Photo of The Day #27

Indigenous Man

Indigenous Man

 

 

Although the majority of the Indigenous people who still dress traditionally are women, you run across the occasional male who still dresses according to his culture and geographical area. As I was walking Cuenca this past weekend I spied this gentleman and had to capture his photo. You will notice that he wears short pants, heavy boots, a black coat and a black round hat.

 

 

I find the Indigenous type of clothing is still worn mostly among this clan of men. There are a few examples and I will try to capture additional photos, but primarily it is the women that maintain the traditional dress.

Photo of The Day #26

Perfect Pitch from the Harp

Perfect Pitch from the Harp

 

 

As I strolled along the market place, on the side of the New Cathedral I was enthralled by a beautiful melody coming from a booth down the way. It was very sweet and melodic. As I drew nearer I saw that it was a harp.

 

 

This gentleman sets up all over Cuenca and plays for donations only. He is always immaculately dressed and plays with passion and experience, never missing a note! Catch him if you can!

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!

Eat it Raw!

I stepped out of the taxi and immediately knew I had been duped. I showed him the translation, exactly as written in Susan’s email and he dropped me about 12 blocks away. Great. A few minutes later and questions to locals helped me figure out which way I needed to walk. After about 5 minutes, which got my appetite working, I came upon her condo building and was permitted to enter. Last time Kim and I were in Cuenca we were going to take Susan Schenck’s Raw Foods Cooking class, but we missed it. I was bound and determined to take it this time and had communicated several emails to her about what I would like to see on the menu, after she inquired what I would fancy.

 

Susan and Her Prep Table, at the Front of the Class

Susan and Her Prep Table, at the Front of the Class

 

After all the other 8 people arrived Susan began and started making the “Raw” ice cream she had on the menu, as it would take about 20 minutes to freeze. It was entitled “French Vanilla Ice Cream with Chocolate Swirl”. She blended 6 raw eggs, the Omega-3 kind and several other ingredients together and placed it in the freezer for solidification. It appeared very yummy and knowing the ingredients, my tastebuds were prepped. Besides who doesn’t like ice cream? She then gave a 10 minute talk on the benefits of a “Raw Diet”.

 

California Broccoli Salad

California Broccoli Salad

 

Susan next had several students chop broccoli, onions, etc for the “California Broccoli Salad”. She blended several ingredients from slivered almonds to dehydrated beef and put the items together and tossed them in two large bowls. Yours truly had one bowl and did a decent mixing job, as illustrated above. This was our first item and I can’t tell you how tasty this salad was. It made my taste buds come alive and I ate a large plate and went back for seconds. It was a meal in itself.

 

Raw Ice Cream

Raw Ice Cream

 

By this time the ice cream was ready and everybody had a bowl with the chocolate sauce made from “Raw” Cacao powder. If I had known ahead of time I could have brought some of my left over Cacao paste and used it. The ice cream would not set and was more of a milkshake texture. Susan thought it was the altitude maybe. It was still very good and I cleaned my bowl and went back for seconds (notice a pattern starting?).

 

Tiliapia Ceviche

Tiliapia Ceviche

 

Our final course was a “Tilapia Ceviche”. All the three courses had avocado in them, which was my original request. The fish has to be marinated from 4 to 8 hours for the lime juice to actually “cook” the fish and remove the parasites (not sure if this is true or just a “saying”). I love ceviche and in this part of the world it is very plentiful. Every country and area prepares it a little different and has their own ingredients. This was excellent and truly delicious. So much so that I believe I am going to use the frozen Mahi Mahi I have and try my hand at home today at making my own. By the way, of course I went back for a second plateful!

