Ecuador’s Southern Coast Part 2: Olón and Montañita (Episode 7)

It was an overcast morning, but it was warm (in the mid-70’s) and didn’t look like rain so we decided to walk along the beach 8 kilometers from La Entrada to Olón and Montañita, Ecuador. The beach was virtually empty all the way to Olón, except for a giant whale!

Be sure to check out our other videos from this trip:

  1. Ecuador’s Southern Coast Part 1: Cuenca to La Entrada

We hope you enjoy seeing the beautiful scenery, the vegan beachfront restaurant, and the other interesting things we see in Olón and Montañita, Ecuador.

Please LIKE, COMMENT and SHARE this video, and SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel.

People & Places (and Animals)

Choco the Chocolate Lab

1 Olón and Montañita Ecuador Choco

Choco is the resident greeter, security guard and activities director at Villa de Los Sueños, the B&B where we stayed on Ecuador’s Southern Coast. Most mornings, we went for a walk on the beach toward Olón and Choco joined us to play rock.

Choco loved chasing the rocks that I threw for him. He tried to fit all of them in his mouth, every rock I threw on our walk, and then he brought them back to the B&B. There were little piles of rocks all over the grounds, and even one on our 4th floor balcony. He has quite the rock fetish!

Beach Walk from La Entrada to Olón

2 Olón and Montañita Rocky Beach

The beach in front of the B&B and La Entrada has lots of interesting rock formations. It’s not nearly as sandy as the rest of the beaches in the area, but it is beautiful to look at and to watch the waves crashing against them. Like most beaches in the world today, there was quite a lot of small pieces of plastic on this stretch of beach that needs to be picked up.

3 Olón and Montañita Ecuador Rocks

4 Olón and Montañita Ecuado Amelia Beach

Amelia is in heaven. We went to the coast during Ecuador’s winter season so Cuenca at 8,000 feet had been quite chilly for the previous couple of months. Even though it was overcast, she was very happy to be warm.

Most of the beaches on Ecuador’s Southern Coast look like this. They’re extremely flat and wide when the tide is out, but they almost completely disappear when the tide is in. The B&B had a tide clock in the dining room area so we knew when it was safe to walk on the beach. The tide comes in rapidly and you wouldn’t want to get caught on the beach when it disappears.

We were surprised at the low number of people on this beach. We saw a few children playing on a couple of different walks, but for the most part, we had it to ourselves. It’s the biggest beach I’ve ever been on, and the most empty.

5 Olón and Montañita Ecuador Whale Breaching

I was filming Amelia and she saw a whale breaching behind me. I trained my camera on the spot and luckily caught this big Humpback Whale breaching just a short distance offshore. We saw Humpbacks from our balcony and the beach on several different days. On the last morning of our trip, we saw a pod of Killer Whales from our breakfast table at the B&B.

You’ll see more whales up close and personal on our whale watching tour in the next video.

6 Olón and Montañita Ecuador. Houses

The beachfront between La Entrada and Olón had lots of big, beautiful houses. Some of them were for sale if you’re interested! However, with the rapid rise of the oceans, these houses will likely be under water in the next 50 to 100 years. The ocean is already knocking on their doorsteps at high tide.

7 Olón and Montañita Ecuador Motorcycle

We were also surprised to see motorcycles and trucks driving on the beach at high speeds. It seems that everyone in Ecuador drives at a high rate of speed, but we didn’t expect to see that on the beach. However, since it’s so wide and flat when the tide is out, I guess it’s a fast way to travel. Not a lot of traffic, either…

La Curia Ecuador

8 La Curia Ecuador Street Dog

The first town we stopped at on our walk to Olón and Montañita was La Curia. It was a tiny little pueblita with a church, lots of chickens and, of course, several street dogs. There wasn’t much (any) traffic in town so this dog was taking a mid-morning nap in the middle of the street.

9 La Curia Ecuador Mural

These guys were more than happy to let me take a picture of their cool mural and old building. Murals are very popular in Ecuador. The tiny pueblita of La Entrada has over 25 and growing.

10 La Curia Ecuador Old House

This is a real fixer-upper. We saw lots of these run-down old buildings and houses in the pueblitas along Ecuador’s Southern Coast. La Entrada is the rare exception. Most of the old buildings have either been torn down or renovated there. The people of La Entrada have a large rehabilitation project going on, spearheaded by Shell, the owner of Villa de Los Sueños. You can see more of the La Entrada in a future video.

Everyone in La Curia was super friendly, and showed off their big smiles and happy greetings to the wondering gringos.

Olón Ecuador

11 Olón Ecuador Amelia Sign

Our next stop on the beach walk was Olón. It’s a larger town than La Curia and popular with surfers. We spotted this sign that sparked Amelia’s fancy.

12 Olón and Montañita Ecuador Bus Movie

We were starving by this point so we walked straight through Olón and got on a bus to Montañita Ecuador. We were surprised to see them showing a movie with Jason Statham, dubbed into Spanish. It’s quite funny to hear a deep, sophisticated latino voice coming out of The Transporter!

The bus ride between Olón and Monañita took about 10 minutes and cost us 50 cents each.

Montañita Ecuador

13 Olón and Montañita Ecuador I Love Sign

Montañita is known as a party town. Young people come from Guayaquil and other parts of Ecuador on the weekends to party and surf. This picture was taken atop the 10 foot high retaining wall, or malecon in Spanish. The ocean is already creeping up to Montañita’s doorstep and this wall helps keep out the high tide and storm surges.

14 Montañita Ecuador

Montañita is quite the tourist town. It reminds me of pretty much every beachfront tourist town I’ve been to in other parts of the world. Nearly every store is either a restaurant or souvenir shop.

15 Montañita Ecuador

Believe it or not, we saw cars driving down these streets. However, most vehicles were push carts like these that were selling or transporting things to local shops.

16 Olón and Montañita Ecuador Fruit Cart

While Ecuadorians do love their helado (ice cream), we have yet to see an ice cream truck. Instead, these types of fruit carts and stands can be found everywhere. Most of them will even cut up the pineapples for you.

Amor Infinito in Montañita Ecuador

17 Montañita Ecuador Amor Infinito

18 Montañita Ecuador Amor Infinito

Amelia found this vegan restaurant, Amor Infinito, on TripAdvisor.com. When we left the B&B, our goal was to have lunch here, but since the walk took much longer than an 8K walk should take, we had a very LATE lunch here.

19 Montañita Ecuador Amor Infinito Beach View

We really enjoyed the vegan food and beachfront seating at Amor Infinito. I talked to the owner and he said his wife decided they needed to eat a healthier diet, so they changed the restaurant to all vegan.

18.5 Montañita Ecuador Amor Infinito Almuerzo

They offer a daily almuerzo (lunch special), as well as vegan cerveza and other beverages. The food was delicious! It came with fresh squeezed juice, the main course (see pic above) and fresh fruit for dessert.

19 Olón and Montañita Ecuador Empty Tables

We went to the coast during the off-season, so there weren’t many people on the beach. However, all of the tables at Amor Infinito were full (see above) while the neighboring restaurants were nearly empty (see below). I think that says a lot about the quality of the food and the growth of veganism.

20 Olón and Montañita Ecuador Empty Tables

We highly recommend checking out Amor Infinito on your next trip to Montañita.

Govinda Prasad Vegan & Vegetarian Restaurant

21 Olón and Montañita Ecuador Govinda Prasad

I swear Amelia could spot a vegan restaurant from space! We were walking down a busy, crowded, visually stimulating street and Amelia spotted this restaurant from more than a block away!

Carlos is the owner, cook and waiter of Govinda Prasad. He’s also a great baker (more on that below). We ate lunch at his restaurant two different days and really enjoyed the food. In addition to being plant-based vegan, our lunches also had very little to no oil, making them the healthiest dishes we ate in Montañita. We loved all the fresh veggies!

