We visited a couple parks with friends. Parque Inclusivo has equipment handicapped children can use too. That’s a big step since Cuenca has poor access for the handicapped. The other park is Parque Paraiso.
Posts Tagged With: family
Miss E always refuses to look at the camera for family photos!
We decided on one last trip in Ecuador before heading back to the US. Baños is in central Ecuador and is named after the hydrothermal mineral springs located around the city. There are many waterfalls nearby and the active volcano, Tungurahua, is a majestic site when the clouds are not enveloping it. It is also close to the Amazon River allowing access to the jungle, which we did not get to see this trip. There are many activities available for tourists in the region, including, but not limited to, canopy tours, mountain climbing, hiking, biking, rafting, canoeing, kayaking, ATV tours, therapeutic mineral springs, waterfall viewings, bungee jumping and bridge swinging, and jungle tours.
Baños is also known for meolcocha, a type of taffy made from cane sugar. You can watch them stretch and pull it on the wooden hooks in the doorways of the shops. We tried some but I didn’t care much for the extremely sweet, chewy candy.
La Iglesia de La Virgen de Agua Santa. Notice the volcano and waterfalls play a very important part of their religious worship. It is said that the Virgin Mary appeared nearby a waterfall, La Virgen, in the city.
We stayed at a lovely eco-hostel called La Casa Verde. For $50 a night (kids under 5 are free) we stayed in a 4 bed room (a double, single, and 2 bunk beds). Guess who slept in the double bed. Yup, Miss E! Our stay included a wonderful breakfast of fresh, local fruit salad, yogurt, granola, fresh made juice (mandarin, blackberry, maracuya, banana smoothie…), homemade bread, cheese, avocado, tomatoes, different varieties of jams and honey. I also had a relaxing hot stone massage for $25. The owners and everyone that worked there were super friendly and very helpful directing us to appropriate activities with the children. They also offered dinner at an extra cost of around $6 but we opted to eat dinner in town while we were there.
Our first day we decided to do the ‘short hike’ up to Bella Vista where there was a nice panoramic view of the city of Baños. The hike up to the view point was basically a climb up the mountain. That’s quite difficult without kids, but downright strenuous with them. I wore Miss P the entire time and Cory had to wear Miss E for a large portion of the uphill climb. I told Cory I was taking it like childbirth, 20 steps at a time then resting in between. The paths are not well marked and we had to ask some farmers where the view point was. They kindly pointed us in the correct direction. They wondered why Cory wasn’t carrying Miss P and I told them because he had been carrying Miss E. After reaching the view point we asked a hiker where another trail led and she told us, Baños. We decided to take it back down. It was a a bit slippery and steep, but no worse than they way we’d come. There was an encounter with an unfriendly dog, but Cory and I were able to keep the family safe while he made his way around us, darting down the trail. After that I wasn’t sure if my legs were shaking from fear or exertion, though I suspect the latter.
That same evening, after resting, we drove up to the La Chamana Falls, a short distance from the hostel. The falls were beautiful and there was even a little path leading down to the base of them. We drove up a little ways from the viewing area and stopped at a hotel/restaurant, Finca Chamanapamba. The place was quite impressive, with lovely natural wood details, stained glass, mosaic floors, terraces. We had a small meal and enjoyed chatting with the owners’ son. They are from Germany and he was born in Ecuador shortly after they came to the country. The menu included some Hungarian cuisine, of which we tried, and enjoyed, the goulash. Miss E and P loved the puppy, Anya. We then headed into town to the La Virgen thermal bath, completely unprepared. Apparently you need towels, soap, shampoo, and a shower cap. But you can purchase or rent these things. So if you find yourself there, take those things with you. The girls enjoyed the pools, but the coolest of them (think hot bath) was rather crowded. If crowds aren’t your thing you may want to skip it or find out when they are not so busy.
The following day we headed up to see if we could see the Tungurahua Volcano. It is notoriously shrouded in mist but we were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of it with an ash plume on our way into Baños. And that was the best view of it we had the three days we were there. We attempted viewing the volcano twice our second day there. On our second attempt we arrived at one of the most popular viewing spots, La Casa Arbol, a tree house and swing, just before sundown. A minute or so after climbing up to it the clouds again enveloped the top of Tungurahua. But we did stay for a little while and Cory and Miss E enjoyed swinging over the edge of the mountain for a bit.
Our final dinner we had in a restaurant called Casa Hood. I was not a huge fan of the Pad Thai but Cory really enjoyed the Mediterranean plate and we were delighted by a lovely French-Canadian band, Tcha-Badjo, that stopped in to play a few songs before heading up the street to play at a local pub. Miss P was happy enough to bounce along to the beat.
