Article #1, in the Series, Palestine Texas #101

My travel blogging has been fairly well of the International perspective, until I received a comment on my blog around September 11th, the day after I returned from a five week trip to Cuenca Ecuador. As everyone knows, I have a passion for this city that is unmatched. This comment was entitled “Taste What Lies Behind the Pine Curtain”.


At first I thought it was spam and came very close to deleting it. I receive myriads of spam from all over the world and have to make very quick decisions whether comments are real or spam generated. As I read the comment I deduced it was actually a real post and an invitation to try the “culinary attributes” of Palestine Texas, on their nickel.


I made inquiries about my blogging and if they knew that my reputation is associated with my posts. I made sure they understood I consequently do not write favorable material, if it is not deserved. My feedback was that I would attend, but there could be no handcuffs or demands on my writing. They wrote back that they would expect nothing less.


Dogwood Blossom on  Our Card

Dogwood Blossom on Our Card


I knew very little about Palestine and “Googled” it to see what it offered. I was intrigued as it was on the edge of the East Texas Piney Woods and growing up in Texas one learns where the beauty lies. As a child my parents, my brothers and I made the day trip to ride “The Dogwood Trail”. I can still remember the beauty of the white flowering trees.


I talked it over with Kim and we decided that we would try this new approach and look into a more local genre. I have written a few posts about Austin and a couple of its attractions, but this was a completely new category for me to cover. Obviously my passion for food made the offer distinctly attractive. We decided to take the city up on its offer.


Forest Trails Abound Throughout Texas

Forest Trails Abound Throughout Texas



As we drove into town the main highway was a typical small town with construction on the highway that was surrounded by run down buildings and generations of decayed equipment. Kim and I started to question whether we had made the correct decision. We turned at the loop and arrived at the Hampton Inn.


As I entered with our bags, Kim parked the car. Kimberly, the front desk clerk greeted me with a “Good afternoon Mr. Hinshaw”. I asked how she knew who I was and she stated Breezy-Lake Wolfe (the city’s marketing manager) told her to “Google” me, so she could recognize me when I arrived (of course I had my hat on). I was fairly surprised and broke out laughing.


Great Desk at the Hampton Inn

Great Desk at the Hampton Inn


Kim joined me after I checked in and we went to our room. It was a very clean, large suite with everything a blogger needs (Wi-Fi, direct Internet. Digital TV. a multitude of wall plugs to charge all my equipment and a coffee maker). Kim noticed we had an arrangement of flowers on the desk.


About 5 minutes after we arrived Kimberly called and and inquired if everything was acceptable in the room. I asked her if all the suites were like this and she replied “Yes, but they all don’t have fresh flowers like yours”. I couldn’t help but laugh again and started to feel like we were going to have a good weekend.



Bouquet of Flowers in the Room

Bouquet of Flowers in the Room


Our schedule was set up for us to meet Breezy in the lobby at 5:30 to attend the first event, a ride on the Texas State Railroad’s “Moonlight Special Dinner Train”. We had a few minutes and I caught up on social media and Kim and got ready for the evening. We went downstairs at 5:25 PM and Breezy was already waiting to take us to the train ride. Instantly, I recognized this young lady was a whirlwind.


She conveyed every detail and fact available, in regard to each and every part of the weekend’s schedule between the hotel and the train. It was about a 20 minute ride. I knew she was nervous, but her East Texas charm won Kim and I over very quickly and we questioned whether we would be able to keep up with this bundle of energy over the next couple of days. We were delighted with our hostess and felt comfortable with Breezy immediately.


Breezy Lake-Wolfe with the Nomadic Texan

Breezy Lake-Wolfe with the Nomadic Texan


We had such  great time that I have decided to capture our visit in several blogs and hopefully connect you with this hidden pearl, in the East Texas Piney Woods.  Next in my #PalestineTx series is the “All Aboard” post,  describing our train ride. Stay tuned.






