Cuenca Ecuador Day In The Life + Lunch at Origami Sushi Cuenca (Episode 91)

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We’re back to business as usual with this Cuenca Ecuador Day In The Life video. Several people have asked us about organic or natural stores here in Cuenca, so we show you two of them in this video. Plus, we had some delicious vegan sushi for lunch at Origami.

As a reminder, we’re leaving for Amsterdam and India in a few days so our posting schedule will be a bit erratic. Please sign up for our newsletter and I’ll do my best to let you know when we’re going to post our next video.

La Chakra Mercado Natural

Our first stop was at La Chakra Mercado Natural on Doce de Abril near La Universidad de Cuenca and next to Samsara Yoga. They have all sorts of natural food and beauty products. They also have a La Chakra Facebook Page.

La Chakra Cuenca

We bought a bag of organic, locally sourced maca powder that we put in our breakfast oats. We also bought a protein snack bar from Panda Cakes Cuenca. My vegan rock climbing friend, Pietro, makes those and sells them in natural stores around Cuenca. Amelia also bought some cruelty free natural deodorant, which is quite a bit more expensive in Ecuador than back in the states.

La Chakra Snack Bar

Museo Del Sombrero

Our second stop was at Museo Del Sombrero to get my hat repaired. It got really wet while Stephen was rock climbing, which caused the band to come loose. We love our panama hats and it’s really nice that they keep them maintained for free.

Museo Del Sombrero

Amelia and I tried on several hats while we waited just for fun.

Museo Del Sombrero Cuenca Amelia Hat

Museo Del Sombrero Cuenca JP Hat

We also went upstairs for a cup of coffee and beautiful views of Cuenca.

Museo Del Sombrero Coffee Shop

Museo Del Sombrero Cuenca View

La Primavera Cuenca

There are several La Primavera stores around Cuenca. They carry a variety of health foods, like protein powders, nuts, seeds, vitamins, etc.

La Primavera Cuenca El Centro

Our friends Jimmy and Sharon told us the one on Mariano Cueva y Calle Gran Colombia sold Mate de Coca or Té de Coca, which helps with altitude sickness.

La Primavera Cuenca El Centro Map

Sometimes I get a little light headed and short of breath when the weather changes, and this tea helps alleviate the symptoms. Unfortunately, they were out of the tea so we’ll have to try someplace else.

Mate de Coca

Origami Japanese Kitchen and Sushi Bar Cuenca

We like going to Origami Sushi in Cuenca because they have a lot of vegan options and it’s far less expensive than Noe Sushi. Origami is located on Calle Larga y Mariano Cueva. They have a tiny storefront that’s easy to miss. Just look for the Origami sign on the door.

Origami Sushi Cuenca Door

They have an entire page dedicated to vegetarian (it’s actually vegan) sushi rolls and options. Plus, their Miso Soup is also vegan and they don’t use oil in any of the rolls or the soup.

Origami Sushi Cuenca Miso Soup

We ordered the Yasai Combination plus a Mango Roll.

Origami Sushi Cuenca Yasai Combo

Hopefully you enjoyed our video, and if you did, please LIKE, COMMENT and SHARE it, and SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel. ¡Muchas Gracias y Hasta Luego!

Dos Cumpleaños + Salsa en Cuenca (Episode 87)

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We had a busy Tuesday with two birthday parties and my friend Stephen’s arrival from the states. On Thursday, we went to Café Libre for dinner and then Salsa Dancing at Verde Pintón y Maduro.

Be sure to check out our next video. Stephen does some crazy adventure sports here in Cuenca that Amelia and I would never do!

Abin’s Birthday Party at Namaste India

We’re leaving for India in a couple weeks to attend Chinnu and Abin’s wedding, but today was Abin’s special day! He turned 30 years old and we celebrated with him at Namaste India.

Abin Bday

It’s a tradition in India to celebrate birthdays at midnight on the “morning” of the actual birthday so we left home around 11:15 PM to walk down to El Centro. It’s also tradition to smear cake all over the face of the birthday boy or girl.

Abin Cake Face

In addition to cake, they made lots of delicious Indian food for the party. They’re so thoughtful – they made several vegan dishes that everyone enjoyed.

Abin Bday Feast

Stephen’s Arrival from the States

That afternoon, my old friend Stephen arrived from the States and he stayed with us for several days. Our next video will feature his wild and crazy antics. He took a buseta from Guayaquil with Operazuaytur for $12.

Stephen Arrival

Olesya’s Birthday Party

It was also Olesya’s 30th birthday on the same day as Abin’s! We have two friends born on exactly the same day: one in Russia and one in Southern India! What a small world!

Olesya

Olesya stays with an Ecuadorian family who was happy to host her birthday party and welcome us into their home.

Olesya Bday Party

You may remember Olesya from our Food With Friends video or her Yoga in the Park video.

Dinner at Café Libre

On Thursday, we went to Café Libre for dinner with Stephen before going salsa dancing. As always, the food was AMAZING!

I had La Especial de la Semana (the special of the week), which was pasta in a cashew cream sauce covered in veggies with a side salad.

Cafe Libre Especial

Amelia had the Raw Lasagna with a side salad.

Cafe Libre Raw Lasagna

And Stephen had the Jack ‘n Jack Gua Bao. YUM!

Cafe Libre Gua Bao

Salsa at Verde Pintón y Maduro

After we ate dinner at Café Libre, we walked a few blocks over to Verde Pintón y Maduro for some Salsa Dancing. Amelia and I didn’t dance but we’ve decided to take some lessons when we get back from India. Stephen loves Salsa so we mainly went for him, but we thoroughly enjoyed watching all the incredible dancing!

Stephen Dancing

They dance several different styles of Salsa here in Ecuador: Kizomba, Regular Salsa, Cha Cha and Bachata. I couldn’t tell  you the difference, but they’re all very beautiful styles.

The venue had a $3 drink minimum, and the drinks ranged from $5 to $8 so the minimum was easy to hit. We spent about $35 on 5 drinks.

Hopefully you enjoyed our video, and if you did, please LIKE, COMMENT and SHARE it, and SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel. ¡Muchas Gracias y Hasta Luego!