22 Olón and Montañita Ecuador Govinda Prasad

In this part of Ecuador, most of the bread is made with manteca (aka lard). As vegans, we avoid all animal products. As healthy plant-based eaters, we wouldn’t dream of eating lard or anything like it! We had a hard time finding lard-free bread on the coast, so we asked Carlos if he knew where we could get some and he offered to make it for us. Since they’re fresh-baked, he needed a little notice and had them ready for us the next day.

We went back the next day and he had two loaves of whole wheat oat bread ready for us, fresh from the oven. They were still warm! He sold them both to us for $5. They were so good that we went back on our last day at the coast and bought two more loaves for the trip back to Cuenca.

We highly recommend this restaurant and Carlos’s healthy vegan bread on your next visit to Montañita.

Share the Love

We hope you enjoyed the second part of our trip on Ecuador’s Southern Coast. Please remember to like, comment and share our video, and also subscribe to our YouTube channel. If you’d like us to make a video about something specific or if you have questions, please let us know in the comments.

Links to Info & Places We Visited in the Video

Ecuador’s Southern Coast Part 1: Cuenca to La Entrada (Episode 6)

This was our first trip to Ecuador’s Southern Coast and we LOVED IT! We’d heard great things from our friends about Ecuador’s beaches, Montañita and the Bed & Breakfast where we stayed, Villa de Los Sueños. And they were right! It was amazing!

This video covers our trip from Cuenca, Ecuador to La Entrada, Ecuador where Villa de Los Sueños is located. La Entrada is about a 20 minute drive north of Montañita, Ecuador.

We hope you enjoy seeing the beautiful scenery, and the interesting people we meet along the way on our journey to Ecuador’s southern coast.

Please LIKE, COMMENT and SHARE this video, and SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel.

People & Places (and Animals)

El Cajas National Park

1 Cuenca to La Entrada Cajas

El Cajas National Park is about a 30 minute drive east of Cuenca, Ecuador. It’s located in the highlands of Ecuador and looks like it’s from another world.

2 Cuenca to La Entrada Cajas

El Cajas has lots of these perfectly rowed trees. That’s not a genetic mutation; they’ve been planted. We were told that during World War I and before, every tree in Cajas was cut down for timber used to build things, including the war machine.

Over the past 30 years, they’ve been planting trees to regrow the forest that once stood there. It’s kind of a shame that they planted them so geometrically, though. Perhaps a random pattern would be more authentic?

3 Cuenca to La Entrada Cajas

El Cajas has lots of hiking trails and it’s home to the world’s largest hummingbird. That makes this a popular place for hikers and bird watchers. However, the weather is very unpredictable and the trails aren’t clearly marked so plan accordingly. Bring layers of clothes, food, water and a GPS so you can find your way back to your car or the bus stop.

4 Cuenca to La Entrada Cajas

5 Cuenca to La Entrada Cajas

It truly is otherworldly. This looks like it could be a scene from a sci-fi movie.

6 Cuenca to La Entrada Cajas

A beautiful mountain lake. We’ve been told you can hike around this one.

Leaving El Cajas

7 Cuenca to La Entrada Cajas Clouds

You may notice the American flag air freshener hanging from the rearview mirror, but that’s not the point of this photo. Just below that are the yellow lines of the road. On the eastern side of Cajas, it’s common to drive down (or up) through the clouds. A few meters before this picture was taken, we were in bright blue, sunny skies. The fog is often so dense on this part of the drive that you can barely see the yellow lines. It’s quite terrifying!

8 Cuenca to La Entrada Cajas

A little further down in altitude is a tropical rainforest. This part of the drive lasts about 20 to 30 minutes with lush green foliage and palm trees often blanketed in a shroud of fog.

The Plains to Guayaquil

9 Cuenca to La Entrada Cacao

Once we left the rainforest, we entered the flat plains on the way to Guayaquil. This isn’t a great picture since we were in a rapidly moving buseta (a small passenger bus operated by Operazuaytur), but these are cacao trees (bushes?). Ecuador is known for its amazing, high quality chocolate and most of Ecuador’s cacao is grown in this region and south of here.

Cacao is a very picky plant and will only grow in very specific conditions near the equator making this area perfect for the beans that will become the magic dark brown elixir to the gods.

10 Cuenca to La Entrada Bananas

Ecuador is also a huge exporter of bananas. We used to buy Ecuadorian bananas in Denver. They’re covered with plastic bags to minimize pesticide exposure. Hopefully, they recycle all that plastic.

11 Cuenca to La Entrada Toll Booth

There are several toll booths between El Cajas and Guayaquil. A car costs 25 cents if I remember correctly. Commercial vehicles like the buseta that we were in have different rates, apparently based on the number of people since I heard the driver tell the toll booth attendant how many people were onboard.

Guayaquil, Ecuador

12 Cuenca to La Entrada Guayaquil

A long bridge over Río Guayas delivered us into the heart of Guayaquil, Ecuador, just south of the airport and bus terminal. The busetas are run by a private company with their own drop off location near the airport. When we got off the buseta, a line of taxis were waiting to take people to places unknown.

Our plan was to take a taxi to the bus terminal, which was about a 5 minute drive away. However, the taxi driver asked us where we were going and offered to drive us all the way to Montañita, Ecuador for $80. It took us less than 3 hours in a taxi, but the bus ($7/ticket) takes between 4 and 5 hours. My back was already hurting from the buseta ride, so we decided to take him up on it.

Sadly for him, he got a speeding ticket about halfway there. He was going 9 kilometers over the speed limit (that’s about 5 miles/hour). I’m pretty sure a taxi on the highway with two gringos in it had something to do with that ticket….

13 Cuenca to La Entrada Hand Sculpture

Ecuador has lots of these giant sculptures along the major roads. We’ve noticed more of them in Guayaquil and Quito than in Cuenca, but Cuenca does have a few unique sculptures.

14 Cuenca to La Entrada Street Vendors

Street vendors are also common throughout Ecuador. As soon as the light turns red, people come from out of nowhere selling everything from bottled water and food, to electronics and floor rugs. It’s like IKEA comes to you for 2 minutes, and then disappears into thin air!

Ecuador’s Southern Coast

15 Cuenca to La Entrada Fish Shacks

The first ocean sighting may not look like much, with beachfront shacks galore. But these are actually fishing shacks that are bustling with activity in the mornings. The fishermen go out in their boats at night and return in the morning to sell what they caught.

As vegans, we’re not in support of this activity, but these aren’t giant commercial fishing boats dragging nets behind their boats for miles scraping everything off the seafloor and capturing everything from fish to dolphins, turtles and baby whales. These are tiny fishing boats with one or two guys on them. They’ve been doing this for generations so convincing them to stop won’t be easy. My guess is they’ll be forced to stop in the next 20 years when there are no more fish to be caught and the oceans are dead thanks to the industrial fishing operations.

Please, for your own health and the survival of our oceans, stop buying seafood!

16 Cuenca to La Entrada Oil Dock

This is an oil pipeline dock that goes out into the sea. On the other side of the highway is what appeared to be an oil holding station. It wasn’t a refinery; it only had large storage tanks. I’m guessing they pump the oil from the tanks out to oil tankers.

Before the oil bust, oil was one of Ecuador’s main sources of income. Now they have a more balanced portfolio with food and flower exports, some manufacturing, and tourism.

17 Cuenca to La Entrada Horse Pasture

We saw so many different types of terrain and climates on our short 6 hour ride from Cuenca to La Entrada it was sometimes hard to believe. Close your eyes for 5 minutes in a dessert and you might wake up in a rainforest! This picturesque farm looks like it could be a Kentucky horse ranch. On the other side of the highway from this ranch is the ocean and beaches. What a diverse country!

Villa de Los Sueños, La Entrada, Ecuador

18 Cuenca to La Entrada Villa de Los Sueños 1

The tide was out when we arrived and the rocky oceanfront off the back of Villa de Los Sueños was clearly visible. Most of the beaches in this area are very wide and sandy, but they’re rocky in front of the B&B. It was only a short 2 minute walk south on the beach to get to the sandy shores where you can swim or boogie board. Surfing is popular in Montañita and Olón a little bit south of La Entrada, but the waves weren’t quite big enough on this stretch of beach.