*** My trip to Palestine Texas was sponsored by the City of Palestine Marketing Department. All opinions are solely mine and as always, generated without any influence.


Photo of The Day #41

Deluxe Hamburger

Deluxe Hamburger


The Cilantro Cafe Restaurante in Cuenca is a fabulous place to eat an economical meal. It has daily specials that follow the traditional meal platform, with a soup, entree and dessert for $4.00. It also has a wide array of vegan dishes.



I chose to eat their deluxe hamburger and as most in Ecuador, it came with a fried egg, a slice of ham, cheese, lettuce and tomato slices. Additionally it had bacon, but I don’t eat bacon. At first I was unsure if this combination would be edible, but I found myself going out of my way to eat this style of hamburger and I highly recommend you give it a try! Saludos!

Don Colon Rules

I have been to Cuenca several times and have always wanted to eat at Don Colon’s restaurant. For one reason or another I have never had the pleasure of dining at this establishment. So when I saw that Don Colon was relocating right off the Parque Calderon I was ecstatic. Construction went on all weekend and they opened Monday.


Don Colon Sign

Don Colon Restaurant


I couldn’t wait to try it out Don Colon’s the first day at their new location. I was not disappointed, as I had a bowl of great potato soup, pork chop with rice and hominy along with a dessert. In addition a fresh juice is served which was Mora on Monday. The meal was topped off with a fried dessert stuffed with apple filing. This came to a whopping $4.00 for this multi course meal. I was astonished and could not believe the quality of the food.


Monday's Lunch Special

Monday’s Lunch Special 


Being a suspicious type person I ventured back today Thursday to try the lunch again. I had my choice of liver and onions, a tipico Ecuadorian meal and a Chimichanga with chicken and cheese. I chose the latter, even though its probably not the most healthy. First course again was a delicious soup and the my entree with black beans and rice, salad and the Chimichanga.


Thursday's Lunch

Thursday’s Lunch 


Afterwards I was served a fantastic fried Sopapilla with banana inside. The juice of the day was Papaya. I was blown away again and could not believe how great it tasted and how full I was after a huge lunch.





I had the pleasure of meeting Colon Campos who owns the restaurant and is the namesake. He greeted every customer himself personally today. Given the low end pricing, the quality of the food and the fantastic customer service I don’t see any reason this restaurant won’t thrive in its new location. Oh by the way, he has Fish and Chips tomorrow and I will be back!


Don Colon and the Nomadic Texan

Don Colon and the Nomadic Texan

Photo of The Day #24

A Great Hamburger at California Kitchen

A Great Hamburger at California Kitchen


I stopped by the other day to visit friends that run the California Kitchen here in Cuenca. Carol and George Evans are great people and opened this thriving restaurant to help the family out. This time I met daughter Susie and inquired how things were and if they had any serious offers. The family recently decided to place the restaurant up for sale and enjoy the fruits of their labor.


I was taken back at how busy the place was for an afternoon. It was jam-packed and it appears they are busier than the last time Kim and I were in Cuenca. I wish them luck and continued success. If you have a few extra dollars and want to invest, this restaurant is a pillar of the community and has an awesome trade. Plus it has delicious food!

Photo of The Day #23

Pizza So Good I Forgot to Take a Photo

Pizza So Good I Forgot to Take a Photo



If you find yourself in Cuenca Ecuador and are ravished for a pizza, I recommend trying La Fornace on President Borrero off Sucre. It is fantastic. Kim instructed me before I left to make sure I did not eat my pizza with my hands, as it is bad manners in Ecuador. One must use a fork and knife to be in acceptable status.



No worries. I used both utensils as required and even though it felt strange at least the taste was phenomenal. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I apologize as the aroma was so enticing, I did not take a full pie photo, but rather dove in and ate half of it before I realized I needed a photo. I think you get the idea!

