After 20 days of crazy traffic, dogs and nothing particularly wonderful about Quito, I was glad to move on. Cuenca, a lively, clean, mix of colonial architecture and modern amenities, plazas, food markets and wonderful artisan shops was my next destination. Just what I needed after spending the last night near the Quito airport at Hostal La Rosa 2, in Pifo. And while Pifo has a nice little centro park, there is only 1 decent restaurant in the area, but you can find a hair salon (or 3), on every side of the streets for several blocks.
I wasn’t supposed to be at the Hostal La Rosa 2. I had booked a room through AirBnB. For the first time in my experiences of using AirBnB, I was left stranded. There was no address given for the apartment, just a picture that didn’t match anything the Uber driver and I could see. The host didn’t respond to our requests for an address or directions. I was out $20. I wanted to yell at someone. Maybe kick or bite them. Instead, I decided to walk around the centro of Pifo. Aahh, After a decent $9 meal, which included a Michelado and 3 types of meat, corn on the cob and a salad, I settled back in my room for some needed sleep. That stupid, annoying light from outside my window made that just a little challenging.
I left at 4AM for the airport. That was an hour earlier than necessary for my domestic flight to Cuenca. And just way too early for anyone to have to be up! When the one restaurant in the terminal area of my gate opened at 5am I ordered a cup of coffee – for $4.50. I was served a refill and for that I paid another $4.50. OUCH. Not the kind of start I was looking forward to. But, the flight was good – even though I was going to be charged an extra $35 because my backpack was deemed to be too big for carry-on. Fortunately for me, the electronic device that was supposed to be used to take my credit card wasn’t working and I was the last one left to board the plane. No extra charge! On top of that good fortune, I paid the extra $8 to sit in an Emergency Exit aisle seat which allowed me to stretch out and breath deeply. The flight was joyfully uneventful. A smooth landing, and then, after hanging out near baggage claim for awhile to charge my phone, I started my walk to the hotel.
I found a food court on the way. This was hilarious; as I approached the open air food court an employee of every one of the ten or so cafes starting waves their hands and pointing to their signs in an effort to get me to choose their shop. “Pick me!” “Best food here!” I picked one and enjoyed toast with cheese, scrambled eggs and two cups of coffee for only $2.50. The day was getting better.
The hotel let me check in at 9am. I settled in for my stay by putting my things away. It was a nice room; bed, work desk, closet and nice little bathroom. I fought with getting hooked up with Wi-Fi for over an hour though, because the password I was given was wrong. Once that nuisance was reconciled, I plotted a course for my first day. I made it only to the first stop.
The artisan market and surrounding shops were amazing. I spent a couple of hours within the artisan plaza, just asking how much everything was and trying to figure out what to get people for gifts. It’s funny how the same product sells for $10 at one shop, but $13 at one around the corner! Then I found the mega food mall. Three floors of everything from fruits, vegetables, juices, beans and meat, to lunch counters with pigs’ heads on display. I was going to be there awhile!
It may have been summer in California, but it wasn’t summer weather in Cuenca. I enjoyed the light rain that danced on my shoulders as I roamed about. And, at over 7,000ft in elevation in August, it was quite cool, so I headed back to my room.
I ventured out later for an evening exploration with the idea of not stopping. I wound up forty minutes away when I decided to turn back. By now I was craving a slice of pizza. Even after having a really nice tasting roll from a local bakery for just 15 cents. At $1, that slice was really good. And big; a thin crust . Yet, somehow I found room for a Personal size pizza from a sit down pizza restaurant not much later. Corona and a great thick crusted pie topped with delicious marinara, mushrooms, meat and cheese. I couldn’t possibly eat anything more! Until a block later when I stumbled into the chocolate shop. So I had just one truffle for a mere 50 cents. And then the next confectionery a half block later where I couldn’t resist whatever that chocolate square thing was. Spice cake dipped in chocolate! So good.
I finally felt like I was on vacation.
more to follow