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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Our Travel Schedule

Dear Family and Friends,

More about our trip.  We (Chuck, Clarke, Brenda and I) are flying to Madrid on Sunday.  We will tour Madrid and surrounding areas the first week.  We will then rent a car and tour southern Spain and Gibraltar.  From there we will take a ferry to Morocco.  We will spend about a week in Morocco before flying to Mallorca to meet Audrey and Jim (Chuck's sister and her husband) and to board a cruise ship.  The six of us will cruise across the Atlantic, ending up in Panama.  We will fly back home from there.  (This is the nutshell version)

Chuck has done a wonderful job of designing our trip...air travel, hotels, and car rental.  He provided me with the following schedule calendar.  I am hoping to post to the blog as we travel.  This schedule should give you a mental model of what we are doing and when.

Sun, October 2 - Depart Cuenca – Guayaquil – Madrid. 30 hours flying and sitting in airports.

Mon, October 3  - Arrive Madrid around noon, collapse in hotel.

Tue, October 4 - Tour Madrid

Wed, October 5 - Madrid Museums – Prado, see El Greco, Goya, Velazquez and more

Thu, October 6 - Day trip to Toledo

Fri, October 7 - Tour Madrid - Reina Sofia museum for Picasso

Sat, October 8 -  Day trip to Cuenca. Yes, we are going to check out the original Cuenca

Sun, October 9 - Tour Madrid – Royal Palace

Mon, October 10 - Pick up rental car, drive to Córdoba 

Tue, October 11 - Tour Córdoba , Drive to Seville in afternoon 

Wed, October 12 - Tour Seville

Thu, October 13 - Tour Seville - Alcazar

Fri, October 14 - Drive to Granada

Sat, October 15 - Tour Granada, visit the Alhambra

Sun, October 16 - Tour Granada

Mon, October 17 - Drive to Coín to meet up with Larry and Liza Wheeler

Tue, October 18 - Drive to Gibraltar – See the apes

Wed, October 19 - Return rental car, Ferry to Tagier, Morroco

Thu, October 20 - Tour Tangier

Fri, October 21 - Train to Fez

Sat, October 22 - Tour Fez

Sun, October 23 - Tour Fez

Mon, October 24 - Train Fez to Marrakesh

Tue, October 25 - Tour Marrakesh

Wed, October 26 - Tour Marrakesh

Thu, October 27 - Fly Marrakesh to Madrid

Fri, October 28 - Fly to Palma de Malorca

Sat, October 29 - Meet up with Audrey and Jim and tour Palma de Mallorca

Sun, October 30 - Embark on Cruise

Mon, October 31 - Cruise

Tue, November 1 - Cruise

Wed, November 2 - Tenerife, Canary Islands

Thu, November 3 - Cruise

Fri, November 4 - Cruise

Sat, November 5 - Cruise

Sun, November 6 - Cruise

Mon, November 7 - Cruise

Tue, November 8 - San Maarten

Wed, November 9 - Antigua

Thu, November 10 - Bridgetown Barbados

Fri, November 11 - Cruise

Sat, November 12 - Cruise

Sun, November 13 - Cruise ends, pick up rental car, driving tour of canal

Mon, November 14 - Audrey and Jim return rental car and fly home. Clarke and Brenda fly home. Chuck and Nancy tour Panama 

Tue, November 15 - Tour Panama

Wed, November 16 - Watsons fly home

We have a lot of things to do before finding our suitcases.


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Chordeleg Adventure

Dear Family and Friends,

Chuck read in the newspaper that there were going to be some "goings on" in Chordeleg last weekend.  We decided to ride up there and check it out.  We invited Gayle and Paul to come with us.  Gayle and Paul are renting the condo and are planning to move to Ecuador real soon.

When we got to Chordeleg we saw that the "goings on" were religious in most celebrations in Ecuador.  They had set up the alter for the church outside on the plaza.  There were food vendors all around and occasionally a firecracker would go off.

Then here came Christ being carried through the plaza to be put on the altar.

This was not a procession with the whole congregation joining in.  It appeared that the people were probably one family.  Posssibly they had donated money to the church for this privilege.

