Chic Living and Convenience in Cuenca’s Most Elegant Neighborhood

My husband, Rowland, and I recently moved to a new house in our adopted hometown of Cuenca, Ecuador. We were looking for a neighborhood that provided variety and convenience, and settled on Remigio Crespo, a hip section of town with tree-lined streets, filled with chic restaurants with outdoor seating and upscale shops.

One house we scouted had amazing front window views of El Centro, the Spanish-colonial infused downtown with its mosaic domes from the New Cathedral rising above terracotta roofs. When I looked out the back window, I asked the real estate agent, “Did you know there’s a river back here?” he just shrugged, because with four rivers converging in this mountain valley, virtually every house has a river near it. We snapped up the 2,200 square-foot home for a fraction of what it would cost in North America.

The Remigio area boasts that it is the most elegant neighborhood in Cuenca; it’s certainly the most convenient neighborhood for what we gringos are seeking.

Within a 30-second walk of my new home is a convenience store called Tienda de Chickens, which is like a 7/11 with a distinctly Ecuadorian feel. The fresh eggs I buy here only cost me $1.52 a dozen for extra-large, as opposed to the $3.52 I paid in Florida. I can also grab four avocados for a dollar or nearly two pounds of strawberries for the same.

For anything we can’t find in the convenience store, the Super Maxi is a modern upscale grocery store, which includes a meat and fish deli, aisles of fresh produce, a bakery, and a smattering of American products.

And if a shopping spree takes hold of us, we are less than 20 minutes’ walk away from the Mall de Rio. This two-story palatial mall includes a Coral store that puts Walmart to shame. Rowland can usually be found at the food court, which not only has a McDonalds and KFC, but at least a dozen other fast-food choices.

When Rowland can no longer fix his hair with spit and duct tape, he walks 10 minutes down the road to an old-fashioned barbershop. The Mustache, as it’s called, has Old World ambience, a pool table on which the barbers play between appointments, and even serves beer. Their excellent haircuts and beard trims are worth the $7.50 charge…which is expensive by Ecuadorian standards.

To pamper myself, and take care of my body and mind, I am a 14-minute walk from Sadhana Yoga Cuenca, where I attend classes and visit the attached organic market for Greek yogurt, kale, and freshly made green drinks. The nearby Khalida Spa rivals any fancy, upscale hotel spa. It offers $35 massages, facials, mani-pedis, and hair styling. You can don a white cotton robe and relax in a comfortable lounge chair while sipping tea among fountains and listening to piped-in forest sounds.

When we want to clear our heads, and take in Cuenca’s beautiful vistas, we are five minutes away from the Yanuncay River Walk and frog sanctuary. My husband walks our dogs on this scenic 5.2-mile river trail most days. My German shepherd loves the frog sanctuary…but not for the right reasons.

And in the evenings, when it’s time for dinner, we are spoiled for choice with all the restaurants in Remigio Crespo. If we’re in a carnivorous mood, the Red Angus grill has great outdoor seating for people-watching and specializes in grilled meats and steaks…or we could join the regular gang of expats hanging out to chow on massive burgers and shish kababs while using the WiFi at Ali Baba Kabab. If we can’t make up our minds, different chefs take the helm daily at Seven Spices, serving their Indian, Mexican, and Chinese specialties. Or we could visit Little Bull, where a 72-year-old dynamo of a lady mixes up favorites like California burritos and strawberry shortcake.

I chose Remigio Crespo as our new place to live because of its funky vibe, while my husband chose it because there was a KFC within walking distance, but we’re both happy with the variety and convenience we have found here.

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