Photo of The Day #17

Hamburguesa Deluxe

Hamburguesa Deluxe


Okay I admit it. I like to have a hamburger every once in a while. I just can’t help myself. The burgers they serve in Ecuador have a little bit different spin that we are used to in the US. If you look closely you can see there is a slice of ham on this burger, and a scrambled egg. Some restaurants offer the egg over easy.



I was slightly intimidated the first time I saw this on a menu, but it turned out to be a fantastic preparation and very tasty, You can try it at home! I just don’t think you could find this in the US for the $3.20 with tax (soft drink, fries, and deluxe burger). Saludos!!!

The La Joya Thai Restaurant Really Does Exist!!!

In March when Kim and I were in Cuenca last, we attempted several times to eat at this restaurant. The first time we couldn’t locate it, as the address was only represented by the cross streets. This is common in Cuenca. This can be very confusing at times, as the actual location can be over a half block away and you have to try all four streets and each side of each street. It becomes an exercise in futility at times. On our second attempt we learned that the La Joya Thai restaurant closes on certain days, as is customary in Cuenca and it was just our luck that it was closed that day. We ran out of options after the second try. It wasn’t meant to be.


La Joya Thai Drink Specials

La Joya Thai Drink Specials


This time I promised myself I would try early in my stay and lo and behold I made an attempt yesterday during a torrential downfall. The rain felt like small pebbles hitting my shoulders and legs as I walked the city. Thank goodness I had my Tilley hat on to protect me from the rain. I was wearing my LTM6 Airflo Nylamtium. It held up very nicely and one would have never known it was in a rainstorm. I am liking the hat more and more!


The Tilley Withstood the Torrential RainFall

The Tilley Withstood the Torrential RainFall


I was aghast when I actually arrived at the address indicated on an updated guide, as a sign indicated “We have moved”! Luckily it was across the street and down about a half a block. I know you are asking why am I still trying to eat at this establishment after being shut down so many times. It is simple. All the reviews give this restaurant an outstanding assessment of the quality of the food.


Agua Con Gas y Noodles Appetizer

Agua Con Gas y Noodles Appetizer


I entered, it was raining cats and dogs the restaurant was fairly empty. I was quickly greeted by Monica one of the owners. She told me to sit wherever I wanted and asked me what I wanted to drink, as she brought me the menu. I chose Agua con gas. She brought a bowl of noodles and a sauce that was sweet and peanut tasting for me to snack on while my food was being prepared. I had to choose between the Green Curry and The Chicken Pad Thai. Giving that my stomach has issues with heavily spiced foods at times, I chose the Chicken Pad Thai and was not disappointed.


Chickem Pad Thai

Chickem Pad Thai


I inhaled the meal and was more than satisfied at the quality, the taste and the amount of food served. It is hard to find restaurants that can actually serve good tasting Thai dishes. I have no reservation about sending you to this restaurant. It is a quality endeavor and serves not good, but great Thai food. I will return and have the Green Curry prior to leaving Cuenca. I learned that Monica and George have been in Cuenca for about three and a half years and started in the design field. They are from New York originally by way of Thousand Okas California. Thank you George and Monica for such a great meal and Thank you Harper (their daughter) for taking such a wonderful photo of your Mom and Dad with the Nomadic Texan.


George and Monica with The Nomadic Texan

George and Monica with The Nomadic Texan




Humitas, Quimbolitos y Tamales

After a day of walking around Cuenca and photographing the amazing architecture, one builds an appetite. My friends at Mio Tours introduced me to this rather small eating establishment in Cuenca. It is locate off Gran Columbia on calle Presidente Borrero before you get to calle Simon Bolivar. You really have to look for it as it only serves about 12 people at a time with a total of 5 tables I believe. As you walk the street you see this blackboard operating as a identification for the restaurant.


