Friday, October 24, 2014

Living in Cuenca - How We Do Our Laundry! MR WASH, of course............

A sunny day in Cuenca - 
perfect for "Laundry Day" by the river!

When we moved from our Oregon home to Cuenca, Ecuador, we left behind many things that I thought I would miss - like our washer and dryer.  Our first four apartments were furnished, but only one of them had a washer and dryer, and we lived in that apartment only two weeks.  So, for the first year here, we would haul our laundry to one of the nearby local laundry services to wash, dry, and fold our clothes.  Then, we would return to pick them up and haul them back to our apartment.  These local places would staple little tags on every single piece of clothing with a 5 or 6 digit number handwritten on each tiny tag.  I would then proceed to cut each little tag off every article of clothing before putting them away.  Not fun!  But, we had decided that we were not going to invest in a washer and dryer - and besides, where would we begin to fit them in our current small apartment?  

Laundry service here is so inexpensive, but I got tired of cutting the tags off every time we would have our laundry day.  We also didn't enjoy hauling our clothes down four flights of stairs and to the laundry place.  Nor did I like the fact that the reason they were tagging each item was because they would mix my clothes in with someone else's so they could make use of filling up their machines.  However, I didn't want to find a self-service laundromat where I would have to sit there and wait for my clothes to wash, dry, and then have to take time to fold them.  After all, I'm "jubilada" and doing laundry has never been a fun chore for me.  

Then, someone told me about MR. WASH!  Really?  They'll pick up our clothes, and deliver them - up four flights?  They use organic products?  They won't mix my clothes with any one else's?  They have same day service?  Count me in!  I called them that day, and it was all true.  They came to our apartment the next day, and delivered that night.  No more little tags to cut off, and my clothes smelled so fresh and were folded so meticulously - I was now another one of their "happy" customers.  Fabian and his wife, Inez, and their son, Kevin are great people.  Their desire is to please their customers, and I'm thankful to know them and to be using their service.  Another thing I love about living in Cuenca - I don't have to do laundry anymore!!

Pictures Tell The Story

Recently, I went over to Mr. Wash to see their facility and meet their staff.  

Address:  Francisco Estrella entre Avenida 27 de Febrero y Avenida 10 de Augusto.

Phone:  099-055-2419
Meet Inez (Fabian's wife and owners), Anita, and Estefania - hard-working women who take special care of their customer's laundry.

MR. WASH is open Sunday through Friday from 7 am to 7 pm.  They are closed on Saturdays.  

They've been in business four years and know how to take care of their customer's needs.

The employees are meticulous about how they fold each item of laundry, and when they return them to us, nothing is ever missing.

They have other services - like cleaning large rugs and comforters.....

.........and dry cleaning service too!  Oh, and they will hand-wash and line dry delicates!  Did I mention that they also IRON your clothes upon request?  

Yes, MR WASH is a full-service facility that I highly recommend.  They are definitely meeting all of our laundry needs - and I'm thrilled that I can now wait up to three weeks for my pickup and not have to haul my heavy bags through the streets of El Centro.  

Recently, Bo spilled Coconut Oil on a pair of his new hiking pants.  Here, Inez and her helper are looking at the stain and ready to take on the task of removing it.  AND THEY DID!  I've had other stained clothes that they always return to me spotless.  Now, that's service at it's best!!!

If you want your laundry picked up and delivered, and if you want organic products and fabulous service - give MR WASH a call at 099-055-2419.  Inez will be over that day ($2-$4 delivery charge depending on where you live) to take care of your needs.  

Thank you, Inez, for giving me a tour of MR. WASH and for taking such good care of your customers!  Bo and I appreciate your incredible laundry service and we're glad we found you!!!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Restaurants in Cuenca, Ecuador - RESTORANTE VECCHIA MODENA - A "Don't Miss" Experience!!

Restaurante Salumeria Vecchia Modena

A Place to Enjoy Savory Wines and Italian Delicacies -

and it's right around the corner from us!

If you've been to our place to eat, you know that Bo and I like to cook delicious gourmet foods.  We also like to eat out, but not just anywhere.  Sometimes friends or acquaintances will recommend a place to us.  If we know they are excellent cooks, we'll trust their recommendation. Only then is it usually a hit!  Those of you who are "great" cooks know what I'm talkin' about. You just can't eat any ol' place.  It's gotta be GREAT!

