Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Todos Santos Neighborhood

Another walk, another neighborhood... This time we explored one of the oldest areas in Cuenca, seeped in history, Todos Santos (All Saints).

The first Church in Cuenca is located here, now under major renovation.  In 2005, there was an electrical fire that did alot of damage and the Church was also suffering from neglect and huge maintenance issues.  This fix-up project began a few years ago, and is expected to finish sometime next year.  We can hardly wait to see this old Church restored to its former glory! 

So much's where the first Catholic Mass was held in 1540.  The Church is also the location of one of the original corners of Old Cuenca, marked with a cross. 

The area is known for the old wood ovens and many of the bread shops still use the old baking techniques.  The bread from this area is delicious!  You can smell the wood burning fires when the ovens are fired up and the aroma of baking bread wafts through the streets early mornings.

Here's a picture of the open oven door, with the flames.

Sign outside...bread and other baked goods for sale.  'Horno de Lena' means 'wood oven'.

Across the street on Calle Larga.

Walking the neighborhood from Calle Larga toward the Square, you can see all the old adobe buildings still in use, in various stages of repair. 

We always delight at the renovation projects of these old beauties!

You never know what's behind the gates.

Lovely restoration...pretty flowers painted on the windows.

For our friends in Texas...

Street scribbles are everywhere in the City, including this neighborhood.

Another cute street doggie.
We didn't get a good pic of the Church itself this time.  When we first visited Cuenca, the Church was wrapped all in blue construction tarps; these have been removed recently. We'll have to walk out several blocks and try later. 
It's a huge Church and absolutely stunning!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Perpetual Tourists

Some folks try to catagorize and define such terms as 'traveler/tourist' and 'expat/resident'.  We hope we never have to decide which box we're in, because we think we are in both!  There really isn't a hard and fast line between the catagories, in our opinion.  We move from one to the other all the time.

One fairly new expat mentioned she didn't want to do the 'touristy stuff' like many gringos, that's sad.  We think she's missing out on so many fun adventures here!

(This is a fairly unusual picture...we spotted these US flags flying downtown one day.  You can see an Ecuadorian flag, too, much more common!, on the left hand side.)

We love being 'tourists'!  There are still those magic moments of discovery in our Cuenca.  We still carry our cameras on our walks to try to capture those experiences that make us smile and we still pinch ourselves that we are here.  We like to share our moments with our friends and family, hoping they enjoy them, too.

Many of the events in Cuenca are enjoyed by both newcomers and those who call Cuenca 'home'.  Most places we go to have both 'catagories' in attendance, including the sightseeing buses, the beautiful churches, the gorgious Andes mountains, the busy markets, art shows and concerts, the peaceful parks. 

(Double decker sightseeing bus.)

In a generic sense, folks who have lived here most of their lives, also go to language schools!  Not to learn Spanish necessarily, but to learn English, German, French, and more.

Some bloggers have mentioned how small the world really is...they have met folks from their old hometown here.  Many Ecuadorians have ties to the US, too, either they have spent time there or family and friends have.  Some say that New York or Chicago is the 4th largest city of Ecuador! 

One evening, we attended an event with Ecuadorians and Gringos and the symphony members played both 'Chola Cuencana' and 'New York, New York'...a nice inclusive, familiar touch.  Everyone hooted and cheered together for both tunes.

Yep, small world.  It's an amusing experience when we are in the middle of no-darn-where and we hear a little Willie Nelson or Michael Jackson or the Beatles on the radio or on the streets.  Music can be the great equalizer around the globe.  It's always fun to find the 'common ground' and the familiar...whether it's through music or values, history or food.  We delight in learning about the unfamiliar, too.

Looking back...we guess we were 'tourists' when we lived in San Francisco, as well.  There was a blend of travelers and residents in most places there.  We commuted to work on the cable cars and the ferries, attended museum openings and concerts, walked through Chinatown for produce, drank good espresso in North Beach and tried to sing along with the jukebox's Italian operas, right along with the visitors and natives, both.  We marveled at the fog rolling in at the Golden Gate Bridge and we sat outside, shivering at Fisherman's Wharf with Irish coffees and clam chowder, right along with the tourists.

In Oregon, we loved to watch the class 5 white water rafting adventures of both visitors and residents on the Mighty Rogue River.  We enjoyed the County Fairs, hometown parades and the other fun events targeted for tourists as much as the visitors did. 