Cuenca Day In The Life + Vegan Lunch at YuraVeg & Shopping at Sukasa (Episode 84)

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Let us know if you’d like to see more of these Day In The Life videos. They’re a lot of work to film and edit, but we really enjoy making them.

In this video, we walked over to YuraVeg for vegan lunch and then on to Gringolandia and Sukasa. We hope you enjoy the beautiful scenery and the interesting people we see along the way.

Amelia’s Bruises

I wanted to get this out of the way first! No, I’m not abusing Amelia! She started taking pole fitness classes again at Samsara Pole & Yoga, which gives her bruises from head to toe, but especially on her arms and thighs. We’ve already had some friends comment about them. If you haven’t figured it out by now, Amelia is a total kid-at-heart. She loves to play, even if it gives her bruises 😂

Amelia Bruise

Vegan Lunch at YuraVeg

Our friend Olesya recommended YuraVeg for some delicious, low/no-oil vegan food so we decided to give it a try. It’s about a 25 minute walk from our house in the Sucre neighborhood near Loja y Remigio Crespo Toral.

YuraVeg is a vegan and vegetarian restaurant so be sure to tell them no queso, no huevo y no mantequilla.

YuraVeg Sign

We had the Arepas Veganas, and they were AMAZING! For $5 per plate, we each got two arepas with 4 different sauces. Yum! We will DEFINITELY be adding this place to our regular rotation!

YuraVeg Arepas

Helado Vegano en Fratello (Vegan Ice Cream at Fratello)

It seems that a day in our life wouldn’t be complete without some helado vegano en Fratello! Clocking over 20,000 steps (that’s 10 miles) really works up an appetite! Although we don’t need an excuse to eat Rene’s delicious vegan ice cream 😋

I had the helado fruta rojas and Amelia had the helado chocolate, as per usual.

Helado Vegano 1

Helado Vegano 2

Shopping at Sukasa Cuenca

We were hoping to film inside Sukasa, but the guard at the front door said they have a store policy against it. I told him it would be promoción gratis (free advertising), but he said it wasn’t his call. El gerente (the manager) makes that call. Oh well. Their loss.

Sukasa

We did find the queen-size mattress cover Amelia was looking for. The price on the package was $28, but it rang up en venta (on sale) for $18. What a bargain!

Believe it or not, that’s not to protect the mattress from me. I rarely sweat. Amelia, on-the-other-hand, is experiencing hot flashes and night sweats. She’s only 50, but her mom also went through this phase of life early.

Sukasa Mattress Cover

Sukasa is located in the same stripmall next to the Supermaxi in Gringolandia.

Supermaxi Gringolandia

Cuenca is a Big Little City

Every time we leave the house, we bump into someone we know. That RARELY happened in Denver. That’s one thing we love about Cuenca: it has all the amenities of a larger city, but it still has a small city feel.

Pam (on the left) and her husband were the previous renters of our house. Amelia met Susan doing Belly Dance at The Tribal Fusion House.

Pam & Susan

Samara and Samantha are Xavier’s wife and daughter. You met Xavier in our Apartamentos Otorongo video.

Samara y Samantha

Watch Where You’re Walking!

Ecuador is not a safety minded country. They follow the Jeff Foxworthy philosophy of “Let ’em break a bone! They’ll learn!”

There aren’t a lot of handrails in Ecuador and the sidewalks are a walking hazard. You ALWAYS have to pay attention when you’re walking.

These post holes were on a relatively new sidewalk in Gringolandia near Sukasa. You could break your leg or ankle if you stepped in one of these!

Holes

The retaining walls on the sides of bridges rarely have rails, so you could easily step off one of them and fall 15 or 20 feet, sometimes into a raging river.

Tomebamba Bridge

Other Stuff from the Video

Dog Wash

You may have noticed the Dog Wash in our video. It’s located on Calle Federico Proaño, La Salle 2-21. We took Daisy there a couple times before Jessica at Maxi’s Pet Care started offering grooming services. We were very happy with Daisy’s bath and it was very affordable. The sign says a wash starts at $6, but that’s for small dogs. I believe Daisy was $10.

Dog Wash Cuenca

Cuenca’s Bike Lanes

One of our regular viewers asked us about bike lanes in Cuenca. You’ll notice a LOT of them in this video. Cuenca has been adding them throughout the city for several years as part of a health and environmental awareness campaign.

Cuenca Bike Lanes

Pacha Kuna Organic Market

Pacha Kuna is an organic market located next door to YuraVeg. It’s closed on the weekend so we’ll have to go back another day to give you the full tour.

Pacha Kuna

Chakana Coworking

Coworking spaces are very popular here. Chakana Coworking is located in the same building as YuraVeg and Pacha Kuna. Ecuador is a bit behind the technological curve, but they’re working hard to catch up and I’m guessing coworking places like this are helping.

Chakana Coworking

Cuenca Fashion

We video a lot of clothing storefronts to show that Cuenca and South America is a modern city with modern fashion. Weddings are also a huge thing here, so there are lots of bridal shops. I can’t find a website for this one, which is common in Ecuador. Most places at least have a Facebook page, but I couldn’t find one of those either.

AD Bridal Cuenca

Street Performers

Most major intersections in Cuenca have entertaining street performers. You’ll see everything from guitar players to firebreathers to jugglers with clown noses. And they’re extremely talented!

Juggler

Juggler 2

First Tranvía Sighting

We don’t live near the new Tranvía rail system here in Cuenca so we haven’t filmed it in operation until recording this video. We’ll take a ride on it at some point to give you the full experience.

Cuenca Tranvía

Gas Truck Sighting

We’ve talked about the gas trucks in a few of our videos, but we were able to record part of the song today. If you’re curious about the song lyrics, I spent several hours one day translating them: Cuenca Gas Truck Song Lyrics & English Translation.

Gas Truck

Hopefully you enjoyed our video, and if you did, please LIKE, COMMENT and SHARE it, and SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel. ¡Muchas Gracias y Hasta Luego!

