My Life in Cuenca is a Never-Ending Vacation

Cuenca is known as the land of “eternal springtime” with moderate temperatures year-round (highs in the 70s F and lows in the 50s F), but for my husband, Mark, and me it’s the land of “eternal vacation.”

When you go on vacation, you leave your stress and the daily grind behind for a place where you don’t have to be reminded of those things. You usually pick somewhere that’s scenic and has a lot to do (day and night) or a place to relax and just do nothing.

You pack your camera with lots of digital space and wear a pair of comfortable shoes. If you’re like us, you use the local form of transportation (taxis, bus, train, or on foot). You eat out at trendy restaurants, because who wants to cook on vacation?

And every day is an adventure, so you plan your week so you don’t miss anything—like a concert, festival, or cultural event.

I’ve just described our life in Cuenca, Ecuador.

After all these years, I never fail to bring my camera with me to El Centro (the historic part of the city) and I never tire of taking pictures of the cathedrals, the colonial-period architecture, the ever-popular Parque Calderon—filled with tourists from around the world—and the flower market with its vast array of exotic flowers sold by indigenous women wearing ornate velvet skirts.

Why do I take so many pictures of the same things? Because Cuenca is completely different in the daytime—with white puffy clouds against a cobalt blue sky—than in the evening when the sun sets behind the Andes Mountains and displays an explosion of reds, pinks, purples, and ambers.

The red and yellow double-decker buses line up near Vieja Catedral (Cuenca’s old cathedral) before they wind their way through the cobblestoned streets of Cuenca to the overlook at Turi, where a panoramic view of the city can be admired day or night.

During the day, the shiny blue domes of the Nueva Catedral (new cathedral) stand out against a sea of brick buildings and the verdant Andes. My husband and I walk the 439 steps to the hillside neighborhood of Turi three times a week, just to enjoy the spectacular view of Cuenca (and take more pictures).

We eat out almost every day, whether it’s coffee at one of the many sidewalk cafés or almuerzo (lunch) at one of our favorites spots—like the Diamond Club—with the flakiest croissants in town accompanied by a three-course meal including dessert and beverage for $3.50.

Our primary form of transportation is our own two feet as Cuenca is best seen on foot, whether along the riverbanks or on the cobbled streets of El Centro.

After a day of walking and shopping, there’s nothing like an afternoon nap with the hummingbirds chirping and the windows wide open to allow the fresh breeze to wash over us as we read the newspaper or watch a movie.

No day is complete without a walk along one of the four rivers that flow through Cuenca as we seek out one of our favorite ice cream spots—Tutto Freddo—to enjoy helado de maracuyá (passion fruit ice cream) on a sugar cone for $1.25 before strolling back to our condo.

Vacations are a time to relax, kickback, and enjoy your surroundings. Well, we get to do that every day of the year for a fraction of what one of our yearly vacations would cost in the States.

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