Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Wow! What a Day!

Wow! What a day! So much was accomplished in such a short time. We hired the services of Carlos Machuca to help us today and without his help, everything would not have gotten done. Gabriella, our housekeeper while we've been in here, (she is also going to clean the apartment before we return and also work for us after we return) came for the morning. Carlos picked us up about 8:30.

The first stop was the Banco Pinchincha. We've been so busy that we had not opened our account. Omar Bermeo Bravo is the person that handles the expats. Our attorney failed to tell us that we needed two forms of picture ID; the passport was not enough. Fortunately, we had both brought our driver's license. Omar had to have color copies of the passports and DL's, which they don't do. Carlos ran to a copy center to take care of it. The bank took much longer than anticipated. This is Omar.

By the time we finished with the bank, it was lunch time. We picked up Gabriella and Carlos picked the restaurant. Shopping was going to be after lunch and that included getting cleaning supplies.
We went to La Parrillada, which is the BEST restaurant that we've been to Cuenca, of course, you must be a true carnivore. The meat is brought to the table on a little charcoal grill. We indulged in picanha, chorizo, baked potatoes, and salad. You're also brought dishes of their sauces, which were great.

This is Gabriella, Mick, and Carlos, you can see the grill on the table. After dining, we went to Coral Center, which is an Ecuadorian Walmart, to purchase a multitude of cleaning supplies and a cheap set of dishes to manage until we select a pattern at either Artesa or Yancapuchi. After all that, we were on our way to look for appliances. We had already received quotes at a couple of places in El Centro. We ended up at Almacenes Chordeleg, it is Cuenca's Best Buy. Prices can be negotiated and we bought an Indurama refridgerator, and LG washer and dryer.

Our preference is a front loader washer, which they had both LG and Whirlpool. The problem is that we haven't seen HE detergents; therefore, we went with a top loader.

Below is the dryer. We're very happy with the appliances that we purchased. LG has a longer warranty on parts and labor than Whirlpool.

This is Max, who assisted with our purchases. He is also a cousin of Carlos.

Mick is signing the papers, with Max and Carlos in the background.

The next item on the agenda was a bed. Carol and George, of California Kitchen and who are also going to be our neighbors, suggested Dormizariato. We went there and dealt with the owner, Rene Baculima. The story is located at Presidente Cordova and Tomas Ordonez. He also designs furniture and has a factory. We purchased a king size orthopedic mattress for a mere fraction of what we paid last year in the Charlotte. Below is a picture of the bed that we selected. Rene is going to make night stands to go with the bed.

This is a picture of Rene. He is very willing to negotiate and likes to use English phrases. Rene also threw in 2 pillows with the deal.

We will be leaving this incredible city tomorrow, to return in September. In our absence, the apartment will be painted. Gabriella will clean it and our purchases will be delivered. Everything on our to-do list was accomplished. Wow! What a day!

Until next time,
Mick and Kathy

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Perfect Day

On Friday, we planned to take an excursion out of Cuenca to the Inca ruins, Ingapirca. We had been introduced to a guide, Carlos Machuca, who was highly recommended by friends. Carlos is actually an engineer, who has worked as a tour guide for about 15 years for the park service, a private company, and now as an independent. He is extremely knowledgable, very cordial, and having been an exchange student to the West Indies, has great English. Carlos is at your disposal and will stop according to your wishes.

On the way to Ingapirca, there is a short stretch of small pork restaurants. When you first see it, it looks somewhat surreal; then you realize what's taking place. The pig is mounted on blocks and a fellow is cooking the skin with a blow torch. As the skin cooks, the drippings fall to the surface below and he is continuously basting the skin with a paint brush as he continues to cook it.

As it cooks, the woman is carving the cascarito, the skin, to be served. She's carving it off the rump first.

After the pig has been completely skinned, the meat is cut into chunks. Water is added for the pork to continue cooking, at this point, the pork is called sancocho.

