Kathy and I arose in the morning rearing to tackle old Cuenca. I had mapped out a route that would take us on an exploratory journey for the day. It was a good decision! The weather today was as near perfect as perfect can be. It was mostly clear and sunny, and somehow the sky here is bluer than we have ever seen. It probably has to do with the altitude and close proximity to the equator. Still, the air is cool and, while you can sunburn easily, I went with a short sleeve shirt all day and was just right.
As we walked, we saw that the city is on the move. Rail tracks are being laid for trolleys/light rail and, for lack of a better word, “gentrification” is happening everywhere. Old colonial buildings are being restored and renewed and there is definitely an air of excitement. The city is already beautiful, but when the restoration projects are completed, the city will have an upscale feel.
We walked into a large Mercado and spent time perusing the beautifully displayed food items. How, how, how you wish you had these “fresh from the garden” selections at home. It is not just the huge variety, but the endless choices. Take the largest grocery store produce and meat sections you know, quadruple the number of varieties available and double the entire grocery store size and fill it with those vegables/fruits/meats and you have an idea of a neighborhood market. All straight from the farm/garden/ocean/river to you. Not frozen, homogenized, chemical laden–but fresh! We bought some cheese and chocolate to munch on as we walked. When we tried the chocolate, my mouth puckered–this was 100% dark chocolate. Thankfully, we have some fresh honey and milk in our suite kitchen and we will have some great hot chocolate tonight.
We walked by the “new” and immense cathredral with its three blue mosaic domes. It is quite beautiful with a golden altar. There are spotless restrooms nearby, but you pay about 30 cents to use them. For the money, you also get a small amout of toilet paper to take in with you. I buy extra–I am not sure how it would be possible to make it with the nine one-ply paper sections you are handed. When finished, you wash your hands and as you walk out, the attendant hands you two paper towels to dry your hands.
We ambled down to the Rio (Tomebamba River) that cuts through the heart of the city. It has a magnificent smooth cobblestone walkway along the rushing waters. We walked quite a long way, stopping at a small pub with outdoor seating to share a beer. Refreshing!
We had to climb our way from the river up to the city on a long stairway. With the high altitude, we didn’t dart up. The Andes rose up in the distance and the flowers were blooming, the air was cool and fresh, the city was amazing and the river was relaxing. It was a wonderful day! WEG