I bask in the first cool breezes of fall at home in Texas. You know how it feels when that cool north air hits your face and you breathe in the fresh air. Still, the sun is shining and you get those warm rays at the same time. That was Cuenca, Ecuador, today. At 8200 feet above sea level, the city of 350,000 was clean, fresh and cool on this day when the sun and clouds mixed in the sky.
After arriving in the evening the day before, we slept in at our suite at a remodeled colonial home in the Centre Historico of this charming city. Our accommodations are modern and roomy. The interior courtyard has a fountain and the walls have wonderful art displays and the original wood railings on the floors above the courtyard remain. Cuenca is alternately known as the best preserved “colonial city” in South America and the most European city in Ecuador. The heritage of 16th and 17th century Spanish architecture is everywhere. We were impressed as we walked the cobbled streets to see beautiful plazas with usually white washed churches and colonial buildings. Passage ways through buildings open up into interior courtyards filled with flowers and fountains and shops, restaurants, and small hotels. It is quite inviting.
As we walked, we crossed a street and all of the sudden above us loomed the city’s cathedral with its blue domes. It was an impressive sight and, frankly, overwhelming. We had not expected this imposing or massive building! All around the cathedral, teeming life. Plazas with vendors and gardens and large colonial buildings, restaurants and hotels stretched out in every direction. As we walked in the main plaza, Kathy noted what looked to be an American couple sitting on a park bench beneath trees blooming with beautiful purple flowers. She struck up a conversation with Doug and Barbara that lasted well over an hour. They regaled us with stories of this beautiful city they now call home. Four through ten thousand U.S. expatriates call Cuenca home at any one time during the year. It is easy to see why: impressive weather, natural beauty all around, marvelous colonial city, culture and art and inexpensive. We found out that if you are a senior, health care is quite attainable and quite inexpensive; entrances to all cultural events from opera to sports is free; if there is a line anywhere, you are moved to the front, as seniors are valued, and transportation originating in the country from bus to air is half price automatically, and the list goes on.
I am heading out the door. We had a great lunch today in a beautiful restaurant. Kathy chose the featured entree’–a delicious potato cheese soup and a main of beef and rice and fried plantain–all for $5. I chose the chicken stuffed with shrimp in a palmodoro sauce. So, we are not particularly hungry tonight, having stopped in a pastry shop and eaten sweets around 5pm. I saw an elderly woman last night upon our arrival with a movable charcoal bar-b-que on the street corner with kabobs of chicken and pork situated across from the plaza where our suite hotel is located . Sounds just right to me! WEG