After the water has cooked out, it begins to fry in its own fat to become frittata, which is absolutely scrumptious.

Little bits of it are also added to corn and fried. This is called tostados. It is also very delicious.

The drive to Ingapirca is spectacular. The scenery is truly beyond words. Along the way, there were interesting sights, which were part of everyday life. Below is a horse that was tied by the road, the saddle is carved of wood.

On Fridays, there is an animal market, in the US, the markets are at usually at auction. Here, it's just a market. These people are returning from the market.

Friday is apparently also laundry day. We passed a number of people doing their laundray in the river.

Carlos and Mick wanted to help with the laundry, but they were discouraged from doing so.

After the laundry is done, it must be hung to dry. Most of the clothes on the line are the elaborate skirts that the women wear.

When we get to town, we see the remains of the animal market.

The young lady below is one of the Canari people. You can tell by her hat that she is unmarried. If the balls are in front she is single. Married women wear the balls on the back of the hat.

If you have ever been to any of the Maya or Aztec ruins of Mexico, or to Machu Pichu in Peru, Ingapirca is very anticlimatic. It is small in comparison to the previous mentioned ruins, but it represents a blend of two cultures, the Inca and the Canari. Below is the Temple of the Sun.

The grounds have a heard of llamas that assist in yard maintenance.

Below is a guanto bush. The bloom has medicinal qualities. It has a tranquilizing effect.

In the foreground are the bases of storage buildings for food. In the back is the Temple of the Moon.

We had lunch at Posada Ingapirca. At one time, it was a hacienda. The restaurant is surrounded by hedges of geraniums. In the Carolinas, geraniums are good for only a season. These were very old plants.

The restaurant was extremely quaint and the food was delicious. Below is the diining room.

Much farming is done in the area surrounding Cuenca. This is evident on the drive to Ingapirca. Corn and potatoes are huge crops and part of the daily diet. This farmer plows with oxen. Many of the small farmers can be seen on the hillside cultivating with hoes.
After returning to Cuenca, we met friends at Zoe's for Gringo night. Having never been, we felt that we should go. It was noisy, but one of those things, like Ingapirca, that as a newcomer, should be done once. Dinner followed a Mediterraneo restaurant. It was a good evening.
The trip to Ingapirca is worth the trip, if only for the drive. You catch a glimpse at the daily lives of the local farming community, which includes the breath-taking vistas. It was the perfect day, just one of many to come with our new lives in Ecuador.
Until next time,
Mick and Kathy

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Where Are the Apartments?

We came to Cuenca with the idea that the streets of Cuenca are lined with perfect apartments. That thought is idealistically in a perfect world. We have had the help of two Cuencans, who have both said that apartments are fewer and fewer. For those who are planning to relocate to Cuenca, we recommend the help of either of those two.

Henry Abril is a student at the university, majoring in hotel adminstration. His English is excellent in that he was an exchange student to the US. Henry is very willing to help. We sent Henry the criteria for our ideal apartment, when we met him, we gave him an initial fee of $100. Upon signing the papers, he received another $100. For an additional $100, he will assist with the purchase of appliances and furniture. Henry has his own car and is very accommodating. He can be contacted by either phone or e-mail.
Other apartments were shown to us by Martha Abril (no relation, it's a common name). Martha's English is excellent also, having lived in New York for a number of years. Her office is located on the second floor of the same building as California Kitchen, at Borrero 12-08 and Sanurima. One of the apartments was located in La Palermo, which is prime real estate, others were not so good, but there was a wide variety. Martha offers a variety of other services for those relocating.

After several days of searching, Henry came up with the perfect apartment for us. Above is the entrance. It is located in the Tres Puentes section of Cuenca on Avenida Primero de Mayo.

It is located on the top floor of Edificio Vista al Rio and has an enormous terrace. The terrace over looks the Yanuncay River in front, with views of the Cajas in the distance.
Above are views as you enter, followed by a look down the hall.