Sign on the Exterior of the Restuarant

Sign on the Exterior of the Restuarant



Each item is warmed and served in a banana leaf, that is fairly sticky with the sweet sugar applied to the item oozing out of the leaf. You have to unfold it and this is a messy operation, but drives your senses wild as the aroma of the item erupts from each serving. You are offered either coffee or tea to drink with your meal and I chose tea. I am not really a soft drink person and know the dangers associated with their regular consumption. Coffee in the late afternoon keeps me up late at nights anymore.


Banana Leaf Wrapping for All Three Items

Banana Leaf Wrapping for All Three Items


The item served first was a Humitas and was my favorite in the long run, as I am a carnivorous individual and like my protein from meats. The Humitas has pork inside and is swathed in the sweet corn meal that all of the products are wrapped in. It also includes a slice of egg, a few bites of vegetables and a couple of slices of chili peppers on top.





The ritual one goes through to eat these fantastic morsels and indigenous mainstays is unique. One squeezes a lime on the item, adds a little Aji which is the Ecuadorian version of salsa and takes their spoon and dives in to this sweet and tasty morsel.


Aji and Lime

Aji and Lime



The next morsel served was a very sweet and typical item that I imagine has been around for centuries and is basically just the corn meal folded into the banana leaf with out any stuffing. This is the Tamale and is not associated with the typical tamale filled with meat in Mexico and the US. Kim and Learned this on our trip in March of 2013.






The third and final item served was a Quimbolitos. It is a Tamale that is stuffed with raisins and has a few extra unidentifiable flavors. It is also has a sweet flavoring and resembles the Tamale. In my photo you can plainly see the raisins in the item and can imagine the wonderful taste.



Quimbolitos Stuffed With Raisins

Quimbolitos Stuffed With Raisins


All of this costs under $2.00 US and I promise you will leave this establishment full. I could not add another item and having sampled the three variations I will (and have) go back and only eat the Humitas. That is unless someone else is buying and I don’t want to hurt their feelings! Ha! I was not able to capture the lady’s name that runs the restaurant, but I did manage to take her photograph and this is her. Notice she is smiling as most of the people in this wonderful country do consistently!



Owner of the Restaurant

Owner of the Restaurant


As I have about three and a half weeks left in Cuenca I am sure I will stop by again and sample her wonderful Humitas, Quimbolitos y Tamales. Saludos!



I love this food! Stop Taking my Photo!

I love this food! Please Stop Taking my Photo and Let Me Eat!







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


Black Like Me

When I was younger, oh so much younger, a book by John Howard Griffin entitled “Black Like Me” was published in 1961. I read the book around the age of 13 and became dramatically impacted by the issues Mr. Griffin brought to light. I grew up in Texas and had no idea that racism existed, as I always went to school with many Hispanic children. I knew no difference until I started high school and became a part of the first racially integrated class at Arlington High School, as ASID desegregated in 1965. I bring this up as it was discussed yesterday in my interview with Minority Nomad also known as Erick Prince-Heaggans.


Nomadic Texan with the Minority Nomad. It was a Pleasure Senor!
Nomadic Texan with the Minority Nomad. It was a Pleasure Senor!


Erick and I met online, as we are both residents of Austin when we are not traveling and came across each other on Twitter. We decided to meet at Madam Mam’s on Anderson Lane and I soon discovered why. For reasons I will not go into (old age) I was approximately 45 minutes late and Erick thought it was funny. I was totally embarrassed. We ordered our lunch and I got down to the interview as agreed upon earlier.



Question #1 What made you start traveling?

I have a project that is near to my heart and I needed to find a way to fund it. I want to inspire young Afro American Blacks, Latinos, LGBT community and other Diverse groups to travel and to let them know the world is a diverse and wonderful place. We as a country have about a 36% passport ratio, which lags substantially behind the rest of the world. I want to move this needle to at least 50% by the time I pass. I want us to shed the “Cul de Sac” mentality. I loved that quote and completely understand it”.



Question #2 Which country that you have visited did you like the most overall?

