Sound and Vives: Cuenca from Ecuador


Before to start, I would want to apologize with you guys due to get back to write again my blog after five… yes, 5 years, since I got my new job…  an interesting one actually… but unfortunately, it kept me busy a long time… nevertheless, the good thing is that this role gave me the opportunity to travel to many places… local places, meet local and original people, and ride many experiences which I’m gonna share with you… right now!

Have you heard about Cuenca?… not the city in Spain… I’m talking about the colonial city in Ecuador, located in the south of this small country.  La Atenas from Ecuador as the locals use to refer it, has among many things traditions, architecture, religion and gastronomy… this last one, one of my favorite kind of ways to know about a place and its people.

It was Tuesday at 21:30 and my flight arrived to Cuenca one hour after the official time (not a nice experience… but well.. we would talk about it next time)… as you can imagine as soon I got the hotel, leave my stuff… the first thing on my mind was to look for something to eat… but not in a fancy place (these places used not to be open at that time)… I was looking for a local place!.

I had heard about a place where you can eat a delicious empanada sharing with an amazing Morocho (local drink made it with corn, milk, cinnamon and other secret ingredients). The thing is that you can’t find it in google, trip advisor, the lonely planet book and neither the local tourism website… so you have to get those places with local people.

At 22:00, I was getting lost in the colonial city.. beautiful for its churches and streets that make you feel to be in the colonial epoque.

Coming back on my way … and after to search the place asking many people… the place was finally gotten… ehhhhh…. A small place very simple but cozy.. and with a long row!!… it was located in front of a famous site named as a “Puente Roto” (ref. Second picture)

Clues: The empanada is about 1.50 to 2.00 usd and the Morocho is 2.00 usd. (It’s crazy cheap and delicious)


There are not many chairs… nevertheless, you have the security to sit down in the streets and you can chilling out with friends at the time you taste that amazing local food.

Next day, early in the morning after the breakfast, my first stop was The Cajas National Park (Ramsar site, Biosphere Reserve and one of the most important protected areas in Ecuador), the temperature was around 5 – 9 C degrees.. so I had to fit appropriate clothes.. I didn’t want to become an ice cream..lol… this natural place have more than 50 lagoons inside and it is the principal resource of water to the main city. Also its landscape is part of the most beautiful places to take pictures, hiking, birdwatching, camping, to fish and others.

Check it out…

 


One day is nothing to enjoy the routes and be satisfied for the visit in this amazing protected area. That’s why you always come back.

Tips: the entrance fee to protected areas in Ecuador mainland is free… yes, freee!!!

Back to the hotel in the afternoon, I had to search other local food and very famous for the cuencanos (people who live in Cuenca), “the cascaritas” is pork meat and actually is the skin of the pork burned … (sounds weird but is not)..so my next stop was Don Bosco´s neighborhood, a traditional street where you can enjoy the cascaritas.

Tips: the price is between 2.50 to 5.00 usd. The price includes cascaritas, mote (white corn), smashed potatoes, salad and juice of the day (that means whatever the owner has decided to mix that day… lol…it´s delicious, so don’t be afraid).

As you saw guys the food was pretty heavy for the night, an it was the perfect moment to apply my Hotel management abilities… “let’s go for a drink” 😅. (actually, is very known that a drink after a heavy meal, makes your stomach feel better)

To close the night I went to one of the bars located in the downtown and the beverage selected to “cheer” was not a whisky, wine, neither cocktail… it was a shot of a local and strong liquor, it calls “Zhumir” very local, nevertheless is so famous that you can find it now even in NY.. lol.

So, with friends in the perfect place.. we celebrated our stay in Cuenca with a shoooot… and at the same time we say Good Bye Cuenca… we will come back!…

Ps. This is the pic before the drink… the after one is not allowed in this post…”yet”…lol..

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Weekend in the paradise!

For a person who has almost all the 365 days of the year to live and work in a

Relax and peace
Relax and peace

Busy city, to get a weekend in a place far away, it is a great experience of peace and freedom.

Well, that happened with me few weeks ago. I had the opportunity to be invited in one of the best and very interesting lodges in the Amazon of Ecuador, it calls Yachana a Kichwa word that means “a place for learning”, and

yachana lodge
yachana lodge

for sure I learned.

Yachana Lodge is an Amazon ecotourism destination, which offer more than just an Amazon experience you can get a cultural and a sustainability tourism experience.

We took a flight from Quito to Coca where a guide from Yachana

way to yachana!
way to yachana!

was waiting for us to drive us to take our boat through Napo river to our destination Yachana 2 hours from our start point.

