The Magic is Getting Better at the Oro Verde

Every time I visit Guayaquil I stay at the Oro Verde and I have developed a relationship with the general manager and the front desk manager of the hotel. On this trip in I was placed in a section of the hotel that has been completely remodeled and is called the “Leading Suites” after the Leading Hotels of the World, an illustrious company of which this hotel is a member. It is a luxury group of hotels that are located around the world and have operations in most major cities and countries of the world. They also have extraordinary assets in some of the most remote areas and they aim to preserve the surrounding ecological treasures of each location. I love this approach.

 

Entryway View to the Leading Suite

Entryway View to the Leading Suite

 

The room was decorated in a more modern furnishing than the past rooms I have stayed in with this very historical hotel. I learned later that all the rooms are targeted for this remodel and they have something like 98 rooms left to go out of the 230 rooms available. I have to admit I wasn’t aware of this tower and additional rooms of the hotel. I though the hallway off the front desk led to shops and conference rooms. One has to have a dedicated key to even get the elevator to take you to your room.

 

Two Queen Size Beds

Two Queen Size Beds

 

As expected the room was elegant and functional and designed for the guests comfort. I was taken back by the size and layout of the room and normally wouldn’t expect such a large area dedicated for a guest room. I am attempting to illustrate the room’s appeal through my photos inserted in the blog and hope that my novice photography gives you an idea of the room’s attributes. They are fantastic.

 

Dining Area

Dining Area

 

There is a separate area for dining, a fully apportioned living area with a huge LED television set mounted across from the very soft couch. I melted into it after my long day of traveling. This room has a desk with full Internet capabilities and needs.

 

Living Area with Desk, TV and Expected Furnishings

Living Area with Desk, TV and Expected Furnishings

 

Additionally, there is a wet bar with coffee, microwave, safe and a refrigerator stocked with your favorite beverages. This leads into the bedroom which has two queen size beds that are more than comfortable. After a snack and a beverage I  literally fell asleep fast and became a part of the mattress that surrounded me with comfort and relieved every weary bone in my body! I was in heaven.

 

Wet Bar, Safe, Microwave and Refrigerator

Wet Bar, Safe, Microwave and Refrigerator

 

There is a closet area with a full size ironing board, closet to hang a full wardrobe, storage for your unmentionables and a “European Trouser Pants Press” for the gentleman or lady concerned about their appearance. The room was more than large enough to perform your ironing needs and have a guest discuss your daily plans. It was a large area devoted to apparel upkeep.

 

Closet Area

Closet Area

 

The bathroom was very nice, but only had one sink. I would think would be an issue if a couple was traveling together. Hopefully this can be remedied and should be, as the counter space is more than ample to hold a second sink. The shower has a rain head and operates wonderfully I did not want to get out. All the items one might forget that is used in the bathroom is available including toothbrush, razor, sewing kit, comb, soap, shampoo, rinse, bath oil and hand lotion. If you need it they have it.

 

Shower

Shower

 

The next morning both management gentlemen I know, left business meetings to come see me before I left their fabulous hotel. I appreciated this gesture more than they will ever know, but I should have expected it, as the customer service in this hotel is and always has been impeccable. One will not find better service anywhere in the world. I do not receive free rooms, but I do get upgrades each time I visit, so in the spirit of full disclosure it is relevant to mention I receive free upgrades at this hotel. This does not sway or effect my opinions and the opinions relayed in this post are 100% all mine. Saludos!

Photo of The Day #12

A Typical Restored Door in Cuenca

A Typical Restored Door in Cuenca

 

 

I am not totally sure why I am so drawn to old doors, but I may be obsessed  when it comes to capturing the multitude of door images that abound in the world. Primarily my “Collection” is from Cuenca Ecuador and the El Centro or Old Town part of the city.

 

There are examples all over the world of fantastic carpentry and artwork. At least that is my interpretation. You can go to my Facebook page and see a multitude of examples from past trips. I hope that you enjoy the various photos and think they represent a segment of art as I do. Saludos!

The Road Most Traveled

 

Every time I visit Ecuador I fly into Guayaquil and stay over night. There are no “direct” flights to Cuenca from current airline operations. I can either fly back to Quito spend the night and then fly into Cuenca or I can stay overnight and take a shuttle to Cuenca the next day. At my age the Quito route is about 25 hours total and too taxing on my body. So I opt for the shuttle from Guayaquil. Besides, I would miss all the gorgeous scenery if I flew into Cuenca.

