what we knew and chose two Trek bikes at a store called MYBIKE. The sales people were very nice and knowledgeable. Mine is a 21-speed Trek 3500 Disc and Mike's is a 24-speed Trek Xcaliber 4. Both are perfect for a combination of street riding and mountain biking. Yesterday we rode them on a trail along the Yunacay River. 

Our apartment has an interior patio which is the perfect place to store them. 

Today we went for a shorter ride than planned due to a light rain. Below, you can see our route that was recorded with my MapMyRide+ app. 

There is an active bike riding club in Cuenca that we hope to do some riding with. Feel free to let me know if you have any questions about our experience with shopping for and purchasing bicycles in Cuenca. 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Cuenca's Symphony Orchestra

Friday night I enjoyed the Orquesta Sinfonica de Cuenca. They were performing as part of the continuing celebration of Cuenca's 194 years of independence from Spain. The performance was free, as they always are, and was held at Parque de la Madre (Park of the Mothers). In addition to the orchestra there were three very talented soloists. The concert consisted of fourteen musical selections. All were very spirited. I was impressed and I'm looking forward to their next performance. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Independencia de Cuenca (Independence of Cuenca)

Fiestas de Cuenca, parties and celebrations of Cuenca's 194th year of Independence from Spain kicked off on October 16th.  The official day of independence is Tres de Noviembre (November 3rd).  Cuenca is the arts and cultural center of Ecuador.  If there is a civil or religious holiday to celebrate Cuenca will celebrate it in a BIG way.  In this case, more than a month of celebrations which will end on November 30th.  In the US we celebrate our indepence from England for one day.  So, the celebration here is a bit overwhelming. There can be ten or more different parades, parties, and festivals ocurring at the same time.  Three major holidays were celebrated here over the past four days.  Halloween was Friday, The Day of the Dead was Sunday, and Independence Day was yesterday.  This is also the beginning of the "high season" for tourists here.  Cuenca had tens of thousands of visitors in town since last Friday.  I did not know this small city of 500,000 residents could hold that many additional people.  But, it did, and without many, if any, incidents.  We tried to hit the highlights over the past month.  If you are like me ... you do not enjoy reading.  So, with that said, enjoy the pictures!

During this time of celebration you can find "Guagua de Pan" (Baby Bread) and the fruity beverage "Colada Morada" at tiendas, bakeries, and street vendors all over the city.

The booths along Av. 12 de Abril and the Tomebamba River.

A nightime concert at Parque Calderon, Cuenca's main square.

This is the guagua de pan and colada morada that I purchased at a local contest held around the corner from our apartment at the Plazoleta de Santo Domingo.  The colada morada is thick due to a main ingredient of blue/black corn powder, and sweet from the blueberries and other fruit used to flavor the drink.  The bread was slightly sweet and delicious.  

Day of the Dead decorations being sold by vendors near the local flower market.

Cute kids at Parque de la Madre that participated in the Cholita and Cholo Cuencana parade. 

Vendors along Av. 12 de Abril.  Artists and craftspeople from twelve countries in South America set up tents.  There were beautiful paintings, blankets, scarves, hats, and much more!  As you can see the weather was beautiful.  Temps in the 70's every day.

Enjoying refreshments with our friends Curt and Scott.  These boys are crazy fun!!

We had a local artist make matching bracelets for us.  The guy used a loom to make them by hand.  The process was fast and amazing.

Scott and I got silver rings.

Friday night we celebrated Halloween at Common Grounds.  Scott helped with our spur of the moment, unplanned, outfits.  It appears we were "gringo tourists."  We danced to music from the 80's and 90's.

Preparing for a Day of the Dead parade.

Additional vendor booths were set up at the Museum of Metal.

On our walk yesterday to Parque El Paraiso we were able to view a couple of antique military tanks.

Parque El Paraiso was the place to be on Monday, 3 November.

Donkeys resting before the race.

Large groups of people enjoyed the comedy skits.

Police cadets marching around Parque Calderon.

Native dancers wrapped up the day's activities.

I made a few purchases.  Here is a baseball style hat that is made of straw.  

This is a sweater made from Alpaca wool. It has a zipper front, pockets, a drawstring around the waist, and a hoodie.  It's too hot to wear here.  I'll take it to the US when we visit in December.

This is my third pair of what I call my "crazy pants."  Most of the street performers and hippies around town wear them.  I haven't worn mine in public yet.  I just wear them around the apartment for lounging.

This is a cool incense burner handcrafted from bamboo.

A handpainted ceramic tile for our apartment door.

Last but not least, a toothbrush holder.  Interesting story, the vendor was selling these for $2.00 each, two for $7.00, or three for $5.00!  Yes, I know, the math does not add up.  I questioned him several times and he insisted the pricing structure was correct.  So, I bought one for $2.00 and Mike bought one for $2.00, a total of $4.00.  We saved $3.00!!  

Now I'm looking forward to the Christmas celebrations here.  I understand the parades are a feast for the eyes.