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Archive for April, 2012

Banos Hot Baths

There are two “towns” named Banos in Ecuador.  Both are known for their hot mineral baths, the smaller of the two towns is only 8 kilometers outside of Cuenca, so we planned a day trip with our friends.
We were able to get there on a local city bus, the cost for our transporation was 25 cents from the city center.  We walked down the dusty streets of Banos, made a left, and there was this beautiful oasis, Piedre de Agua Day Spa. It appears as though the place was carved out of the mountian, it is beautiful!! For an entrance fee of $10.00 we had access to three pools and the steam room.  The Spa provides lots of other services;  pools, mud baths, massages, those funny little boxes you sit in and only your head sticks out, subterranean baths, etc.,  but the price shot up to $30.00 per person, so we thought we would check out the basic package for our first visit.

                              

The enclosed dining area.

We arrived at 11:00 a.m. on a Thursday, and we basically had the place to ourselves.

The Mud Bath area

One of the assorted pools.

Next to the main hot pool is a smaller, warmer pool, next to that was one that was ICE cold.  None of us ventured into the cold one.  Behind the deck chairs there were two outdoor showers.  One guy must have gone in and out of the showers about ten times.  There were also private showers in the changing area.
The weather cooperated, we had sunshine.
 
After our lovely soak, we ate lunch in the tents rather than the enclosed area.  The meal was delicious, and the setting was spectacular.
Check out my pineapple juice, unbelievably refreshing.

Our view during lunch.

The surrounding gardens were beautiful.  I love these flowers, they grow wild everywhere here. 
There are walkng paths around the facility, and we noticed this hanging on a stone.
Area where the subterranean baths/ pools were located.
We spent an afternoon at Piedre De Agua, the pools were great and relaxing.  The food was fantastic, and the setting was unbelievable.
We will definitely spend many more afternoons there.
COMPLETELY UNRELATED:
It seems that hats are a huge part of the culture here.  A few weeks ago vendors set up stalls to sell items for the Foundation Day Celebration.  We came across these cool hats.

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Parades, or maybe not.

WAITING FOR A PARADE:
There are parades in Cuenca all the time.  Michael stumbled across one a few weeks back that was simply celebrating the street cleaners!!
Cuencanos love parades. 
We were told there would be a big one on Good Friday, so Michael, me and Oscar went to Parque Calderon, the main square in the city center, and waited for a parade.
I was POSITIVE there would be a procession of the Stations of the Cross, we weren’t sure what time it might occur, but I was betting on 3:00.
While we waited, we met this little boy and his Grandfather.  I thought the Grandfather looked like a “Grumpy Gus” type of person, but when he saw that we let his grandson play with Oscar, his face lit up.  Once again, we have little, to no Spanish, and he had little to no English, but we managed to communicate.

The little boy had the same beautiful smile as his grandfather. 

We gave the boy Oscar’s leash to hold, and you would have thought we had actually given him the dog.  TOTAL joy.  The little guy didn’t say a single word to us the entire time we sat with him, which was about a half an hour.  He would just smile and laugh.  Turned out he lives in Milan, Italy, and was here visiting his Mom’s family in Cuenca.  The little boy only spoke Italian, he didn’t understand his Grandfather’s language, and his Grandfather didn’t understand his grandson’s language.  There were the four of us, hanging out, and communicating through the universal language of smiles. 
Some friends met us in the park a little while later to watch the procession / parade. 

Well, no parade, no precession took place, but a torrential downpour did, and we all dashed for cover. 

While we waited out the rain, this little boy befriended Velkey, the beautiful German Sheperd, the little guy didn’t seem interested in the other dogs, Seamus the Irish Terrier, or our little Oscar.  The kid just adored Velkey.

Everyone was wet, and the park was drenched, so we decided to call it a day and we all went home.

We read in the paper the next day that there had been a parade after all, but in a completely different neighborhood. 

Classic Ecuador, LOL.
 BEING TOURISTS IN THE CITY WE LIVE IN:
We think Cuenca is a beautiful city, so a few days later, we wanted to be tourists in our new home town and take the City Bus tour.  We had done this twice before, but both times the tour was in Spanish.  We decided to take a different bus.  This service just started operating in November, so we were hoping to learn things we missed the first two times around.  It is a two hour tour of the city and costs $5.00.
It was great, there were only six people on the bus, so the guide just sat with us and chatted about the architecture, the history of the city and answered any questions we had for him.  It was a lovely day, the weather cooperated and didn’t rain.  It was pretty funny sitting up top, if you weren’t careful you could have been strangled by the low hanging electric wires!!!




