First few days in Cuenca...
We arrived in Cuenca late on Saturday night after our usual hilarious bus journey (ok so this one was slightly less hilarious due to the 9 1/2 hour length) but still, we do love the entertainment the bus provides. It`s hard to explain without a hidden camera but at every stop, someone comes on selling their goods (and usually with a good pair of lungs on them if you know what i mean - no need for microphones here!), whether its a suitcase full of leather goods, fresh fruit, ice creams already made up in the cones just ready for you to eat (strangely these ice creams never seem to melt?), or even the odd Christian book and matching crosses on necklaces set - you name it, they sell it on the buses in Ecuador. Dominique and i always like to take bets on who is actually going to buy some of the stuff, and we are sometimes quite surprised....anyway i digress..
As the travel guides say, when it comes to colonial splendour, Cuenca arguably reigns supreme in Ecuador. With narrow cobbled streets (some of them original to Inca times), whitewashed red tiled buildings, many, many beautiful churches, and of course the lovely Rio Tomebamba that runs through the city where women still wash and dry their clothes......Cuenca has it all! It is Ecuador´s third largest city (if you dont count New York, USA which technically is the third largest city with over 500,000 Ecuadorians (or is it more?) living there.. they proudly say that people dont know that fact ´cos Ecuadorians dont cause any trouble so you dont hear about them in NY!
Cuenca is a beautiful city.....check out the pics of the Parque Calderon in the heart of the city..
Anyway, we stayed at El Cafecito, a hip and trendy hostel (of course!) with a great bar/restaurant for a few days .. We really liked it and the guys who worked there were all great and named us the "sangria girls" (their sangria was def the best in town!) but we had to leave cos it was so bloomin´ cold in our room that we wore 3 layers, hats and gloves and it was still freezing (oh yes and there was a tree growing through the wall into the room too!!! Anyway we moved onto another hostel round the corner - the Sante Fe, which was slightly more grannyish in feel, and where they locked up for the night at 10pm and you had to ring the bell (which was loud enough to wake the whole city up) to get in, but the folks were very nice, especially their 3 yr old son Nicolas, who liked to pop by and chat to us most mornings as we got ready for school!, and the room was warm, so we were happy campers!
We met up with the fabulous and newly married couple, Alejandro and Laura to share their honeymoon with them (yes, talk about cramping their style!). No - seriously they were just lovely, and we had a great time with them over the weekend and next few days! Not only were they brilliant fun, but they were ridiculously good to us - taking us out for dinner to wonderful places, celebrating Dominique´s birthday and buying us beautiful presents - Cuenca was definitely less bright once they had left us....
But before that happened, we decided to venture out of town to the Sunday markets, so after mass in the incredibly beautiful "new" cathedral (which was filled to the brim -and its a GIANT church, with people from all walks of Ecuadorian life, the camposinos who come in from the country, the hip and very western looking city folks, and everyone else in between), Alejandro, Laura, Dominique and i took a local bus (yes that was our bus!) out to the mercados of Gualaceo and Chordeleg.
Hmmn - we all collectively decided the guide books promoted these markets a little too much- dont get me wrong they were very interesting and Alejandro and I particularly liked the roasted pig and "cuy" aka guinea pig BBQ´s, but Dominique and Laura felt a bit squiffy at some of the stalls.The markets are very interesting in that you get a great sense of the "real world" rather than the slightly more sanitized city life. You can really find anything you want here- from clothes, toys, jewellry and of course food! Check out the before and slightly more appetizing after shots of the guinea pigs being roasted on the spits outside the market. Still havent tried it - and somehow dont think ill make it ..
Also, I´m sure you all know but the panama hat was actually invented in Ecuador so i liked this shot of a little old man´s store - he was happy for me to take it and explained that every panama hat is hand made and measured for the individuals head size (well, in his shop anyway!). So a good time was had by all!