Grant McWilliams

Cuenca

I thiimg_0802nk I've said this but most Latin American cities are stink holes but Cuenca is different. I'd put it on par with most Italian cities for cleanliness and probably as clean as the more dirty French cities (Nice, Tours etc..) so it's not too bad. The city center is very nice with many restored colonial buildings, many plants and clean streets. It really is odd that Ecuador could have a city as nice as this when the rest are so dirty. It's as if we just took a bus into another country. The people dress nicely and the women are much more sexy than other places in the country. Maybe it's just money, maybe it's education or maybe it's something else but it's different here. The attitude is different too like the people here aren't struggling and have higher self-esteem. The women move when they walk like they're trying to look good and more men strut. In other cities people are just getting things done and there's not much thought about style or presentation. I don't have a problem with img_0816that because I don't spend any time with presentation or style either but I'm just noting the difference.

Also in Cuenca you see many modern clothes shops, sunglass shops and shops for other stylistic goods. Even the Indigenous people are better off and have socks and clean clothes. There are internet access points everywhere but none use Skype because they all offer international calling. Most calls to the U.S. run about 20 cents a minute but I went to the Lets Go recommended access point and they had calls to the States for 8 cents a minute and 60/hour for internet. Once again Let's Go comes through.

We spent about an hour sitting on a bench in front of the Court House just watching the people go by. There are many business people in down town Cuenca and they're dressed like American business people. Downtown Quito has business people but they don't have teeth and spend their time hawking chiclets and other stuff you don't need. We took many pictures of the buildings lining Cordero square and of the Cathedral of the Immaculate conception.

img_0821Starting to feel hungry we walked up a few local streets and ran into the only English bookstore in Cuenca run by a man originally from Hickory North Carolina. He was a bit surprised when I knew where that was and had just passed through there a few months back. Anyway the book store is called ABC bookstore Libreria and at Padre Aguirre 8-11 and Sucre right behind the Cathedral of the Imacculate Conception and diagonal from the flower market. The only reason I mention this is it's not in any of the guidebooks and not only that but the Lonely Planet that most people are carrying around lists and English bookstore that's been gone for 3 years! img_0813Strike two for Lonely Planet. Also the hostel that I hear everyone complaining about in the ballofdirt.com blogs is a block down the street. It's the one that's listed as a 5 story hostel but is actually only on the top floor with no lift. I've seen many people reference it in their blogs about how disappointed they were in it. It is also listed in the Lonely Planet guide. The Posada Todo Santos is heads above that place and for about the same price. Also in other Latin American cities we see people selling Ice Cream (Helado) but they're just mounds on a plate with cones sticking out of it or it looks like a few little containers and it doesn't look good. In Cuenca you have real Ice Cream and Gelato stores with many flavors and the staff are professional and courteous. We decided that we'd stop back later to get Ice Cream as we were still on a mission to find food. I asked the proprietor of the Books in English bookstore what he recommended and he said Raymimpampa Cafe-Restaurant next to the Cathedral so we went there. Ironically it was also listed in my Let's Go guide. They had many Ecuadorian foods as well as a mix of other international things. I had Raymimpampa style shrimp which was excellent and Natalya had Pineapple pork chop which was also good. We headed back to the hostel to rest before trying to call Piper.

At about 7 we ventured out again to call Piper which we used @ifnet at Vasquez and Borrero which is listed in the Let's Go guide. Per minute charges to the U.S. was 8 cents which put it at 1/3 the cost of the other places we'd checked. The Let's Go guide said the Haladeria Holand closes at 8 and it was 8 but we decided to walk up to see if there was anything else open and the one across the street was open so we had Gelato. Jade wanted 3 scoops and Natalaya one but for ease of ordering I just ordered three two scoop cones. Not speaking the language means you can't be picky and we're used to that but sometimes we get surprises. The lady took down three plastic bowls and started scooping up Gelato. She put about three American scoops in the bowls and asked which other flavor we wanted. We just said “solo” to indicate we wanted the one flavor and she scooped up more. I think we got about 4 American scoops for about $1. I like this place. Good food, pretty girls, cheap Gelato, what more could a guy want? Tomorrow we're going to the Museo Banco Central which has exhibits of 22 indigenous cultures and a bunch more. It sounds really good then we're going to try to get to Banos to swim in the afternoon. We'll see how it goes.