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Cuenca Part 1 (Day 14 -19)

We flew from Quito to Cuenca last week on a domestic airline (TAME). For a variety of logistical reasons we got to the airport very early. The Quito airport is really very nice, new and (knock on wood) efficient. Across from the main building is a mall-like building with food, shops and a nice view where we had lunch and kids did some math. As foreigners (we think?) we couldn’t check in online in advance or on the computers at the terminal. But there were no lines at bag drop-off / counters and we had no issues checking-in. We’d bought super cheap tickets and were a bit worried they’d demand more money since some fares are for residents only. Rumor has it sometimes the website messes up and allows foreigners to buy them. However we were in the clear.

Also interesting, for domestic flights there are no rules on liquids! Nor do you have to take off your shoes. You do remove electronics and take metal off your body. Did I feel less safe? Nope. (international flights have to conform to the liquids rules).

We used our lounge passes for the first time in the domestic terminal. We got a new credit card before we left so as to have a Visa with no foreign transaction fees. This card also included a free membership to priority pass that provides lounge access in many airports globally. The lounge had lots of food and an incredible selection of beverages plus plugs in every seat. It was all very relaxing!

Boarding was a new process! We were on a jet and they weighed us all with and without carry-on luggage before boarding. I have seen this on tiny tiny planes but never on regional jet! I’m not sure they were actually enforcing the max weight for carry-one as some people seemed to have big ones without an issue. Maybe nothing in them?

Cuenca is a mid-size city (800,000) with a giant “old town” in the center. It’s been a UNESCO world heritage site for many years. Known as the city of eternal spring, it’s never hot nor cold. Most houses don’t seem to have any heating or cooling! It’s not needed. I love it! We are still quite high (8000 feet) but not as much as Quito. I don’t think we even notice the altitude anymore at all.

The old buildings and churches are just lovely. I can’t believe there are no “doors of Cuenca” posters around! It would be a treat. Many are carved and wooded and many buildings have interring colors and ironwork.

Our week in Cuenca has been based in best-of-both-worlds: we have an apartment (2 bed/2bath with kitchen and dining and living rooms) in a full-service hotel with breakfast included. All that for less than any hotel I think I’ve stayed at in the US. Oh and the location is amazing!

Amazing doors!
Flower market
At night
River in middle of city

Cuenca is also known as one of the best places to retire and there is a noticeable population of Americans in their 60s/70s. The upside is they brought a demand for a lot of restaurants:). They have also driven up housing prices and created an industry of real estate agents! (According to one of our guides this wasn’t an occupation or system until recently).

Local food market

Our weekday mornings have been spent in Spanish language classes from 9-12. The school is about 1.5 blocks away and full of great teachers focused on verbal communications and keeping us interested! Other students are all old enough to be our parents:) adventurous bunch! The kids are in private class and Steve and I were in separate group classes.

Children avoiding pictures at Spanish school

My Spanish is starting to come back. For those that don’t know I studied 3 months in Argentina in college and was basically a Spanish minor. (I was actually a Latin American Studies major but that required me to take many Spanish literature classes, in Spanish). However I have not kept it up at all! Steve also studied some in college and between us we manage to get by here just fine.

Our schedule has been typically to go to class, go out to lunch and then back to the hotel to do some math (kids) and future travel planning (adults). Then we either cook here or go to a nearby restaurant.

Pasta and meatballs at a large local favorite

A couple of days we went to museums or went on longer walks, too. There is a nice museum with ethnographic information built near an old Inca site (not much left). It also housed a museum on the history of Ecuadorian currency which was well thought out.

Museum (no photos allowed inside)

Our weekend here has taken us farther afield. More on that soon.

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