19 Cuenca to La Entrada Villa de Los Sueños 2

We rented the penthouse apartment, mainly for the kitchen so we could cook our vegan fare, but we were really happy with the larger room size, private hot tub and amazing views of the ocean.

The owners are Shell and Marsha. On our first night there, Shell took us into Olón to buy some vegan staples such as fruits, veggies, rice, pasta and hot sauce. We cooked several meals in our room and had romantic dinners with ocean views and sounds. We’ll share more about our amazing, relaxing stay at Villa de Los Sueños in Part 3 of this series.

Share the Love

We hope you enjoyed the first part of our trip to Ecuador’s Southern Coast. Please remember to like, comment and share our video, and also subscribe to our YouTube channel. If you’d like us to make a video about something specific or if you have questions, please let us know in the comments.

Links to Info & Places We Visited in the Video

Turi Church Stairs, Mall del Rio & Feria Mascotas in Cuenca Ecuador (Episode 5)

Today, we decided to hike up the 439 stairs to the Turi Church again, just for exercise (yes, I also think Amelia is trying to kill me!). Then we circled around to Mall del Río where we went shopping for a new pair of shoes for me, but we bought Amelia new shoes and shirts, instead. Then we went to Parque El Paraíso for the Feria Mascotas (Pet Fair).

We hope you enjoy seeing the beautiful scenery, our shopping experience and the interesting things we see along the way. We’ve also included some Spanish language learning opportunities for you.

Please LIKE, COMMENT and SHARE this video, and SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel.

People & Places (and Animals)

Turi Church Cuenca Ecuador

Turi Church Cuenca Ecuador

We like to hike up the 439 stairs to the Turi Church mainly for exercise, but the views are also incredible. Check out our other Turi Church Hike in Cuenca Ecuador for more info on Turi and more beautiful scenery.

Recoja el Excremento De Su Mascota

Recoja el Excremento Cuenca Ecuador

This sign reads “recoja el excremento de su mascota” which literally translates to “pick up your pet’s excrement” but a more accurate translation would be “pick up your dog’s poop.”

These signs instructing people to pick up after their pets are in most parks, but they don’t provide poo bags, so remember to bring your own.

Río Yanuncay – Cuenca Ecuador

Yanuncay River Cuenca Ecuador

There are 5 (yes, I was right) ríos or rivers that run through Cuenca: Tomebamba, Yanuncay, Tarqui, Milchichig and Machangara. The Tarqui runs into the Yanuncay. Then the Yanuncay, Milchichig and Machangara all feed the Tomebamba river. The Tomebamba river joins other rivers in Ecuador, and eventually feeds the Amazon River that leads to the Atlantic Ocean over a course that’s nearly 4,000 miles long.

Río Tarqui – Cuenca Ecuador

Tarqui River Cuenca Ecuador

The Tarqui River joins the Yanuncay River not far east from where Amelia is standing. Then the Yanuncay River meets the Tomebamba River on the easternmost end of Parque El Paraíso.

Tarqui River Park

Tarqui River Park Cuenca Ecuador

I’m not sure what the name of this park is, but it’s right next to the Tarqui River. Cuenca has a lot of these types of beautiful statues/art in their parks.

Shopping & Offices

Veinticuatro de Mayo Shopping & Offices Cuenca Ecuador

There are a lot of new developments around Cuenca, despite a tax law passed by the former president, Correa, that nearly killed the construction industry in Ecuador. The new president, Moreno, had a special referendum and the people overwhelmingly voted to remove the tax and now construction is expected to resume.

As a result of the decreased construction over the past few years, there is a major housing shortage in Ecuador, and especially, Cuenca. Due to the shortage of supply and increased demand, the cost of both homes for rent and for sale has increased. This has forced thousands of young people in Cuenca to continue living with their parents, even after they get married and have children. They’re hopeful that more housing construction will increase the supply and decrease the cost.

Gato Raro (Rare Cat)

Street Cat Cuenca Ecuador

There are cats in Ecuador, but they’re not nearly as common as dogs. We rarely see cats on the street, most likely because of the abundance of dogs that roam the streets looking for food. It’s reasonable to assume street cats don’t have a long life expectancy here….

Roundabouts Galore in Ecuador

Panamericana Highway Roundabout Cuenca Ecuador

Los redondeles or roundabouts are far more common here than in the states. The majority of major intersections are roundabouts, and they’re also common in the middle of highways, like this one in the Panamerican Highway.

Stop signs also seem to be completely optional here. “Pare” means stop, but very few people stopped at this one. As you can see in the video, the silver truck blew through it at about 50 mph!

Turi Stairs – Cuenca Ecuador

Amelia Turi Church Stairs Cuenca Ecuador

Amelia loves to torture me with exercise, especially the Turi stairs. There are 439 steps up to the Turi Church and I always spend most of it looking at her backside. Thankfully, it’s a nice view 😁

It’s a tough hike, but the views are amazing!

Turi Church (La Iglesia de Turi) – Cuenca Ecuador

Turi Church Cuenca Ecuador

The bells were ringing when we reached the top of the stairs, as you can hear in the video. The Turi Church can be seen from most places in the city below, but it’s even more spectacular up close.

View from the Turi Church

View from Turi Church Cuenca Ecuador

This is the reward when you reach the top of the stairs in Turi. You can see the New Cathedral off in the distance, and the Cuenca airport is barely visible on the upper right of the photo. The road that runs diagonally up the middle of the photo is Avenida Solano.

Ancient Riverbed Far Above Cuenca Ecuador

Riverbed Far Above Cuenca Ecuador

Walking along Av Mirador de Turi heading west from the Turi Church, we spotted this ancient riverbed that’s about 400 feet above the main city of Cuenca. It’s fascinating to see this so far up the side of a mountain.

Laundry Day Cuenca Ecuador

Laundry Day Cuenca Ecuador

Ecuadorians love their dogs and hanging their laundry out to dry. Sunday seems to be a common laundry day here, and everything from towels to bras can be seen waving in the breeze in front, behind or on top of people’s houses.

Wonder Woman Billboard

Wonder Woman Billboard Cuenca Ecuador

Av Mirador de Turi meets back up with the Panamerican Highway, which took us to Mall del Río. There are lots of billboards along the highways in Ecuador, and many advertise American brands.

This billboard is an ad for Justice League and reads “La Mujer Maravilla Se Ve Mejor En Una Televisión TCL” which translates to “Wonder Woman looks better on a TCL television.” TCL is an electronics company that sells TVs so this appears to be a cross-promotional ad for the Justice League movie and TCL televisions.

This is our first time living abroad so it’s interesting to see America from outside the states. One thing we have noticed is the abundance of American pop culture here. It seems that entertainment (and fast food) is now America’s biggest export, especially since most manufactured things come from China.

We visited Nectar, one of our favorite tiendas in El Centro, and the owner’s daughter was wearing a tiara on her head and empty toilet paper rings around both wrists. I asked who she was and her dad said she was La Mujer Maravilla or Wonder Woman. I’m not sure why, but it was surprising to see a little girl in the middle of Ecuador dressed up as Wonder Woman.

Mall del Río – Cuenca Ecuador

Mall del Rio Cuenca Ecuador

Mall del Río is one of the major malls in Cuenca. It has everything you’d expect to see in a mall in the states: a food court, electronics stores and lots of upscale clothing stores. Since online shopping isn’t a thing here yet, malls and shopping centers are still very popular.

Eddie Bauer in Mall del Río – Cuenca Ecuador

Eddie Bauer in Mall del Rio Cuenca Ecuador

American brands like Eddie Bauer are common here, although most of the products come from China. We’ve found the prices to be similar on most things: Some prices are higher, some are lower and some are about the same.

If you want higher quality clothing, you’ll need to go to a nicer store and you’ll spend more. But there are lots of nice and affordable products that are made in Ecuador, too.

