Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Happy Anniversary!

In July Cynthia and I celebrated our 42nd wedding anniversary. Well, actually that's not true. On the big day we said "Happy Anniversary" to each other at the airport as she left for a solo trip to the States--a surprise birthday gift from our daughter.

Once she returned one thing led to another, so we finally got around to formally celebrating this week with a trip to Piedra de Agua, a beautiful spa just outside Cuenca.

For no reason I can conjure up except "WE'RE SO BUSY!!" this was our first visit after living here 3 1/2 years. I can assure you it will not be that long before we return because we had a blast!

There are hot springs running through the surrounding mountains at Piedra de Agua, and they along with special muds extracted from the waters are the highlights of one's visit. Several of the treatment rooms are built right into the side of a mountain, in fact. After showering and sitting in a group steam room for awhile we were led to the first pool containing what the spa calls "blue mud." What do you think? Looks pretty green to me-----.

Yikes! I look like an extra from a sci fi movie. After we showered off all the blue mud it was time for a red mud treatment. No question this time--that stuff is quite red.

I'm thinking about selling this photo for a public service ad reminding people of what can happen when you don't use sunscreen.

Shower #3, then into individual steam boxes for more detoxification.

The final step involved underground plunge pools--one hot, the other absolutely freezing. The idea here was to hang out in the hot one for 15 minutes, then the cold one for 2 minutes, then repeat the cycle. Cynthia must have misunderstood the instructions because she lasted in the cold pool for 2 seconds. I thought her eyes were literally going to pop out of their sockets. Sorry, no photo--she wouldn't let me post it if there was one.

Shower #4 (not sure about the detox but we certainly were clean!), then a lovely lunch before massages.

After emerging from the massage cave we opened a special bottle of pinot noir we had been saving from a wine dinner we attended in NC for our last anniversary (thanks Brandon & Jennie!).

We think being happily married for this long is pretty darned special so we like to commemorate the occasion by doing something memorable. This time we definitely succeeded.


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Cuenca Independence Day Festivities

We celebrate a lot of holidays in Ecuador, and by far the biggest one here is Cuenca Independence Day (to give you a perspective, cities celebrate each other's independence days as well). For three days each November the place is abuzz with parades, fireworks, concerts, vendors out the wazoo, and parties galore. Visitors pour in from all over the place and every hotel room is filled.

This year marked Anniversary #193, and with the mayoral election just months away city government pulled out all the stops to make the event a doozy. I must confess, this was our fourth go-round and these events get a bit repetitious, so as the holiday approached we had a bit of a "whatever" attitude. I'm quite happy to report that throughout the weekend we were pleasantly surprised.

Friday afternoon we visited an orchid and bonsai exhibition at the mall.

That evening we walked over to Paradise Park for a special outdoor symphony performance. The program began with a rousing rendition of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture, complete with booming cannons and spectacular fireworks right over the bandstand. For the final portion a 12 piece mariachi band came out and had everyone on their feet dancing.

The festival is so big and spread out that we couldn't take everything in, but we sure walked our legs off Saturday and Sunday. The weather was glorious all weekend and there was a lot going on.

Caricature artists



To say the crowds were massive is an understatement

An indigenous tribe from the Amazon had an exhibit

As did a maker of our famous Panama hats

It's amazing that a light rail system will soon be running through the historic district. One of the cars was on display

And of course vendors selling leather goods


Yes, Panama hats

Plus musical instruments, native jewelry, and loads of other trinkets

Parque de la Madre had a special surprise for the kids---dinosaurs!

At the rear of the park a new planetarium just opened. We'll check it out later--the line was too long.

Speaking of long lines, Marc Anthony was performing at the stadium Saturday night. Our walk home went in that general direction, and we were shocked at 3 PM to see people "lined up" all over the place. That description is in quotes because lines were going in every direction with no discernible beginning or end. We could still hear the concert blasting away when we went to bed around midnight. And to think that the day before we almost bought tickets!

The celebration was a huge success and my congratulations to the organizers. You made us proud to live in Cuenca!!