A Stone's Throw

practice your aim. you never know when you'll spy 2 birds at once.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Cuenca, Ecuador

Crossing from Peru to Ecuador, I noticed an immediate difference in the countries. Where Peru was arid, dirty, and chock-full of buildings in the midst of either decay or waiting to put another level on otherwise big pile of cinderblocks, Ecuador was remarkably different.

My first stop, past Machala, the banana capitol of the world, was Cuenca, a gorgeous colonial city in the highlands of Southern Ecuador. Cuenca was declared a world heritage city several years ago and when wandering its streets, you understand why. Its beautiful architecture dazzles you at every turn. In the city center, on Centenarian Parque, is a cathedral that rivals Notre Dame in both size and beauty. Its so big that taking a photo is nearly impossible. Surrounding it are other beautiful domed structures, some serving as city halls, some as museums, and others are office buildings.


The city is also quite modern, with high-end restaurants, delicious ice cream cafes, and whose citizens are well-dressed, hip, and incredibly friendly. I never felt like I was being sought after as a tourist commodity - the sort who hawk at you to buy their trinkets or dine in their restaurants. It was a total chill environment.



Among the countless churches, flower markets, and classic colonial architecture is one of the most beautiful walks I've encountered in Latin America. Running along the river through the center of the city is a carefully maintained promenade with sculpted lawns, quaint stone bridges, and lined with clusters of renovated venerable buildings.







The mercados (markets) of Cuenca are some of the cleanest and most modern I´ve seen in Latin America. Walking among the mountains of paltas, papas, pipinos, and pinas is a delight.

Ringing the mercado are the food kiosks where women prepare the daily menu meals (starter, entree, and beverage for a ridiculously low price). It can be a little dodgy to eat here, as the locals are used to the local water and oils and such, whereas a traveler may feel ill from the unfamiliar tastes, but there's no better place to learn what foods a country's people eats.



Among the kiosks, I found batches of home made chocolate, sitting in massive sheets and chunks, just waiting to be eaten. And, like all good mercados, if you want a sample - just ask. The women are incredibly proud of their product.




3 Comments:

  • At 12:57 PM , Anonymous Jamie said...

    Gonna need some of that chocolate.
    Think you can manage to get it home for me? HA I hear so much about fish in your blogs.... it's nice to finally speak my language!

     
  • At 7:26 PM , Blogger Caleb said...

    The hunks of chocolate were like 3 feet high. Crazy.

     
  • At 6:03 AM , Anonymous Jamie said...

    Please tell me you sat down and ate one..... just for fun.... and to say you did it. HA
    3 feet of chocolate would last me a couple days!

     

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