Mall del Río Food Court

Mall del Rio Food Court Cuenca Ecuador

The food court in Mall del Río has all the American fast food joints you’d recognize, including McDonald’s, Burger King and KFC. Ecuador has seen a massive increase in health related illnesses like obesity and diabetes over the past decade, and these are no doubt contributing to it. We haven’t seen anything vegan-friendly in the food court aside from salads at the fast food places.

Coral in Mall del Río

Mall del Rio Coral Cuenca Ecuador

You can barely see the store in this photo, but Coral is located on the far end of the mall. It’s the largest store in the mall, and possibly in Cuenca. It’s like a Super Walmart crossed with a Home Depot. They carry everything from food and clothing, to microwaves and bathtubs. We’ll show you the inside on a future video.

Amelia’s New Shirt from Divad Closet in Mall del Río

Amelia's New Shirt from Divad Closet in Mall del Rio Cuenca Ecuador

We went to mall to find a new pair of walking shoes for me, but we struck out on that. However, Amelia found a pair of shoes (los zapatos) and a couple blouses (las blusas).

Since we’ve been here, both of us have lost so much weight that none of our clothes fit properly…and we didn’t have that much weight to lose! We ate a healthy plant-based diet and walked a lot back in Denver, but the food is different here and we walk even more.

They don’t allow GMO’s so they don’t have RoundUp and a lot of the produce is organic and from ancient seeds that haven’t been modified genetically.

The veggies are ugly as hell, but they taste amazing. They’re full of flavor and juiciness like the fruits and veggies we used to have as a kid back in the 70’s and 80’s before food was ruined in the states by Big Ag and government corruption.

We also walk a lot more here than we did back home, over 10,000 steps on a typical day. Some weekends, we clock over 20 miles walking around town, taking Daisy for a walk and walking up to Turi.

And we go to the gym most weekdays. I mainly go to the gym for physical therapy for my back, which I couldn’t afford in the states. Amelia goes because she loves working out and sweating her ass off.

All of this healthy eating and exercise has trimmed a few inches off our waistlines, which means we need new clothes.

C-3PO Shoes from Divad Closet in Mall del Río

C-3PO Shoes from Divad Closet in Mall del Rio Cuenca Ecuador

Bright, shiny platform shoes, like Amelia’s new gold C-3PO shoes, are very popular here. Since the average height for a female in Ecuador is 5 feet tall, platform shoes give them a few extra inches.

Some of the platform shoes have high heels (what we call stripper shoes back in the states) adding 5 or 6 inches to their height! It’s common to see women walking down cobblestone sidewalks and streets in 5 inch stiletto platform shoes! I don’t know how they do it without falling!

Divad Closet Faux Fur in Mall del Río

Divad Closet Faux Fur in Mall del Rio Cuenca Ecuador

We have found a lot of cruelty-free products here, from cosmetics to clothing. Veganism is growing here, and most people are at least aware of animal cruelty issues in the products they buy.

When it comes up that we are vegan, several Ecuadorians (a cab driver, a tour guide, a business owner, a waiter, etc.) have asked us if we’re healthier now. Not one Ecuadorian has asked us where we get our protein.

In the states, we’ve been programmed through corporate junk science, overt marketing messages, and subtle plugs on the news and in entertainment, that a vegan diet is unhealthy. That you won’t get enough nutrients eating only plants. That you’ll die of an unheard of protein deficiency.

But here, in a developing country in South America, they haven’t been brainwashed and manipulated for corporate greed. And they know more about nutrition than the average American who thinks they know everything.

Our Sales Assistant at Divad Closet in Mall del Río

Divad Closet Assistant in Mall del Rio Cuenca Ecuador

This delightful young woman helped Amelia with her shopping at Divad Closet. She didn’t speak very much English, so I was able to practice my Spanish with her while Amelia was trying on clothes.

Like so many of the people we meet in Cuenca, she is from Venezuela. Another refugee from a corrupt government and a collapsing society. She has been in Cuenca for over 6 months. Ecuador is now home to thousands of Venezuelan refugees.

There is a difference between the Venezuelan accent and the Cuencano accent, which is different from other parts of Ecuador. The Venezuelan accent is closer to an accent you would hear in Spain. They speak with a bit of a lisp and pronounce some words differently than Ecuadorians.

The Cuencano accent is very melodic. Ecuadorians outside Cuenca say it sounds like they are singing, and it does. The Cuencano accent is very beautiful, and reminds me of a French accent.

People from the coast of Ecuador drop consonants from the end of words, making it very difficult to understand for gringos learning Spanish. Since Cuencanos speak more slowly and melodically than other Ecuadorians and South Americans, this is the perfect place to learn spanish.

Trail to Parque El Paraíso – Cuenca Ecuador

Trail to Parque El Paraíso Cuenca Ecuador

There are LOTS of walking trails in Cuenca. This one runs along Avenida Diez de Agosto and leads to Parque El Paraíso, our favorite park in Cuenca. The Yanuncay river is behind the trees on the right side of this photo.

Feria Mascotas at Parque El Paraíso

Feria Mascotas at Parque El Paraíso in Cuenca Ecuador

It seems like everyone has a dog in Ecuador. Multiple dogs in most cases. When we take Daisy for a walk around our neighborhood, nearly every yard and courtyard has one or more dogs that bark at us.

This pet fair was mainly for dogs, but we saw a couple of cat oriented booths, as well. It was packed with people and dogs, which made Daisy (and me) very nervous. We knew a woman that was running one of the fundraiser booths, but there were so many people we couldn’t get in to see her.

Pet Adoption at Feria Mascotas

Feria Mascotas Adoption at Parque El Paraíso in Cuenca Ecuador

Several booths had pets available for adoption. The sign in this photo reads, “La adopción es la mejor opción” which translates to “Adoption is the best option.”

There’s a big push here to adopt pets from the numerous shelters around town, but there are still several puppy mill stores. We cringe every time we walk by one.

It was nice to see so many people supporting responsible pet companionship, but it was just too crowded for us, so we left after 10 or 15 minutes.

Share the Love

We hope you enjoyed our hike up to Turi, our shopping experience at Mall del Río, and Feria Mascotas in Cuenca, Ecuador today.

Please remember to like, comment and share our video, and also subscribe to our YouTube channel. If you’d like us to make a video about something specific or if you have questions, please let us know in the comments.

Spanish Words & Phrase

Recoja el excremento de su mascota – Pick up your pet’s excrement
el río – the river
el gato – the cat
los redondeles – the roundabouts
pare – stop
Mall del Río – Mall of the River
La Mujer Maravilla Se Ve Mejor En Una Televisión – Wonder Woman looks better on television
..en el mall siempre encuentras moda actual – ..in the mall you always find current fashion
comida rapida – fast food
la blusa – the blouse
los zapatos – the shoes
gordo – fat
la casa – the house
Feria de Mascotas – Pet Fair
la adopción es la mejor opción – adoption is the best option

Links to Info & Places We Visited in the Video

Belly Dancing at Fratello Vegan, Music Festival & Sabatino’s Artisanal Market in Cuenca Ecuador (Episode 4)

Today, we visited Sabatino’s Artisanal Market to get some organic peanut butter, vegan fudge, bread and other stuff. Then we stumbled upon a music festival at Otorongo Plaza celebrating 80 year anniversary of a local music conservatory. Then we went to Fratello Vegan for a delicious lunch and belly dancing performed by Academia Profesional de Danza Clásica “Tersícore”.

We hope you enjoy seeing the beautiful organic food, scenery and people of Cuenca, Ecuador. We’ve also included some Spanish language learning opportunities for you.

Please LIKE, COMMENT and SHARE this video, and SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel.

People & Places

Yo Soy Groot (I Am Groot)

Tomebamba Graffiti Cuenca Ecuador

American pop culture is very, well, popular here. American TV commercials, movies, music, billboards, fast food restaurants and even graffiti art can be found everywhere, just like this tribute to the loveable Guardians of the Galaxy character, Groot. Even Yoda and Darth Maul can be found brandishing their infamous lightsabers.