Point is.....we guess we're all 'tourists/travelers', all the time.  Or, should be.  We hope we never get so jaded that we ever take all the wonderful moments for granted, whether we're sitting in the beauty of Parque Calderon or delighting in the firework displays, or finding our hearts quicken a little when we spy a llama at the river or toast up our toes in the sand at the beach.  Or, break out in a total grin when the sunrises and sunsets turn the skies to amazing, knock-your-socks-off reds and oranges and golds.

We're looking forward to being (remaining!) 'tourists' as we plan our next adventures, too.  So much to see and enjoy in our beautiful Ecuador and beyond.


Views from our porch with ever-changing sky.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

We Felt the Earthquake Today

Big earthquake today centered in northern Peru, a 6.8 - 7.0 or so.

We felt it here in Cuenca.  As Nancy felt the swaying on the porch in our apt, she called Rich, who was at the Fragata building.  A couple beats later, Rich felt it, too.

Mild swaying here, no damage that we know of, no panic...Nancy didn't even get up from the computer.  Not to sound too comfortable with earthquakes, but being from the US West Coast, this one just didn't seem worth even fretting about.  Not even enough 'fret' to start looking for shoes...

Rich says just about every car alarm in the Fragata neighborhood went off, but it stayed (relatively) quiet in ours...

We hope everyone in Peru is ok (and our friends in the US are recovering as well).

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Sunday Quiet

Last Sunday we walked with our friends, Barbara and Howard.  Here are pictures from that fun day.

We began at this square on Calle Larga.
We've called it the 'cannonball plaza', because of the big cement balls along the street (to block traffic from entering).  The real name is Plaza La Merced, after the Church located there.  It's also where the CoffeeTree is located with popular outside tables.

Here is a close-up of the statue.

Details of the Church, now a high school, we think.  We are hoping to see the inside someday, but it's always closed when we've tried.

Streets on early Sundays are so quiet!  Almost no traffic.

Here's a neat sign...Cuenca is planning for a light rail system!

Another little tidbit...sometimes you will see crosses on the outside of some old buildings, almost at ground level.  We hear that the crosses were added to help deter public urination (not sure if that's true, but we like the idea).  This one is located on an old Church/Convent.

Vendors outside the San Alfonso Church.  Services were still in progress when we stopped by.  The snack vendors did a brisk business when the people emerged from the Church.  One woman and her daughter were cooking fried sweets that looked delicious.

Taking a snooze...She's selling a little of everything, including lottery tickets.

We walked through a public park area.  The open plaza goes from block to block with resting benches, shops and a school.

Here's a close-up of one of the buildings.

Always fun window shopping along the way.  We'll have to return to this jewelry shop later when it's open.  Looks like some fun stuff!

Sparkly pink tennis shoes in a pink window.

High end beauty salon in the neighborhood.

We ended up at the 10 of August market.  A few shrines at the market and wonderful produce.  This one has neon lights.

We bought some delicious strawberries!  Here they are, soaking at home...

We are careful with produce from the street vendors and the markets. Always wise to wash ALL produce before eating.  It's easy to make a soaking solution with Kilol, a non-toxic solution added to water.  It's made in Ecuador.

We saw a gringo kid eating his strawberries right out of the bag on the street...we worry about him!  If you've ever suffered from parasites, as we and several of our friends have, or an upset tummy, you'll know it's worth the time and trouble to carefully WASH first before eating! 

Soaking the produce in this solution takes only 5 minutes to kill the bad stuff. 

You can buy Kilol in the produce section of SuperMaxi for a couple bucks.  Worth every penny, in our opinion.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Along the River

More pictures of our walks along this historic stretch of the Tomebamba River.

Beautifully restored building.  CIDAP museum is located here.

Right next door, an outbuilding of the orignal house.

Stairs leading up to Calle Larga and a walking bridge over the river.

You can see Parque de la Madre (Mother's Park) in the background.

Fortunately, there are flat 'breaks' in the staircase, so you catch your breath!

Someone actually counted the stairs...she counted over 90.

Vendors and a restaurant along the staircase...

Another staircase leading up to Calle Larga.  You can see the Adobe rental complex and the walking bridge over the river.

Interesting and fun artwork along the stairs.

A fun place with good burgers.

More interesting buildings along the river.

More street art.

Look how quiet Calle Larga is on an early Sunday morning!  It's usually jammed.

We have more pics to share later so stay tuned.