Flashback Day In Our Life + Apartamentos Otorongo Tour (Episode 81)

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This is a flashback day in our life. When we first moved here and stayed at Apartamentos Otorongo, we had a daily routine that included fresh fruits & veggies, and fresh baked bread.

Apartamentos Otorongo

When we came to Cuenca on our exploratory trip in 2017, we stayed at Apartamentos Otorongo for a week, and when we moved to Cuenca later that year, we stayed at Otorongo for almost 2 months while we looked for a rental house.

Apartamentos Otorongo Sign

The location is perfect for getting settled here in Cuenca, and we loved Xavier, Samara and Samantha. They’re wonderful hosts and made us feel right at home from the first day. We also got to know Sara and Angelita, two of the staff members who helped teach us Cuencano Spanish, and kept our rooms spotless.

We made several gringo friends during both our stays at Otorongo, and we still hang out with most of them. Some have moved away, either back to the states, to another country or to somewhere else in Ecuador, but we stay in touch with them, too. Otorongo is a great place to start building your Cuenca community.

If you want the best deal on your stay, especially extended stays, book through their website at HotelOtorongo.com. That’ll save you money while making Xavier and his family more money by cutting out the middle booking site.

Mercado 10 de Agosto

Mercado 10 de Agosto

Nearly every morning during our stay at Otorongo, we walked along the Tomebamba river and up the stairs to Mercado 10 de Agosto for fresh fruits and veggies. It’s best to go in the morning while everything is still very fresh. Since they don’t refrigerate their meat in the mercados, it can get quite smelly by the afternoon.

Amelia Mercado

After we loaded up on produce, we walked across the street to one of the panaderías for fresh baked bread. If you’re vegan, some of the bread has cheese (queso) inside it and some is brushed with butter (mantequilla). We usually bought the whole wheat buns and some water bread, which is a popular type of bread here made only with flour, yeast and water. Each bun/roll costs 13 cents.

Panadería

Lavandería Tomebamba

Otorongo has an onsite washer and dryer available to guests, but we preferred supporting the local economy by letting someone else wash, dry and fold our laundry. Lavandería Tomebamba is a convenient location and just a few blocks from Otorongo.

Lavandería Tomebamba

When we stayed there, the cost for a load of laundry including detergent was $3.50. Now they have a pricing structure that starts at $2.90 and goes up to $6, depending on the size of the load.

Amelia Lavandería

If you’re contemplating a move here, Otorongo is a great place to start your new adventure. It’s the perfect location with convenient access to all the things you need to begin a new life in a foreign city.

Hopefully you enjoyed our video, and if you did, please LIKE, COMMENT and SHARE it, and SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel. ¡Muchas Gracias y Hasta Luego!

Cuenca Museum of Modern Art in San Sebas + Marc’s Consignments Tour (Episode 77)

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This day in the life video is a walking tour of the San Sebas (or San Sebastian) area of Cuenca Ecuador.

Marc’s Consignments Cuenca

Our first stop was at Marc’s Consignments. One of our very first subscribers, Marla, will be moving here to Cuenca in June and she requested a tour of one of the consignment stores.

Marc's Consignments Cuenca

Marc’s Consignments is located in the San Sebas area of Cuenca just a couple blocks from San Sebas plaza. In addition to brokering furniture sales, they can also help with relocation services. And if you need something special that they don’t have, they can find it for you. Their stock rotates about every 2 months and they get new items every week so check back often.

Marc's Consignments Cuenca Store

There are two other consignment stores that we know about that are popular with gringos: Cuenca Consignments and JD Muebles. We’ve never been to Cuenca Consignments, but JD Muebles is very similar to Marc’s Consignments.

San Sebas Plaza Cuenca

One of the prettiest, old-world plazas in Cuenca has to be San Sebas Plaza. Locals and gringos alike are often seen relaxing near the fountain, surrounded by flower gardens. Café San Sebas is popular gringo hangout with a nice patio and views of the plaza and the Museum of Modern Art.

San Sebas Plaza Cuenca

Cuenca Museum of Modern Art – Museo Municipal de Arte Moderno de Cuenca

We’ve been to Cuenca’s Museum of Modern Art several times. It’s a beautiful, quite and relaxing art museum with several colorful gardens.

 Museum of Modern Art Cuenca

Museum of Modern Art Garden

However, on this day, there weren’t any art exhibits. The museum is in the process of doing a comprehensive renovation so none of the art was on display except for the outdoor sculptures. We still enjoyed ourselves none-the-less.

Pho Vietnamita Restaurant

After we left the museum, we walked a couple blocks to Pho Vietnamita for lunch. As far as we know, this is the only Vietnamese restaurant in Cuenca, and it’s muy delicioso.

Pho Vietnamita Cuenca Sign

We met Rick, the head chef and owner, during our Visa process. We rode to Machala together to file our paperwork soon after we arrived in Cuenca.

Pho Vietnamita Rick

Rick made us some delicious vegan rice paper spring rolls as an appetizer.

Pho Vietnamita Vegan Spring Roll

We ordered the Vegetarian Pho, which is actually vegan, for our main course. The Vegetarian Ramen uses egg noodles, so it’s not vegan. The Pho bowl was very flavorful and filling.

Pho Vietnamita Cuenca Bowl

INTI-RAYMI Galeria

After we left Rick’s place, we walked down Simón Bolivar toward Parque Calderon. If you’re in the market for unique furniture and home decor, the INTI-RAYMI Galeria might have what you’re looking for. They have more furniture on the upper level so be sure to check that out, too.

Home Decor Store

The Cuenca Flower Market

A walk through El Centro wouldn’t be complete without a trip to Cuenca’s world famous Flower Market.

Cuenca Flower Market

Cuenca Flower Market Lilly

Fogón del Zorro Peruvian Restaurant

After we left the flower market, a dark cloud appeared from out of nowhere (as they often do here in Cuenca) and the sky opened up. We stepped inside Fogón del Zorro just as it started pouring rain. They do have a few options on the menu for us vegans, but since we had already eaten, we just ordered a delicious Peruvian beer to sip while we waited out the storm.

Fogon del Zorro Beer

Hopefully you enjoyed our video, and if you did, please LIKE, COMMENT and SHARE it, and SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel. ¡Muchas Gracias y Hasta Luego!