After three nights we checked out of the hostel and took a little drive in the opposite direction of Cuenca. There were a couple more waterfalls to see. If we hadn’t had our bags in the car and it wasn’t so rainy we may have taken the cable car across the river. We were very glad we decided to make the long trek to Baños. It is a beautiful town with so much to offer the traveler. Many things are difficult with young children, but not all are impossible. For now, I don’t mind having an excuse not to bungee jump anyway.
We decided to head to my father’s farm for a more tranquil New Year’s celebration than the city could offer. With the amount of fireworks in the trash, I think we made the right decision. Our friends joined us again and we had a great time.
We arrived a day before our friends. Luzbia invited us into Oña where they were having a bit of a celebration. They had piñatas made of clay pots filled with treats and toys. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, we missed that, but we did get to see a wooden car race down the Oña mountain road, a kids’ bicycle race and even a dog race. Well the dog’s were on leashes, so really a human race. Miss E enjoyed sitting on the donkey. When we arrived Tulio was driving away with everyone but Luzbia stayed with us. Miss E was heartbroken and began to cry because she wanted to see Elkin. The others returned before the wooden car races and she was so delighted she held Elkin’s hand for as long as he let her.
Rich, Jen and Miss C arrived the next day. The girls were very excited to see each other and Elkin was happy to have some play mates. I think he enjoys having the attention of the two girls. We scheduled an excursion to see some waterfalls in Oña the following day. We met the guide in Oña and he took us on a bit of a bumpy drive past many indigenous farms to the river. We then had to hike along the river through some brush to get to the falls. The first falls was a fairly easy hike but to get to the second was a bit trickier. The guys headed up the tougher route. Cory said it was fairly steep and he slipped a couple times. The women and children headed along the water. Our route was also not easy. There were some hairy moments for me hiking with Miss P in my pack. In fact, on the way back, a piece of rock broke from the guide’s hand while navigating our route, and he plunged back first into the river. Thankfully, he was okay. It was terrifying to watch it happen! The second falls was in a beautiful spot. We stopped and picnicked and soaked our feet in the frigid water. Miss E got a little bit daring and fell in one of the icy puddles, getting her pants wet. She decided it was the perfect opportunity to strip to her birthday suit. She is her father’s daughter!
The rest of the stay was relaxing. We ate good food, enjoyed each other’s company and savored the quiet country atmosphere. The mist would come in the evenings, completely enveloping the surroundings, then slowly retreat after the sun rose. It was rather mystical to watch but not so great for drying clothes on the line. The mora (blackberries) were ripe and plentiful and the garden was full of green beans and cauliflower. This country is a gardener’s paradise with a constant growing season. I love it!
Well, Feliz Año Nuevo. May 2014 be a wonderful year for you and your family. I know, for us, it will be hard to top 2013!
¡Feliz Navidad! While Christmas is a bit sad without our families we enjoy experiencing the holiday in a foreign country. Retailers have been capitalizing on the holiday for a couple months now so in that aspect we feel right at home. While they have the normal Christmas decorations, Santa, reindeer, snowmen, lights, and trees, the major focus is a Christian one. There are many special masses held and most every home has a nativity, some being very large and ornate.
The Christ child is the most important part of the nativity, as He should be. He is often much larger than the other members of the nativity scene and always ornately dressed. In fact, since Christmas items have been up for sale in Cuenca I have seen many a shop or stand selling wooden cribs or ornately decorated clothing for the Baby Jesus.
The events leading up to Christmas culminate in a parade, El Pase de Niño Viajero, on Christmas Eve. The main attraction of the parade is an 1823 sculpture of the Christ child. The sculpture was taken to Rome in 1961 to be blessed by the Pope and since it’s journey there has been an annual Christmas Eve parade. The parade includes Mary, Joseph, the three wise men, angels, as well as Santa (or Papa Noel as the jolly elf is known here) and his elves. The parade is an all-day affair with people coming from all over the country to watch and participate. People come dressed in their finest and the children play a major role, dressed as angels or in extravagant indigenous clothing. It really is a spectacular site and I’m so glad we went. The temperatures rose to about 80 with a very intense sun so we only lasted for about an hour before taking a scenic stroll back home, complete with a stop at the cathedral and then for ice cream to cool off.
