Friday, January 23, 2015

Two Near Misses, But Total Hits

Ceiling and cornice
 When planned this extended stay it was to be an experiment to see what living here would be like; it has almost turned into our general tourist rush with a few differences. Each morning, Ron has taken on kitchen duty to make a delicious breakfast that we sit and eat together. Generally, in Budapest, we are up at different times and have breakfast separately. He eats at his computer in the kitchen; generally, I am up earlier and have eaten mine while reading the news on the tablet. Then I have already migrated to my computer. 

Breakfast here aside from free-range eggs and bacon includes avocado, papaya, and mango. On some days, local cheese is mixed with the eggs, but most times not. I love all the differences here.

On Wednesday, after trying to prognosticate the weather, we headed down to Calle Larga where a two museum happen to be, but we have ignored until now. Cattycorner from Gozo, there is the Casa Museo Remigio Crespo Toral. As interesting as the building is from the outside, it has not managed to draw inside until this day. Admission is free. It is the home of the Cuencano Remigio Crespo Toral, a lawyer and author. He lived here with his wife with whom he had 10 children. Associated with the University of Cuenca in various authoritative positions, President Alfredo Baquerizo Moreno named him as “National Poet” in 1917.

As a rule, I am not overwhelmed with visiting peoples’ homes, but this was an exception. Each room still with period pieces had a tasteful elegance due to its simplicity. Not being overly decorated bordering on being pretentious this was a major exception. Each room had objects to be admired, wallpaper to be inspired by, and ceilings that were works of art. The staircase was particularly interesting as there are two staircases at the ground floor, but they meet at one landing to continue as a single unit to the next floor. There in one room is a research library. Two employees, one guard and one librarian are the only staff.

Walking down the Calle Larga there sits another museum, we have ignored during our visit here two years ago. It is the
Venus in South America?
Museo de las Culturas Aborigenes. Again wanting to delay what we perceived would be disappointment, we went for a coffee first at our coffee roaster and café spot. 

Returning to the museum, one does not get an objective opinion from the outside. Nearby are cheap souvenir stores, which taint the tiny opening to this establishment. However, with the goal to immerse ourselves in the local culture, we pressed forward. The $4 entrance fee took me aback mainly because so many of the museums were free. As reasonable as it would be in other cities, here it seemed unreasonable at the start. 

The door was locked, but the attendant came to let us in and collect our fees. She handed each of us a comprehensive self-guided tour book that was informative without requiring an overpowering amount of reading. She directed us up a staircase.
Fantastic pottery, some with real humor
With the first glance, we realized this was worthy of a $4 admission. The specimens were spectacular, incredible, and clean. So many times, we have gone to museums such as this and there is enough dust to believe it dated back to the prehistoric times too. Each section of what was once a huge room was broken into sections or ‘rooms’. The guide explained what we would see in each ‘room’ as well has including drawings of some the specimens to make it more comprehensive with examples. Within these sections, you have the opportunity to gaze at more than 5000 archaeological pieces. These are sample pieces from more than 20 pre-Hispanic Ecuadorian cultures dating as far back as 15,000 years.

We spent more than 2 ½ hours here, studying, photographing, and attempting to soak in the knowledge while being awed at every turn. What must be the best-kept secret in Cuenca is the gift shop. With an extensive assortment of high quality souvenirs, their prices are incredibly reasonable. If we lived here, I would shop here for culture-based decorations.

Later that evening we planned to have dinner at Howard and Mike’s for dinner. Their apartment is two floors below ours. They included two friends of theirs, Curt and Scott. Without a pregnant pause, Curt and Scott had us feeling like we had known them for years. Conversation among all six of us flowed as if we had picked up where we left off the last time, but of course, we had not.

Dinner was a real treat and though I will not remember all of it, the main course was a wonderful chicken with scrumptious spices. Side dishes included a quinoa salad, cucumber salad, beans, broccoli and cauliflower, and new potatoes. Scott and Curt brought homemade coconut ice cream and brownies. Being off all sugar and flours for more than two months, I let myself go with the dessert and cherished every mouthful.

My only regret is not taking some photos of dinner. The entire evening was incredibly special and we felt honored to be included.

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