After the Christ was put on the outdoor altar, the service began.

All those umbrellas were not because it was raining, but to protect the congregation from the bright mid-day sun.

We did a little window shopping in the jewelry stores surrounding the plaza, but since gold and silver prices have soared, the jewelry was just a little too rich for my blood.  Especially since I hardly ever wear it in Cuenca.

Chuck drove us through Gualaceo and down by the river park.  He was able to find the old Spanish built aqua duct.  It is over 500 years old.

We came back to Cuenca and went to our favorite ice cream parlor - Mixx.

We set in San Blas plaza enjoying our ice cream while people and pigeon watching.

On Sunday morning, Rich, Nancy, Chuck and I walked to the Kookaburra for breakfast.  We are going to miss this wonderful adventure every Sunday while we are away.  We couldn't ask for better friends, just love them to death.

While walking we passed a little pet shop.  They had little pens with puppies for sale and one kitten.  Nancy and I just oood and ahhhhhd over the little kitten and puppy snuggling up to keep warm.

I guess it is time to start thinking about what to pack for our upcoming trip.  We have to remember to pack voltage converters for our electrical items....Kindle, computers, cameras, etc. 

Luckily, this is a trip that if we forget to pack something, we should readily be able to buy it.  We are spending our first week in Madrid. 

Clarke and Brenda ordered all sorts of travel guides:  DVDs, Rick Steve's Spain travel guide.  The other day we got an email from Clarke...he had taken his travel guide and had it copied so that we could have a copy.  How sweet is that????  Thanks guys.

We are leaving this Sunday, October 2nd.  I'll be posting again before we head out.  I'll share a little more about our travel plans later. 


Thursday, September 22, 2011

Penthouse Improvements

Dear Family and Friends,

We have been busy lately adding art and improving the condo we rent out to Cuenca tourists.  Below is one of the additions.  We bought this rug in Peguchi, a little village just outside of Otavalo, Ecuador.  The colors are perfect for the condo.

The big project, that we were feverishly finishing last night, was a new top for our terrace sunshade.  When we bought the sunshade it had a canvas top.  This was fine, unless it rained or the wind came up.  Chuck came up with a grand solution.  He said slats would let the wind and rain through and also provide shade.

We hired our friend, Hugo, to design the new top.  We told him that we had new tenants arriving today and wanted the project finished before they arrived.  Hugo made the top in one week.  The new top was installed yesterday afternoon.  Here are the pictures.

Hugo, on the right, and his helpers relaxing after a job well done.

Today, we met our new tenants at the airport.  They will be renting the condo for almost two months.  Below are Gayle and Paul (from California) with Karen and Randy (condo managers) and Chuck.

Gayle and Paul plan to be future residents of Cuenca.  This is their first time here. We bet they are going to enjoy their stay!


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

SPAIN, Here We Come!!!!!

Dear Family and Friends,

Chuck and I, along with our friends, Clarke and Brenda are headed to southern Spain.  We are leaving on October 2 and will be playing tourists until mid November.

It is my intent to take you with us by blogging and posting photos as we go.  This of course depends on the quality of the internet service we have on our travels.

Clarke and Brenda ordered a Rick Steves Travel DVD series on some of the cities we will be visiting.  We got together last night and watched them all.

Can you tell there is excitement in the air????

In the words of our traveling buddy, Life is Good!!


Monday, September 5, 2011

Band Aid Substitute - New to Me!!

Dear Family and Friends,

Sunday while Rich, Nancy, Chuck and I were eating breakfast at the Kookaburra.  Jenny, owner and chef, came over to our table to show us her hand.  She had a small burn and she shared with us her remedy.  She said that the folks that live in the countryside around here do this often for burns, scraps or most anything you would need a band aid for.

She explained to us that she had taken a fresh cracked egg shell and removed the membrane that is just inside the shell and put it over the burn.  The membrane is moist from the egg white.  She smoothed it on the burn and after it dries, it forms excellent protection.  The egg white is good for the burn.

Here's a picture.

Jenny, if I did not pass on the correct information, let me know and I will correct the description of the remedy.