1 Day In Our Life During Carnaval 2019 in Cuenca Ecuador (Episode 75)

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Another beautiful, tranquilo Sunday in Cuenca Ecuador and another Day In Our Life video. We logged over 24,000 steps walking around Cuenca, and we share many of those steps with you.

We started the day with a long walk around our vecino (neighborhood) de El Vergel. Daisy even made a couple of friends along the way.

Daisy

It’s Carnaval here in Cuenca, which means you need to watch out for water balloons and spray foam. It’s tradition to get people wet by any means possible during the week leading up to Ash Wednesday. We barely missed getting hit by two water balloons thrown from a moving car on our way home from Supermaxi on Friday. The threat is real, people.

Carnaval Foam

You may be wondering if we have recipes for the dishes we ate in the video, but we don’t yet. We’ll post them to LottaVeg.com as soon as we finalize and enter them. They were all delicious, but the spicy choclo (Peruvian field corn) that we put on our salad was my favorite.

Quinoa Barley Breakfast

Quinoa Barley Breakfast

Salad with Spicy Chocolo

Salad with Spicy Choclo

Teriyaki Seitan

Teriyaki Seitan

We stopped in for jugos at Café de Alicia next door to the Old Cathedral in Cuenca’s El Centro. Amelia had a jugo de guanabana and I had a jugo de mango. They were both delicious and only cost $1.70 each. In the states, an orange juice that size would easily cost $4, and good luck finding guanabana or mango juice.

Café de Alicia

Amelia loves being physically active. She does yoga almost everyday, as well as belly dancing and pole fitness. That’s on top of our 10,000 steps on an average day. That’s why I call her my little hummingbird. She’s always fluttering around doing something.

Since Fratello was closed for the holiday, we ate lunch at home and decided to go to Namaste India for dinner. While we were there, Chinnu taught us some words in her native language of Malayalam. She grew up on the southern tip of India in a rural fishing village so Hindi isn’t her native language. That has to be one of the hardest languages to learn. It’s all vowels and the words go on for miles!

This is what “nice to meet you” looks like in Malayalam: നിന്നെ കാണാനായതിൽ സന്തോഷം. And here is the phonetic pronunciation: ninne kāṇānāyatil santēāṣaṁ. Good luck with that!

We had such an amazing day here in Cuenca during Carnaval! And we’re excited to share it with you! Just remember, if you’re ever in Cuenca during the week leading up to Ash Wednesday, stay on the lookout for water balloons because they may contain more than just water. 😬

Hopefully you enjoyed our video, and if you did, please LIKE, COMMENT and SHARE it, and SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel. ¡Muchas Gracias y Hasta Luego!

San Francisco Plaza Cuenca + Old Cathedral Tour + Vegan Lunch at Funky Sauce Cuenca (Episode 70)

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This was our day of firsts. It was the first time we visited the newly renovated San Francisco Plaza here in Cuenca Ecuador. It was the first time we toured the Old Cathedral art museum. And it was our first time having lunch at Funky Sauce, a new vegan and vegetarian restaurant here in Cuenca on the corner of 3 de Noviembre y Benigno Malo by the Tomebamba River.

San Francisco Plaza in Cuenca, Ecuador

The San Francisco Plaza here in Cuenca has been closed for renovation for well over a year. When we visited Cuenca on our exploratory trip in early 2017, we bought a few things from the pre-renovated plaza. It was super crowded and kind of dirty. Now it’s a wonderful place to hang out with friends, let your kids play in the fountain or shop for clothes and souvenirs against a backdrop of the iconic blue domes of the New Cathedral.

San Francisco Plaza Cuenca

Some people have complained that the merchandise is mostly cheap Chinese imports. While there is a lot of that, there are also some handmade Ecuadorian clothes and knick-knacks. You can’t make everyone happy, especially cranky gringos.

The Old Cathedral Tour in Cuenca, Ecuador

After wandering around San Francisco Plaza for awhile, we ventured over to The Old Cathedral Museum of Religious Art. We weren’t sure they would allow us to film inside since some of the older cathedrals in Quito don’t allow photography. However, I asked the lady at the front desk, “¿Puedo filmar?” (Can I film?) and she said, “Sí. Claro.” (Yes. Of course.) So we went in.

The Old Cathedral Cuenca

We were very impressed with The Old Cathedral Museum of Religious Art. The cathedral was built in 1573 making it almost 450 years old. Several of the murals in the cathedral have been restored after being painted over with industrial paint. How could ANYONE think that painting over 400+ year old murals was a good idea?! It’s mind boggling!

The Old Cathedral Cuenca Mural

We avoided the museum because we thought it might have graphic religious art like some of the cathedrals we visited in Quito, but we were pleasantly surprised. For the most part, it was just a lot of really old paintings and a nice photography display showing old pictures of Cuenca. If you haven’t been inside the Old Cathedral in Cuenca yet, it’s worth the $2 price of admission.

Vegan Lunch at el Funky Sauce Cuenca

After touring the Old Cathedral for over an hour, we walked back to el Funky Sauce for lunch. It’s a relatively new vegan and vegetarian restaurant in Cuenca that we hadn’t tried yet.

Funky Sauce Sign

The atmosphere is adorable and the people are super friendly. We had a nice relaxing lunch with classic rock on the stereo and the sounds of the Tomebamba in the background as a gentle breeze flowed through the open windows.

Funky Sauce Amelia

Since it’s a vegetarian place, some of the menu items have queso (cheese), huevos (eggs) and leche (cow’s milk), but they also have several vegan options. Be sure to tell them you’re “todo vegano” and they’ll show you the vegan items on the menu. They also have free Wifi, as do most restaurants in Cuenca.

Amelia had the Quinoa Burger with a side salad and a cup of Americano coffee. It looked delicious, but she didn’t let me taste it. Didn’t even offer! And she had SEVERAL bites of MY lunch!

