Search This Blog

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Panama Hats, Casa Museo Remigio Crespo Toral, and La Mejor Comida En Cuenca (The Best Meal In Cuenca)

Aloha Everyone,

Today, J.J. and I had our best meal in Cuenca!  But before I tell you all about this, J.J. and I had two other activities that I wanted to share about.

The history of Panama Hat (a brimmed straw hat) made from the plated leaves of toquilla palm or jipijapa palm, a palm-like plant has an Ecuadorian origin. When the Panama Canal was under construction, these light, brimmed hats were used by workers to protect their heads from the heat of the tropical sun.

The name stuck and when we visited Panama, many street vendors were selling "Panama Hats" as if they were indigenous to Pansna.

There are two Panama Hat museums in Cuenca. The one we visited this morning was very commercialized and were more interested in making sales than providing information to visitors.

There is one type of hat with weaving so fine that you could actually roll it up and carry it around in a small tube. However, my interest in purchasing one was quashed when I found out such hats are priced $250 and up. The museum salesman tried to explain that these are not the best quality. The highest quality ones are special orders only and they cost $2,000 and up. I will look for one which is within my budget.

Salesperson urging me to try a $250 hat.

Our second activity before lunch was to visit the Casa Museo Remigio Crespo Toral. This small museum is housed in a private home just a few homes away from Hotel Victoria.

Remigio Crespo Toral was a national poet, and a handsome and educated man from a very prominent family of Cuenca. Among his many accomplishments include being the lawyer of the Republic of Ecuador to defend Ecuador in its diplomatic conflict with Peru.

Now on to the best meal in Cuenca!

El Jardin Restaurante has stunning views towards the Rio Tomebamba. Located in Hotel Victoria, a first class hotel on Calle Larga, it was an easy walk for us from our apartment.

Our table by the window offered a gorgeous view of the garden and the river. At times, we were entertained by blue hummingbirds with luminous wings frolicking in the branches of a tree.

The Menu del Dia (Menu of the Day) had 3 choices for soup or salad, 3 main courses and 3 desserts. One thing we noticed was that there were no prices which we translated as being muy caro "very expensive".

To say that the meal was extraordinary and the service was impeccable seems to be an understatement. J.J. and I agreed that it was the best meal we have had in Cuenca.

Almejas Al Vino Blanco - J.J.'s first course

Ensalada Riquefort - my first course

Our waiter, Robert

Chimeras De Cordero -J.J.'s main course

Filete De Trucha Al Ajillo -my main course

We both chose Flan De Coco Con Salsa De Fresa for dessert.

Our total bill inclusive of tax, service charge plus additional tip came out to $50. It would be impossible to repeat such a dining experience in the United States for the same price. We were giddy and happy as we walked back to our apartment.

Aloha -- Cathi

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Flower Market

Aloha Everyone,

Temporary flower stands are erected every day on the side of the New Cathedral. A myriad of cut flowers are displayed and sold.

This morning, J.J. and I passed by to take photos. Nearly all the vendors are females and they work hard unloading flowers from trucks, unwrapping from a large bundle in newspaper to make them into smaller bundles. Then the flowers are displayed within their kiosk. J.J. bought me a bouquet of roses from a very shy vendor name Celia.

LAN Airline had sent us an email message regarding our departure time on May 9th. Instruction was to contact LAN office for the revised schedule. Fortunately, our departure from Cuenca is delayed by a few minutes and it would not affect our departure from Quito to Miami.

For lunch, we attended the Spanish Club luncheon. Jim and Linda are from Wisconsin. They are among the 4,000 to 7,000 American retirees in Ecuador. The large discrepancy in the number is whether we follow the Ecuadorian government figure (lesser) or an American who is alleged to be the top recruiter of retirees from the United States. For $25,000 investment in real estate or other government approved investment, US citizen may obtain a residency visa. One attendee told me that a requirement is to have a monthly income of $800.