 

Mangos Growing Wild

Mangoes Growing Beside the Road 

 

I always know that I can count on my friends at Mio Tours to insure my safety and guaranteed arrival. Lately some of the more illegal shuttle companies have been falling into trouble with the government militia, as they are not official and have not secured the appropriate licenses to transport individuals along this route. I would caution you to investigate this issue and make sure your shuttle service is licensed. Other wise you just might be stranded alongside the road, as a few tourists have been lately.

 

Toll Booths at Puerto Inca

Toll Booths at Puerto Inca

 

The road is nice and there are a few tolls, but you go from sea level basically to a high of about 13,000 feet in the Cajas National Park. Along the way you pass many items of interest. The current road is great, but the Ecuadorian Government is widening  the road to four lanes and it will be a smooth ride from Guayaquil. We usually obtain lunch in Puerto Inca about and hour into the ride and the special is $3.00 per person.

 

Government is Improving the Highway and making it Four Lane Like an Interstate in the US

Government is Improving the Highway & making it Four Lane Like an Interstate in the US

 

 

You pass through many small towns that have various methods of shuttling their population around and one can only guess what the experience is like. Unless you have been to Asia and are familiar with the Tuk Tuks, then you are very acquainted with this system. The taxis vary in color and structure, but are usually built in the same manner and have the same open door look for passengers, with a motorbike front for the driver.

 

Tuk Tuk Like Taxi in Rural Area Towns

Tuk Tuk Like Taxi in Rural Area Towns

 

As you move into the more remote areas you see a different style of taxi as pictured below. They run around the countryside on motorbikes and shuttle the locals back and forth to their homes along the dirt roads. It is difficult for me to imagine there is enough business for this many “taxis”, but apparently its a lucrative operation.

 

A Form of Taxi for the Locals at the Base of the Andes in the Country

A Form of Taxi for the Locals at the Base of the Andes in the Country

 

 

You also find open fish markets where the locals buy their fresh catch. The fish are transported from the coast and made available to the locals for a reasonable price. It is a very unique approach and has been the same for all the years I have visited Ecuador. I just would like to see a little ice under the fish for safekeeping.

 

Local Rural Fish Market

Local Rural Fish Market

 

 

We always stop at several random spots so that I can take photos and this one is a reflection of the valley below and the cloud structure that covers Guayaquil at higher elevations. One begins the ascension and starts to have indications of altitude by ears popping, etc. The vehicle struggles a little more and doesn’t have the same get up and go as it does at sea level, but it is more than adequate to navigate the Andes. After you rise above the clouds (yes that is at a very high elevation) the view is magnificent and the skies are clear. Many photo opportunities exist at this altitude and the guides from Mio Tours always stop when I ask to take photos or if I need a bathroom break.

 

 Looking Out Over Guayaquil

Looking Out Over Guayaquil

 

As you hit the continental divide in Cajas National Park, you know its all downhill from there and you will be in Cuenca within an hour. The anticipation starts to rise and my thoughts increase as the wonderful city approaches. I am and always will be, totally in love with this city, its people, its culture and its lovely food. The great thing about driving is it gives you three and a half hours to prepare yourself and anticipate how wonderful it is to be in Cuenca. I wouldn’t have it any other way!

 

Day Two Road to Cuenca and Cuenca 2013-03-08 011 30X30 Blog

 

Photo of The Day #11

Parque Calderon Near the New Cathedral in Cuenca

Parque Calderon Near the New Cathedral in Cuenca

 

I love the old part of Cuenca. It has been around for hundreds of years and the Parque Calderon pictured above is at the center of this section of town. It is bordered on one side by the New Cathedral and on the other by the Old Cathedral built in 1557.

 

Both are tremendous works of art and have various artifacts from the history of Cuenca. In addition, several restaurants and ice cream shops are on the other sides. It is a landmark one does not want to miss. This photo was taken directly after a heavy rainstorm and the clouds were still hanging above the New Cathedral at the rear of the photo.

