Some Fun Things to Do, and The Immigration Mess

Trip Start Sep 26, 2009
Trip End May 10, 2015

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Flag of Ecuador  ,
Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Cooking class at Cocina Facil was enjoyable.  Leslie Breen has a fun kitchen, one you would expect from a person who cooked or cooks for a living, not to mention a cozy, warm, eclectic home.  I went alone and there were 6 other foreigners in the class from the US, London, and Venezuela, most of which attended Leslie's classes before.   We watched Leslie cook while drinking Bloody Mary's, then sat at a long rustic table to enjoy the delicious food.  I thought it was well worth the $20.00.  That night's theme was Breakfast and Brunch, but she has many others, such as, Meats, Local Fruits and Vegetables, Thai Food, French Food classes, etc. There is no need to write the recipes down either, as she hands out printed copies of each dish. 

It is a great place to learn about Cuenca as well.   Leslie has been in Ecuador 9 years, while three were newbies like me.  For instance, I learned of The House of Spices (Casa de las Especias), so Fred and I went there.  Great place to buy nuts of all kinds, macadamia nuts, pine nuts from Spain, pecans, cashews, walnuts, and all by the pound.  Also found 2 kinds of Himalayan Salt, Rose, and Black.  They also have Tahini, turmeric-which I've been searching for, dried mushrooms, chocolate, candy molds, etc.  Unfortunately, you cannot explore the shop, as mostly everything is behind the counter, so go with a shopping list in Spanish and hand your list over to the employee.   It is on Remigro Crespo, near the Feria Libre, by the Totem circle, right next to the Almacenes Boyaca' store (a store that has higher end appliances and products for the kitchen and home).

Also learned that the best meats are really at the Co-op (Coopera), a place I mentioned in a previous entry.  So we will have to give that place another try as far as the meats are concerned, especially the ground beef.  As the meat is organic and very lean, almost no fat. But I never fail to be amazed at our bill after we shop at that place.  We'll purchase maybe a little meat, lots of fruits and veggies, eggs, and I always expect our bill to be more then the usual bill of $20.00.  Update: However, groceries are not cheaper in Ecuador. That is what we are finding, especially meats, canned goods, cheese and more.

(One thing I failed to mention before, is a product you can buy at SuperMaxi that disinfects fruits and vegetables.  It is called Star-Bac Domestic and is all natural, also one called Vitalin)

Going back to the Cocina Facil, the down side is Leslie smokes, as well as most of the people in the class that evening. But you can get your own group of 6 together (sometimes she will take 7, as there are only 6 bar stools to sit on to watch her cook). She also does some catering. Anyway, it's a fun thing to do while living in Cuenca.  Email:

One woman in the class originally from London, but who has lived in a few countries, including China (her favorite place: Texas, USA) runs and owns Hostal del Perros and promises North American boarding standards.  Email:

While in cooking class, I also learned of an interesting Museum to go to which is at the very end of Calle Larga, near the bottom of the hill, called Museo del Banco Central.  We're not really museum people, but we went.  It is in a large, modern, grey building, open all day, 1/2 day on Saturday, and is free.  It presents Ecuadorian village life, religious art, shrunken heads, musical instruments, jewelry, crafts, very old Ecuadorian currency and more.  We enjoyed, more than anything,  the archeological site, beautiful grounds full of exotic plants and flowers, with a reconstructed Inca garden and the aviary full of exotic birds.  There is also a cave they actually allowed us to enter, which is part of the ruins, but it is a bit steep, narrow and precarious, so we didn't go in too far.

Actually, along Calle Larga, there are a few museums, so a great place to spend the day.  Have breakfast at the Coffee Tree, (Calle Larga & Borrero) a great espresso shop with lots of outdoor tables (truly a gringo hotspot).  They serve food and, for me, the best Americana, so far.  If you order milk with your Americana, the milk is served warm, the way they serve milk with your coffee in Europe.  Enjoy a museum close by, then have a delicious lunch at the El Jardin restaurant in the beautiful La Victoria Hotel just down the street from Coffee Tree, the views are great and the service is good, not to mention the food. But, there are plenty of other restaurants there to choose from.

If you go, just beware of that area along Calle Larga, as it is gringo alley, and where the gringos go, so do the thieves.  We find it helpful to only wear the very small Ecuadorian wool purses that have long cloth straps. They're great for a cell phone, some cash, ID, and your bus card. We wear them around our neck like a necklace, but then tuck them into our shirts and/or pin them to our shirts with a safety pin.  Of course, a fanny pack under your shirt works well too, if you prefer those.  What I like about the woven wool pouches/purses is how convenient they are for the bus.  With your bus card in the front, you just wave the purse in front of the scanner and your bus card can be read through the weave.  Then just tuck the purse back under your shirt or jacket.  

(When wearing a jacket or sweater, wear your purse strap or camera bag strap, etc., under your jacket, not over.  If wearing a backpack, wear the backpack in front if you have valuables inside.  Do not put your camera or cellphone, etc. in your backpack if you wear your backpack behind you. Do not put your backpack or purses on the floor in a restaurant or under your seat on any bus. Do not even put your cell phone in your shirt pocket or a wallet in your back pocket.)

Immigration is now getting tougher, as we have recently learned from Patrick and Nora.  The requirements are increasing. We hear that this is all suppose to go into effect come January 1, 2012, but will not affect those who are already in the system, but there is a gigantic backlog. This is all due to the corruption that was done in the past, hence bigwigs at Immigration getting fired.  Of course, the bad always ruin it for the innocent.
Actually, we are holding our breath.  We have various friends who are either going through a lawyer, or a person in the business of helping people obtain their Visas, and only being charged $500 total, and not the $1370.00 that we were charged from Patrick and Nora.  So we'll have to just wait and see which service was really worth it, and who gets their Visas first, with all this Immigration mess. --Not to mention, once we are approved, Nora informed us that it will cost us another $350 each at the Immigration window, then we will be handed our Visas.

UPDATE: Some people have been unhappy with the services of Patrick and Nora, they did well for us, but not for some others, evidently, so make your own informed decision.  

Everyone seems to be waiting a long time for their Visas--hopefully it will all come together soon. I will post how it all went for us, as I have before. This uncertainty, back-log, or whatever you want to call it is making people nervous, including us. 

PS:  The weather has been absolutely perfect as of late.  Blue skies with clouds in the afternoon.  The way we hear it should be -- in the high 60's or low 70's.  And flowers, flowers everywhere!

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Sam & Linda Lowder on

My husband and I are very interested in retiring in Ecuador in November of 2012. That is when he can get ss. We also have friends in Mexico but it seems to cost more. My husband is an elder and we both look forward to expanding our minstry. Can we live easily on $2000.00 a month. Thank you for you post and all of the great informatio. Look forward to any other information you can share.

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