Yoda Graffiti Cuenca Ecuador

Graffiti is a prevalent blemish on an otherwise clean city. In an effort to cover some of it, graffiti artists (probably the same ones responsible for the unsanctioned graffiti) are hired to paint large murals like this one. Most of these murals have remained untagged so it appears to be an effective deterrent.

However, if they really want to curtail the non-artistic graffiti, they need a national registry for spray paint, and a minimum age to buy it.

Tomebamba River Walk Cuenca Ecuador

Tomebamba River Walk Cuenca Ecuador

The Tomebamba riverwalk in Cuenca, Ecuador is one of the most beautiful cobblestone paths on the planet. It’s lush and green, and lined with flowering trees and bushes. It follows the Tomebamba river from Otorongo Plaza on the west side of El Centro to Parque Paraiso on the east side.

There are also several restaurants along the path with amazing views of the river and patios that are perfect for people watching.

Bike Lanes a Plenty in Cuenca, Ecuador

Bike Lanes Cuenca Ecuador

Bike lanes are being added all over to make the city more bicycle friendly. They want to encourage more people to ride their bikes to work and school. The main reason for this initiative is to reduce the increasing traffic congestion and pollution, but also to improve people’s health.

Like most developing countries, Ecuador is seeing a rise in diet and exercise related health problems as people transition away from their traditional starchy fruit, vegetable and whole grain diets with minimal meat, to the western diet that’s high in processed foods, fast foods, sugar, salt and animal products.

With economic growth and easier access to cars, motorcycles, smartphones and TV’s, Ecuadorians are also spending less time walking and exercising. As a result, “Over the past decade, Ecuador has experienced a higher burden of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes, hypertension, stroke, ischemic heart disease and pneumonia, which are now the leading causes of death. Overweight and obesity are widely prevalent across all age groups.” [source]

It’s additionally distressing to hear unhealthy gringos doling out nutrition advice. Ecuadorians are being told to eat less of their traditional low-fat, starchy diets that have kept them lean for millenium. Instead, they’re being told to replace their traditional foods with more meat, dairy and eggs…the very foods (along with processed foods) that have already created a health epidemic in western developed countries.

The “diseases of affluence” like obesity, heart disease, diabetes, stroke, etc., are largely due to the increase in saturated fats and calories from animal products, combined with a more sedentary lifestyle. The best advice we gringos could give the Ecuadorians is to ignore the western nutrition advice and go back to the way they used to eat. Oh, and put down the smartphone and go for a walk.

Magnolia Café in Otorongo Plaza

Magnolia Cafe Cuenca Ecuador

Magnolia Café in Otorongo Plaza (Plaza del Otorongo, en español) on the east side of El Centro has a descent veggie burger, delicious papas fritas (French fries) and reasonably priced Club Verdes. They also have a really nice covered patio with a good view of Otorongo Plaza that’s perfect for people watching.

Be sure to ask for your papas fritas “sin mayonesa,” which means “without mayonnaise.” Most of the restaurants that we’ve been to in Ecuador serve papas fritas with mayonnaise instead of ketchup, and it’s usually served in little bowls so it gets thrown out if you don’t eat it. Ketchup is called “salsa de tomate” and mustard is called “mostaza” so ask for that instead.

Sabatino’s Artisanal Popup Market

Sabatinos Artisanal Market Cuenca Ecuador

Sabatino’s artisanal popup market occurs on the first Saturday of the month and it’s at Tutto Matto on Ave. Solano on the third Saturday of the month. You can keep track of the popup markets on GringoPost.

These popup markets aren’t vegan, but they do have lots of vegan options, like bread from ArteSana and organic peanut butter and vegan fudge from Franco Orgánico.

Franco Orgánico at Sabatino’s Artisanal Market in Cuenca Ecuador

Franco Orgánico Cuenca Ecuador

One of our favorite vendors at Cuenca’s artisanal popup markets is Franco Orgánico. He sells the most delicious natural organic peanut butter, vegan fudge, sweet potatoes, vegan crackers, coffee, squash and other things. He’s fluent in English and loves to tell us about his foods. He also sells in Loja and Vilcabamba in southern Ecuador.

Franco Orgánico Peanuts Cuenca Ecuador

Franco’s peanuts come from an ancient species of peanut that look and taste different than what we’re used to in the states. They have a different shape, they’re softer and they have a milder flavor. He makes his peanut butter by grinding the peanuts without any other ingredients. No preservatives, oil or other mystery chemicals. It’s all natural and delicious!

Vegan Bread from ArteSana

ArteSana Kelvert Cuenca Ecuador

Our favorite bread vender at Cuenca’s popup markets is ArteSana Panadería y Pastelería (bakery and cake shop). Not all of their products are vegan, so be sure to ask. But most of their bread is vegan, like their delicious sourdough bread and chia seed loaves. Tell Kelvert JP and Amelia sent you!

Music Festival at Otorongo Plaza

Accordion Float Cuenca Ecuador

As we were leaving Sabatino’s, this single parade float was passing by so we followed it to Otorongo Plaza. Ecuador has over 500 holidays a year, so it’s common to see small parades and festivals on the weekends, as well as during the week.

The music festival at Otorongo Plaza was celebrating the 80th birthday of the Conservatorio José María Rodríguez here in Cuenca. The sign on the float reads: 80 years – The accordion area pays homage to the conservatory. Accordions are a popular instrument in Ecuador, and you’ll often see them being played on street corners for tips (propinas). These are teenagers playing them on the float.

We’re pretty sure this float was part of a larger parade up the hill from Otorongo Plaza in El Centro because a lot of people and marching musicians came down the stairs while we were watching.

Music Festival Otorongo Stairs Cuenca Ecuador

Amelia and her Café at Magnolia

Amelia Cafe Magnolia Cuenca Ecuador

We decided to grab a seat on the patio of Magnolia Café to watch the festivities and enjoy una taza de café Americano (a cup of Americano coffee).

Dancing at the Music Festival

Music Festival Dancing Cuenca Ecuador

Unfortunately, the video and the pictures of the music festival came out blurry due to an equipment malfunction. We were really disappointed because the dancing and dancers were so beautiful in their vintage dresses. 😔

Taxi Ride Back to Fratello

Taxi Ride Cuenca Ecuador

After we left the music festival, we walked across the river to Fratello, but it had started to mist and the temperature had dropped so we went home first to get some warmer clothes.

We normally walk everywhere, averaging more than 5 miles per weekday and 10 miles on the weekend. But to save time, we took a taxi back to Fratello, which is about 1.5 miles from our house.

Taxis are very affordable here. As you can see from the little yellow and green meter on the dashboard, we were almost to Fratello and it only cost $1.37. It was less than $2 with tip for a 10 minute cab ride. We’ve been told it’s common to tip 10 to 25 cents, but we usually round up to the nearest cincuenta centavos (50 cents).

We also like to practice our Spanish with the cab drivers. It’s a good use of time and they usually like talking about their city and lives in Cuenca. Don’t be surprised if they ask you personal questions, like how much money you make, if you’re married, have kids, how many kids or why you don’t have any kids. Children are a central part of the Latin culture and it’s common for Ecuadorian couples to have 3 or more kids, so a lot of the conversation revolves around children.

Fratello Vegan – Cuenca’s Only Fully Vegan Restaurant

Fratello Vegan Cuenca Ecuador

Fratello Vegan is one of our favorite restaurants in Cuenca. They have delicious vegan comfort food, like pizza, burritos, empanadas and ice cream. It’s a little off the beaten path, so you probably won’t stumble upon it by accident. However, it has a beautiful view of the Tomebamba River from its outdoor patio.

While the patio area is covered and they have heaters, it can get a little chilly there on an overcast or rainy day, so be sure to dress in layers and take a jacket.

Helado Vegano (Vegan Ice Cream)

Fratello Vegan Ice Cream Cuenca Ecuador

Helado (ice cream) is extremely popular in Ecuador. You’ll often see lots of people walking down the street eating an ice cream cone, and it seems like every street has una heladería (an ice cream shop). However, while most heladerías have at least one vegan option, Fratello is the only fully vegan heladería in Cuenca.