As soon we arrive, we were received for the host and manager of the lodge and then we had a brief explanation about the lodge , its activities and what it was prepared for us…. “such amazing”.

Shuar Family and I
Shuar Family and I

Well, we just had time to choose our boots and then start our first visit to a Shuar Family and learn about them. We learned about their costumes, food, daily activities which are very different of ours, and some of them harder and funny too, like hunting and chopping wood.

After to say good bye to this family, we had time to back to the lodge in a different way, we back in Chaleking (tires buoy trip) which is a great and stunning activity. End of the day after a delicious dinner

back trip to the lodge
back trip to the lodge

Next day, starts with the breakfast and then visit the Primary Forest, riding in a Ranchera, a typical car of the zone. We discovered how the area’s peoples have coexisted with the forest for centuries, and were guided for a naturalist guide who discovered the amazing symbiosis

Primary Forest
Primary Forest

of the animals, birds, trees, plants and insects for us.

Time to lunch, but not a particular one. We participated of a gastronomic adventure in our mouth… looll… we ate typical and exotic food of the Amazon, between them was the “chontacuro” is called a kind of “Escargot” of the Amazon Rain

chontacuro
chontacuro

forest. The Chontacuro lives in the Chonta Palm in the wet Rain forests in the Amazon region. The local indios eat it live, but for us it was too much… so we ate a Chontacuro grilled as part of a brochette, it was no bad, was better that we imagined before to get it.

To visit the project of Yachana was our last visit of the day, a

School project
School project

school of the Amazon where the indigenous youth of the Amazon learn about its organic farm., tourism and management too. End of the day with a typical dance and a farewell dinner.

Last day in the paradise and back to the concrete city has come! and bring our luggage and say good bye to these people was hard but

dance perfomance
dance perfomance

good at the same time.

Have this kind of trips make your life more interesting and then back to your city with the people you love much better.

I hope you have enjoyed this experience and if you need more information about it, just let me know!

Sebastian

Christmas & New Year’s Eve Holiday… Año Viejo in Ecuador

In Ecuador, Christmas used to be a primarily religious holiday. Families in each

Christmas Dinner...

village united for the midnight mass. In front of the church, in the dark night, a bonfire of eucalyptus branches burned while families passed in a processional, carrying ceramic figurines of the Christ child and singing carols.

However, today Christmas is no longer just a religious holiday. In Quito, the malls hang up huge Christmas decorations and have seasonal programs throughout December for children, including visits by Santa Claus. The Ecuadorian Christmas has become just like everywhere else: a time to buy.

Ecuador-New-Years-masks

The celebration of the New Year is one of the most fabulous events of the year.

From the burning of the “Old Year” to the traffic blocks, it’s not an experience to be soon forgotten. The Año Viejo, or Old Year, represents all that was bad in the previous year. The Año Viejo is a dummy with a plastic mask on its face that represents some famous politician or public figure. Each year, you can see the concerns of the country—or at least the concerns of its political parties and activist groups—in the scenes represented by the Old Years.

años viejo sales

Weeks before New Year’s, you can see street-side stands sprout all over the towns and city, selling plastic masks, dummies of all shapes and sizes, and fireworks to prepare for celebrating the Old Year.

As the evening approaches midnight, everyone gathers around their Old Yearand turns on the closest radio, awaiting the announcement.They pull the Año Viejo into the middle of the street: plywood, dummy, and all. A bucket of gasoline is ready to start it burning.

ano viejo burning

Those who have special wishes for the New Year are prepared. Some people place their list of wishes in an apple and keep it until the end of the year, when they toss it into the rubble of the Año Viejo to burn. Others keep twelve grapes in their pocket, and just as the announcer starts counting down 60 seconds until the New Year, the person must eat the grapes as fast as possible, saying a wish for each grape, and finish the grapes exactly as the clock reaches 12 am. Others who wish to travel in the following year must run around the block twelve times holding a suitcase and an umbrella.

Well, this is the way how the Ecuadorians celebrate this date, and we really like it… so when you have time..come to Ecuador in this Holiday and prepare your año viejo and toast with us.!!!

Happy 2011!!!

Sharing Ecuadorian & International Food

Last weekend I spent time meeting people from other countries and locals in one only event which it called : Food festival Cs (couchsurfing).

Cs people from everywhere

For the people who doesn’t know about Couch Surfing is a group that its mission is “envision a world where everyone can explore and create meaningful connections with the people and places they encounter. Building meaningful connections across cultures enables us to respond to diversity with curiosity, appreciation and respect. The appreciation of diversity spreads tolerance and creates a global community”

explanation of the food

The goal of this meeting was to meet people but by a different way, through the food. I’m a believer that one of the best options to share and get more knowledge of a culture or a country is for its food. Tell me who doesn’t like  to EAT?.. lool.