 

Susan Schenck with the Nomadic Texan

Susan Schenck with the Nomadic Texan

 

Susan gave us a lecture at the beginning of the class in which I learned more factors than I could record about a “Raw” diet. Did you know that when you cook anything over 118 degrees it destroys the valuable enzymes, 84% of the vitamins, 50% of the protein and a large portion of the Biophotons. Did you know that when you cook meat above 300 degrees it creates carcinogens? I couldn’t write fast enough. Susan is currently on about an 80% “Raw” diet after being on a 95% “raw” diet and regaining her health, not to mention losing weight and getting in shape. She is getting ready to hike for three-day on the Volcano trail and I couldn’t even begin to think about this outing. She is also author of two books “The Live Food Factor” and “Beyond Broccoli“, both available on Amazon. I would highly encourage you to take her class if you are interested in eating healthy and find yourself in Cuenca Ecuador. You will not be disappointed and you will learn a great deal about “Eating Raw”!

 

 

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 #22

Oil Company Memorbilia

Oil Company Memorabilia

 

 

As we drove through the countryside and headed home we stopped an a small town about 45 miles outside of Cuenca. I really can’t remember the name of the town, but I was blown away when I walked into the gas station/convenience store. The store was new and had a fast food center with hot dogs, etc just like in the US.

 

 

Door #2

Door #2

 

 

It also had a collection, behind locked glass doors of old cans of oil, advertisement pieces and many items from the oil industry. Some of these items were over 50 years old and it was obvious that this owner had a passion for Oil Industry Memorabilia. I usually don’t publish more than one photo, but given the quantity of items I am adding several photos for this day. The last photo is especially funny. It’s a Brunswick Ball Cleaner from who knows when. Enjoy!

 

 

Door #3

Door #3

 

 

Door #4

Door #4

 

 

Door #5

Door #5

 

 

Brunswick Bowling Ball Cleaner

Brunswick Bowling Ball Cleaner

 

 

 

The Chocolatier

Heading out of Cuenca early last Wednesday morning, we passed the Feria Libre Market. This is the biggest market in the city and one can wonder for hours, bartering, looking and touching everything from quinoa, rice, fish, pork, to fruits and vegetables. It is a magical place. I could not believe the amount of activity at this time of the morning. People were unloading trucks and carrying merchandise to their stalls.

 

We headed out to the lower portion of Azuay Province. I displayed the geographical lay of the land in my Banana blog, but one item I didn’t show you is below. It seems that a large portion of the chocolate beans are brought up to this region from the Coastal growing area and the beans are laid out to dry in the sun for two days. They have to be brought in at night to avoid the moisture in the air and placed back on the concrete drying beds again the next day. They are then bagged 100lb bags and transported to their processors.

 

Cacao Drying Beds in the Dry Area of Azuay Province

Cacao Drying Beds in the Dry Area of Azuay Province

 

We did the banana tour and headed 30 minutes away to Santa Rosa with the Cacao Plantation’s owner in our car. We had time to discuss why he had resumed his cacao business seven years ago and Byron Trujillo Erazo told us it was simple mathematics. The chocolate industry was booming and he wanted to get back in it again after a forty-year lay off. We arrived at the Casa Ostrica and it was similar to what I expected. It had a tropical look and was filled with all kinds of plants and flowers that one would expect in a tropical setting. This is an example of the orchids growing on the entry poles that line the driveway. Amazing in my opinion!

 

Orchids Growing on the Entry Poles

Orchids Growing on the Entry Poles

 

The resort was constructed with a great deal of bamboo, which grows in large clumps on the Plantation and is used for a majority of the wood needs. This photo is what you see as you enter and arrive at the lodge. There are little cabanas all over the resort. I am guessing the resort can handle about 75 people at one time. Enough of this talk. Let’s head out to the Cacao Plantation ane see the process in action.

 

The Casa Ostrica Lodge

The Casa Ostrica Lodge

 

As you enter the Cacao section and look ahead all you can see is a plethora of trees filled with varying colors of the Cacao seed pods. The bright red ones are the ripe pods and are ready for harvesting. Each day the workers journey through the Cacao trees and harvest the ripe seed pods for processing.

