September 23, 2010


The terrace is still not done but I've had a few queries about when I would follow through on my promise to post some pictures, so even though I hate to show my work before it's done (it's the perfectionist in me), I think creating any kind of garden is always an ongoing project, so this is as good a moment as any to post the work-in-progress (this is definitely a run-on sentence!)

I took some pictures of the roof before work was begun so I'll show roughly the same locations before and after. The one above shows the staircase window (the very first picture on this post shows what you see as you're climbing up the stairs to the roof).

Here's what that corner looks like now. The hardest work entailed getting the floor tiles clean and the cement walls painted. It was clear when I moved in that the roof had never been used for outdoor living and that the floor tiles had never been cleaned (the building is approximately 35 years old). It took a long time to get those tiles clean!

Here's the one wall that's taller than the rest so I decided to have some climbing vines positioned here.

I still need to get the supports for the tendrils to wrap around and that's the next step.

Here's the other corner of that wall. I had a canopy tent installed instead of just getting an umbrella because I don't like the sun glaring at me at all--the more possibilities for shade the better. I purchased the outdoor teak and metal dining set at Ecuamueble, the only place I found in Cuenca that sold quality outdoor furniture.

Here's the next corner, you can see the length of Presidente Cordova Street to the west toward the centro.

Here's what it looks like now.

This area was covered with a zinc roof and used to hang laundry to dry.

I had the zinc replaced with the same material as the canopy tent, a light fixture installed, and hung a hammock. I'm getting some beautiful papyrus trees put here (I found some but they weren't in optimal condition so I'm still waiting).

Here's the view to the west toward the centro and my favorite lookout point. You can see mountains from all around the roof but from this side you can also see aged tile rooftops, the plaza next door, and church steeples. It's beautiful during the day...

as the sun sets...

and lit up at night. I'm very happy with my rooftop terrace.

September 22, 2010

Re-Opening of Calle Simon Bolivar

A quick drive-by posting of the set up for the re-opening celebration of Calle Simon Bolivar, which takes place tonight at 7:30 in Parque Calderon. Simon Bolivar Street is closed to traffic from Tomas Ordonez to Benigno Malo.

Lots of food stands have set up in the park featuring the usual roast pork and its accompaniments plus some kind of stewed pork that looked pretty tempting and even roast cuy (Ecuadorian guinea pig).

Food vendors are also walking around and I got myself a hunk of pork rind from this happy guy (doesn't he look like Harvey Keitel?). My friend told me I looked like I had died and gone to heaven when I took a bite--I think he exaggerates.

A bunch of cycling daredevils were practicing for what I imagine will be a big performance later tonight.

Apparently many houses along the street have been spruced up in expectation of the completion of the street repairs and improvements--many are newly painted and more flowers than usual are decorating the balconies.

Ecuadorians really know how to celebrate even the most pedestrian events. Everyone who can, should join the festivities tonight--there will be music, food, dance, fireworks and a best balcony contest.

September 21, 2010

El Puente Roto and De Las Herrerias Street

While driving into town I had passed a street a couple of times that looked different, somehow older and more lived-in in a very appealing way, so this Sunday we decided to go find this street. I had a pretty good idea of where it was located and I knew the name had a workman ring to it. Looking at the map I figured out it was De Las Herrerias Street (The Street of the Blacksmiths).

We walked east along the river and it was the first time I stopped by El Puente Roto (The Broken Bridge). This bridge was partially destroyed by flooding in 1950 and now serves as a sort of lookout point to the south of the city and as the location of an arts festival. The first thing I noticed was a whimsical sculpture perched on a roof next to the bridge.

Then I looked down and saw the entrance to a disco below the bridge. Unfortunately a small square right in front of the disco appears to be used as a make shift pissoir so it made the location a little sketchy.

Here is the end of the bridge, broken where it would have spanned the river.

The combination of differently textured and colored stones (some are the most beautifully subtle blue) makes for richly detailed stone work.

We continued on our way along the river and came to an underpass, which allows people to cross the busy street without risk to life and limb.

It looked a little unsavory but we decided to take a look.

It was dark, smelly, and damp but we got an interesting surprise--some contemporary graffiti.

Pretty good stuff.

We reached the intersection where Las Herrerias begins and where this church is located--a spare design but beautifully detailed with brass bells and gorgeous doors.

Walking through a side alley we exited into a mews, reminiscent of old European neighborhoods, with privates homes lining it. It felt like a secret enclave.

This is where we ran into this bizarre looking hen--I didn't now if it was mangy or if it was just an unusual breed. We decided not to spend any more time finding out when it began to charge me!

As we walked away we saw it joined by its equally peculiar looking friend (this one looked like it was wearing a tiny toupee perched on its head).

Las Herrerias is a fairly short street, which continues to house blacksmiths' shops. The sign above advertises an establishment where you can go for all your blacksmithing needs. This place forges iron doors, windows, handrails, and furniture. If you're building your home, I bet you can have wonderful and unique stuff made here.

