June 15, 2012

Ecuador: Cuenca, A World Heritage Site

Cuenca, a World Heritage Site
Well, we are here in Cuenca, and have begun to settle in. For us, that means K. W. spends most of his time writing, and I am working on some dance interviews, book reviews, studying Spanish, and editing new and backlist titles for K. W. and others.

Winding up our San Francisco apartment, although time-consuming and difficult, was made so much easier by Austin and Aleina who took over our San Francisco place, including the furniture and anything else we didn’t have time to move. Aleina came over the day we left and helped us so much. It was pretty much a circus getting us out the door. She was so much help, and I can’t thank her and Austin enough for their part in our move.

The trip down here was a hassle and a half, especially once we got to Miami. Never flying through that place again. Nasty TSA people who even stole my reading glasses, plus the place was so dirty and the airport staff on the surly side. Until we got to the LAN counter and gate. Going to South America? I recommend LAN airlines. A total pleasure.

When we got to Guayaquil, which is like getting hit with a giant, hot, wet sponge, we were met by the folks from the Sheraton who ferried us to check-in, where we were given the most delicious fresh fruit juice while we waited for our luggage. We then were on our way to the room, which turned out to be a corner suite just below the Club floor. (Our friends Fred and Allison used his Plutonium status at Starwoods to get us the royal treatment. It was lovely.)

After we checked in, I immediately discovered the amazingly comfortable bed. K. W. ensconced himself in the living room, and we both proceeded to totally crash. When we woke up, it was room service time since we were too tired to even think of going anywhere. That hotel stay was one of the best gifts anyone has ever given us. We needed the rest after the stress of getting ourselves out of the U.S. and into Ecuador.

The next day, our new friend Graciela took us on a short tour of the city. For K. W., the highlight was the iguana park where these guys run wild. Very tame, super cool dudes. But we quickly learned not to stand under the trees in the park. The iguanas climb the trees and drop presents down on the unsuspecting visitors. Charming.

The next day, we were met by our van driver, Fabian, who loaded everything up and took us to Cuenca. We traveled through some amazing scenery from the tropical coast, over the 14,000-foot mountain pass, and down to Cuenca, which sits at around 8,500 feet. We checked into the Hotel Otorongo where we met lots of people, hung out in the gardens looking at the butterflies and the hummingbirds, and generally got oriented.

Two days after we arrived in Cuenca, though, we found our great 3-bedroom apartment near the University of Cuenca (close to the town center without actually being in the middle of it). The entertaining room is about the size of our living/dining room in our Portland house, so is pretty big. The kitchen is large and easy to move around in. The stove is OK, but the oven is virtually useless. Toaster oven time, for sure. A big plus is that we have a washer/dryer in the kitchen so doing laundry is a piece of cake.

Two of the bedrooms are fairly large; one is the bedroom and one is my office. K. W.’s office is in the third and smaller bedroom. All of the bedrooms have floor-to-ceiling built-in storage and closets. Right now there are some issues with the flooring (which was incorrectly installed) and the plumbing beneath it, so we have to move to a hotel for a few days while our landlady gets it sorted out. It’s a pain, but these things do have to get fixed.

Due to the fairly large expat community here in Cuenca, we are meeting a lot of new people. It’s a pretty welcoming crowd, and everyone has been extremely helpful with hints on how to navigate this new environment — everything from where to buy produce to which theater has the best acoustics for the free symphony concerts.

More to come once we have moved back into our apartment.

And here's a link to some pics of our apartment:   Our Apartment

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