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Tales of Travel in Central and South America

I have always loved traveling and exploring new places.  I want to take this opportunity to share my experiences, my adventures, and my photos with the world.  Enjoy!

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Chowing Down Around Town

It’s no secret that I looooove to try new restaurants, and Cuenca has a near-limitless variety to choose from.  Today I thought I’d shine a spotlight on a few of my go-to favorites:

Origami Sushi Restaurant

Calle Larga between Hermano Miguel and Mariano Cueva

Ecuador offers a rich variety of seafood, which the chefs at Origami artfully transform into edible works of art.  Although Cuenca is not on the coast, their fish is always fresh and delicious!  Located on Calle Larga between Hermano Miguel and Mariano Cueva, it’s one of my favorite places to stop for lunch – there’s plenty of variety and the rolls are always delicious and fresh!

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Cafe San Sebas

Plaza San Sebas, just off Mariscal Sucre at San Sebastian

Mmmmm, Chili Cheeseburgers!

If you’re looking for a hearty meal, this is the place to go!  I’m a huge fan of their chili cheeseburgers and their pulled pork hash, and their veggie quesadillas are phenomenal!  There’s also a small gallery offering handmade products from local artisans including indigenous painters and expat artists.  Best of all, the patio area is a great place to hang out for an afternoon, have a couple beers and just relax.

Pulled pork hash browns with a fried egg on top – Breakfast of Champions!

 

Thai Connection

Calle Eduardo Crespo Malo just off Gran Colombia at Unidad Nacional

This restaurant is a little bit out of the way for us, but we never hesitate to make a special trip over to fulfill our Thai cravings!  Their food is always fresh and truly authentic – the green curry is rich and flavorful, the spring rolls are crispy and stuffed full of tasty goodness, and everything is presented beautifully.

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Art for Art’s Sake Revisited

I’ve mentioned before how much I love the Ecuadorean flair for street art of all kinds, especially large murals.  Although some are ‘random acts of art’, in many cases they’re commissioned by the property owner to brighten things up.

Almost every time I go out in Cuenca, I see a new piece, either in-progress or long-since completed – to me it’s a dream come true!  Another thing is that the locals are incredibly polite – I’ve had people come to a stop in the street rather than drive through and mess up your shot.

Here are a few more recent examples:

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Las Aventuras de la Señorita Bosco

Ok, so here I go again writing about something that’s not specifically Ecuador-related, but hey, it’s my blog so my content choices, right? 😉  Anyhow, here goes…

In the Beginning…

Around October 2011, some friends introduced me to an adorable little chocolate lab puppy who had been abandoned in their neighborhood.  At the time they couldn’t keep her, so they were looking for someone to adopt her.
We arranged a time to meet and I was immediately smitten – not only was she the cutest thing I had ever seen, but I could also tell she was a character.  Over the years, we’ve had quite a few adventures, so I thought I would share some of them…

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Dude, Where’s My Mountain?

So we had a little bit of a storm roll in the other day, I went out front to check it out – this is what I saw:

There's supposed to be a mountain to the left of the light pole...

There’s supposed to be a mountain to the left of the light pole…

 

This is what it normally looks like:

The mountain that should be there...

 

Needless to say, it was a fun storm!

 

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Quick Videos – Harp Player at 12 de Abril Celebration

Ecuadoreans take their history very, very seriously, and correspondingly, they vigorously celebrate many different anniversaries – for example, the founding of Cuenca.  The city of Cuenca was founded on April 12, 1557 by Gil Ramírez Dávalos, near the ruins of the Inca city of Tomebamba.    As part of the 12 de Abril festivities this year, Cuenca put together a *massive* art show (amongst other events), covering multiple locations throughout town, including Calle Presidente Borrero, Parque de la Madre, and the local arena.  As we were wandering amongst the booths (and grabbing some phenomenal local teas, preserves, and artwork), there was a local musician just hanging out and playing his harp:

One of these days I’ll get a grownup video camera so I can make longer/steadier recordings 😉

 

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Weekend Outing – Vilcabamba

For Easter, Martha and I decided to visit Vilcabamba, about 4.5 hours to the South of Cuenca. Renowned for its residents’ longevity, this lush, fertile valley is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever experienced firsthand.  During our visit, we stayed at Izhcayluma (ish-guy-loom-uh) – a sprawling local resort / hostel just outside Vilcabamba proper.

Day 1:  Departure from Cuenca

Mural at La Cigale

We began our trek on Thursday afternoon, departing from a local hostel, La Cigale (Honorato Vásquez 6-28, Cuenca, just off  Calle Larga at Luis Cordero).  The owners of La Cigale have done a great job of turning their hostel and restaurant into a travel hub, with daily van service to Vilcabamba and back.  We got to La Cigale about 20 minutes before the van was scheduled to depart, so we took the opportunity to grab a light lunch off the menu before boarding the van.  The van itself was a modern, 10-passenger model – all in all pretty snazzy…  Right on time, the van driver arrived, loaded up everyone’s luggage, and we headed off to Vilcabamba!

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Just Some Random Beauty

So, the weather has been a little weird here lately as we’re finally starting to transition out of the rainy season.  In the past week, we’ve had some gorgeous days, intermixed with some afternoon thunderstorms rolling in.

Yesterday started off pretty much the same, but around mid-afternoon, a light storm began rolling in.  I decided to take a quick break from work, open my office windows, and grab a few rays of sunlight before the clouds rolled in, and this is how Nature rewarded my timing:

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Tragedy and Resilience

On the evening of Saturday, April 16, the Ecuadorean province of Esmeraldas was struck by a devastating earthquake of 7.8 magnitude, followed by hundreds of additional aftershocks.  The main quake was so powerful that we felt the shocks in Cuenca, over 350km from the epicenter.  Over the ensuing week, the tragedy has continued to unfold, with death tolls approaching 700, thousands injured, and nearly 7,000 buildings destroyed or no longer safe for habitation.  Although headway is being made, even after a week there are still some communities who are unable to receive aid due to landslides and ruined roadways.  Also, as with any mass disaster, there was some looting, but that has begun to recede after 10,000 troops were deployed to affected areas.

One of the things that has struck me most vividly during this tragedy has been the incredible amount of solidarity the Ecuadorean people have shown.  As early as minutes after the quake, citizens (i.e. not professional rescue workers) were risking their lives to help neighbors and loved ones out of the rubble.  It was just unbelievable to me how quickly people leaped into action without debate, without second thoughts, without consideration of personal safety – just “Someone needs help, let’s go help them.  Now.”

Within hours after the quake, the rest of the country had also mobilized to help – there were volunteer-staffed donation centers set up all over Cuenca, gathering resources that were then taken to the coast by people driving personal vehicles on the often-treacherous roads.  People from all walks of life have stepped up, however they can, to come to the aid of their compatriots.

During my time here, I’ve developed a healthy respect for Ecuadorean society and mores, but I now have a much deeper appreciation of their sense of community and willingness to reach out when others are in need.  It’s almost as if the seeds of recovery were being planted even as the tragedy continued to play out, along with this unspoken resolve of “We will overcome this.” – I agree.

 

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