 

One Red Seed Pod Ready for Harvest

One Red Seed Pod Ready for Harvest

 

Our guide showed us the method used to harvest the pods. He had a huge machete and I had no reservations about letting him do the cutting. Knowing how much a klutz I am, I figured it would very easy for me to lose a finger or two and I let him do the job.

 

Harvesting the Seed Pod

Harvesting the Seed Pod

 

He then started the process of cutting the seed pod off and making the delicious fruit inside available. A lot of people are more than likely not familiar with the fact that the huge seed pod has fruit that surrounds the interior smaller beans.

 

Staring the Process of Harvesting the Fruit

Staring the Process of Harvesting the Fruit

 

He hacked into the seed pod and tore away a section of the outer shell. The seed pod is actually quite hard and he does not hack gingerly. I know I would slip and hurt myself, if it was left to me. I had an idea what the interior looked like, but had no idea of the taste. There is a white fruit that surrounds the beans and this has to be removed to get to the beans. The guide gave us a sample and I was floored. Once in my life have I had such a delicious morsel of fruit. That was in the Philippines when I tasted Mangosteen for the first time. I was addicted immediately. I scooped out about half the beans and ate them one at a time as we walked the Plantation. I cannot describe in mere words how wonderful the beans fruit tasted. It made the whole day worth the drive, etc.

 

Interior Cacao Beans with Fruit

Interior Cacao Beans with Fruit

 

Normally the beans are taken up to the drier climate and sun-dried for two days, but they had a quick way to dry the beans and that was using a wok like skillet over a bed of coals. You stir the beans over the heat until the outer shell becomes brittle.

 

A Shortcut to Drying the Beans

A Shortcut to Drying the Beans

 

When the beans are ready you individually shell each bean. At first it seems a very daunting task and I couldn’t get it right. I kept breaking the beans apart and not harvesting solid beans. I tasted one of the beans after shelling and it was very bitter. I couldn’t believe that this would turn out to be a tasty treat. One of the ladies helped me and showed me how to snap the bean which left you with the entire bean in one piece. A much better step and saved the beans.

 

Diana Shelling the Beans.

Diana Shelling the Beans.

 

The next step was to place the beans in a contraption that had been used for a long time and physically break the beans down into chocolate. I though, okay once through the grinder and it would be a piece of cake. Oh contraire. I had to keep scooping the chocolate residue back into the grinder and re-grind the concoction about six times. By the ends of the process I was hot, sweating and thankful I had my Tilley Hat to block out the sun from my face. The young lady broke down and the crew got her a hat, as she was starting to sunburn. By the time we got through I was worn out and my arms ached.

 

Nomadic Texan Grinding the Beans

Nomadic Texan Grinding the Beans

 

After I finished the grinding it was time for a chocolate drink. This photo shows that they do not waste the seed pods and use them to serve the drinks in. One also receives a dark chocolate bar from their cacao plantation and the illustration shows a cross-cut of the seed pod.

 

Interior of the Seed Pod, Candy Bar and a Chocolate Drink

Interior of the Seed Pod, Candy Bar and a Chocolate Drink

 

Okay I had worked up an appetite and it was time to eat a traditional meal from Casa Ostrica. Obviously Mr. Erazo wanted us to taste ostrich and that was what we were served along with rice, salad and fried plantains. I have taken a liking to the plantains and didn’t think I would. For the record the ostrich tasted just like beef to me. The others thought it had a gamey taste. Before the meal they served us a hot chocolate drink made from the chocolate shavings. It was so good I had to have a second cup. It also acted to drive my temperature down as the Green Tea in Asia does. Caught me off guard.

 

Traditional Meal of Ostrich, Rice, Salad

Traditional Meal of Ostrich, Rice, Salad and Fried Plantains

 

I talked with my wife Kim prior to our trip and she asked me to bring back some of the cacao beans if at all possible. I obtained a bag and literally scooped the remaining beans from the wok like pan over the BBQ and let them cool down. They gave me the large ball of chocolate from all my efforts and I will try to bring it home. Wish me luck as I am not sure they will allow this to enter the US. We will see. Please cross your fingers for me. I hope I can and that way my family can sample the dark chocolate. I wish that there was some way to bring home a seed pod and let Kim try the taste of that fruit. It is one of the highlights of my trip to Ecuador.