Funky Sauce Quinoa Burger

I ordered the Vegan Pesto Penne Pasta dish and boy was it delicious. The pesto was made with nueces (nuts) instead of parmesan cheese. It was also made with olive oil, which I generally don’t eat. Most of the time, I ask restaurants to cook without oil, but we were so excited to try a vegan pesto that we didn’t think about the oil, which is a major ingredient in pesto. Next time I’ll ask if they have anything “sin aceite” (without oil).

Funky Sauce Pesto

They also brought us out a complimentary waffle that was made with oat flour and bananas. It was so moist and delicious that we ate it plain without anything on it!

Funky Sauce Waffles

We’ll definitely be returning to el Funky Sauce for bebidas y comida (drinks and food). It was super relaxing with great service and delicious food. It would be a great place to meet friends for drinks.

We really enjoyed our day of firsts and hopefully you did, too. If you did, please LIKE, COMMENT and SHARE it, and SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel. ¡Muchas Gracias y Hasta Luego!

Valentine’s Day in Cuenca 2019 + Aphrodisiac Dinner at Café Libre (Episode 68)

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Happy Valentine’s Day from Cuenca Ecuador!!!

Our friends Jimmy and Sharon who recently moved to Cuenca from the US requested a Valentine’s Day video and we were happy to oblige.

I was going to make it a surprise, but I decided against it because that’s not really who we are. We’re very practical people and I would rather have Amelia pick out her favorite flowers and chocolates instead of trying to guess what she wants. And she chose flowers and chocolates that I would have never bought, so everything worked out.

We also had a very special Valentine’s Day Dinner at Café Libre in Cuenca. This was an experience we’ll remember for the rest of our lives!

The Cuenca Flower Market on Valentine’s Day 2019

The Cuenca Flower Market was PACKED with people and flowers on Valentine’s Day 2019. The explosion of colors was truly amazing and beautiful.

Cuenca Flower Market

Amelia bought some maroon lilies and white margaritas. We had never seen maroon lilies before so that’s what Amelia wanted. The margaritas have such an incredibly strong and wonderful aroma and they fill our entire house.

Cuenca Flower Market Lilies

Zatua Miski for Chocolates & Snacks

We stopped at Zatua Miski for some chocolates on our way back home from the Cuenca Flower Market. We bought a box of truffles to go.

Zatua Miski Truffles

Since it was still early in the day and our Valentine’s Day aphrodisiac dinner at Café Libre didn’t start until 8PM, we decided to have a snack, as well. Amelia got a delicious cappuccino and I got a mango, maracuya and lemongrass smoothie.

Zatua Miski Drinks

Then we split a delicious fruit smoothie bowl. It was the perfect amount to last us until dinner.

Zatua Miski Smoothie Bowl

Aphrodisiac Dinner at Café Libre

Café Libre often has special dinners by reservation only, but this was the first one we attended. And boy are we glad we did! It was one of the most amazing dinners we’ve ever had!

Everything was timed perfectly. Paul opened the doors exactly at 8PM. They had personalized place cards on the tables directing us where to sit.

Café Libre Place Card

The abreboca was delivered to the table soon after we sat down. After each course, we had just the right amount of time to let the flavors linger while we enjoyed each other’s company before the next course was delivered.

Café Libre Abreboca

Abreboca

Café Libre Tartar

Vegan Tartar

Café Libre Risotto

Vegan Risotto

Café Libre Dessert

Cacao y Sal Postre

Café Libre Verrine Dulce

Verrine Dulce

The surprise Final Energizante was a shot of Shilajit, which is an aged and fermented Himalayan moss that is believed to be an aphrodisiac. It tasted a bit like vegetable bouillon, but I can’t say for sure it had any affect on my libido. Thanks to my beautiful and intelligent companion, my libido always runs pretty high! 😁

Café Libre Shilajit

Shilajit

We forgot to mention in the video that we actually had THREE desserts! The grand finale was a couple of heart shaped bon bon’s with a gooey chocolate center. YUM!!!

Café Libre Bon Bon

ALL of the courses were decadent and delicious. Vegan risotto is one of my absolute favorite dishes and Amelia about died when she tasted the Cacao y Sal postre (dessert). Paul went to each table to explain (in Spanish and English) the ingredients, preparation and significance of each course, enhancing the experience even more.

Café Libre Toasting

Red Wine & Mojito

This was a TRULY special Valentine’s Day Dinner! Experiences like this make it hard for us to believe we live in a small city in the mountains of a small country in South America. With two glasses of wine, two mojitos, plus tip, this experience cost just $76. In the states, this would have easily cost over $200. In fact, we had a similar experience (although not nearly as special) at Planta in South Beach back in November that cost $220 with tip.

If you’re in Cuenca, Café Libre is one of the must visit restaurants.

Hopefully you enjoyed our video, and if you did, please LIKE, COMMENT and SHARE it, and SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel. ¡Muchas Gracias y Hasta Luego!

Cuenca Day In The Life + Aerial & Pole Fitness at Fit Alliance (Episode 64)

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Daisy was invited to a birthday party for a tiny Chihuahua named Maxi, who just turned 5 years old. Maxi’s mom, Jessica, runs Maxi’s Pet Care who watches our girls when we’re out of town. Daisy had a BLAST at the party and slept the rest of the afternoon!

After Maxi’s birthday party, we went home for a snack and then walked down to El Centro for the Fit Alliance open house at JungleGym. We were lucky enough to get special aerial and pole dance performances from two of the instructors! Enjoy!

We also talked to Paola from Panda Cakes Cuenca about the delicious desserts and protein bars that she and Pietro make. Be sure to check them out if you’re in Cuenca. You can contact them on their Facebook page.

We had lunch at A Pedir de Boca. We love their Thai Veggie Bowl with More Veggies!

Hopefully you enjoyed our video, and if you did, please LIKE, COMMENT and SHARE it, and SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel. ¡Muchas Gracias y Hasta Luego!

Links to Info & Places We Visited in the Video

Cuenca Rental House Courtyard Tour + Vegan Locro de Papa Soup (Episode 58)

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We cover lots of stuff in this “Day In The Life” video. Amelia will show you how to cook a veganized version of a traditional Ecuadorian dish called Locro de Papa Soup and I’ll give you a tour of our courtyard. I’ll also explain how hot water and trash pickup work in Ecuador, and show you an example of door-to-door sales.