Some have been living in Cuenca for over 2 years and appeared to be comfortably settled while others were still searching for the "perfect place" to spend their retirement years. As long as J.J. and I are able to maintain our health, our preference is to continue to live in Honu and call wherever we are "our home."

Santiago, an engineering student in automotive mechanic, joined us so we could practice our Spanish with a native speaker. He is from Loja province and apologized that his Spanish accent is different from that of Cuencanos. We politely smiled since we could not tell the difference.

Aloha -- Cathi

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Old Cathedral, City Bus & Lunch at Las Monyas

Aloha Everyone,

Construction of the Old Cathedral began in 1567. It was the main place of worship during the time of Spanish colonization. Today it is a museum of religious arts.

I love the feeling of the Old Cathedral. The New Cathedral is magnificent architecturally. The three blue domes are distinctive and beautiful. However, inside it is so huge that there were several flat screens mounted high so that worshipers could follow the Mass. The place had a carnival like atmosphere.  

In comparison, being inside the Old Cathedral was serene and calming. Listening to the Gregorian chant was spiritual. The two of us sat for a long time. Entrance fee was $2 per person.

City Bus Tour was impromptu action on our part. A woman approached us as we exited the Old Cathedral and offered the tour at a 50% discount. After paying $4 per person, we climbed up to the upper level of the double-decker bus.

Upper deck of the City Tour bus

The bus guide gave a running commentary of history, buildings, people, topography, churches and rivers of Cuenca. J.J. and I are glad that we waited until today to take this highly recommended tour.  We understood about 70% of what was being narrated in Spanish.

El Centro

Rio Tomebamba

Inca Ruins

French influenced architectural designs

View of Cuenca from a hilltop

Sonja is from Fribourg, Switzerland. Her profession is psychology. Sonja is at the mid-point of her 8 months travels in South-America. We meet many solo travelers, especially Europeans. I always have an additional respect for the solo female traveler. To our question if she ever felt threatened or frightened, Sonja replied with a confident smile, "You just have to be aware of your surroundings and always be mindful."

Las Monyas offers gastronomic food influenced by the Andes region.

Early lunch, the restaurant was still empty. Carlos, born in Venezuela was very solicitous. He has worked in the Caribbean countries, New York and in Maui.

An interesting person, we enjoyed our conversation with him. The complimentary dessert of ice cream made of rose petals was amazing.

Aloha -- Cathi

Monday, April 27, 2015

German Bakery, SuperMaxi and Hotel El Quijote

Aloha Everyone,

There are many bread shops around our apartment. This morning we walked in search of the German Bakery. Sliced bread was offered to us as sample. They were all so good, but we decided to purchase just 2 loaves.

Our next destination was SuperMaxi. Everything is organized, meats are wrapped in plastic. Except for all the labels being in Spanish. it's like shopping at Safeway or WholeFoods.

I was able to find Kellogg's brand Muesli and imported almond milk plus Celestial Seasoning's tea. Occasionally you need to treat yourself .to comforts of "home."

Our taxi driver was a very pleasant Ecuadorian. When he found out that we've been to Giron and visited El Chorro last Saturday, he became very loquacious. We had a pleasant conversation. Our fare was $2 that included a generous tip.

Hotel El Quijote is the 3rd of the 6 hotels located in historical buildings I hope to visit in El Centro. As the name connotes, paintings, drawings busts and sculptures of Don Quijote and Sancho Panza were all over the place. The restaurant is located on the ground floor.

When we told the waiter that we were there for lunch, he assumed that we wanted to have Menu del Dia. (Menu of the day)  Mushroom soup, orange drink, main dish of chicken and rice, and apple and ice cream with liquor dessert came one after another. I skipped the juice and the chicken but otherwise the meal was excellent. The cost was $6 per person plus tax and service charge.

Before dinner, we went out to make my daily phone call to my Mother and our children.

Aloha -- Cathi