There are a million dining places to explore in Cuenca.  Some have great atmospheres and not-so-good meals.  Some have delicious food, but the place may not be quite on a par with cleanliness.  I always check out the bathroom to see if it is an establishment that is paying attention to detail in the hygiene department.  Then there are the places I've experienced where the food, service, atmosphere, and hygiene department are all a big "zero."  Hey, you've experienced that too, haven't you?  It's a place that you would NEVER recommend nor return to.  

Because we don't eat every meal or even half our meals outside of home, for us to dine out is to look for the package experience.  Great food, attentive service, classy atmosphere, and friendly personable owner and staff.  Living in the heart of El Centro gives us daily opportunities to peek in various restaurants as we walk the street and continue to get acquainted with our neighborhood.  There are many popular restaurants that have closed in our almost two years here, yet new ones are always popping up and enticing us in.  We'll usually go in to talk to the owner or staff, check out the menu for the type of cuisine and PRICES, scope out the atmosphere and look for cleanliness, and then make our decision whether we'll sit and order now or return at a later date to see what kind of dining experience we end up with.

The other day, I dined with a friend at a local popular and often advertised restaurant in El Centro.  I was eager to experience a new place for almuerzo.  We entered a courtyard that was quaint and lovely, but the food prices high and portions surprisingly small.  We both left hungry and disappointed.  As for the service and customer care - I give it a big ZERO.  Because the owner knew it was our first time experience (I told her so she could impress us), she FINALLY returned to ask us "how was it."  In honesty, I complimented her that the food was good (between us - not great), but the portions extremely and surprisingly small.  Her response?  "Well, that's how we do it here," and she scurried away. Do ya think I'll go back there to eat?  NOT!

Bo had been telling me about a small new restaurant on Juan Jaramillo, right around the corner from our place where he had recently purchases some delicious cheeses and sausage, and where he also had lunch with friends.  Yesterday was my time to experience "Ristorante Salumeria Vecchia Modena" - and our few hours dining there and getting to know the Chef and Owner, Massimo, his wife Alicia, and a visiting chef friend of theirs, Luca, was fun and a "delicious" experience.  We had stopped in earlier for Bo to introduce me to Massimo, and we left with our purchase of three different Italian cheeses.  I kept looking around and was impressed by the colorful and classy decor, I enjoyed seeing his tables full of ex-pats who had already discovered this quaint place (he's only been open a few months), and I quickly made a silent decision that I would be back with Bo in the very near future to enjoy some good wine and authentic Italian food.  

We continued on our way to do errands and visit friends in El Centro.  Well, wouldn't you know - Bo left his umbrella at Massimo's - so we had to stop back in on the way home to pick it up.  It was now early evening, and Bo asked me if I'd like to sit and have a glass of wine and a bite to eat.  We sat and began to be pampered by Massimo as he poured two glasses of Chianti and served us delicious warm Tigelle bread baked fresh and filled with his creative concoction of Roma tomato, Italian cheese, sweet onion, and a "to die for" homemade sweet relish.  I could have eaten a dozen of these little treats, but I'm watching my girlish figure.  As Bo and I dined and sipped our fine dry Chianti, we learned all about how Massimo ended up in Cuenca, Ecuador to open his restaurant so he could share his savory Italian cuisine with those looking for an authentic Italian experience.

We went home happy and full.  Late in the evening Bo served me a bowl of his homemade White Bean Soup with savory chunks of real Italian Sausage (purchased earlier at Massimo's Restaurant).  It was so delicious I almost had a second bowl.  If you haven't been to Ristorante Vecchia Modena, you should!  You will enjoy meeting this kind and smiling Chef and have a wonderful dining experience.  Tell Chef Massimo that "Bo and Linda" sent you. You won't be disappointed.

Pictures Tell the Story 

The minute I entered Ristorante Vecchia Modena I loved it.  

The vibrant colors, lush thriving plants, and classy atmosphere and decor wooed me in.

Of course, the first thing I want to see is "what are they serving?" and "What are their prices?"