Without a doubt its Thailand. It has such an acceptable approach to diversity and tourism. I was treated like a “Rock Star”!”



Question #3 What type of food, in a country you have visited, did you favor the most.

Thai food is my favorite (okay now I know why we are at Madam Mam’s).”



Question #4 What country’s people that you have met, did you like the most?

Swedish, Finnish and other Scandinavian populations if you want an educated discussion. If you are talking friendliest, that has to be the Balinese. They smile all the time and are genuinely happy to see you, do things for you and ensure you stay is a wonderful thing. If you are talking fun to be around (Code for Party Animals), the Brazilians are a blast and I could hang with them for a long time! If you are talking people you meet on the road it has to be the Canadians and Germans. They are frequent travelers and I constantly run into them on the road. Plus they are fun to be with. Rounding out the discussion he stated the Eastern European people of Poland, Budapest and Hungary are the most genuine and you always know where they stand even if you don’t agree with them.”



Question #5 What culture have you liked the most in a country you have visited?

Thai for sure. They appreciate family, faith, diversity and most agendas I believe in.”



Question #6 If you were to do long term volunteer work which country would you go to? 

“If it was for educational purposes, it would have to be central Africa. They do not have the “Oil” or “Tourism” industries to support their needs and are struggling more than other African countries. If it was more to help the people, I would have to say Liberia, as we have made this country a mess. Even though it is probably the most dangerous and yes I would be scared to go. It needs our help more than any other country at this time.”



Question #7 What is the funniest thing that has happened to you on the road?

Well (stutter, as he wasn’t sure if he should share it) two of the gentlemen that went with us were crazy Aussi’s. VERY over the top and already three sheets to the wind. A quarter ways through the show three beautiful Thai women brought put a massage mat and asked for volunteers. The Aussi’s started goading me into volunteering and making fun of Americans. Being the person I am, I agreed. How bad could a massage be. Well once I got on stage the three women stripped me naked, stripe naked themselves, and proceeded to give me a naked massage in front of 150 people.”



Question #8 What is the worst thing that has happened to you on the road?

Well it has to be getting arrested in Buenos Aires. I went to a bar with people I met where I was staying (2 Italians, 3 Brazilians and me). I only had one beer and paid for it when I arrived. The Italians drank heavily and walked their tab. The server brought me the tab and I said it was their bill not mine and he should have collected from them before he kicked them out for fighting with local Argentineans. The server then called the police. The police officer  asked for my passport and I said I left it at the place I was staying, in a secure place. The officer told me I could be arrested and deported since I wasn’t carrying the passport as required. I told him that was not really a law. The officer said I was in deep trouble for trying to skip the bill and not having my passport. I had to spend the night in jail. The next morning the Captain, who spoke excellent English, listened to my story about the Italians and my passport. He laughed and told me I was lucky and he gave me a small fine and sent me on my way. Left a very bad taste in my mouth for Buenos Aires.”



Question #9 What is your least favorite country?

No question it is Russia. I was denied entrance twice (my military history) and resorted to a dock entry at a port and got in serious trouble. They questioned me hard for about an hour and a half. Funny, I will tell you later, why I now have Russia on a good list also. By the way since my incident in Buenos Aires, Argentina is near the bottom also.”



Question #10 What is your least favorite food?

Italian food in Buenos Aires. The cheeses have the consistency of gum!”



Question #11 How long will you travel?

That’s easy. I will never stop!”



Question #12 What is the one item you cannot do without on the road?

Have you read Douglas Adam’s “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”? As he states, a “Towel” is the most important item you can have. It has a myriad of uses. If you are talking electronics, its my camera. I love photography and try to shoot about half raw and half with minor editing. I am not a fan of “over-editing”.”



Question #13 Where has prejudice been the largest issue and how did you handle it?

St. Petersburg Russia and Buenos Aires Argentina (endured for 30 days) are the two worst countries over and above any other.”