And they make the most amazing vegan ice cream! I had the chocolate mint ice cream and it tasted just like a peppermint patty. Amelia had the wine ice cream and it was delicious, too.

Belly Dancing at Fratello Vegan

Fratello Vegan Belly Dancing Cuenca Ecuador

Fratello also hosts a variety of cultural, health and vegan related events. Today, we were treated to a belly dancing performance by Academia Profesional de Danza Clásica “Tersícore”. The woman on the right is the instructor, Caterina, who teaches classes in the ATS style of belly dancing.

Amelia is taking belly dancing classes from Julio at The Tribal Fusion House, a different instructor who is part of the Tribal Fusion style of belly dancing. I’m not qualified to discuss the differences, but both look fun and beautiful to me.

Fratello Vegan Belly Dancing Cuenca Ecuador

Amelia Enjoying a Belly Dancing Class at Fratello Vegan

Fratello Vegan Belly Dancing Class Cuenca Ecuador

After the kids and professionals performed, Caterina taught a class and Amelia was very excited to participate in it. It’s the first time I’ve seen Amelia belly dance and I was really impressed, especially since she’s only been taking lessons for a short time. You can watch the full video below.

And she’s almost 50 years old! After 2 years of eating a plant-based, vegan diet, she has really rolled back time!

Share the Love

We hope you enjoyed our adventure to Sabatino’s Artisanal Market, the Music Festival at Otorongo Plaza and Belly Dancing at Fratello Vegan in Cuenca, Ecuador today. Please remember to like, comment and share our video, and also subscribe to our YouTube channel. If you’d like us to make a video about something specific or if you have questions, please let us know in the comments.

Spanish Words & Phrases

yo soy Groot – I am Groot
orgánico – organic
¿Cómo se dice? – How do you say?
Panadería y Pastelería – bakery and cake shop
sin mayonesa – without mayonnaise
salsa de tomate – ketchup
mostaza – mustard
papas fritas – French fries
80 años: el área de acordeón rinde homenaje al Conservatorio – 80 years: The accordion area pays homage to the conservatory
propinas – tips
una taza de café Americano – a cup of Americano coffee
cincuenta centavos – 50 cents
Vamos al restaurante Fratello – We’re going to the Fratello restaurant
Está a la derecha un poco más lejos. – It’s on the right a little further.
¿Sabe Fratello? – Do you know Fratello?
helado – ice cream
una heladería – an ice cream shop
¿Cómo está la empanada? – How is the empanada?

Links to Info & Places We Visited in the Video

Mercado 27 de Febrero Organic Thursday Market in Cuenca Ecuador (Episode 3)

On most Thursday mornings, you can find us at the organic popup market outside Mercado 27 de Febrero in Cuenca Ecuador. It’s a short 10 minute walk from our house so it’s very convenient.

We’re not 100% sure everything is truly organic, but everything is 100% beautiful and delicious. And since the prices are so reasonable, we figure it’s worth it, regardless.

We hope you enjoy seeing the beautiful fruits and veggies, and the interesting people we talk to at our favorite mercado. We’ve also included some Spanish language learning opportunities for you.

Please LIKE, COMMENT and SHARE this video, and SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel.

People & Places (and Animals)

Happy Dog

Happy Street Dog Cuenca Ecuador

It’s common to see dogs, stray or otherwise, walking down the sidewalk like they’re heading to work…and some are. They have places they frequent where people feed them or food scraps can be found. Then they return home at the end of the day.

The dogs here are much smarter than those in the states. We’ve actually seen dogs stop and look both ways before crossing the street. They go about their days here just like they’re little furry humans.

Mercado 27 de Febrero in Cuenca Ecuador

Mercado 27 de Febrero in Cuenca Ecuador

The mercado is usually bustling with activity, but we were there very early on this Thursday morning because our littlest dog woke us up at 5:30am to go outside. A lot of the shops in the mercado weren’t open yet, but the organic market was already busy.

Mercado 27 de Febrero Organic Thursday Market

Mercado 27 de Febrero in Cuenca Ecuador

We love the fresh and delicious fruits and veggies at the organic Thursday market. And the people are super nice and helpful. We usually visit the same people every week for the same things.

These are our yellow potato and avocado ladies. And we sometimes buy other things from them, too.

DELICIOUS Yellow Potatoes!

Potatoes Mercado 27 de Febrero in Cuenca Ecuador

We always have some of these on hand for snacks and side dishes. I cook a big batch in our pressure cooker and keep them in the fridge. Then we just warm them up in the microwave (microwaving is healthy, despite the misconceptions).

They’re so buttery and delicious that you can eat them without anything on them. However, we usually top them with hot sauce, Tabasco, salsa, refried beans or just a little salt and pepper.

Amazing Avocados

Avocados at Mercado 27 de Febrero in Cuenca Ecuador

Avocados are usually 3 or 4 for a dollar, and they’re deliciously creamy. They also last a long time, unlike avocados in the states. You can buy a soft avocado and it’ll still be good to eat 3 or 4 days later. However, if you buy a hard avocado, you’ll need to wait a week or two before it’s ripe enough to eat.

Tasty Tomatoes

Tomatoes at Mercado 27 de Febrero in Cuenca Ecuador

The tomatoes are juicy and delicious, just like the tomatoes from my grandpa’s garden when I was a kid. You can literally eat them like an apple. Be sure to get ones that are a little soft when squeezed. We’ve found some that have a tough inner layer. They still taste good, but they’re not as juicy.

Guanábanas (Soursop)

Guanábana at Mercado 27 de Febrero in Cuenca Ecuador

This is a large, prehistoric looking fruit. The inside is white and fleshy with lots of large black seeds. Amelia loves these, but they’re too sour for my taste. I prefer chirimoyas (sweet sops), which are smaller and taste like cotton candy.

Pitahaya (Dragon Fruit)

Pitahaya (Dragon Fruit) Mercado 27 de Febrero Cuenca Ecuador

The yellow funky look fruit in this picture is called a Pitahaya (or Dragon Fruit). It has a white, juicy interior with little black seeds, and it tastes like candy.

It’s super sweet and delicious, but it’s commonly used for constipation relief. In fact, it works so well, I’m usually heading to the bathroom within an hour of eating one! That means I don’t eat them very often, unfortunately. 😔

Adding Up the Price

Adding the Price at Mercado 27 de Febrero in Cuenca Ecuador

It seems that most things at the mercados are sold in one dollar increments. You can ask for 50 cents (cincuenta centavos) or $2 or some other amount, but most things start at $1.

Once you’ve picked out everything you want, they’ll put it in your bags and add the price up as they go. We bought $7.50 worth of fruit and veg from this vendor, and another $7.50 from another vendor today.

One thing we really like about Ecuador is that they use the dollar for their currency. Not only does it make shopping much easier (we don’t need to do currency translations in our heads), but the dollars we earned back in the US go much further here. The $15 worth of organic produce we bought today would have easily cost us $80 to $100 in Denver (and they wouldn’t have tasted as good).

Amelia’s Shocked Face

Amelia Surprised at Mercado 27 de Febrero in Cuenca Ecuador

We were at an outdoor clothing and housewares market a couple weeks ago and Amelia accidentally walked off with a purse without paying for it. We noticed before we got too far and she took it back, but she almost did the same thing again today! She had a bag of fruit on her arm under her coat… Should we be worried? 🤔

Washing the Fruits and Veggies

Washing Fruits and Veggies from Mercado 27 de Febrero in Cuenca Ecuador

We always wash the fruits and veggies as soon as we get home so they’re ready to eat when we want them. Even though these are (supposedly) organic, they still need to be washed, especially the veggies.

They sell veggie wash in the grocery stores here, but we don’t use it. I “Gregered” this topic when we went plant-based and found that vinegar works better than the chemical washes, and simple salt water works even better than vinegar.

All you need is a 10% salt water solution (that’s 1 part salt to 10 parts water) to clean your veggies. We also scrub the veggies with a brush to get them extra clean. Then we rinse them in fresh water to remove the salt and let air dry.