When it's a package deal I'm happy to pay - delicious food, friendly attentive service, classy atmosphere - and clean.

 Massimo knows good wine and was running a special this weekend on his Chianti.

 You can buy fine cheeses (Mozzarella, Parmigiano, Fontina, and Scamorza, Pecorino, Feta, Chevre, Cottage, and more), homemade Italian sausage, Salsa Picante (Relish), Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Italy, and when excellent cuts are available - Lomo Fino (Tenderloin).  Massimo purposes to sell only the finest!

 Ahhh, Bo's delicious White Bean & Sausage Soup.  I must say, it's the best sausage I've had in a looooooong time -  since we left the USA.

 There are many delectables to choose from at Massimo's restaurant - Like jars of Roasted Peppers with Eggplant.......

 ........homemade muffins......

.......or homemade butter crust apple pie.

 He uses fresh ingredients and everything is cooked in his well-stocked kitchen.  We had the privilege of going behind the curtain to see how he cooks some of his fabulous creations.

A Tigelle bread mold

 The Tigelle bread was freshly made, warm, soft, and filled with an amazing homemade relish spooned on top of sliced Roma Tomato, thinly sliced sweet onion, and an Aji Italian cheese.  
Bet you can't eat just one!!!!  Bo and I couldn't..... 
They were so amazingly delicious that Bo and I bought 30 of these little breads and all the inner ingredients to make these for a pot luck we would be attending the following evening.

Soon-to-be Roasted Red Peppers.

Ingredients are ready for a simmering homemade Italian sauce.

So, stop by and check out this tiny classy gem of a restaurant.  Introduce yourself to Chef Massimo 
and be ready for a memorable and delicious experience.  
Tell him that Bo and Linda's Blog post wooed you in!!!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

EL CAJAS NATIONAL PARK (PARQUE NACIONAL CAJAS) - Our Day at El Cajas Rancho HNOS Prado Restaurant and Hiking

A fabulous place to visit for a fabulous meal, to meet fabulous people, and to be guided on a fabulous hike!
Back in January we hiked El Cajas up to 14,000 feet.  It was one of the most difficult hikes because it was straight UP!  But, Bo and I made it to the top, and what a glorious reward awaited us.  The view was breathtaking, and the hike up was stunning as we passed several mountain lakes, saw amazing wild plants, and had a memorable time with one of our guides, Fabian Prado Ochoa.  We didn't know at that time that he would become more than a guide for us but a dear friend and family.

Since that hike, Fabian and his new bride, Maggie, and two of his brothers, George and Wilson join us every Tuesday at our apartment to practice their "English."  Their gift to us has been more than helping us in return with our Spanish.  They are truly our family!  They show up at 7 pm sharp and sometimes stay until after 11 pm.  Our time is filled with learning, laughter, delicious coffee and food that Chef Bo serves while we  practice grammar and pronunciation, and sometimes we have to kick them out - en serio!  We love being together, and we always look forward to our Tuesday "adorables" coming and brightening our week.  Along with the Prado Ochoa brothers and Fabian's wife, Maggie, we are joined by their good friend, Alfonso, and dear friends of ours, Jhady, and her 11 year old daughter, Lizbeth.  Our table is graced with the presence of seven faithful Ecuadorian friends who are hungry to improve their English and who also are our gentle Spanish teachers.  It is a time of conversation, reading, learning more vocabulary, and focusing on correct pronunciation.

Since we began to meet in February, Fabian and George have been continually inviting us to come to their family restaurant again for a day of hiking, dining, and just being together.  We finally set a date to just "do it."  So, on Friday Jhady picked us up at 8:00 a.m. and drove us to the "Rancho Hermanos Prado in the Heart of the Cajas."  What a glorious fun-filled day of spending time with joyful people and getting away from the daily routine of city life.  Rocky, the Prado Ochoa brothers' dad and owner of the restaurant and over 200 acres of private Cajas land, welcomed us and we immediately felt at home.  We sat down and were served hot coffee and bread.  That was just the beginning of a day filled with more delicious food, drink, hiking, music, and more of their family stopping by.

Well, why don't I let my photography tell you the story - yes?

Rancho Prado is a place not to miss!

