At the time of this post, we have just moved to Cuenca, Ecuador.
Since our first visit in 2012, the customs, and mannerisms have not changed-much.
We're still smiling.
If you're thinking of traveling here, or making the move, here's what you might see......taste......experience and throw in the trash on your next visit to Cuenca.
Remember to smile cuz you've only begun to understand the Ecuadorian lifestyle.
1. Popcorn for lunch?? Why?
If you are eating the traditional Almuerzo (lunch) in Cuenca, there is a 99% chance you'll get juice; some tasty ahi sauce and a bowl of popcorn or mote to start.
The first time we had lunch in Cuenca, we were so surprised that the waiter brought out a bowl of popcorn.
Now, after to doing a bit of research, I found out that the popcorn on the table is not a custom seen throughout Ecuador, but you will see it in Cuenca.
In other areas ( and Cuenca) you may be served
Mote (seen below)
Mote is an acquired taste, in my opinion.
Splash some ahi sauce on it, and you'll get through it.
2. Weight loss was never easier - here's my secret weapon
Taxis are cheap ( an average of $2 around Cuenca), but you'll want to explore this city on foot-again and again. There is a lot to see!
Whether you're visiting or reside here, you'll shed the pounds, so bring a good pair of walking shoes.
Above are my Keens which I HIGHLY recommend! No kidding, I wear these everyday!
Here is a link to the exact pair, we both wear them.
My shoes Here
Jon's shoes Here
We currently live just outside of El Centro. We can walk to hair salons, grocery stores, restaurants, medical offices, bars, veterinarians, El Centro, parks, banks and more! Those shoes are made for walk-in!
3. Ecuador raisins don't suck!
No more gagging!
You can enjoy the raisins in Ecuador. They are plump, soft and chewy--if you visit, give them a try!
4. Nature/Art abounds in Ecuador
So much more to see! Stay tuned for more nature, art and guides.
5. A smile for a smile
This is one of the reasons we moved to Ecuador. We feel welcome!
( Bienvenido ) in Spanish.
Just smile to a Ecuadorian and say "Buenos Dias" and they will smile and return the greeting.
6. Drink water from a faucet again
We rarely buy bottled water and have used home filtration systems in the USA, so this is a treat! We drink the water from the tap in Cuenca.
Now, this does not apply to all of Ecuador and many expats use filters or buy bottled- this is a matter of preference.
We were just in Cotacachi, Ecuador and the water was also potable, but just a few miles away in Otavalo, it was not.
7. Will you eat a guinea pig? (cuy)
I really don't like either one of these pictures (below), BUT they do leave an impression on my on my "animal loving soul".
In the states, many of us have had guinea pigs as pets, so it's a bit of a culture shock to see them served up on a plate with a side of salad, rice and avocado.
Ecuadorians love to eat Cuy. It is a long standing tradition and you will often see more "guinea grills" during holiday and festivals.
Let's move on...
8. The parks ROCK!
The parks are lovely, many of them set in around the rivers flowing through the heart of Cuenca. Enjoy the video (above) of our bike ride along the Tomebamba River and Paraiso Park. Many more videos to come!
9. I feel like I've died and gone to Broccoli heaven
Yup, OMG! a huge crown of broccoli for .55 cents and that's not all, the fruit and veggie markets are fabulous! Check out the giant cabbage below and the flower and hippie markets too! El Centro- Cuenca, Ecuador.
Couldn't resist this picture with the baby in the crate, perfect fit!
10. Traditions prevail
Weaving, selling, baking, grilling, and traditional "dress" remain in the streets of Ecuador.
11. Lunch is cheap!
You're seeing this right!
$2.50; $3.00 and $2.99
If you're in Cuenca, you'll probably start your lunch with popcorn, a choice of soup, main dish & juice.
Note: please click to see full picture.
Many dogs roam the streets, parks and neighborhoods of Ecuador.
With every visit to Central or South America, we either attended a fundraiser, volunteered or created awareness about the problem of street dogs.
Please know, in the city of Cuenca, most dogs are cautious, but sweet.
Some dogs are starving while others return to their owners at night or meal time.
There are animal protection laws, however, it is hard to change a culture.
Many Ecuadorians don't understand what abuse entails, others refuse to change.
The dogs are traffic savvy. Many will look both ways before crossing or head out when pedestrians move across.
The roads can get crazy, so the first time I saw this, I about had a heart attack.
No stress for these two, they were asleep within minutes.
We brought our pug (Morty) with us to Ecuador--Click here to read the story: So You Want To Move Your Dog To Ecuador
We walk Morty every day and he loves it here, but it pays to be cautious.
Fortunately we have had only one experience with aggressive dogs- See below.
If you are walking in the neighborhoods, you will notice many dogs are kept behind tall gates. The dogs are often kept for protection, some are walked, some are never let out--this often results in a frustrated animal.
We were walking by a home and the owner let two small dogs out and they went right for Morty's head. He was not hurt, but now we carry small rocks in our pockets.
As you move into the smaller towns and outlying areas, you will see more dogs running free, sometimes in packs.
Fortunately there are many caring Ecuadorians and Gringos volunteering their time and effort to reduce the street dog population. Overall, we find Ecuadorians love their pets!
Here is a link to one of the local rescues in Cuenca: Rescate Animal Cuenca
PS-- There are cats are here, however we have not seen-a-one on the street in Cuenca.
They get it. Staying inside is a good thing, some dogs in Ecuador are not fussy eaters.
13. Baked goods look incredible, the smell is enticing and then... sawdust.
Okay, I've exaggerated a bit, but you will find that many "delectable looking" treats sold on the street are not that lip smacking good.
The chocolate looks dark and brown like chocolate should, but tends to be a bit bland and "waxy".
Just opinion here folks, although one of our Ecuadorian friends told us: "Ecuadorians love their drinks sweet, but not their pastries"
Now for the good news, there ARE good bakeries and many restaurants that have fabulous desserts, so we will take on the burden of reporting back, on our favorites finds that will tantalize the taste buds.
In the meantime, check out the bakery at Hotel Victoria. It is conveniently located on Calle Larga. Calle Larga 6-93 Y Presidente Borrero, to be exact.
Here you will find some "Slap your momma in the face" goooood desserts.
14. A few stinky subjects, but worth a mention
If exhaust bothers you, carry a scarf and protect those lungs! This is one thing that I am NOT impressed with.
As far as toilet paper goes, it has a new home in Cuenca and it's not in the toilet. Make sure you throw your used tissue in the basket beside the toilet--you'll get used to it! I have been told this is due to old sewage/drainage lines.
This is something you don't see often, and it is rather refreshing. In fact, I couldn't find anyone ( during the day ) smoking, to grab a picture!
15. I have a new relationship with my umbrella.
Don't touch my umbrella! Step back! It's my new best friend.
We love Cuenca. It's sunny, chilly, mild and can be a bit rainy in the afternoon. It usually doesn't last long, but bring a good quality umbrella with you- because it will probably rain at some point.
When the sun does come out, it can be intense, so it makes for a good sun shield also.
16. And this blew us away!
We recently visited Otavalo, Ecuador. We hiked an inactive volcano called Fuya Fuya. At this resting point we are just over 14,000 feet and once again blown away with these "postcard" views.
They are already mounting and a few may surprise you, please sign up
for the next big moment in Ecuador.