Our Haul from Mercado 27 de Febrero

Fruit and Veggie Haul from Mercado 27 de Febrero in Cuenca Ecuador

This haul of fresh, organic fruits and veggies cost us about $15. Not only are they cheaper here, but they taste 100 times better. They taste like the fruits and veggies tasted when we were kids. They’re juicy, flavorful and delicious.

Amelia & JP Just Having Fun

JP and Amelia Having fun in Cuenca Ecuador

You’ll see in our videos that we like to laugh and have fun. We love living in Ecuador and we’re very thankful to have each other. Sharing this unconventional and exciting experience with a kindred spirit makes it even more enjoyable.

Share the Love

We hope you enjoyed our trip to Mercado 27 de Febrero in Cuenca, Ecuador today. Please remember to like, comment and share our video, and also subscribe to our YouTube channel. If you’d like us to make a video about something specific or if you have questions, please let us know in the comments.

Spanish Words & Phrases

tomate, cebolla – tomato, onion
las papas – the potatoes
Tengo una funda – I have a plastic bag (in Ecuador, funda is more commonly used for plastic bag instead of bolsa)
yapa/yapita – a little extra to say thanks
¿Qué más? – What else? (literally, What more?)
aguacate – avocado
demasiado duro – too hard
coliflor – cauliflower
Sí, por favor – yes please
col rojo – red cabbage
zanahorias – carrots
¿Tienen arvejas? – Do you have peas?
¿Una libra o dos? – One pound or two?
es todo – that’s all (literally, it is all)
la camote – the sweet potato (they’ll know what you mean if you say papa dulce, but camote is the correct word)
la guanábana – the soursop
la pitahaya – the dragon fruit
Creo que es todo para hoy. – I think this is all for today.
la próxima semana – see you next week (literally, next week)
la espinaca – the spinach

Links to Info & Places We Visited in the Video

Turi Church Hike in Cuenca Ecuador (Episode 2)

La Iglesia de Turi Ecuador (The Turi Church) is a beautiful white church situated in the “V” of two mountains on the south side of Cuenca, Ecuador. It can be seen from most places in Cuenca, making it one of Cuenca’s most memorable landmarks.

You can get to Turi by taxi (about $5), by tour bus ($8 from Parque Calderón) or by walking up 439 steps, which is the route we took in the video.

On the day of our hike, there was a Fiesta de Parroquialización de Turi celebrating 165 years since the church was built. The party started at 9am and it was still going strong at 9pm when we went to bed (we could hear it from our house almost 2 miles away).

We hope you enjoy the amazing scenery and interesting people we meet along the way. We’ve also included some Spanish language learning opportunities for you.

Please LIKE, COMMENT and SHARE this video, and SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel.

People & Places (and Animals)

La Iglesia de Turi (The Turi Church) – Cuenca, Ecuador

Turi Church Cuenca Ecuador

 

The Turi Church can be seen throughout Cuenca. It’s nestled between two mountains so the white church looks spectacular against the Ecuadorian blue sky.

On the day of our hike, the church was celebrating its 165 year birthday with a parade and fiesta. The local residents were out in force to watch and participate in the activities.

The Stairs to Turi Ecuador

Stairs to Turi Ecuador

There are 439 steps on the hike up to the Turi Church. At an altitude of more than 8,000 feet, these steps are not for the faint of heart. Several benches offering panoramic views of the city are there for you to use. Take water. Take breaks. Take your time.

The Turi Church – Cuenca, Ecuador

Turi Church Cuenca Ecuador

The church is a beautiful sight from far away and from up close.

Inside the Turi Church

The inside of the Turi Church is pretty typical for an Ecuadorian Catholic church, at least the ones we’ve seen. Some of the older cathedrals that we visited in Quito were more ornate with lots of gold leaf, but the majority of churches look like the Turi Church. It has high ceilings, several religious statues and wooden pews.

Always remember to remove your hat as a sign of respect when visiting the inside of an Ecuadorian church. If you don’t, you’ll get lots of dirty looks and someone will probably ask you to remove it.

The View from Turi

View from Turi Church Cuenca Ecuador

Turi offers amazing views of the Andean valley where the city of Cuenca, Ecuador is located. People have lived in this valley for thousands of years and some of the Incan ruins can be seen from this viewpoint, if you know where to look.

Fiesta de Parroquialización de Turi

Turi Church Parade Cuenca Ecuador

The Turi Church was built in 1853, and the residents were celebrating its birthday on the day of our hike with a Fiesta de Parroquialización de Turi. The indigenous women wore their traditional vibrant colored dresses as they marched in the parade up from the valley behind the church.

Sidewalk Trenches

Turi Sidewalks Cuenca Ecuador

Gaps in the sidewalk are a common occurrence in Ecuador so be careful to watch where you step or you could seriously injure yourself with a 5 to 15 foot fall.

Trash Racks

Trash Rack Cuenca Ecuador

While you’re busy watching for disappearing sidewalks, remember to look up, too. Racks used to keep trash bags out of the reach of stray dogs are used on walls along the sidewalks. For those of us over 5 feet tall, they can really hurt if you walk into one.

Centros de Rehabilitación Social (CRS Turi)

CRS Turi Cuenca Ecuador

This is the local prison or Social Rehabilitation Center located in the picturesque farm community behind the Turi Church. Ecuador has a very low prison population, with its prisons currently at only 38% occupancy.

Part of the reason for the low occupancy rate is culture that provides the basic needs for its population, as well as their successful inmate rehabilitation programs that help keep people from returning once released. “The rehabilitation program includes work, education, sports and other activities to keep everyone busy.”

Turi San Agustín de Punta Corral – Mirador, Turi

San Agustin Church Turi Cuenca Ecuador

We ate our lunch on the steps of the San Agustín Church in Punta Corral, the heart of Mirador Turi.

Church on the Hill

Church on the Hill Turi Cuenca Ecuador

We spotted this tiny church on the hill on our way back home. The Andes mountains in Ecuador are full of amazing views and beautiful churches like this.

Luis de Ecuador

Luis in Turi Cuenca Ecuador

We met Luis and his family on our way back home. He was extremely gracious and offered us a cerveza (beer). He welcomed us to his country, saying “Ecuador es mi país y es su país.” (Ecuador is my country and it is your country.)

His children (niños) were adorable and eager to meet a couple of gringos out walking through their countryside. Luis told us he lived in Michigan for 10 years, which is why he could speak English.

Many Ecuadorians speak English, especially in and around Cuenca. They teach children how to speak English, starting in preschool. And adults who speak English have more job opportunities so it benefits them to learn the language.

We’re often stopped on the street by Ecuadorians asking us if we speak English. They want to practice their English as much as we want to practice our Spanish.

Share the Love

We hope you enjoyed our adventure to the Turi Church and around Turi, Ecuador today. Please remember to like, comment, share and subscribe to our YouTube channel. If you’d like us to make a video about something specific or if you have questions, please let us know in the comments.

Spanish Words & Phrases

Hoy es domingo – Today is Sunday
el cuenco – the bowl
La Ciudad de Cuenca – The Bowl City
la acera – the sidewalk
dos vacas – two cows
el cacto/los cactus – the cactus
Centros de Rehabilitación Social – Social Rehabilitation Center
Turi Le Da La Bienvenida – Turi Welcomes You
la tienda – the store
hola – hi/hello
¿Cómo se llama? – What’s your name?
Da la mano – shake hands
Las montañas son muy bonitas. – The mountains are very beautiful.
con gusto – with pleasure/nice to meet you
Bienvenido a Ecuador – Welcome to Ecuador
Ecuador es mi país y es su país. – Ecuador is my country and it is your country.
Con gusto conocerlos. – Glad to meet you.
¡Chao! – Bye!
la cerveza – the beer

Links to Info & Places We Visited in the Video

Bumba Popup Market, El Centro & Café Libre in Cuenca Ecuador (Episode 1)

Today, we went to the artisanal Bumba Popup Market in Cuenca Ecuador before venturing onward to a popup outdoor textiles market and then to lunch at plant-based/vegan Café Libre restaurant.