Go to Occidental bus station at Ferria Libre.    
It is $1.50 each way and about a 50 minute ride.  Just tell the driver you want to be dropped off at Rancho Prado!

Our previous two visits to El Cajas greeted us with beautiful blue skies.
(See previous Cajas BLOG posts in July 2013 and January 2014)  This day was overcast with intermittent misting rain.  A perfect day to spend time in the Restaurant........
.....sipping hot coffee by the fire.
We decided to have a trout breakfast.  What fun to catch our trout and cook it fresh together!  George shows us how to do it!

I entrusted my camera to George when everyone insisted I give it a try!
I'm so glad I did!!   Now, Rocky and Jhady give it a whirl.

Time to go behind the curtain and watch the brothers cook!  
Wilson makes the salad.  I must say, it was one of the most deliciously seasoned salads I've eaten since moving to Ecuador.  He promised he'd show me how to make it.

Fabian takes over the "Trout" frying while Jhady and Wilson observe.

Trout is sizzling away......

.....and the salad is ready!
Oh, what a delicious success!  Cooked to perfection, and ready for the hungry hikers.
We enjoy the delicious food and joyful company together!

Come On, Bo and Linda.  Let's go hiking!!

Which way should we go?  Bo points and off we go!
(L to R - Bo, Fabian, Jhady, Wilson, George)
The trail was flat and close by, the scenery spectacular.  Because of the weather, we decided to stick close to home. George promised me a Llama photography moment.
Wilson spots the Llamas!
What a beautiful creature!!
We saw MANY and I was in photography heaven.
They climbed the mountains in a pack, occasionally stopping to look at us.
In one area we saw Llamas and horses grazing together.
Though overcast, the weather cooperated and it did not rain during our hike.  Only a tolerable mist at times.  The scenery was breathtaking!

While I clicked away, lost in the photography moment, Fabian and Bo hiked along together enjoying their visit......

.......and Jhady and George pose for the camera!
At every turn the scenery became more breathtaking.....
........A photographer's paradise!

Though it was overcast, it was perfect lighting for my lens.  These beautiful paper trees caught my eye.
Beautiful Andes Flowers graced the path.

So many varieties and colors.  I'm yet to learn to identify them, but Fabian and George know every plant and their medicinal purposes.

Time to head back to the ranch!

A magical waterfall greets us at the entrance.

And inside uncles, cousins, nieces, and more family have dropped by to join our party.

We stay warm by the fire as George and Wilson entertain everyone with their musical talent.

Brandon is on his throne dozing to the laughter, music, and chatter.
He, alone, is worth a trip to the restaurant.  He'll join you on a hike and has been running these Andes for 9 years.  What a beautiful, mellow and sweet dog!

It's beginning to get dark as the sun sets behind the mountains.....

......and adds even more beauty to this marvelous area.

Prado Father and Sons - What a gift it is to know them!
Remember when you decide to visit El Cajas:
1 - Dress for the weather.  Layer your clothes and make sure you wear comfortable water-resistant hiking boots.  Sometimes it is soft and muddy in areas.  You may also encounter areas of water and rocks you have to cross over.  Also, take rain gear, hat, gloves, scarf, warm socks.  Expect windy, cloudy, overcast, misty, rainy, and YES even SUNNY weather.  One never knows what it will be like - so dress for it all.
2 - Go for the day.  You never know what or whom you'll meet along the way.  If you visit the Restaurant, you're sure to have a memorable time and a delicious meal.
3 - This area is not for the fainthearted.  You will be at a higher altitude and in colder weather.  If you are not into hiking, then you might want to just visit the restaurant for a meal, and go on one of their flat lower walking areas.
4 - If you are into seeing and/or photographing wildlife and birds, this area delivers!
5 - You can rent poles and bait here and go to the larger lake to trout fish.  We fished in the little pond just for the experience.
6 - Don't forget your camera and binoculars.
7 - Take toilet paper (always, everywhere), water, and snacks.

Have fun and make it grand.  
Thank you Prado Ochoa Family for another memorable Cajas visit.  
You made it GRAND for us!!
Visit their FACEBOOK page at https://www.facebook.com/ranchohnosprado