Question #14 What advice would you give minority or diverse travelers, if they are traveling?

I would tell them to do their research and make sure it is the latest information available. Do you know that 76 countries have laws against gay couple associations and it is very illegal in them? In five countries (Mauritania, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Iran) you can receive the death penalty.”



Question #15 What has been your favorite “Tour”?

A walking tour in Warsaw, narrated by a fellow that worked at the hostel I was at. He was the event and social planner and knew the city literally backwards and forwards. Best of all it was free! I also took a tour on the Baltic Sea on a ferry from the St. Petersline over five days, that left a lifelong impression. It circled the Baltic sea, hitting all the Scandinavian countries, Russia and Poland. The ferries they use are frequented by dock workers and you find many workers in cabins on the boat. I had a couple of Russians, one on each side of my cabin and a Hungarian guy across from me. Over the next five days my impressions of the Russians grew worse each day.



One night the guy on the right of me starts pounding on my door at about 2:00 AM. He was very drunk and looking for his friend. He then kept apologizing, when he discovered his mistake. The next night his friend Igor starts knocking on my door late at night and had been drinking also. He gets apologetic also when I open the door, but he carries it a little farther. He starts touching my and his hearts and saying “America/Russia”! “America/Russia”! “Governments don’t like each other not us”! He gave me a huge hug that must have lasted two minutes or so. I almost was brought to tears by this and really then knew that all the people around the world are the same down deep!”



Question #16 What is your next “30-Day” adventure (He polls his subscribers with about 10 choices of what adventure to fulfill next)?

I am learning to Ski in Chile (August), Muay Thai fighting in Thailand (October), Brazilian Jui Jistsu in Brazil (December), Crab Fishing in Alaska (January). That’s what my subscribers voted for.  (Me-Are you crazy that’s absolutely the worst month to go?)”



Question #17 What is the country you would settle down in if you decide to stop traveling?

Thailand (what a surprise!), as I love its culture, its people and its food. Now if I was on an unlimited budget, it would definitely be Japan. I can’t tell you how much I love Japan. (Really, I can tell you, as its probably my favorite also, just can’t afford it these days!).”



I learned that Erick is a very compassionate and intelligent man. He has his life’s agenda set. His desire to help the underprivileged and center city kids struck me very deeply, especially after my recent visit to Mexico and how I was impacted by the Homes of Hope project. I was so energized by Erick and his agendas and told him of my travel desires and my wish to help young children in Ecuador or wherever I may be. I must say this young man has his head on straight and I think he will serve the world very well, in his capacity as a mentor, for the impoverished of the world. I can’t begin to realize or understand the issues he has faced, as a Black American growing up in the projects of Cleveland Ohio. Safe Travels mi amigo and I hope you get to that 50% ratio soon!


Restaurante Corvel

I was not able to dine at the Restaurante Corvel in Paute Ecuador this time and Kim missed a great experience. Chef Patricio Coronel has won many awards, as he produces most of his food on the grounds of the restaurant. It does not appear to be anything fancy from the exterior, but the food is 5 Star in my book and the servings are quite large. The interior has a warm and cozy atmosphere.

I was at at his restaurant in October of 2011, while touring with Mio Tours. They suggested we try it. Omar Rachid, my traveling companion that trip and I were surprised at the quality level of the food and the amazing service Patricio offered.
Efrain and Patrico relayed the background of the restaurant and how Patricio desires to create fabulous entrees, only from products he grows. This includes the coffee we drank. He grows his own beans, harvests the bean when they are ready, then roasts the beans and brews it fresh. It tastes amazing, if you like coffee.
Patricio’s vision (as translated by Google) is as follows:
Becoming a model company in food service and tourism nationwide, raising awareness on the conservation of cultural identity, social equity and eco-efficiency, using new green technologies that enable sustainable economic growth, supporting the canton (next level below province), advocate, advertise as a destination tourist and improve the quality of life of the population of the canton.
It is an admirable position and one I respect personally. He is not 100% free of outside products, as he serves seafood that has to be trucked in daily from the coast. I chose the Langostinos and they melted in my mouth and were basted with some type of creamy butter sauce. So delicious!
Restaurante Corvel has won the Rainforest Alliance Award, for his efforts in producing so many of his own products. The restaurant is about 45 minutes outside of Cuenca proper and on the way to many sites tourist visit. The quality is all extremely above average and priced very reasonably. I highly recommend you give it a try and I know you will not be disappointed. Saludos and Safe Travels!