There were people from Spain, France, Germany, Italy, Holland, Usa, Poland, Chile, India and of course from Ecuador (locals). In one table you could find main plates like: carpaccio, lasagna, paella, chicken desserts, ceviche, encocado, chilean empanadas, french, indian, germany, Poland  food.. etc (sorry I forgot the names of the plates). anyway, it was a great festival of food, for sure.

food from everywhere!

The point was that I meet people through their gastronomy and their drinks and it was just “perfect”. I hope this kind of meetings will be more often and in that way I can share more about my country and in by the other hand to get more stuff about others countries.

If you want to get more information about this Cs, just click in the following link: http://www.couchsurfing.org

I hope all of you are doing well this week!

Bye

Culinary Cup of las Americas in Ecuador

Hi friends, This time I wanna share with you about one event that I was participated last week in the City of Guayaquil, the event was the “Culinary Cup of las Americas”. This event is celebrated each year in different countries and this time was the time of Ecuador. YEAH!!

Culinary Cup

The event was from Monday 16 to Thursday 19, 2010.  Four amazing and stunning  days with a tournament in which students and professionals put all their experience in one place to get the prize at the end of the event “BE THE WINNER”, the BEST COOKER …lool.

Chefs tournaments

As well, it was not just a Culinary tournament, actually you could meet people of industries, like coffee, sea food, cacao, restaurants, hotels, and locals business. Anyway, one of the

Expositors

most important things I did was to be a participate of the seminars which were every day and with different topics and exposed by important locals and international expositors, like the Vice -president of WACS (world association of chefs societies), directors of Culinary Schools, and local owners of Food Industry, etc.
I think I ate too much on there lool., but was enough to get more stuff about not just Ecuador gastronomy, for Peru and Venezuela as well and even from the US.

sinfony of cebiche & more

I hope I can participate again in one of this events, and if it is about food and Ecuador, for sure I’ll be on there!… and maybe I’ll see you on there too! why not?

That’s it… I’ll back with more information…. Bye

Sebastian

Traditional Sweet Candies and desserts in Quito

Quito is characterized by being the first World Cultural Heritage City by UNESCO

Making Quesadillas

for its spectacular preservation of Colonial Architecture and its past—residing in the midst of the modern.

But Quito hides many things including the flavors and aromas of one of the oldest traditions of its ancestors.  These flavors and aromas haunt the most special and spectacular corners of this wonderful city.   The tradition of sweet gastronomic delight welcomes even the most casual visitor.  Many of these shops are known to locals, but are far off the “tourist track.” We know about them, we’ve shopped them for years, and now, you can learn about them, too.

We began our day very early and visit one of the oldest bakeries in Quito. We will have the opportunity to be present at the

Dulces de Antes (Mani encofitado)

manufacturing site of the famous “Quesadillas,” sweets made from cheese—which isactually the derivation of the name.

Then, We went to the deep Southern section of Quito through streets and neighborhoods unique until we arrive at our next stop—the famous “Dulces Tradicionales de Quito” a very familiar micro-enterprise with over 80 years of tradition.
Our way didn’t finished there… 15 minutes later We will arrive to the small factory of liquor candies an specialty brought from our neighbor country Colombia.    So….”it’s time to learn more about the secrets of the “Mistelas.”

Mistelas (liquors candies)
This is a very interesting sweet—and even moreinteresting is the production process.  I was delighted by several flavors–with some containing alcohol, including either whiskey or rum. (You could get tipsy) loool…

To the end, why not to learn how to prepare the famous “Humitas” and “Quimbolitos in a personal class with a personal Chef… awesome right?

Surely, this trip is a sweet lover’s paradise, and believe me when I say… this experience was GREAT!

Class with the chef (making Humitas)

I hope you have enjoyed this experience through Quito’s streets and get more knowledge about these sweets candies and more….!!!…

Bye…

Making a Good Cebiche!

Ingredients to make cebiche
Ingredients to make cebiche

Cebiche or Ceviche?…Trust me!!, it doesn’t matter at the moment to taste one of the most delicious Ecuadorian dishes served and enjoyed by the people who love the good gastronomy.

Most of the people think that cebiche is a soup, well, maybe because it looks like one, but it is not.  Actually, Cebiche is recommended as an appetizer and it is served cold, so a cold soup? no way!.

The cebiche is traditional from the Pacific Coast of Ecuador, is a tasty and delicious food and pretty easy to make it.  Here the details and ingredients of this recipe:

Tasting a good meal!
Tasting a good meal!

