2012 Cuenca Perspectives Collage

2012 Cuenca Perspectives Collage
VIVA CUENCA

VIVA CUENCA!

My mission in publishing this blog is first to provide a living history of my settlement and life in Cuenca, and to provide myself and the reader with a journal account delineating my reasons for why I have chosen to settle in Cuenca. Second, the posts are my way of staying in contact with family and friends back in the states, and to provide them with an understanding of a country and culture that most North Americans have little knowledge and awareness. Third, the blog is open to one and all who wish to compare and contrast the experiences of expat bloggers living in Cuenca, so that you can determine whether or not from your perspective Cuenca is an appropriate move for you. Fourth, my blog provides another example of how expats view and interpret life in Cuenca. Ecuadorians and Cuencanos who may read this blog are especially invited to post comments that may enhance all expats understanding and appreciation of Cuneca and its people, or to correct any misinterpretations in my assumptions and perceptions of Cuencano culture. Finally, I hope I can convey the feeling of love and appreciation that grows within me each passing day for this heavenly city nestled in the Andes and its very special people.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

QUITO: Part III: HISTORIC LANDSCAPE AND MITAD DEL MUNDO


If you read my posts on Lima, Peru, then you know I am a foodie. I enjoy good food of every ethnic persuasion; whether the selections are gourmet, modest family-owned, or simply hole-in-the-wall establishments known for good cooking.  Monday evening, Marc and I ventured out to Zazu Restaurant, one of the top-rated restaurants in Quito.  Needless to say, it did not surprise me that chef Perez is Peruvian, and built his reputation in Peru. Like many a gourmet restaurant with influence out of Lima, many of the specialties are of a seafood persuasion, and Chef Perez exhibits that flair for creativity, and for selecting very fresh ingredients for which true gourmet chefs become known.  

Marc and I ordered the tasting menu, and we were not disappointed.  Zazu would certainly rank among the top ten restaurants in Lima, which is a city currently sizzling with a number of many of the top restaurants in the world, with their fusion of classical Peruvian cuisine with Chinese, Japanese and Thai features. Peruvian chefs are appearing in a number of up-scale restaurants in Quito, with most of them trained at the prestigious Cordon Bleu Academy in Lima.  The ambiance is what one would expect of a restaurant with the reputation of Zazu, the interior design is chic, and the service is quite good.  I never took the opportunity in the past to investigate  many of the better restaurants in Quito, which will make the city just one more reason to want to return again.

Enclosed are photos of the urban landscape in Historic Quito. 






Below, the Sucre Theater in Quito




The Sucre Theater dominates the site on this plaza.


Notice the unusual building in the center of the photo.  It is across the street from the plaza.  How this contemporary-styled and rather eccentrically-designed building (Maybe something a psych major would create) was constructed in the historic area is dumbfounding. Yet, it does become an eye catcher, both for its unusual design and for its incongruency.   I could easily peer into the windows from the plaza, and surprisingly the building is used as a warehouse and little else.



Street performers entertain in the plaza.  Here the guy in the blue shirt and cap had the dog doing whatever the dog was doing.  The performer (the guy not the dog) was talking a mile a minute, and sounded as if he was getting hoarse from projecting his voice.  Just as I turned my back, and was beginning to walk away; there was this loud commotion as another dog came from out of the crowd from what seemed like nowhere, and attacked the performing dog. I missed the momentary mayhem, thus, no pics.  As for the street performer, Ah, what's a guy to do?  Just trying to make a buck, but not having much luck.

The faces of historic Quito:




There is no doubt that a number of the buildings in historic Quito have a gravitas to them that is lacking in the  structures of Cuenca's historic district.  Cuenca has a nice feeling on a smaller scale with its generally more simple facades, and its iron-wrought balconies.

Some of Quito's buildings reminded me of the buildings and facades I so enjoyed last spring in Rome and Florence.  Buildings of massive masonry, set-off  by  stone, bricks in the mid-section of the buildings,  finished with plaster toward the elevated areas, and off-set by cornices, stone balconies, and heavy window trim.




The photo below is reminiscent of a number of archways along narrow streets in Rome.




Edifices and designs worthy of elegance and grandeur.  




MITAD DEL MUNDO (The Center of the World)

Marc and I did a great deal of walking, and we spent Tuesday afternoon with a break from the city by traveling nearby to Mitad del Mundo (the center of the world).

The monument below and the park surrounding it in the following photos were built by the Ecuadorian federal government to mark the spot on the Equator where one can stand both in the Northern and the Southern Hemisphere at the same time with one foot in each hemisphere. After the money was expended and the monument and park was built on a spot that was based upon the calculations of a French explorer; it was determined that his calculations were wrong.  The center is about 240 meters further north.  

Actually, any spot on the Equator can be designated the center of the earth.  Quito became famous for the designation, because the Ecuadorian government capitalized on it with the building of the monument and park to honor the French explorer with a new monument on the site, and advertently  or inadvertently it resulted in a marketing coup d'etat for Ecuador.  If by chance, it hasn't crossed your mind yet; Ecuador is Spanish for the Equator, from which Ecuador derives its name.






Marc Mola and the hummingbird.  The Andean Condor is Ecuador's national bird. If cities have a city bird, the hummingbird should be the bird of Cuenca.  It is by far the most frequently spotted bird in Cuenca, followed by pigeons in some of the city plazas.





The monument was completed in 1972, and is approximately 90 feet tall.  There is an ethnographic museum inside the monument of three or four floors, which exhibits the extensive diversity of various indigenous cultures throughout the country, and their traditional livelihoods. There is also a miniature layout of Quito. At the top of the monument one can get some nice views and photos of the park and the surrounding mountains.  





I won't increase the size of the photo below, because my belly already looks big enough.  It looks like I am a pig about to be skewered.  I wish I had abs like the spear thrower.  By the way, I've lost twelve pounds since that photo was taken (lol--no seriously!).




The site is very tourist-oriented, with lots of shops, snack bars and restaurants. There is also a galleria, which is basically (you guessed it) more shops of merchandise on which to blow cash. Visitors will also find a planetarium, but Marc and I did not visit it. It was well worth the trip, and takes about two to four hours with travel time to and from Quito.  It's also a nice way to spend an afternoon away from the city without venturing out too far, especially for folks who may have a flight later in the day to catch after a layover.




Below is the Intinan Solar Museum, which is adjacent to Mitad del Mundo.  It claims to also be the accurate on-site location on the Equator, also reports say that military GPS mapping indicates it may be forty kilometers off.  Oh well, just another excuse for another venture capitalist to construct another site on the really real site on the Equator.  Intinan Solar Museum is an outdoor museum with many Disneyesque-type artificial structures intended to convey the culture of  an indigenous past. There are also many interactive experiments conducted to entertain the tourists, and further erode any basic understanding of science that they may have.  

IntiƱan Solar Museum



There is much to see and do in Quito.  Not only inside, but also outside of the historic center. Alas, we only had two days to visit. However, that just whets my appetite for future trips to Ecuador's capital, besides just staying in an airport hotel or hostel outside the city to catch a flight out the next day.  Viva Quito!

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