Miss E is off from school for two weeks. She had a Christmas program at her school last Friday. It is apparently very traditional here to have Christmas programs at the schools where the children learn songs and dances and perform. Parents were asked not to stay since the teacher felt we may be a distraction to the children but our friend, Rich, filmed the production. Miss E has been singing her own version of Campana Sobre Campana. I love hearing her sweet little off key voice making up words to the song.
My father came to visit for about a week. His luggage didn’t quite make it with him but a couple days later we went to the Cuenca airport to pick it up. Thankfully it did arrive as it contained Christmas gifts for the girls and birthday stuff for Miss P’s party next month! We enjoyed my dad’s brief stay. We tried a Spanish restaurant (El Mesón Español) Cory and I have passed several times, stopping to drool over the menu and reminisce about our trip to Barcelona. The food and drink were phenomenal. We enjoyed a jarra of sangria and a rich and creamy potato and chorizo soup as well as a very large paella. I was so inspired by our visit that I went to Pinterest to find sangria recipes. I have tried twice to make it in the past and it always tasted like red wine to me, not the sweet, refreshing drink I fell in love with in Barcelona. I found a guide for making sangria and came up with this recipe that has since changed my mind about homemade sangria. Daniel, the owner of El Mesón Español, explained the basics of sangria to us: a little vino tinto, Fanta, whatever fruit you like and un poco magico (a little magic). Well, I think I discovered the magic!
1 bottle (or box) red wine (you can also make this with white wine or champagne or even sparkling cider)
1/2 cup of juice (I used orange, but pomegranate, grape, or blackberry juice would be delicious too)
1/4-1/2 cup Triple Sec and 1/4-1/2 cup rum (omit if making a spiritless version, but you may want to increase the juice added if that’s the case
1-2 cups fruit (apples, strawberries, oranges, lemons, limes, berries,etc. I’d stick with fruits that aren’t too soft since they may dissolve)
1/2 cup sweetener (sugar, honey, stevia, agave)
1/2 to 2 cups of lemon lime soda
Mix all the ingredients except the soda in a pitcher and allow it to set overnight. Add chilled soda just before you are ready to serve. Pour into glasses with ice. Be careful, these can be super dangerous!
Well, the cookies have been left for Santa and he has come to drop off gifts for the girls. I’m not sure how well we will all sleep as it seems tonight will be a night of singing and fireworks. Miss E is super excited about tomorrow and I must say, Christmas is even more fun now that we have children!
Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!
We headed back to the farm for a good old American Thanksgiving. Our friends, Rich and Jenn, with their daughter, Miss C, joined us as well. We met them at the school when we picked up Miss E on Wednesday so we could load up their luggage since they were taking the bus to Oña. We had a great time showing them around when we arrived at the farm.
On Wednesday night poor Miss P seemed feverish and by Thursday morning she was tugging at her left ear. It looked like Thanksgiving dinner would be postponed. We met Tulio and Luzbia in Saraguro and they took us to the pediatrician. Dr. Julio was a very nice indigenous man and he diagnosed Miss P with an ear infection and el gripe (the flu) for a mere $6! And all 4 medications from the pharmacy cost me $20. We returned home and after her medicines she passed out and I commenced to cooking dinner. Rich and Jenn are vegetarians so we opted for a chicken rather than a larger turkey. Cory caught some trout for them. Besides chicken and trout, we had macaroni and cheese, stuffing, mashed potatoes, yeast rolls and green beans almandine. We enjoyed pecan pie for dessert. All was delicious but it was difficult getting everything done at the same time with the small oven and stove.
This week we took another trip to Parque La Madre after Miss E got out of school. It was a gorgeous day. She LOVED the zip line swing. Daddy chased her to the end the first time but, I think just to give me a heart attack, he let her go on her own. She did an excellent job of holding on tight. It is quite a sudden stop at the end.
Miss E got her new school uniform dress. It’s so cute, isn’t it? While sissy was at school, Miss P tortured the neighbor dog across the street while chewing on her big sister’s Hello Kitty slippers. Daddy encourages her because the neighbor’s dog keeps him up at night, barking. He figures she should be woken anytime she is sleeping during the day to make up for her nocturnal misbehavior. That’s some papaya on Miss P’s face, one of her favorites.
We also headed to the farm for the weekend. Cory finished the window staining on one of our last visits and had to put the protective lacquer coating on. He got maybe a third to half of what he needed to complete. The road to the farm had recently been ‘smoothed’ (it was much better) and the dahlias were in full bloom. We visited all the animals, the bunnies, the trout, the pigs, the cows, the dogs and the sheep. Miss P is quite fond of Matthias, the Golden Retriever. He’s such a gentle guy, enjoying the attention. He got up and left to check on something he heard and Miss P was looking for him to return.