 

My Chocolate Ball and Cacao Beans for Kim

My Chocolate Ball and Cacao Beans for Kim

 

I am thankful that Mio Tours allowed me to accompany them on this fabulous trip and I learned so much about Bananas and Cacao. This El Oro Province is amazing and you drive and drive through a vast amount of banana plantations, the number one export of Ecuador, but you also are privy to all kinds of fruit trees growing wild alongside the highway. For the purposes of full disclosure both Mio Tours and Tilley Hats are sponsors. Regardless I have to say that this a fabulous tour and tasting the Cacao fruit is worth the entire trip. I also have to say a tour of Casa Ostrica is a fabulous way to spend a day in Ecuador. If you get the opportunity to take this tour, jump on it! Saludos mi amigos.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes We Have Bananas

We left Cuenca early Wednesday morning not knowing what to expect or how the day would turn out. We (Mio Tours and I) were exploring a new tour opportunity and I was very anxious to investigate what lay ahead. The only drawback was it was a 3 to 3 1/2 hour trip and if the road is not in good repair, which it wasn’t, it could be a challenge to this old man! I had a positive attitude none the less as I really wanted to see the insides of a Banana Plantation and a Cacao Plantation. More on the Cacao plantation in the next post.

 

Desert Area Between Cuenca and Santa Rosa

Desert Area Between Cuenca and Santa Rosa

 

We drove through a bevy of various terrains and road structures from great asphalt and concrete highways to rock paths being made into a highway. Some were very rough and required a slow progress and almost 4 wheel drive terrain. After going through a desert landscape that reminded me of Arizona, SW Utah or NW New Mexico we finally came out of the foothills of the Andes and hit the coastal geography.

 

Banana Trees Growing Right Up To the Jubones River

Banana Trees Growing Right Up To the Jubones River

 

We left Azuay province and entered El Oro province which is a tropical coastal region and has a plethora of Banana plantations. In fact it contains more Banana growth than anywhere in the world. There are literally Banana trees beside the highway for miles and miles. We picked up our host Byron Trujilo Erazo in Pasaje a town of about 100K population. Mr. Erazo was the owner of the 40 acre Banana Plantation we were touring and joined us for the 10 minute ride to his Banana Plantation.

 

Entry of the Banana Plantation

Entry of the Banana Plantation

 

As we entered the Plantation I was awestruck by the quantity of Banana trees and was curious how many bananas he produces. Mr. Erazo told us that he gets 700 boxes of bananas per acre and harvest bananas three times a year. You do the math. I also asked who he sold his bananas to and he told us Chiquita Brands. He told me he has 16 full-time employees that live on the plantation and a massive amount of part-time help as needed.

 

Typical Stalk Ready for Harvesting

Typical Stalk Ready for Harvesting

 

We arrived an area that serves as a processing and shipping center and I was stunned by the amount of stalks of bananas hanging and ready for cutting. I learned that they let a parent tree grow and when the second generation starts to come up they pick the strongest offshoot and destroy the remaining shoots. This way the trees maintain appropriate sunlight and all continue to produce bananas all year-long.

 

System to Transport Banana Stalks to the Shipping Center

System to Transport Banana Stalks to the Shipping Center

 

The system they used to cut the stalks and transport them to the ship[ping center consisted of a set of poles in an upside down horse shoe type construction. Underneath these poles ran a strong wire that the farmers would slide the stalks along until it got to the central warehouse. It saved many a back I am sure and was faster, so more bananas could be harvested.