From the terrace, you can also see the top of the cathedral at Parque Calderon. Below is the view of the Cajas and the river.

Below is the view from the front of the terrace.
The apartment is exactly what we wanted. It has sky lights in the bathrooms, office, and laundry room which is separate. The terrace is huge with inviting views of the mountains and river. It is in a great area. Nick is accepted in the building. What more could we want?
Until next time,
Mick and Kathy

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

What's for Breakfast?

For us the hardest part of traveling is leaving our baby, Nick. He has been at camp for the past week and we've been receiving daily updates on camp life, as well as pictures. It has been extremely hot in Charlotte and this morning, Nick was taking advantage of the shade.

The Kookaburra Cafe has become famous among expats and wanna-be's via the blogs. Chris and Jenny do a great job in keeping all their patrons satisfied. Chris has an excellent memory when it comes to remembering names. He even replicated a breakfast sandwich for us that we often have in the Carolinas and remembered our common name for it; however, everybody needs a day off. Below is a picture of them, minus their usual aprons, joining friends at a fairly new restaurant in Cuenca, California Kitchen or Cocina de California.
The California Kitchen is owned and operated by a family from California. In the kitchen is mom, Carol, and son, Jim. They have done an incredible job of tweeking recipes to accommodate local ingredients and high altitudes. The California Country Breakfast consists of eggs, cooked to perfection, hash browns, bacon, gravy, and biscuits. They also have nicely brewed coffee.

Here's the family: George, who handles the business end, Carol, who cooks (the biscuits are great!), Susan, who serves as hostess, server, and anything else that is needed, and Jim, who is also chef. They are a marvelous family, all are friendly and welcoming. In that they have recently gone through the relocation process, they are also a source for information and are all willing to help. The restaurant is beautifully decorated and the food is great, really scrumptious! Good luck to all in the new venture!

The past two days have been spent in search of an apartment. That is a complete entry in itself.
Until next time,
Mick and Kathy

Monday, June 21, 2010

Out and About in Cuenca Part 2

As stated in the previous entry, the dwelling adjacent to the structure purchased by the Rosses is similar and owned by relatives of the previous owner of their new project. We were invited in to take a look. It was not in quite the state of repair as its companion. The owners were so cordial to invite us in. This home was originally owned by the first bishop of Cuenca and is filled with many pieces of religious art.

This bust of Christ was in the cathedral prior to its renovation. It is now housed in a room just off the private prayer chapel.

This is a portrait of the first bishop of Cuenca, I believe the family name is Abod.

This is a view of the altar in the prayer chapel.

The house has many small rooms. The above painting is hanging in a tiny bedroom.

This is a view of the interior courtyard.
This is the group standing outside after the tour, discussing the project. After saying goodbyes, Mick and I went for a stroll at Parque Calderon. We had lunch at a cafe across from the park on Benigno Malo, Cafe Restaurante Raymipampa. Below is Mick waiting on his lunch, watching the scrumptious looking food pass by.

We shared locro crioillo, the traditional potato soup with cheese and avocado. It was incredibly delicious. It was almost consumed before remembering to take a picture.

Mick had corvina apanada, which is fried fish, accompanied with fries, salad, and rice.

I had lomo apanado, which is fried, pounded pork, served with rice, fries, and salad. One plate was actually enough for two people. It was all most delicious and unbelievably reasonable.

The Rosses are leaving on Monday to go back to Alabama. We met them for dinner at La Terrace, near the stadium. Everyone had filet, except for me; I had BBQ ribs. I had a bite of Mick's steak and it was wonderful. It's a great restaurant. The evening was really most enjoyable. Many laughs were had by all. Once again, the cameras were forgotten until the food was gone.

Today, we're looking at apartments. So there will be much to report this evening. Safe journey to the Rosses.
Until next time,
Mick and Kathy