May 18, 2014

Cuenca, Ecuador & Beyond: Fall 2013

Okay. This is late. So sue me!

It's been a great year for us. We are enjoying our time in Ecuador and are adjusting pretty well to life here. While we miss seeing our friends in the U.S. as often as we would like, we have had a fun time meeting new people and exploring an entirely different culture. And, living a large part of the year in an affordable country does allow us to have a travel budget — something that we were missing out on the last few years we were in the States. 

Of course, we are both still working — K. W. at the writing and me at copy editing, writing, and a part-time admin gig for a local real estate agency. What makes our life different here is that now we are in complete control of our own schedules and are comfortable knowing that we have more money coming in than we have going out. In addition, we don't have the anxiety about health insurance and medical care that is so pervasive in the U.S. 
Dream Caused by the Flight of a
Bumblebee around a Pomegranate
a Second Before Awakening
by Salvador Dalí (1944)

So what have we been doing? 

Our main event at the end of the year was the Big Trip. In mid-October, we spent some time in Madrid, then flew on to the U.K. As we had to fly in and out of Madrid to get to London, we split our Madrid time into two sections. During the first, we hung out with our friends Fred and Allison and had a blast. (We hadn't been together since their trip to Cuenca at the beginning of the year.) We checked out the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum where, in addition to the regular collection, the museum was featuring an exhibit on the Surrealists. What struck us most about this exhibit were the textures and the use of light. 

Chocolateria San Gines
Madrid, Spain
And, fun of fun, Allison introduced me to El Corte Inglés, only one of the best department stores ever! We had so much fun! On top of the usual department store stuff, there was a food hall, a gourmet shop, and a full-on grocery store in the lower level, along with a Starbucks and a cash machine. Since our hotel room had a refrigerator, this made things so easy.

The second visit on the way back, K. W. and I drank a lot of chocolate, ate churros, went to a flamenco night (awesome!), and just "hung out," Spanish style.

K. W., Jim Blaylock &
Joseph Remesar
Soho, London (2013)
After seeing Allison and Fred during Madrid Phase I, we headed off to London where K. W. was part of a signing at the Forbidden Planet bookstore. His book Fiendish Schemes, the sequel to his Steampunk novel Infernal Devices, had just been published, the World Fantasy Con was happening the following week in Brighton, and friends and fellow writers James P. Blaylock and Timothy Powers were also in town. The three of them signed lots of books for a lot of people. Afterward, the group from the store and the writers headed out for a fun late afternoon at a local pub. We were able to meet Internet friend and fellow writer Joseph Remesar, who recently published a Spanish language Steampunk novel.

Christmas Decorations
Covent Garden (2013
Sunday Roast Lunch
at The Charles Holden
Colliers Wood, London
During our week in London, we went to a concert at the South Bank (Marin Alsop and the Sao Paolo orchestra), met up with a lot of friends we hadn't seen in too many years, did a bit of shopping, had a magnificent Sunday lunch at the The Charles Holden in South Wimbledon (across from the Colliers Wood tube station), and just enjoyed being in one of the world's greatest cities. 

I wish we could have seen more performances, but time just didn't permit it. Next visit, attending ballet, opera, theater, and other events will dictate the schedule. I especially missed seeing dancer Madison Keesler during her first season with English National Ballet. Why did we miss ENB? Well, the company tours a lot through the UK, and everywhere we were  well, they weren't. Our next trip, we definitely will correct this omission.

Shelly Rae Clift & me
Brighton, UK (2013)
The following week was spent in Brighton at the World Fantasy Con. Pretty much the usual con event; and pretty much Brighton in the late fall — heavy rain, 50 mph winds, you get the picture. But it was fun seeing friends from Portland, San Francisco, and other parts of the sci fi/fantasy world. The day we left, the rain stopped, and we had a lovely train ride to Bath Spa.

(l/r) Sandy, K. W., me, and Pete
Bath, UK (2013)
What is wonderful about Bath is that the changes made over the years seem to have been handled with great care. Bath still looks like Bath, thank heavens! The best part of being in Bath, though, was reconnecting with friends. My friend Sandy and I just started chatting as if only a week had passed, not a gazillion years. Same with K. W. and Pete. Their daughters Clair and Sarah-Jane have grown into wonderful women who are raising their own families. 

We also spent time with the Escotts. Les and Rita, along with baby Rebecca, were our first guests when we moved to our Portland house in 1988. This visit, we met the adult Rebecca and her younger twin sisters, too. Again, the conversation was lively, and it seemed as if no time had passed at all. 

And Harold and Audrey Swindells invited us for tea, where we had a lovely afternoon. Their artist daughter Josie was working in her studio (located in the back garden) and popped in to say hello, too. Hopefully, we will be able to meet up with the rest of the family on our next visit.

That's pretty much it for now. Our plans have us heading to Europe and the UK this fall. Yay!

1 comment: