Friday, June 22, 2012

Ecuadorable Ecuador!

It's been SO LONG since I posted...I've been a bad blogger...I've been told I might even go to blogger hell...oh well...onward. Today I received an e-mail from an old friend...LOVED it... 

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than the things you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."  
Mark Twain


So, in the early stages of my dotage, I'm exploring, dreaming and discovering! The main news is that I've emigrated. As part of my journey of "Upcycling my Ordinary Life,"  I left my home of several decades...in the beautiful eastern Canadian province of Nova Scotia, and am now living in the beautiful old colonial city of Cuenca, high up in the Cajas Mountains...part of the Andes range...in the tiny country of Ecuador. You can see it here...the little blue country, between Peru and Colombia. (If your eyes are as decrepit as mine, just click on any photo for a larger image)

I've been here seventeen weeks altogether, and am as smitten as the day I first arrived on my exploratory trip...one of the best honeymoon periods I've ever had! <g> I sold or gave away everything in Nova Scotia except seventy boxes of assorted treasures...primarily family things and hobby supplies, which will be shipped from Montreal as soon as my residency is finalized. I've planted my little garden, have settled into my new house in a predominantly Spanish community (see previous posts...will update with new photos soon), have met some wonderful people (Cuencanas and ex-pats alike), am taking Spanish lessons (OOOOHHH me nerves!), have travelled to the Pacific Coast, and my social life is busier than it was in my twenties! There's a very active ex-pat community here, with organized gatherings going on every day of the week...LOVIN' this retirement thing, and SO looking forward to exploring more, and to getting involved in my old hobbies again.

I have SO MANY photos and stories to share, but today's post is ALL ABOUT THE BEACH! In Cuenca, where I live, at 8300 feet above sea level, the temperatures are moderate...up to the low seventies in the afternoons (wonderful climate for gardening) and drop quickly at night, making for SUCH comfortable sleep. I chose this area precisely for that reason. The older I get, the more heat-intolerant I have become.

BUT...you can't live in South America and NOT go to the beaches...sooo...off to the coast we go! We travelled to a surfers' paradise town called Montanita, which is about six hours drive from Cuenca, and a couple of hours from the port city of Guayaquil. We stayed in a beach house, where the only noise was the sound of the pounding surf...well...and one other...keep reading...

This was the view from my bedroom window, on the second floor of the house...



You just never know what you'll see out that window...it's a "working beach..."





Fish...caught in the mornings, served at lunch...


Here's some of the scenery on the quiet part of "our beach," where I'll go again in September and December and January with visiting Canadian family and friends. This is the house we stayed in for this trip, but I've found another, further down the beach...with AIR CONDITIONING!! Be still my heart! 

The first floor patio


The view outside the gate, where we'd sit and sip our coffee in the morning:


The house...


Young love...


Aaaahhh bliss...


I enjoyed swimming here EVERY SINGLE DAY...just a little warmer than the Atlantic <g>


Other typical beach houses...



We partied and ate and shopped in a small eclectic enclave in the town...drank Margaritas on the beach...watched lovely young people surfing and enjoying their lives...here are three young Canadian backpackers touring South America...


The beach in town is busy from dawn to dusk! It was great to be part of the hustle and bustle, but it was even better to go "home" at night to the sole sound of the surf.


David (an ex-pat from the US) and Donna (an ex-pat from Maine, now living in and visiting from Mexico)


Sumana (my South african ex-pat amiga, with one of her Argentinian friends...


Another one...just for her...


More friends...


Parents and families are together most of every day...they bring their children to work...day and night...






and when they're tired, they rest...



Here are typical "family vehicles..." interesting 'eh?



We had a fabulous time in Montanita, and I'm looking forward to going back with Canadian amigoes...but THIS is where we'll stay for our next visits. Look at the link, scroll up to see the photos, and make sure you look at the prices folks.  Life is GOOD in Ecuador!

Next post I'll show you more of my adopted city of Cuenca, so be sure to come back to visit. And speaking of visiting...I have LOTS of room for friends who need some siesta time...Casa de Marza is open!

My Cajas Mountains...

A street in the historical section of Cuenca...with the Catholic Cathedral in the background...