A trip to the Saraguro market was our final destination before heading back to Cuenca. We ate at our favorite restaurant and got a few things from the market. On the way back Miss E wanted to stop for a potty break so daddy set up her toilet in the back of the truck. I must say it’s not uncommon to see people (mostly men) urinating on the side of the road (or in the parks, driveways, etc.) here so she fit right in.
So I know I’ve been lax on posting since moving to Cuenca. Truthfully, we don’t do a ton during the week other than cleaning and laundry. Plus, we now have Netflix so I’ve found something to suck all my free time. I promise to post at least once a week though!
So last Saturday was Cuenca’s Independence Day and Dia de Difuntos/Muertos/Santos. While Americans were celebrating Halloween thousands of Cuencanos were visiting the graves of their relatives. We did not visit any cemeteries as we were busy playing at a park and checking out an art festival but we did eat guagua de pan. I totally forgot to get som colada morada to drink with it. These are both traditionally consumed on the Day of the Dead here in Ecuador. Guagua is a Quechua word for baby and pan means bread. They were made to represent the children that have died. Colada morada is a sweet, dark purple drink made from fruits and spices. It reminds me of sangria without the wine. Our guagua de pan was a mildly sweet yeast bread with a delicious chocolate filling. It came with icing packets so we could decorate it ourselves. Please don’t judge my decorating abilities. The icing was thick and difficult to work with and Miss E was more interested in sucking it directly from the packet. That was fine with me since it distracted her while I found the yummy chocolate-filled spots.
This week we took a couple walks, exploring the city a bit more. We walked to the store and on the way back took some lovely photos of a church, the city, a small park nearby, and our snack, salchipapas. Salchipapas are a popular, cheap food here. They are fried hotdogs (salchichas) and French fries (papas fritas). A lady that lives across the street from our apartment sets up a little sidewalk cafe every weekday afternoon and sells salchipapas. That container cost us $1.25! We need to try her weekend lunches of roasted chicken and pan de yuca. I’ll be sure to let you know how they are.
Another day we decided to walk a few blocks and try out a place called Chatos. The serve chocolate dipped fruit. Miss E had marshmallows and strawberries while Cory tried the bananas. It was quite good! Miss E even had a chocolate facial. 😉
This weekend we walked over to the old town (El Centro) to see The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. I have admired the blue-tiled domes from afar and was excited to see the rest of the church. To be honest, I appreciate it’s beauty from afar much more than up close, but it is still a lovely cathedral. Building of the cathedral began in 1885 and took nearly a century to complete. The domes are adorned with tiles of blue and white from Czechoslovakia. We stopped and had brunch across the street from the cathedral and strolled through the nearby Parque Calderon. On the way home we stopped to sample (and buy) some local cheese. They just happened to be set up near an heladeria (ice cream shop) so we, of course, had to have some too. Miss P thought she might like some but big sis was not interested in sharing! My final photo is proof that Miss E does eat other things than chocolate. It amazes me that she will not touch any other green vegetable but broccoli! She is not, however, as enthusiastic about it as she is about chocolate.
This week was Halloween. It seemed strange to be in a country that does not ‘celebrate’ the holiday, especially with two young children. The larger holiday this weekend is Cuenca’s Independence Day. The weekend here is full of concerts (Mark Anthony, being the main attraction), fireworks, traditional dancers and artisan markets. I did dress the girls up on Halloween night in themed PJs though.
The weather here has been beautiful in the earlier day, while Miss E is at school, with rain nearly every afternoon foiling any plans to visit the many beautiful parks in the area. But this Friday the weather was perfect ALL day. So I asked a few friends if they wanted to meet at a newly redone park, Parque La Madre. We had a nice walk there and the kids enjoyed the dinosaur exhibit and playing on the playgrounds. Miss P had an admirer, a sweet young girl that loved her ivory skin and blonde hair. We also were treated to some traditional music and dancing. We had a little pizza for lunch and then strolled through some of the artisan’s booths across from the park. They had some lovely jewelry, toys, ceramic ware, leather goods, etc. I really need to head back with a Christmas shopping list in hand! We couldn’t have asked for a better day!
I made some Andean Horchata this week. I wish the photos did it justice. It looks as pretty before you brew it as it does after. It is a tea made from many different flowers that becomes a lovely shade of fuchsia when brewed. It can be enjoyed hot or cold. It is not to be confused with the Mexican (and Spanish, I think) Horchata that is a rice milk. Funny that they both have the same name.