 

Washing Tanks, Conveyor Belt and Shipping Station

Washing Tanks, Conveyor Belt and Shipping Station

 

The warehouse consisted of various tanks that the bananas are dipped in to remove the dirt and insects before packing. They then are dried and placed on a conveyor belt. The final step is putting the individual banana groups in the boxes, after they have been separated from the main stalk. The groups average about 12 bananas. It is quite an operation and because of a miscommunication we did not get to experience the actual cutting and processing of the banana stalks. Next time I am sure we will participate and he explained that they only process ripe stalks on Wednesdays and Thursdays. So the tours have to be on those days going forward. I also missed out on the Banana Cake that will be part of the tour. Darn!

Photo of The Day #19

Minas-San Francisco Dam

Minas-San Francisco Dam

 

 

The road between Cuenca and Santa Rosa, where we were heading to visit the Cacao Plantation, held many diverse geographical sights and landscapes. After you leave the general Cuenca area you hit a very dry and arid portion of the lower Andes. One of the most dramatic sight was the Hydro-Electric  Minas-San Francisco Dam construction.

 

 

It is a massive undertaking and the link will explain more in detail of the project. It is a very awesome undertaking and will generate a maximum capacity of 275 MW. We stopped and took several photos, as this will help the electric costs for all Ecuadorians.

Photo of The Day #18

Traditional Indigenous Dress

Traditional Indigenous Dress

 

One still experiences the Indigenous groups from the Andes while touring Cuenca. Both men and women wear this dress and each area is identified by different colors and hat styles.

 

It is an explosion of variations that is unique to each of their cultures. I am fascinated by each group’s scheme and can sit and watch the wonderful parade of people walk by all day in Cuenca.

This Little Piggy Went to Market

Okay so I am not really a “little” piggy. I am a rather large piggy for my height. That is one of the reasons I keep coming back to Cuenca is to help myself lose weight. Each time I visit I lose ten to fifteen pounds. This is obviously a result of walking everywhere I go and significantly more than I do back home.

 

It is also a result of “The Amoeba” that exists and all Ex Pats meet about ten days into their visits. I have lost about 8 pounds and a notch on my belt, so I am well on my way! Saturday in Cuenca is “Market Day” and the locals come to Cuenca, shop and try to secure their food, supply and trinket needs.

 

I started walking around after my fabulous Thai dinner and wound up on Presidente Cordova, on the south side of the San Francisco Market area. It is basically an entire square block with booths and small paths, that lead every which way through the maze of cubicles dedicated to various and sundry items. I am always fascinated by what you find at these markets. I was not disappointed this past Saturday.

 

Aisle Between Booths at the San Francisco Market

Aisle Between Booths at the San Francisco Market

 

This ia typical photo of one of the booths in the middle of the square and as you can see the stall is offering a variety of merchandise. Of special note was the amount of children’s backpacks being sold at a majority of the booths. I guess as school is about to start again, they must be a popular item.

 

Booth in Middle of the Market

Booth in Middle of the Market

 

Along the North side of the square and actually across the street is a set of booths that retail mainly clothing products made by local artisans. You can find a great poncho, shirt, scarf, bag or hoodie, if you can locate the appropriate size. This is an issue at times. The thing I like about the entire market is that you shop knowing the first price quoted is the “Gringo” price and if you don’t barter you are crazy. That is half the fun in my mind and the vendors seem to relish the practice.

 

Saturday Markets for Woven and Various Apparel

Saturday Markets for Woven Goods and Various Apparel

 

 

As you leave the San Francisco Market square you come upon the Flower Market section and I could spend hours looking at their crafts. Sometimes I do actually spend a large amount of time, as their talents are very impressive. I always seem to take massive amounts of photos and cannot walk by this market, which is open daily, without at least one photo.

 

Flower Market at the Sanctuary by the New Cathedral

Flower Market at the Sanctuary by the New Cathedral

 

 

As I left the flower market and went across the street I noticed that several booths lined the side of the New Cathedral and were selling various items. The first one made me wonder if I had taken a wrong turn. This was my first time to see a Ecuadorian dressed up like an American Indian. He was playing the pan flute, which were also being offered for sale, along with CD’s of their music!