 

 

Photo of The Day #10

The Hats on The Airplane

The Hats on The Airplane

 

As I boarded my flight in DFW heading for Miami and eventually Ecuador, I found my self sitting beside two sisters that were lovely, intelligent and worldly traveled. They both were fair skinned and blond headed, but spoke perfect Spanish. I was puzzled to say the least. We started a conversation as I inquired about the hats one of them was holding. You know how I love hats! This was after hearing them converse in excellent Spanish. I asked them where they were headed and where they lived, etc.

 

 

One was 23 and working on her Master’s thesis in London and was studying Neurology and Photography. She was mature and we discussed her eventual plans to lecture. The other happened to go to high school in Austin and now was attending The University of Texas studying Fine Arts. I was amazed and asked them how they came to be such excellent Spanish conversationalists. They replied they were raised in Argentina, Switzerland, a few other stops and had moved on.

 

 

One particular story from Sofia and Victoria was very charming and I must relay it. It seems that one of them went to school in Austin on their first day and when the teacher came to class (a male) she kissed him on both cheeks, as is custom in Argentina. The teacher immediately drew back and stated that they would have to discuss this after class. She was shocked and did not know what she had done.

 

The teacher after discovering her heritage, instructed her on appropriate customs in the US and relayed to her that this was inappropriate in the US. She was very upset and made sure she didn’t perform this custom again. They also told me in Switzerland that it is customary to kiss three times on the cheeks. I thought that was a little extreme. I thoroughly enjoyed an intelligent conversation with these two young ladies for two hours and was grateful I ran into them.  They proved that all is not broken in the world!

Photo of The Day #9

Cuenca Street Art

Cuenca Street Art

 

 

I absolutely love street art and actively search it out, no matter where I go in the world. Cuenca has some of the most appealing street art I have encountered. This photo was taken on a stairway from the Rio Tomebamba up to Calle Larga. The steps have wonderful art on both sides and it is mesmerizing to see. One can’t help but stop and admire the quality of the work and catch a breath or two.

 

A large portion of this area’s art resembles work done for the Yellow Submarine album from the Beatles in my opinion. Regardless, it is very appealing and when you visit Cuenca Ecuador make sure you search for all its valuable street art! Saludos mi amigos!

Photo of The Day #8

Feria Libre Mercado

Feria Libre Mercado

 

I will never be able to get over the quantity and array of fresh fruits and vegetables available, in the Mercados in Cuenca. The assortments are mind boggling and I would say that I have never seen about 40% of the offerings.

 

As I will be there for an entire month plus a few days this time, I will certainly try to catalog and voice my opinions of the various items I digest and experiment with. I can’t wait to taste the unadulterated food products. There are no GMO’s or additives for preservation and all of the foods in Cuenca are organic. I will be in heaven!

Photo of The Day #7

  Vendor-selling-fresh-water-crabs-on-the-HWY-to-Salinas-Blog

On my first trip to Ecuador in October of 2011, I learned that they have a plethora of crabs available and the crabs are packed up in large bundles for sale at road side stands. It is an amazing site. I am positive I will see many again when I return to Cuenca in a few days, unless there is a seasonality to the crabs.

 

This will be the first time I have traveled to Ecuador during their winter. Kim wants me to measure how cold it really is, as she absolutely hates the cold and feels it down to her bones. I think it is actually getting worse the older we both get! I thought you might enjoy a little local food. I sincerely think though, that you better have a huge family, a party with about 20 attendees or an enormous appetite, if you make this purchase!

Is It Possible to Eat Ice Cream and Lose Weight

One of my passions in life is very unhealthy, completely degenerate in nature, filled to the brim with sugar, butter fat and other high caloric ingredients, but I can’t help myself. I am addicted to it. I love sampling the many flavors and I love the various methods of serving it. At home in the US, I cannot purchase it without gobbling down approximately what is considered three or four servings (at least).

 

I usually make do and hold my urge to feast on the entire package and devour it in one sitting. I am so unlucky, because in Texas we have what is arguably the best in the world for sale in every grocery, convenience, drug store, mass merchandisers and warehouse stand alone membership venues like Costco and Sam’s Club. It is frankly a losing battle and if one does not have a strong disposition you will suffer the consequences. That is simply the enormous expansion of your waistline or what becomes a middle tire effect.