I also painstakingly translated the Cuenca song played by the gas trucks. You can find both the Spanish and English lyrics below.

Vegan Locro de Papa Soup

For lunch, Amelia made us some Locro de Papa Soup. This is a traditional Ecuadorian dish that’s usually made with dairy milk and a bland white cheese. Amelia veganized it by replacing the cheese with tofu and the milk with almond (or soy) milk. You can find the full recipe on our sister plant-based recipe website: LottaVeg.com.

Vegan Locro de Papa Soup

When we first came to Ecuador on our exploratory trip, we ate Locro at a restaurant thinking it was vegan. The waiter assured us there were no animal products in it. We later learned that we needed to be more specific because lots of people in Ecuador don’t think of milk, eggs, cheese or fish as animal products; just mammal meat.

We’ve been told that none of the cheese in Ecuador has much flavor. The cheese in the soup we had was so plain and bland, we thought for sure it was tofu. It had no cheese flavor whatsoever, which is why tofu makes such a good substitute in this dish.

If you make this recipe, please let us know what you think in the comments!

Hot Water, Trash Pickup and Door-to-Door Sales in Ecuador

Lots of things Americans take for granted work quite differently here in Ecuador.

Cuenca Gas Delivery (It’s Propane)

Cuenca Gas Truck Song Lyrics English Translation

Ecuador doesn’t use natural gas for energy. Rather, propane is used for hot water, ovens, stoves and heaters. Delivery trucks drive through the neighborhoods playing music like ice cream trucks do back in the States. The propane trucks used to honk their horns instead of playing music, and some still do.

For those who are curious about the words in the song played by the gas trucks, I pieced together an English translation of the Cuenca Gas Truck Song Lyrics (Cuenca’s Anthem)…

Propane Tanks

If you have an empty tank and you hear the music, you run out of the house as fast as you can to wave them down. They bring in the new tank (which is VERY heavy) and remove the empty one. We have a couple of spare tanks so we never run completely out.

As of January 2019, one tank costs $2.50. A hot water tank lasts about 2 to 3 weeks for two people (without a dishwasher). We replace the oven/stove tank about once every 2 to 3 months. That means we spend about $7 to $10 per month on propane (we’ll do a full cost of living review in a future video).

Having propane tanks for hot water is a big pain when you’re in the middle of taking a shower and your tank runs out! Amelia just yells downstairs to me and I go change it, but I’m not so lucky. I have to get out of the shower, dry off, get dressed, go outside, change the tank, and then resume my shower…usually accompanied by lots of profanity. 😠😡🤬

On-Demand Hot Water: Calefones

Our oven and stove have their own propane tank. The tanks in the video and the photo above are only for the hot water heater, which is called a calefon. All the hot water heaters that we’ve seen in Ecuador are on-demand; they don’t have hot water tanks like we’re accustomed to in the States.

Calefon

We lived in our rental house for over a year with really poor hot water. Sometimes it was hot; most of the time it was warm. We had a plumber look at the calefon, but his advice was to install a bigger one, but we didn’t want to deal with that hassle or expense. Eventually, the calefon broke completely and the plumber who came to repair it showed me how it worked.

When you turn on the hot water, the water flows through the calefon creating pressure on a little rubber plunger that pushes a pin up, which opens the gas flow. The amount of hot water pressure affects the volume of gas and the size of the flame.

In our calefon, that rubber plunger had a tear in it, which caused a reduction in the pressure on the pin and a lower flame to heat the water. That’s why we had such poor hot water for a year!

Eventually, the tear in the plunger grew so large that it no longer pushed up the pin to trigger the flame so we had no hot water at all. Now that the rubber plunger has been replaced, we have truly hot water and it’s a glorious thing!

The rubber plunger part cost $8 and the labor cost $15, although I’m pretty sure those were gringo rates. I doubt the plunger cost more than $1 and since he was only there for about 15 minutes, the labor probably should have been lower.

However, it’s all perspective. In the states, a plumber’s minimum rate for a house call usually starts at $100, so paying $23 for a plumber to fix our hot water heater is a pretty good deal, even if we did get gringoed.

Trash Pickup

We talked about trash pickup in an earlier video, but in case you missed it, here it is again…

Since there are a lot of street dogs in Ecuador, they use trash racks mounted on the walls to keep the bags out of reach of the dogs. They’re made to fold up out of the way when not in use, but most people (including us) seldom put them up.

That means you have to be really careful walking down the street to avoid hitting your head on them while you’re watching for holes in the sidewalk or objects sticking out of the ground.

Cuenca Ecuador Trash Rack

In our neighborhood, trash pickup is on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, even when one of those days falls on a holiday. They don’t bump the pickup day for holidays. In other neighborhoods, trash pickup is on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, with Wednesday being recycle day.

Thursday is the recycle day in our neighborhood. That’s when we put out our blue bags containing all our recyclable items except for glass (or vidrio en Español). We take our glass recycle to special containers located in several of the parks around town.

Door-to-Door Sales

Remember when people used to go door-to-door selling things in the States? Well, that still happens here. You can buy everything from clothes to trashbags without leaving home!

Door-to-Door Sales

Most of the time, they ring our bell at our gate, but some walk down the street yelling what they have for sale, like this guy selling brooms. I thought it was odd that he asked me if I wanted a broom EXACTLY like the one I was using at that very instant, but I guess it never hurts to ask. 🤷‍♂️

Our Beautiful Courtyard

Living in a tropical environment means year-round lawn maintenance. We’ve hired landscapers to maintain our courtyard before, but the last guy who did it seriously gringoed us so I told Amelia I would do it myself next time.

Cuenca Ecuador Courtyard

The first guy we hired charged us $15 to trim all the plants and haul away the debris, which was a pretty good deal. The next guy told us it would be $20, which we still thought was a good deal considering how much work there is to do.

However, he wanted to put down fertilizer, but we told him no. After he finished, he told us he put down the fertilizer anyway (which killed one of my favorite plants), along with some fresh topsoil, and told us the total bill for labor and supplies was $95! That’s ridiculous by Ecuadorian standards!