A view of the Old Cathedral Domes on the cloudy morning of our tour.
Street in El Centro

This balcony belongs to one of the oldest homes in Cuenca

Cuenca weather can be schizophrenic, one minute it is overcast, and literally five minutes later, the sun is so strong you HAVE to wear a hat. 

Me, in my new hat.  There are great leather shops here, this little baby cost $15.00.  I LOVE it.

 Our friends.  We have several pictures of them taking pictures of us, while we take pictures of them.  Too funny.

 

Police Officers along the River. 

It was a busy time in Cuenca, between Holy week and the upcoming Founders Celebration, so there was a large influx of tourists. 
When this happens, we see alot more Police presence.

This street performer was at the same intersection as the mounted police. 
He was juggling machetes and seemed pretty handy with them. 
I guess in his line of work, he needs to be!

The culmination of the city tour is a trip up a hill to a place called Turi.  There is a small church, a famous Ecuadorian Ceramic artist’s studio, and a few little Tienda’s.

We have found that most of the churches around the city are open all the time, but the Turi Church was closed.

I stuck my camera between the closed gate, what a pretty place.

Michael enjoying the view of Cuenca.

View from Turi.  The cloud formations here are amazing.

It was fun to be tourists in the City we now live in.

By the way, the parade we had been waiting for on Good Friday, took place here.  The procession of The Stations of the Cross went up the road to the little church in Turi. Bummer, sorry we missed it. 

WE FOUND A PARADE:

A few days after our City site seeing tour, Michael and I went to El Centro, we had a little shopping to do, and, yeah, there was a parade. 

Cuenca was founded on April 12th, 1,557.

We ran right into a parade.  Fun.
Azuay is the province in which Cuenca is located.

The hats that most people call “Panama Hats” actually originated in Cuenca.  They are referred to as “Panama Hats” because they were popularized during the building of the Panama Canal.  Hard working men needed a shield from the hot sun and wore these hats.  A picture of Teddy Roosevelt wearing one at a Canal construction site cemented the name.  So, a little history; the hats are actually from Cuenca and surrounding areas.  
Another province represented in the parade.  Canar is the province where the Ingapirca ruins are located.
All kinds of vendors show up at the parades.  It cracks me up that kids here still eat Cotton Candy.



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These woman never stopped dancing.  By the end of the parade they must have been exhausted. 



Michael wants one of these masks.
Nuns enjoying the parade from one of the many balconies in El Centro.

Yeah, in addition to the funny mask, Michael wants a pair of these pants.
Saraguro, another province in Ecuador.  This is the area that we were served Cuy for lunch.  We BOTH want one of these hats.

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We have no clue what province this little guy represents.  Maybe the Amazon.

So, we found a parade when we weren’t even looking for one.

Cuenca, gotta love it.

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Our Home

Hola,
More than a few people have asked us to include pics of our new home.  We will, when we finally have a Sofa and Loveseat.  This has been an epic that has been going on since early October.  We are hoping this endeavor will come to an end on Saturday the 14th.  LONG, LONG story.  We will share pics of the house when these last few items arrive.  Keep your fingers crossed for us.

The little compound that we live in consists of about 20 homes, it is a gated community.  We understand that most of the people here are professionals.  There is a home being built two houses down from us,  it will have an underground parking area for 9 cars.  It was supposed to be finished on April 1st, still not finished.  We guess that construction workers are the same worldwide, LOL.

Maybe we will be invited to the housewarming!

So for this entry, we are including a  few pictures of what we get to see every day when we stroll with Oscar.  It is amazing, when we  leave our gated community, it seems like we are in rural Ecuador; we experience farm fields, livestock, hummingbirds, the scent of Eucalyptus trees, and really, really nice people. 

Cactus growing wild along the side of the road

Very exclusive compound down the road from our house.

Stone walls and Agave plants.

Entry to a farm
A woman walking down the road, we took this picture from the balcony off of our bedroom.
Four little kids waiting for their Mom, the lady in red.

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Age does not matter, these women are amazing.
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If you say “Buenos Tartes” or “Buenos Dias”, you usually get great smiles.
Anne strolling Oscar
Michael strolling Oscar
Water pump that is still used for water for the homes
We love the hats the women wear. 
These ladies just laughed and smiled at us.

We wish this wan’t so blurry, but we include it just because the guy was so happy to have his pic taken. 

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Puppies we found for sale during our walk.


How cute are these guys??
We watched these people farm with Cows on yokes plowing their  fields.
Wow, hard working people.

Just a dairy cow, the owners sometimes just tie them up behind our house.  Kinda scares Oscar, we open the back gate and there might be a cow or a goat, and Oscar freaks out.  Too funny.



 



Strolling Oscar down a  rural road, and then we see this beautiful window, incredible metalwork.


We love this place. 

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