We love to visit the artisanal markets like the Bumba Popup Market for fresh, organic, delicious, locally sourced vegan foods.

We hope you enjoy the amazing scenery and interesting people we meet along the way. We’ve also included some Spanish language learning opportunities for you.

Please LIKE, COMMENT and SHARE this video, and SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel.

People & Places (and Animals)

The Roundabout at Av Solano y Remigio Crespo Toral

Av Solano y Av Remigio Crespo Toral Cuenca Ecuador

In this photo, Amelia and I are playing Frogger at a busy intersection in Cuenca near the fútbol (soccer) stadium, Estadio Alejandro Serrano Aguilar, where the Club Deportivo Cuenca plays (that’s Cuenca’s local fútbol team).

In Ecuador, pedestrians do NOT have the right of way. The pecking order from top to bottom is Busses, Taxis, Cars/Trucks, Motorcycles, Dogs and then Humans.

Drivers don’t stop for pedestrians. In fact, we’ve noticed a lot of drivers speed up when pedestrians are trying to cross the street. It seems very odd to us since everyone is a pedestrian at some point in this highly walkable city, and the Ecuadorian people are very tranquilo (calm and nice)…unless they’re driving.

We have seen a few elder Ecuadorians step out into traffic with their arm outstretched in a “stop” gesture and cars come to a screeching halt for them, but I’m not sure that works for young people or gringos. Amelia and I have been too scared to try it.

Having grown up in the fast-paced United States, Amelia and I are fast walkers (like a lot of the gringos who live here). However, unlike us gringos, Ecuadorians are very tranquilo when walking so it’s common for us to experience mild irritation when walking behind people who are strolling on Monday morning like it’s Sunday afternoon. But when they’re behind the wheel of a car, normal tranquilo Ecuadorians turn into NYC taxi cab drivers with only two speeds: stop and fast.

Please, be careful when crossing the street.

Colegio Benigno Malo

Colegio Benigno Malo Cuenca Ecuador

Colegio Benigno Malo is beautiful high school in Cuenca, Ecuador. It has a French neoclassical architecture and was built in 1923.

Students in most of Ecuador’s schools wear uniforms and this one is no different. On most days, the students wear navy blue slacks and a white polo shirt, but on some days, they dress up in skirts and sport coats.

Bumba Popup Market

Bumba Popup Market Cuenca Ecuador

Bumba Fruits & Beer is a popular Ecuadorian hangout with a great view of the Tomebamba river. The Bumba Popup Market is also a big hit with gringos and Ecuadorians alike. Follow Bumba’s Facebook page and keep an eye out on GringoPost for the Bumba Popup Market dates and times.

Rio Tomebamba

Rio Tomebamba Cuenca Ecuador

This is one of the main rivers that runs through Cuenca on the edge of El Centro (the center). It divides the old city and the new(er) city. The Bumba Popup Market is located next to the river, as you can see in the video.

Kelvert from ArteSana

Kelvert from ArteSana Cuenca Ecuador

We visit Kelvert from ArteSana Panadería y Pastelería (ArteSana Bakery and Pastry/Cakery/Cake Shop) at least once and sometimes twice per week. His wife bakes fresh vegan bread with all natural ingredients and Kelvert sells it (and washes the dishes!).

Kelvert also helps us with our Spanish and enjoys teaching us new words like “estaba haciendo ejercicio,” which means “I was exercising.” He sells bread on Tuesday and Thursday at a restaurant next to our gym so it’s super convenient to pick some up on my way home.

Sourdough from ArteSana

ArteSana Sourdough Bread Cuenca Ecuador

Our favorite bread from ArteSana is their sourdough. We have to ration ourselves or we can eat a whole loaf in a day!

The New Cathedral

The New Cathedral Cuenca Ecuador

The New Cathedral of Cuenca is the largest cathedral in Ecuador and the blue domes help give Cuenca its amazing skyline.

Even though this is referred to as the “new” cathedral, construction began in 1885. That’s over 130 years ago! But it’s still newer than the “old” cathedral (see below).

Marisól at the Popup Mercado Next to the New Cathedral

Marisól at The New Cathedral Popup Market Cuenca Ecuador

We’ve visited Marisól before. She sells some very nice sweaters and scarves (bufandas) at the popup market that appears most weekends and holidays. The market has lots of different types of clothes, shoes, jewelry, toys and food.

The Old Cathedral of Cuenca

The Old Cathedral Cuenca Ecuador

La Catedral Antigua de Cuenca or The Old Cathedral of Cuenca was built in 1557, making it over 460 years old. That’s more than 300 years older than the “new” cathedral (see above).

It currently serves as a museum of religious art. I suppose we should venture inside someday, but that’s not really our cup of tea. We’ve seen some of Ecuador’s religious art, and it can be brutal and gory. The Spaniards used religion as a tool of fear and control after they invaded South America, which is reflected in the religious art of the time.

Parque Calderón

Parque Calderón El Centro Cuenca Ecuador

Situated between The New Cathedral and The Old Cathedral, Parque Calderón is a beautiful city park and a popular destination for tourists and locals, alike. We’ll share more details about this park in a future video.

La Iglesia de San Alfonso

La Iglesia de San Alfonso El Centro Cuenca Ecuador

The original smaller La Iglesia de San Alfonso was completed in 1894, but the larger extension shown here was completed in 1911. The designer of the new extension was Huesgen Ziegelmeir, a German architect, which explains why this church looks like something you’d see in Germany rather than South America.

Café Libre Plant-Based Vegan Restaurant

Café Libre Plant-Based Restaurant Cuenca Ecuador

Café Libre is one of my favorite restaurants in Cuenca.  It was also recently voted the “Best New Restaurant in Cuenca” by the popular Ecuadorian website, GringPost.com.

Considering it’s a plant-based restaurant without any meat on its menu, that says a lot about the quality of the food. Not only does it taste delicious, but the presentation is always pictureworthy.

If you’re in Cuenca, you must try this restaurant and tell Paul, the co-owner, that Amelia and JP sent you. While you’re there, if it’s not too busy, ask Paul to tell you the story about how Café Libre came to be. It’s very interesting.

Jack’n Jack Gua Bao (BBQ Jackfruit) at Café Libre

Café Libre BBQ Jackfruit Cuenca Ecuador

This is one of my favorite dishes and I order it regularly. It’s BBQ Jackfruit that Paul sources from Guayaquil. It’s served on a vegan Bao Bun, which is a type of bread that’s steamed instead of baked, making it very soft and doughy. It comes with a side salad and either housemade papas fritas (french fries) or chips (shown here).

Curry Curry Curry at Café Libre

Café Libre Curry Curry Curry Cuenca Ecuador

Amelia ordered this plato principal (main dish) for the first time today and she loved it. As the name implies, or rather, explicitly states, it’s a curry dish with tons of flavor and a variety of colors and textures. It was served with a side of fresh avocado topped with some rock salt and cracked pepper. Yum!

Parque de la Madre

Parque de la Madre Cuenca Ecuador

Parque de la Madre is one of the most popular parks in the city and it’s centrally located between the old El Centro and the newer part of the city to the south. There are always lots of children playing (you can hear the soothing sounds in the video) and adults exercising, playing basketball, talking and relaxing. We’ve even seen running groups and concerts there.

Share the Love

We hope you enjoyed our adventure through Cuenca, Ecuador today. Please remember to like, comment, share and subscribe to our YouTube channel. If you’d like us to make a video about something specific or if you have questions, please let us know in the comments.

Spanish Words & Phrases

el centro – the center
el rio – the river
panadería – bakery
pastelería – pastry/cake shop
¿Te gusta la bufanda? – Do you like the scarf?
Sí, mucho. – Yes, a lot.
¿Cómo se llama? –  What is your name?
Catedral Antigua de Cuenca – The Old Cathedral of Cuenca
Parque Calderón – Calderón Park
Parque de la Madre – Mother’s Park
Canton – area of land referred to as a county in the US
los aretes – the earrings
estaba haciendo ejercicio – I was exercising

Links to Info & Places We Visited in the Video