Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Cuenca, Ecuador

An Expat Destination

The morning after returning to Quito we boarded an hour-long flight to Cuenca. Driving up the winding roads would have taken several uncomfortable hours for almost the same price.

On our flight to Cuenca, we didn't have a gate until 30 minutes before our flight. We all headed to gate A3. Then it changed to D3, we followed the herd headed downstairs. As soon as we got to D3, it changed to A3 with a 40 minute delay. You get the picture. 

We made it to our apartment and figured out how to get in the lockbox. It felt so good to drop everything and just stop. Good thing we had a washer and dryer. I swear we could see vapors emanating from our carry-ons.

Cuenca is the capital of the Azuay Province of Ecuador in the mountains at 8400 feet above sea level which a lot of expats from around the world call home. The city center's historical buildings are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

I wanted to check out Cuenca and why there is such a draw for expats. We had a beautiful Airbnb within walking distance to the downtown and soccer stadium. There were plenty of affordable restaurants around the corner from us. Mike felt guilty paying $2.75 for the Almuerzo (daily lunch) including rice, meat, salad, juice and a desert that was usually fruit. We usually walked everywhere but taking a taxi was usually $1. Ecuador uses the US dollar making it easy for us gringos.

The Cathedral of Immaculate Conception
We had trouble finding the stairway to climb the spiral staircase to the top of the cathedral. The walkways in front of the cathedral were crowded with people selling food and other items. Finally, we walked around the corner to the right of the entrance and found where to pay our entrance fee to climb the spiral staircase. Looking down over the terracotta roofs of the city reminded me of Italy.

A purple memorial along the riverwalk for domestic violence victims. 

We couldn't pass up the local mercado 

We never knew what we would see while having lunch on a street corner. This day, a parade of caballeros passed by for over 30 minutes.

The chocolate was amazing. It didn't matter how much we bought, it was soon gone.
Mike got a Panama hat.

Piedra de Agua Thermal Spa

We ordered a taxi on the Azutaxi app to take us 20 minutes into the hills above Cuenca to the thermal spa costing a whopping $5. We arrived for our reserved time and were introduced to our guide through the baths. It was quite well organized, and each group was moved between mud baths and steam boxes and specific times.
We started in the red mud bath, then on to the blue mud and a shower before the steam cave and the steam boxes finishing with a cool dip.


Fortunately, once she left us in the boxes, we were able to regulate the heat with a nob inside the box. The lids opened easily from inside. I did a quick check before she left us. I only lasted a short time before lifting the lid to vent some steam.

A great Museum that was free and just a walk down the river for us! We took the long way the first time, of course. It took a couple of visits to see most of the exhibits, ruins and botanical gardens on the property. There were even shrunken heads.

Speaking Spanish made our time here much more enjoyable. Google translate was also great to have but the most helpful was the screenshot on my phone of where we wanted to go to show our taxi driver when we were lost.


Cuenca, Ecuador

An Expat Destination The morning after returning to Quito we boarded an hour-long flight to Cuenca. Driving up the winding roads would have ...