He still comes to our gate wanting to maintain our yard, but he shot himself in the foot by gringoing us. We’ll never use him again!

Getting “gringoed” is a real thing in Latin American countries, at least all the ones we’ve been to. But it’s also a thing in the States, especially if you’re a woman with a car at the auto mechanic.

Some people, regardless of their location in the world, will try to take advantage of other people for their own personal gain. It’s human nature to be selfish, greedy and short sighted, just like it’s human nature to be on guard against people who try to take advantage of you.

Villainy in the Vines (or Daisy’s in the Dog House)

While I was trimming the vines and plants in our courtyard, I made a gruesome discovery, which is why Daisy’s in the proverbial doghouse!

JP Daisy

We knew she killed a baby bird because she left it on the porch for us. But we didn’t know there was a whole nest of baby birds and she killed all of them! The smell was so awful I almost vomited! Those parent birds did NOT pick a good spot to build a nest!

Daisy is normally a very sweet dog, unless you’re a foreign invader in her territory. Then she goes vicious… Kinda like some humans we know 😏

Hopefully you enjoyed our video, and if you did, please LIKE, COMMENT and SHARE it, and SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel. ¡Muchas Gracias y Hasta Luego!

Video Transcript

>> JP: Hola veggie lovers.
I’m JP with Amelia And JP and

Amelia is currently in the kitchen.

She is preparing to make us
a veganized version

of a traditional Ecuadorian dish
called Locro.

It’s like a potato.. the traditional dish
has cheese in it

and we didn’t know that when we
first came to Ecuador.

We ordered some at a restaurant

because the waiter assured us
it was vegan.

And then we found out later that the
little diced

cubes in it were cheese.

Since they didn’t have any flavor

and looked just like tofu,

we just assumed it was tofu.

But it wasn’t. It was cheese. Yuck!

So anyway we just make ours with tofu

and it tastes the same to us.

So while she’s doing that though,

we need to do a little bit of yard work

so I’m going to do some trimming
in our courtyard.

So I’ll give you a tour
of our courtyard, too

and explain our gas situation here.

They don’t have natural gas here.

They use propane.

So I’ll show you how all that works.

Alright, let’s get started.

[Upbeat Music]

>> Amelia: Today I’m going to make my

vegan version of the Ecuadorian soup:
Locro de Papa.

It’s a traditional soup that’s
typically made with cheese, dairy milk

and of course potatoes or papas.

But I make mine with tofu,
with non-dairy milk.

My original recipe I use soy

but today I’m going to use almond milk.

And we use nutritional yeast to get that
cheesy flavor.

It’s actually really easy and quite tasty.

The first thing I need to do
is peel the potatoes.

So let’s get started.

I’m heating 2 tablespoons of veggie broth
in my pot.

And to that I’m going to add the onion

that I chopped and the minced garlic.

About a tablespoon of minced garlic.

And I used two little bitty onions.

I also have one teaspoon of achiote powder

and one half tablespoon of cumin

and this is going into our pot as well.

And I’m going to sauté these until the
onions are translucent.

So that should just take a couple minutes.

>> JP: That smells good.

>> A: I know. I know how much
you love your cumin.

So the achiote powder is important too

because it gives the soup
the proper color.

While my onions are sautéing

I’m going to quarter my potatoes.

You don’t need to cut the potatoes
into really small or bite-sized pieces.

We are going to cook them
until they’re very soft

and then mash them with a potato masher,

but we still want a little bit of chunks
in there.

I’m going to add my potatoes to the pot

and continue to cook them in the spices

for about another 5 minutes.

So we’re gonna kinda toast everything
a little bit.

If you run out of liquid,

if it starts sticking
to the bottom of the pan

you can just add maybe a tablespoon
of water or veggie broth.

You wanna toss these to coat

the potatoes with the spices

and just let them cook.

I’m going to add 6 cups of our homemade
veggie broth.

Of course you can use store bought.

Just make sure it’s oil free.

And we just need to let that simmer

for about 45 to 60 minutes.

As I mentioned earlier, we want to

cook this until the potatoes
are nice and soft.

>> JP: While our Locro de Papa Soup
is cooking

I’m going to do some yard work.

I’ll give you a tour of our courtyard too.

With my little handy sheers,

I’ll trim up all these overgrown bushes.

This is our courtyard.

I LOVE this courtyard.

Especially these Dr. Seuss plants.

I think these must be a member
of the allium family.

But I’m not exactly sure what they are.

And these ferns are really nice too.

And then we have what I call
a muppet plant.

It looks like one of those
muppet characters.

Obviously it needs to be trimmed up.

Daisy loves it out here too.

She stays out her almost all the time.

I need to trim all the dead buds
off of that.

And we have a Calla Lily
that blooms regularly

and it’s beautiful.

It’s not.. we only have one bloom
right now, but..

it is very pretty.

And then we have a palm tree

and I need to trim this bush that’s
under it.

Oh and this is our table and umbrella
that we bought here.

We got the umbrella I think for 120 bucks
at a store that’s near here.

I think the table and chairs
were not very much.

They were like $80 I think.

And we love this vine.

This vine has completely grown over this.

This is a door, like a garage door

that you can park a car in here

and it’s completely covered that since we
moved in.

Then we have another one of these with
a lot of dead stuff.

And there’s another Calla Lily.

Need to trim off those dead things.

And this is our hot water heater.

Now this is something,
if you’re in the States

you might not know what this is.

It’s called a calefon, here.

And it’s an on-demand hot water heater.

And those are the tanks.

Everything runs on propane here
not natural gas.

So if you need to refill your tank

there’s always somebody driving through
the neighborhood

and they play a song that’s about Cuenca.

I need to look up the lyrics for it and
see what it says.

But it’s basically.. it says
“that’s why I love Cuenca.”

And they just drive through
the neighborhood.

It’s kind of like an ice cream truck.

You hear the music and you run out
and wave the guy down

and they carry a tank in

and they carry away the empty one.

So that’s how you get your propane here

and the propane runs the hot water

and the stove and the oven.

Alright, now it’s time to get to work.