Ingredients:

*1lb of cooked shrimp (boil the shrimp for 2 minutes, no more or less)

*2 red onions sliced very thinly

*4 tomatoes sliced very thinly

*The juice of about 10 limes

*The juice of 1 orange

*½ cup of ketchup

*1 bunch of cilantro chopped very finely

*Salt, pepper and oil (sunflower or light olive oil)

Preparation:

Shrimps' s cebiche
Shrimps' s cebiche... Enjoy it!

Mix all the ingredients together in large bowl and let it sit in the fridge for at least an hour (half a day is ideal). Serve with chifles (fried green banana or green plantain chips) or patacones (thick fried green plantains), others options would be: pop corn or rice

Well, what are you waiting to start to make this easy & delicious Ecuadorian dish and share it with your parents, siblings and friends??… I hope you have enjoyed the recipe of the week.

Ouu.. don’t forget to share this exquisite “cebiche” with a cold drink (lemonade, orange juice, soda or my favorite a cold beer)

Buen provecho! … Good Appetite

Chilling about Ecuador!

I got an special interview for the website Instant Native Travel by Anne Herndon. There isn’t nothing more that I enjoy that share my experiences and comments of Ecuador to the world.

Special guest – Sebastian Sierra of TrueColors Travel

The Inca Face!
Intag Valley (if you see good..you will see the Inca's face on the mountains, on the right side of the picture.. awesome)

In my job as travel concierge I’m lucky to meet a lot of interesting people.  I discovered Sebastian when I was living in Ecuador and trying to learn my way around Quito.  He’s the Project Director and Personal Host for an Exceptional Ecuador Travel Experience.  I was inspired by his travel website.  He has created some very intriguing and original tours of Ecuador.  I especially gravitated toward his rose tour.  Roses are one of the major exports of the country, but few tours gain you access to the growers and plantations where it all happens.  On Sebastian’s blog I found he and I share a love of a lot of the same places in Ecuador Mitad del Mundo, Cuenca and of course Quito.  I asked him to sit for an interview with me, and here’s what he had to say about tourism and his home country:

Ecuador is one of the most ecologically diverse countries in the world.  Yet for many people it’s still a “stealth” destination.  What would you say draws people to your country?  What, in your opinion, is the best reason to come?

Ecuador has still very little tourism compared to Costa Rica or Peru. But there is a lot more to discover than just the nature, we have interesting people, spectacular scenery, and a lot of culture and of course an excellent gastronomy.

I found you via your website.  I was intrigued by your rose tour.  It wasn’t the typical Ecuadorian sampler tour.  What inspired you to create such an unusual tour?

Ecuador is one of the largest flower producers in the world, do you know the most of the cut flowers sold in the U.S are grown in Ecuador? Because, the highlands of Ecuador have a spring like climate all year-round, flowers grow permanently, that means most of them are in bloom twelve months a year.This was one of the reasons to organize a special Garden & Flower Tour.

Read the full interview in :  Instant Native Journey

Coffee Harvest Tour to Ecuador

Ahhh… Having a cup of steaming, brewed coffee ranks high up in the list of life’s simple pleasures. Now let us take you into a journey into discovery as we get to know this exotic and highly enthralling bean. Delve into the tales of romance and adventure as we unearth treasures that Ecuadorian coffee has to offer.
Nanegal

Do you know that Ecuador has a glorious coffee past, as it once ranked as one of the leading coffee exporters in the world? Do you know that Ecuador’s tradition of coffee-growing traces its beginning to as far back as the early 19th century? Do you know the different tastes, textures and flavors of Arabica as opposed to Robusta? Do you also know that Ecuador has its fair share of certified organic coffee growers – where world-class mountain-grown coffee is produced in small plantations in the country?

Ahhh… but there is so much to know about this, Ecuador’s dark and exotic secret. Spend a fascinating 9 Days with us as we get a closer look at coffee – its history, how it came to be in Ecuador, its different varieties, aromas, tastes, body and textures. Find out the intricate process of how a coffee bean is transformed into a steaming cup of delight.

Come… Let us begin our coffee adventure. We assure you, you will have a grande time!

Tour Dates for Coffee Harvest Tour 2010:
June 17 – 25, Julio 8 – 16, Julio 22 – 30

Chimborazo




Chimborazo

Originally uploaded by sebastian.sierra

The Chimborazo is Ecuador’s highest summit. ts summit is generally regarded as the spot on the surface farthest from the centre of the Earth, at a distance of 6,384.4 kilometres (3,967.1 mi).
Nice view from the air… in our way to Cuenca…