There's a blacksmithing museum at the end of the street, unfortunately closed on Sunday. We'll just have to come back--I know very little about forging and I'd like to see what great metal work is on display.

September 16, 2010

On the Road

As we exited the grounds we noticed this German Shepherd leaving at the same time. We heard the owner of the restaurant just outside the grounds call out to it but the dog paid her no mind. He walked a bit ahead of us and seemed to be following a routine. Sometimes he would fall behind, as he took care of business but he would soon catch up and continue on his way. I began to grow a bit concerned as he had walked quite a bit away from the falls.

Then he stopped and it was clear that this was as far as he would go. He watched us for a while as we walked away and then he turned back. We felt as though he had escorted us as far as he could--it was both eerie and comforting at the same time and it put a smile on my face.

We walked a bit until we reached a modest roadside eatery we had noticed on the way to the falls. It advertised coffee and empanadas, among other things, and we had been looking forward to an afternoon snack. We ended up having some fried trout as well and everything was just right. We made another friend when this pup decided the best spot was under the table, napping by our feet.

As we continued on our way back to town, we saw

these mysterious, sharply pointed peaks,

an elderly lady, in her bright skirt and hat, tending her cows,

a piglet, who appeared to be earnestly hunting for truffles,

are these lemons? We've seen a plenitude of limes in Ecuador but this was our first sighting of what appeared to be lemons!

and this gentle bull, with the most beautifully patterned horns.

We would not have been able to truly enjoy any of these sights from a car. This countryside was truly made for walking.

September 15, 2010

El Chorro de Giron (Giron Waterfalls)

We knew that a walk from downtown Giron to the falls was feasible so I asked a policeman which road would get us there. He dismissed the idea by stating that it was far too long for me to walk and that I had to take a taxi. Now, I would not normally take offense at someone's assumption of what I was capable of doing (what would be the point in taking offense when I can just ignore them?) but this admonishment was prefaced by addressing me as "Mamacita". I've been called "madre" in Ecuador, usually by other women, and I had quickly realized that this is a term by which any woman of child bearing age (and over) may be addressed. It's actually somewhat of an honorific, given that being a mother is the most natural condition for a woman in Ecuador and that mothers, in general, are held in high regard. "Mamacita", on the other hand, is what usually accompanies the "psssst" sound a rude man makes as a woman walks by. I was not amused. On the other hand, I do understand that most people drive to the Falls.

In any case, I ignored him and asked a couple of indigenous men who, probably having walked that way a few times, were happy to assist us and told us it would take around 1.5 hours. We went on our merry way. Without giving the policeman the right, it was in fact a fairly challenging hike as it was uphill all the way. It did take about an hour and a half to reach the turnoff to the falls but then another 40 minutes or so on a steep incline to reach the entrance to the park ($2 entrance fee for foreigners, $1 for nationals) and a little bit more time to actually get to the falls. It was a very sunny day and I neglected to wear a hat so I suggest that if you would like to walk there to take plenty of water and wear a sun hat. Having said that, the hike and being at the falls were one of the most enjoyable times I've spent in Ecuador. A beautiful and interesting walk all the way (I'll write about the walk back to Giron tomorrow) and once there, it's always so great to see people (mostly families) enjoying themselves.

The falls are surrounded by a park where people (and I'd say the vast majority were Ecuadorian) can spend a pleasant day frolicking under the falls,

playing soccer,

playing with their children,

or taking a very short ride on this little horse, among other things.

The falls did not disappoint--just beautiful, with lots of photo opportunities. I look forward to doing this again when the weather is warmer and when I imagine it would be even more enjoyable to splash around and get wet--that water was COLD!

September 14, 2010


This week's Sunday outing was to Giron, from where we planned to hike up to the waterfalls (that hike will be the topic of the next post). We took the bus at Feria Libre, though apparently you can take any bus heading down to Machala, at the Terminal Terrestre, and get off at Giron. The fare was one dollar. The town was laid out in the typical manner and we made our way to the central plaza, which was small and modest but had this beautiful fountain in the middle and some gorgeous flowering trees around the perimeter.

We found the main Sunday event a couple of blocks from the plaza, where the local soccer teams were playing. The field was surrounded by spectators and a couple of food stands. We sat and watched for a while but then we heard the sounds of a marching band and followed it to the church.

They had just finished playing and people were streaming in--we never did find out why a marching band was leading people into the church. We did see a few little girls wearing fancy white dresses so maybe it was a confirmation ceremony?

We then stopped by an hornado restaurant (roast pig) for an early lunch before we set out on our climb to the waterfall. After lunch, and on our way to the road leading to the waterfall, we passed a few businesses which had clearly not been refurbished since the 1950s. It was like stepping back in time and reminded me of pictures I've seen of Havana--just lovely. Here's a barbershop, with the original chairs and fittings.

And here's a general store. Everything but the floors and walls was painted in the same shade of blue--a shade that had been so popular in the 40s and 50s. It was as though time had literally stood still in this little town.