The first hibiscus blossoms in my little garden...more to come!


Friends enjoying dinner at our regular Saturday night venue...the Secret Garden in Cuenca...Penny, Deb, and Vickie...


Beauty...



Thanks for visiting...hope you'll let me know you were here...

Thursday, February 16, 2012

It's been a while!

Life in South America...amazing, complicated, busy, friendly, exhilarating...the list goes on. It takes a few hours each time I edit pictures and update my blog, and I've been so busy that updating has been low on my list, but here goes. Speaking of editing and updating, I'm not sure what's happening with my blog text formatting these days, so you'll likely see several different fonts in this post till I get it figured out...a technical whiz I am NOT!

THIS is how I start most days...at the Coffee Tree in El Centro...a LARGE cappucino for $1.90. I just LOVE new routines. (You can get a beer for $1.50...lol) This is a WiFi cafe, so I can spend a couple of hours on the computer, or the IPOD, catching up with things back home, and enjoying as many of these cappucinos as my nerves can stand.Then I toddle off to the Kookaburra Cafe to meet with friends for...MORE coffee! The Kookaburra is currently owned by Chris and Jenny, friendly Aussie ex-pats and artists. They've recently sold the cafe to CANADIANS, and will be moving on to Paute, Ecuador, to spend more time with their art. Carol and her husband Rick will take over, officially, in May, and have promised to keep that most wonderful nutty grainy natural BREAD on their menu. Check Trip Advisor's compliments...just click the link right here.

Okay, so here's a veritable feast for the eyes...some of the beautiful architecture I've enjoyed here...again and again......the cathedrals will take your breath away, and you don't even have to be Catholic to be amazed. I'll post some pics of the stunning interiors next week. THIS is the "new" Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. It's located on one side of the main inner city park, Parque Calderon, which is a wonderfully BUSY place, with new sights and sounds every single day! Sometimes, I take my e-reader downtown with me and spend a couple of hours in the park, reading and watching the (ALWAYS interesting) people traffic. History lesson: construction of the cathedral started in 1880, and was completed ninety four years later...REALLY! My land-lady's grandfather made bricks for this church. The HUGE pillars are covered with pink Italian Carerra marble. The cathedral includes three different architectural styles, Roman, Gothic and Baroque, and the roof was constructed in the Renaissance style, with a series of six blue and white cuppolas of different heights. It's an architectural landmark in El Centro (the old city), and acts as a perfect landmark for the geographically impaired (myself included!).

This cathedral takes up two full city blocks...must be SEEN to be believed.

I'm TICKLED PINK with this pic, taken from the rooftop of a friend's apartment building during a very VERY happy ex-pat party last weekend. The cathedral towers are lit up in different colours for different occasions...SO beautiful!


Now here's a smaller church, in Chordeleg Ecuador, about an hour from Cuenca...I've been here several times now...such a PRETTY village.

Last time I was there, I was so lucky to watch a dance competition. Young and old indigenous women and men...swirling and twirling...showing us their happiness in the old traditions...





Aren't these GORGEOUS...more handmade/hand-painted ceramics:

To close this post, here are pics of my new house! I've signed a lease for a year...happy happy joy joy! Who KNOWS what will happen after that...but meanwhile, mi casa es su casa...

Now you KNOW that this wee garden will be FILLED with flowers by the time you visit!

My new neighbour will have just a little competition. We only have a tiny green space, but look what they've done with it! My townhouse is the end unit, so I have another green space on the side as well, about twice this size...enough room for a little light gardening, not enough to be overwhelming.

This is a pic of my South African friend Sumana toasting the success of my new lease...she actually FOUND the house for me, and will be my neighbour there. Life is...oh-so-GOOD!
Finally, a little "Iguana art..." courtesy of my San Francisco friend Lois...

...and just a couple more of beautiful Latina children. This little girl comes with her mother every day, as Mum works in an open air stall selling handmade jewelry. I purchased a woven bracelet for a special grandson there.

This is often how indigenous women carry their small children...as they work all day in open air markets, or simply on the streets, selling fruit, vegetables and handmade treasures.

Have a wonderful weekend, wherever you are...wishing you time with the people you love, doing the things that you love to do.