Sorry We Missed You This Time

Before we arrived in Ecuador, Omar had made contact with an individual (Monica Mac Naughton) who turned out to be a legitimate and gracious host in so many various ways. I cannot truly describe what an asset she was to us. Her other half (Tom Mac Naughton) was a man after my own dreams. He actually bought a Honda scooter to tool around with, the second or third day we were in town, on the spur of the moment. 
There are no better human beings on earth than these two individuals. They were most recently from Florida, before relocating to Cuenca a couple years back and are a wealth of knowledge in regards to Ecuador and any assistance you would need to relocate. True Americans (Or at least what we used to think of as True Americans. They are sincere and forthright in their recommendations and information (Not always the case in Ecuador).

They had plans the first evening we were in Cuenca but (almost, but in a polite way) demanded we meet them for dinner on Sunday night at the Goda restaurant, in the Hotel Dorado. We accepted the invite and were eager to meet the couple. 

Omar and I could not decide whether we should dress up or go casual. Given it was a nice restaurant and the fact that we hadn’t met Monica and Tom. We thought we should wear nice shirts and slacks. When we met them at the restaurant we were slightly overdressed and I deduced that they were comfort driven and not concerned with image (obviously, if you know me I was attracted immediately to that characteristic),

We shared a fabulous meal and they discussed several “survival skills” necessary in Cuenca along with the do and don’ts of the indigenous people and central Cuenca interactions.  They suggested a Trout dish that was superior according to Omar, but I had to have the Paella. It was delicious and included shrimp, fish, clams, a Langostina, octopus and other incredible and scrumptious seafood (The rice, sauce and peas were also excellent).

The next day we ran into Tom (In only 400,000 people what are the odds) at a shopping center. He volunteered to accompany us on a condo visit and give us their feedback and knowledge, as to the value of the residence and whether the area demanded the price point.

Tom and Monica are also looking for another condo, in addition to the unit they own currently, to provide additional rental income. So they had a dual purpose on their agenda. We all met at the condo and it was priced at $91,000 with tons of potential and great views, but the primary living space was just too small. 
In addition, there were other issues that Tom and Monica discussed that made it overpriced. The outdoor living space was great and there was a rooftop area that could have been done up, but together you are talking another $20,000 roughly.

Tom, Alberto, Monica and Omar


Omar descending from the rooftop deck


Mountain view from the Patio Deck

When we left this condo, Jose the owner, Tom, Monica, Omar and I all piled into his little Isuzu SUV. We drove up to a overlook in the city of Turi and it started raining. Then pea size hail started falling. Very unusual. 

We passed Eduardo Vega’s studios, where he actually creates his artwork and basic Ceramic work. I think under normal weather patterns you could walk down to a small park below and experience the view from a different perspective and vantage point.

We then went to Tom and Monica’s condo to see what a different value would return. It was in a section of Cuenca named “Gringoland” and I am sure you can deduce the reason for the area name. Their Condo was breathtaking and was on the 5th floor, if my memory is correct. 

The reason we went initially was to get Coca Tea for my altitude sickness. They validated the authenticity of the product and had used it many times to help. I did not decline and took their entire inventory. 