[Soul Music – Grow Remix by Gloria Tells]

Now I have to trim up this pretty purple
flowering plant that Daisy smashed.

There was a baby bird, a bird’s nest
over here in our bushes

and she completely destroyed

this beautiful bush, plant,
whatever it’s called

getting at the baby bird

and she killed the baby bird

and left it on our doorstep for us.

As vegans, we did not appreciate that!

[Soul Music – Grow Remix by Gloria Tells]

Ah. Gross. GROSS! AHHH!

AHHH! GROSS!

Alright this is really gross!

There are dead baby birds

and they stink horribly!

Ahhh. Gross! Ahhh. I’m going to throw up!

Uhh. I can see two of them

and they smell awful and I don’t have
any gloves.

Daisy! You are in the DOG HOUSE!

I am very mad at you right now!

Very mad!

This is gross!

Yuck!

In lieu of gloves,

I’m gonna use a plastic bag

and pick up these dead baby birds

like they’re dog poop

which really BOTHERS me!

This is gross and I don’t like this!

Yeah! Returning to the scene of the crime!

Gross Daisy!

Aw God they smell awful!

Ahh. This is what you did!

Ahhh!

You destroyed this bush too!

[Soul Music – Grow Remix by Gloria Tells]

I am not at all happy
with little miss Daisy.

Ahh. Those birds were gross!

I’m done inside, now I’m gonna go outside

and trim these vines are growing
over the wall.

And I got mad at my neighbors..

on New Years Eve they lit a monigote

on.. leaning up against our telephone pole
outside our house

underneath this vine.

I got mad and yelled at them.

I feel a little bad about that, but still

everybody else burns them in the middle
of the street

and for some reason our neighbors

decided to light their monigote on fire

underneath our overgrown vine.

I guess it’s my own fault for
not trimming it sooner, but

anyway, hopefully they’re not too

upset with me for yelling at them

to not burn things in front of my house.

But, they told me it was tradition.
[Laughing]

I’m not sure if they meant tradition

to burn things in front of your neighbor’s
house, or

they were just referring to the
burning of the monigotes

or the Años Viejos.

If you are curious about what that is

watch our New Years Eve video

or the New Years Eve prep video.

We go into lots of detail about monigotes.

[Soul Music – Grow Remix by Gloria Tells]

Alright so you’re gonna see
where they burned it.

See this vine right here?

This is dead because they burned

their monigote right here
in front of my house.

Oh well. We survived.

Gotta let it go!

Find my inner peace!

[Soul Music – Grow Remix by Gloria Tells]

Let’s move around to the other side now.

As you can see,
this is very much overgrown.

[Soul Music – Grow Remix by Gloria Tells]

Man this was really overgrown.

Oh and you might be wondering,

if you haven’t watched any of our
other videos,

what this tray is here.

This is where you put your trash.

They uh.. since they have a lot of
street dogs here

they keep their trash up off the ground

and you put your trash up on those racks

and they.. in our neighborhood

they pickup every Tuesday, Thursday
and Saturday.

And Thursday is recycle day

so you put out your blue bag
with all your recycle in it on Thursday.

Alright, I gotta finish this.

Amelia says it’s time to eat.

[Soul Music – Grow Remix by Gloria Tells]

Alright. I’m going to take a break
and go eat.

And then I’m gonna pick up

all this debris and I’ll show you
the finished product after that’s done.

>> A: My potatoes are nice and soft

so I am going to mash them

with my potato masher.

Or you could use a fork if you don’t
have one of these handy gadgets.

And as I mentioned earlier

it doesn’t have to be smooth

we want some little chunks of potato
goodness in here.

That looks really good.

Now that our potatoes are mashed

it is time to add some more ingredients.

So I have one cup of
unsweetened almond milk.

You can use your favorite
unsweetened milk.

Although I wouldn’t use coconut milk

since that has a pretty strong flavor.

One quarter cup nutritional yeast.

That’s gonna give us that cheesy flavor.

For my additional spices, I have

one teaspoon salt which you could
certainly reduce or leave out

if you’re watching your salt intake.

And then one tablespoon of dried cilantro.

And we’re gonna let this simmer
for a little bit longer.

Just a few minutes.

And while this is simmering

I need to drain my tofu, pat that dry

and then cut that into cubes.

It’s time to chop up our tofu into cubes.

The traditional soup is made with
some sort of cheese

they use here, which is cubed.

>> JP: And white.
>> A: And white.

And this will go into the pot

at the very end because it really just
needs to be heated through.

And it’ll absorb some of the
delicious flavors.

We are just going to let this simmer

for a few more minutes.

3, 4, 5 minutes, until the tofu
has absorbed the flavors

and it is nice and warm.

Looks good, huh?
>> JP: Mm-huh.

>> A: Smells really good.

And now it is time to eat.

It looks really yummy, doesn’t it?

Hardy and delicious.

Time for the taste test.

Hopefully it’s not too hot.
I don’t want to burn myself.

Mmm. Ooh! It’s really good!

Yummy.

You can find the recipe on our website:
LottaVeg.com.

Let us know if you decide to make this
dish. I’d love to hear your feedback.

>> JP: Lunch was delicious.

I really love Amelia’s
Vegan Locro de Papa Soup.

It’s so tasty.

I already picked up everything.

All of the leaves and debris
from my yard work.

And I’m tired now.

It was a lot of work.

While I was outside sweeping up
all of the leaves on the street,

and the sidewalk.

A guy went by selling brooms.

>> Broom Guy: ESCOBAS!!!
[Brooms in Spanish]

>> JP: A lot of people go door-to-door

selling things here,

but I found it very strange that he
offered to sell me a broom

while I was using a broom.

And it was pretty much
the exact same broom,

only in a different color.

I thought that was really strange.

I guess it doesn’t hurt to ask, does it?

The worst you can say is, “No.”

Alright, let’s do the tour
of the finished..

cleaned up..

courtyard.

[Soul Music – Grow Remix by Gloria Tells]

That looks a lot better
and I’m glad it’s done.

Amelia is in the kitchen cleaning up
from our lunch.

And man I’m tired now.

I’m gonna go take a break.

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We post videos every Tuesday, Thursday
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