 

Ecuadorian Dressed Up Like an American Indian

Ecuadorian Dressed Up Like an American Indian

 

As I strolled along the wall I encountered many more vendors and tried to capture as many different wares as were being sold. It was impossible and I could only capture a few that I will share with you now. As you are keenly aware, I am a “Hat” freak and really, really like to collect hats. I found many that would suit my tastes, but I also have to remember that I have three and a half more weeks to make a choice!

 

A Hat Vendor

A Hat Vendor

 

I was drawn to this booth as a result of the tiny figurines and the intricate artwork displayed in their dolls. It was amazing and so detailed. One can kind of get a picture of the size by comparing the items to the hand in the photo. This was directly beside a booth of ceramic cars and trucks modeled after the wooden toys in the US built in the early 90’s. I asked the clerk how long it took to make the ceramic vehicles and he told me 30 minutes each. I couldn’t believe it.

 

Small Doll Replicas

Small Doll Replicas

 

It was strange to be back in a time zone and see these wares at the incense and globe booth. For a minute I thought I had traveled back in time and landed in the 60’s. Then I woke up! Really found this strange, but Ecuador did legalize small amounts of Ganja recently.

 

Lampshade Vendor

Lampshade and Incense Vendor

 

This pottery booth contained a wonderful collection of hand painted ceramic wares and drew my attention immediately. If I actually resided in Cuenca, I would lay out the few dollars needed to purchase some of these vases. They have no shortage of flowers that can be used to fill the vases and I can look at fresh flowers every day of my life. My wife Kim, said one of the reasons she married me was a bouquet of roses I sent her after our first date. She told me many years later she was hooked at that point. So guys buy your lady flowers!

 

Pottery Vendor

Pottery Vendor.

 

Again my “Hat” fetish was drawn in to play and I had to stop and look at these of higher quality than the first booth. I could look at hats all day. I tend to buy hats with broad brims, but am open to a Fedora style and may make that step this trip.

 

Upgraded Hat Vendor

Upgraded Hat Vendor

 

 

I hope you enjoyed the photos and I encourage you to dedicate at least a half day (and make it a Saturday) to shop at these markets. You will find great bargains and wonderful souvenirs that you can either share with friends and family or keep yourself. Saludos mi amigios!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo of The Day #16

Saturday Markets Were a Challenge With All the Rain

Saturday Markets Were a Challenge With All the Rain

 

 

One can casually stroll about Cuenca and discover a shopper’s paradise a block away from the New Cathedral. The Market is located in front of the San Francisco inclosed markets and you will find very economical deals. In addition you can barter the price and you learn after a awhile that the original price is a “Gringo” price and is only paid by the naive tourists. There are tons of examples of weaving and clothing products and more than likely you can find a shirt, a blouse, a bag, a shawl or a scarf that you really like.

 

 

The only issue I find is that larger individuals cannot locate an appropriate fitting sample. If you are 6’4″ or so, you will not be able to locate a shirt that fits you. The sizes are all established based on the traditional sizes of the Ecuadorian population. It is a blast though walking and looking at the wares and seeing how good of a negotiator you are. Buenos Suelte!

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

 

 

 

Photo of the Day #15

Artisan Ceramic Work at the Mayors Gallery

Artisan Ceramic Work at the Mayors Gallery

 

 

I read earlier in the day yesterday that I could go around the corner and see a few examples of Artisan work, at the Mayors Gallery on the corner of Presidente Borrero and Simon Bolivar here in Cuenca. I am always enthusiastic about seeing local artists at work, where ever in the world I travel. This turned into more of a treat than I expected.

 

A multitude of artists had their work displayed at the Gallery and I was very surprised at the quality and imagination of the local artists’ Thankfully I remembered my camera and took copious photos. I think I have enough for a follow up blog. Look for it in the very near future. Saludos!

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.

 

Humitas

Humitas

 

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.

 

Tamale

Tamale

 

 

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 #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!

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