They have a gorgeous 2 bedroom, 2 bath, 2 story condo with more than ample living area and beautifully decorated with local artwork and a patio with an extreme outdoor kitchen area. Words cannot completely describe the shock and awe I received at the first glance. 
It was a condo I could reside in the rest of my life and I am sure Kim could. In addition Tom has a love for Hummingbirds and they are ever present on the patio. You literally have to duck as they fly through and around the patio’s furnishings and support columns. It was fascinating.

Tom grows and obtains Orchids that are unavailable in my price range in the US. This one set him back $25, if I recall correctly. I didn’t take a myriad of pictures, as I should have, but trust me it was an unbelievable condo. Monica sent us a 2 page list of restaurants in the central area with specialties and descriptions of the fare at each place. Such nice people!

They directed us to markets, shops and other sightseeing prospects. They are working hard to help Omar secure a condo in his price range and do this just because they are good people. They have stayed in contact with Omar and myself, since we left Ecuador.

Cuenca is a place that I would definitely review and explore again to see if I could overcome the altitude. Who knows I might make it permanent! If you find you are headed to Cuenca, by all means make contact and I will be glad to furnish their info if they agree.
A blog from my original trip to Cuenca with Omar Rachid. Tom and Monica were celebrating her mother’s 80th birthday in the states and we weren’t able to connect this time. Funny how things change and Omar is running for Mayor and I may be the one in the market for a condo in the future. Saludos, Peace and Safe Travels!

California Here I Come

Surprise! I’m not referring to the Golden State in the US. I am doing a story on California Kitchen in Cuenca Ecuador. Kim and I stumbled upon this restaurant, on Luis Cordero one Sunday after walking around Calle Larga and other streets in El Centro. The restaurant has moved location recently. It is now on a second floor near Honorato Vasquez and Cordero.

They were offering a brunch menu and I was starving from our walk. Carol Evans came by our table and visited for several minutes. She was very engaging and positive about living in Cuenca for the past three and a half years. Carol encouraged Kim and I to relocate.
Our food arrived and I started eating immediately, as it looked terrific. I had Eggs Benedict which is one of my downfalls in life. I know they are not good for you, but they are so tempting. I did not take a photo. My Eggs Benedict vanished in record time and it was supreme! George Evans came by our table and told us their story about relocating to Tucson when they retired and deciding after a couple of years to move to Cuenca.
George stated they never looked back, brought both grown children and opened a restaurant that endeavored to recreate dishes with a California flair. They wanted to present a menu that was healthy, appetizing and affordable. He stated this would keep them and their children busy. George sat at our table for around 45 minutes and really articulated the benefits of retiring in Cuenca and why others should consider the move.
They invited us to come back Friday night for an artist showing, live music and to eat again. We stayed until mid afternoon and most of the customers had left after brunch. When Kim and I departed, we remarked that Carol and George were happy, satisfied and remarkable people to give us that much time. We were instant fans of the California Kitchen and Carol and George Evans.
We returned on Friday night with our new friends Connie and Jim Jolliff from Tulsa Oklahoma. Jim ordered a huge club sandwich and it was bodacious. I can’t imagine eating the entire thing in one sitting. Jim is a big guy and just barely managed to finish. He loved it. Their grown children are active in the restaurant and Susie makes the handmade shortcake for this desert pictured below. Yum!
A film crew was taping and luckily I discovered that it was Paul Collins a friend that was making the video. He graciously allowed me to use his video. Paul publishes weekly videos on California Kitchens and is an active proponent of Cuenca and an avid food critic.
After dinner George took us into the room an artist was setting up in and introduced us to Gustavo Lopez Moreno. Kim loved his art and stated if we lived here she would have me purchase a teal and black painting. There is always some event transpiring at California Kitchen whether its music, art or charity oriented you can be assured it will worth your time.
The food is always consistent. The hosts are fabulous people and I guarantee you a wonderful experience, if you visit The California Kitchen!

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Amateur Traveler Episode 471 - Travel to Austin, Texas