If I get a kitchen burn, it is usually when I am frying bacon for breakfast.  How perfect is this?  The eggs get fried next.  Just crack the egg, take the moist membrane from the shell and apply to burn..

Next time I get a burn, I am going to try this.

Happy to pass on a good ol' folk remedy.


Saturday, September 3, 2011

Santa Rosa - Family Reunion

This is a reality post. What I am going to share with you, including the pictures, can be quite disturbing to some.  Read at your own risk!

Dear Family and Friends,

I told you in our last blog post that we were headed to Santa Rosa for a fiesta.  Well, that is not what it turned out to be for us.  Yes, there was a fiesta in Santa was a celebration of Saint Rose (I think this is the same saint as Saint Rosa de Lima in Peru).  The town was filled with the typical celebration festivities, vendors, fireworks, and artisans.

We, Chuck and I, were invited to Santa Rosa to be part of a family reunion.  I misunderstood Lourdes when she was inviting us.  What we got was an experience like none other.

You might remember our trip from before.  Lourdes' mother lives right smack dab in the middle of a very large banana plantation.  She does not own the plantation, she does not even own her own house.  The house is a very basic concrete structure.  Lourdes and her six siblings were lovingly raised by her mother in this house.

The yellow arrow points to where the three bedrooms are located.  The red arrow points to the kitchen.  Behind the kitchen is a large room with a concrete floor for eating.  In the back of the building are two bathrooms (men and women) with a couple of toilet stalls and showers in each.  It was my impression that Lourdes' mother cooks for the workers of the plantation.  Basically, the three rooms upstairs are all that are really hers.  The kitchen, eating room and bathrooms are there for the workers and she gets to use them.

Since there is no living or family room, the covered packing shed is used by the family for sitting and entertaining..

When I was putting this post together, I didn't know if I should sugar coat things or tell it like we saw and experienced it.  I have decided to do the latter.  For all the complaining I hear from people back home about how rough it is, I think people living in the U.S. should be aware of how some people in other countries live.  There are many poor families in Ecuador...this is just our experience of spending the day with this special family.

Lourdes' mothers name is Rose.  Her children chose this day (day of Saint Rose) to come together, honor their mother and celebrate together. 

The brothers and sisters pooled their money and bought a pig, butchered it and spent all day preparing a very special meal.  This is a really big deal because buying a whole pig is expensive.

Luckily, we did not arrive until after the pig was ready for cooking.

The following pictures are of the preparations for the big meal.

Below green bananas are being peeled and cut into chunks.

Inside the kitchen Lourdes, her mother and other family members are chopping onions, garlic and cabbage.

 When it was time to get started cooking the pig, the heavy duty pots were brought out.

Chopping up the pork.

Lourdes' little brother took great pleasure in showing us the pig's tongue.  Every part of the pig was utilized.

The men were in charge of cooking the meat.

Like I said, nothing went to waste.  William is holding up the pig's tail.

The intestines were cleaned and stuffed with a mixture of I am not sure what.

Some of the intestines were stuffed in the kitchen with the onion, garlic and cabbage mixture.

I kept reminding myself that this is how things were in the U.S. over a hundred years ago.  People lived on small farms, butchered their own meat and made their own sausage.  I felt that I was taking a trip back in time.

It was a whole day affair.  Like any family reunion, some of the family played soccer and volley ball while others watched.

The kids enjoyed teasing the puppies.

Everyone came together about 6:00 pm for the grand finale..."chauncho" fried pork, corn, fried green bananas, and fruit juices.  This was the feast that the whole day was building up to.  Would you believe I forgot to take a picture of my plate ... sorry.

We were the only non-family members there.  Earlier in the day, this kind fellow brought these bananas and said they were for us.  He said they had not been sprayed or treated with pesticides.  They were the biggest bananas we had ever seen. 

It was a day we will not soon forget.  Lourdes, our housekeeper, and her husband are very special to us.  We feel so fortunate that they included us in this special day.

Here is a picture of Lourdes, her mom and brothers.  Her sister was not able to be there.  What a beautiful family.

Chuck and I returned to Cuenca the next day.  We have been home a week now and for some reason we have not had any pork to eat all week.