We’ve spent the week preparing for my father’s arrival. He comes to Ecuador about every two to three months to take a little break on his farm. We asked him to bring several things we decided we needed or wanted from the states. I was so excited to get my goodies! It was like Christmas morning when I opened the suitcase! He brought Miss E some birthday gifts from her grandmas, more books (because you can only read Curious George so many times before you want to go crazy), and some clothes; for Cory, some gum, ear plugs and slippers; for the growing Miss P some 12 month clothes; and for me some chili powder, a dust buster, some pants that fit since my waist has shrunk (yay), some new slippers and a few other clothing items. I’m getting excited all over again thinking about all my new (and old) stuff.
On Friday we ran some errands while Miss P was in school. We got some groceries, nearly filled the truck bed with trout food (which smells awful) and stopped at one of the markets for some delicious fruit and veggies. We picked up E and loaded the truck to head to the farm for the weekend. We took a different route to the farm, heading up Turi mountain, stopping to eat at a Brazilian restaurant with a beautiful view of the city. We stopped again atop the mountain and enjoyed the vista.
We were happy to be back at our rural home. Of course we had to visit the rabbits and we collected some fresh eggs from the chickens. Miss E went with her Papa to check out the cows. There was one that was quite tame that she seemed to enjoy.
On Saturday I spent a great deal of my time in the kitchen. I find the garden inspires me culinarily. I love dreaming up recipes while strolling through the verdant patch. For breakfast we had a Spanish tortilla using the eggs we’d collected when we arrived and some of the potatoes from the recent harvest, some onions and my favorite, Swiss Chard (red and white varieties). It was delicious with some fresh sliced tomatoes! For lunch we had angel hair pasta with vegetables primavera (more Swiss Chard, carrots, zucchini, squash, red onion and garlic). I served a simple Red Russian kale and lettuce salad with carrots and red onion alongside the pasta. For dinner we had roast chicken, colcannon (Irish mashed potatoes with kale), and fresh green beans. I even whipped up some applesauce for Miss P, her first taste of apple. It was a hit with her and her daddy! So basically I lived in the kitchen on Saturday, but I do love it there. Plus, we have plenty of leftovers so I won’t need to cook again for awhile.
We took advantage of the beautiful scenery to take Miss P’s nine month (the 24th) photos. My father’s Dahlias were blooming and they made a lovely background and prop for the photos. I put her in the same antique dresses Miss E wore for our family portraits when she was nine months old. Aren’t the Dahlias stunning?
So, it’s been about two weeks since I last posted. So sorry! We made the move to our new apartment and we’re adjusting to city life. When we moved in we had a bit of renter’s remorse. Of the 4 apartments we looked at it was the oldest and least updated, but the location was good and I liked that it had 3 bedrooms and lots of storage. The owners had filled the place with new furnishings too so it didn’t seem so old. Unfortunately, all the new stuff detracted our eyes from all the dirt and dust. We swept and mopped the floors 3 times before we could walk around the house and not end up with black feet! I took 2 hours to scrub the master bathroom clean. There was hair in the drain and I can attest to the fact that soaking a shower head in vinegar really does a great job cleaning the grime off of it! We decided to use the social bathroom (what they call the shared bathroom) solely for toilet and sink needs. It’s shower has become our suitcase storage, partly because I didn’t want to disinfect another shower and partly because we didn’t feel safe showering with exposed wires on the shower head. Now that the place is cleaner I like it a lot! I just wish the upstairs neighbor would taker her 3 inch heels off when walking through her apartment. Do you really need them on at 2 o’clock in the morning?
The hair in the drain and dirty floors. The white cloth was from cleaning the baby the day we moved in…acccckkkk!
Miss E started school. There are two other American children in the school and the rest are Ecuadorian children. Her teachers speak very little English. I can imagine how difficult it must be for her. For almost a week she would tell me she cried a lot during the day. So I decided we would stay with her for the day this past Thursday. The teacher told me that she had done great the previous day but she was afraid she would regress on Friday when we were not going to stay with her. I was concerned too, especially since she cried several times even though we were with her. Well, on Friday Cory dropped her off with no tears and the first thing she said to me when we picked her up was, “Mommy, I didn’t cry today!” She even asked several times about going to school this morning (Saturday).
So back to cleaning I will go. I will write more about Cuenca life soon. There is never a dull moment here, especially while driving. 🙂Photos from our visit to the school and one of pre-school breakfast, a chocolate sprinkle donut.