 

Mixx Heladeria with 80 Flavors with Jim and Connie Joliff

Mixx Heladeria with 80 Flavors with Jim and Connie Joliff

Obviously by now you have deduced I am speaking of ice cream. It is so hard to shop at my local HEB and pick and choose from all the wonderful fruits and vegetables offered and try to stroll by the Blue Bell ice cream section, without grabbing two or three half gallons. Yes I said half gallons. In the old days when all three sons were living at home and playing athletics, it was nothing to go through five or six half gallons a week.

 

Growing young men need their calories which burn off in the Texas heat, of one hundred degrees plus at their particular sport’s practices. Of course Mom and Dad needed excessive butter fat to enable us to do all that screaming for our sons prowess or at the officials, which usually dominated the yelling. Somehow our referees, umpires, etc were always below standard, or at least that was the case when we were losing!

 

Mixx Flavor Creations

Mixx Flavor Creations

 

My weight would fluctuate enormously with the advent of late spring and the high temperatures. How else would one cool down? Thank God I realized by the end of summer that I had to cease my ingestion of massive quantities of ice cream and behave normally again as the cold seasons arrived, or else I would have looked like a Goodyear blimp.

 

As I aged each year it became harder and harder to shed the excess weight, punctuated with a little syrup and more than likely whipped cream. Kim gravitated toward flavors like Butter Pecan, Vanilla and and anything with Carmel flavor. I was infatuated with Banana Pudding, all things Chocolate and many of the seasonal short term offerings.

 

Mixx Flavor Options

Mixx Flavor Options

 

Over the years we cut back and started only eating ice cream on holidays and other celebrations. I pined away my fifties knowing I could not continue this charade. Then it happened. I visited Ecuador. A country full of organic fruits, vegetables and untainted food supplies like we have in the US, with all the GMO’s and preservatives.

 

I quickly noticed that there was a Heladeria on almost every block. Most were the run of the mill shops and served a gelato style ice cream with basic flavors and all serve a soft style, as rule. We talked with a few local Ex-Pats and they recommended Mixx Heladeria run by a Canadian genius.

 

Mixx Choice of Serving Methods

Mixx Choice of Serving Methods

 

This place has all types of flavors, including Mojito, Red Bull, Amaretto, and tons of fruit and tasty creations. The sign on the front says 80 Sabores. I am guessing that is correct. Once you walk in, it takes a while to decide which flavors you want to try. There are so many that are appealing. You also then get to decide what vessel you want the ice cream served in, a waffle cone, a waffle dish, or a normal cone.

 

Then, you get to decide if you want it dipped in chocolate! My word it is tasty. I have attached several photos for your pleasure and I am sure in a few days when I am back to Cuenca, I will head to Mixx and start testing the various new flavors. Somehow with all the walking in Cuenca I manage to eat ice cream and lose weight at the same time. Now that is my kind of experience!

Mixx Flavor Creations

Mixx Flavor Creations

 

Photo of The Day #6

the Pier at The Rosarita Beach Hotel

 Pier at The Rosarito Beach Hotel

 

 

I was fortunate enough to help Homes of Hope over Memorial Day weekend in Tijuana, building a home for a deserving family. We stayed at the Rosarito Beach Hotel and I finally got a chance to explore the beach, the last night we were there for about 30 minutes. This photo spoke volumes to me and I loved the old pier. It appeared very sturdy still, yet in dire need of a good paint job.

 

I am guessing it went out over the water about a 300 to 4oo feet and had roughly 600-900 feet of pier over the sand when I walked it. The sky was overcast and I couldn’t help taking the photo. I was mesmerized by the iron rusted blue poles and the remaining deck worn down by time. So peaceful at that moment in Mexico!

Photo of the Day #5

Electric Mass Transit in Toronto

Electric Mass Transit in Toronto

 

The Mass Transit system in Toronto was fantastic and ran virtually everywhere one needed. Most of the sports stadiums, conference centers, restaurants and the “Entertainment Area” are downtown and close to lake Ontario. There was always a Monorail available from most venues. On Spadina street they came every five or ten seconds and stopped only if passengers were waiting.

 

It is clearly a very efficient and  popular method of getting around. The population uses it and it obviously eliminated a good portion of the automobile traffic. Toronto is ahead of the curve when compared with some major cities in the US. I highly recommend using the system, if you visit Toronto.

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