Wednesday, August 20, 2014

MARKETS IN CUENCA ECUADOR - Shopping in Cuenca - Fabulous Friday with Fun Friends!

Karlita, Teresita, and our driver Freddy and our shopping bargainer Maritza - We shared a fun "Market Day" together, and more!

Bo and I live one block away from the 10 De Augusto Mercado.  So, naturally, this is where we do most of our shopping.  Not only do we have the Mercado with all of it's amazing fresh produce, meats, and fish - but we also have a plethora of tienditas within a two block radius that meets all of our daily shopping needs. We've become very spoiled with our city-living location.  It's not for many because there is a different energy living in the city.  Below our third floor flat we hear lots of traffic and buses whizzing by, vendors shouting, children laughing or crying, pedestrians chatting as they scurry along, and the occasional alarms going off and impatient drivers honking away.  It's become music to my ears - en serio! Either I've gotten used to it, or it really isn't that offensive to us because we continue to enjoy living here. For us, it's a welcome change from living in the country for so many years.

When we first landed in Cuenca, we were advised to temporarily rent in the Historic District so we could walk out our door and be close to EVERYTHING.  For us it was the best decision because we quickly became familiar with El Centro, and it was so convenient to be in the heart of the action.  We never left this area. As a matter of fact, in our "5 moves during the first 4 months" we continued to rent within a few blocks from our first location.  Our current place is only 1 block from our first rental - go figure!  So, here we are still in the same location 20 months later, and the 10 de Augusto Mercado is our familiar and favorite market. We've heard lots of different OPINIONS about the different markets in our area, from "This one is dirty, that one is clean" to "I shop at SuperMaxi because I'm afraid to eat from that market" - and on and on.  We LOVE our market.  The vendors know us, they treat us with kindness and charge us fairly, and we've become very familiar with our tienditas too.  We know where to find our assortments of nuts and herb and spices, real butter, free range organic eggs, pure olive oil, fresh basil, and on and on.  It's all here, just 1 to 2 blocks away.

Cuenca has MANY mercados.  Some we have not even visited because of the convenience of always going one block away and then hauling our goods one block back to our flat.  Yet, there are so many markets to visit and explore and get to know.  That's why I was so excited when my ñaña invited me and our other ñaña to join her for a Friday "Ñaña Market Morning."  Oh, ñaña is an Ecuadorian word for sister.  We've become such good friends that we are now ñañas, and every Friday we have a ÑAÑA DAY.  Sometimes we go to Baños together to soak all day.  Sometimes we go shopping in the city and have lunch. This day was going to be our Market Day.  And what a fun day it was.  Not only did we have a fabulous time exploring two different markets, but we also went out to an elegant lunch in El Centro and then ended it with a most delicious treat. So, let me share our memorable day with you so you can enjoy more of this fabulous city we live in.


First stop was FERIA LIBRE Mercado.  This is Cuenca's largest market and goes on and on for several blocks.  It is not for the faint-hearted because one can get on sensory-overload.  Not only do they have produce and food here, but you can find clothes, electronics, and more.  Farmers come to sell their goods to other vendors, who in turn sell them on the streets or at their other market locations.

Me and my ñañas - ready to storm the gates of Feria Libre!

This vendor is up to her neck in Platanos.  

Platanos (Plantains)  are one of my favorite fruit-vegetable.  Yes, They are a fruit, but cooked and eaten as a starch vegetable side dish.  I slice them and fry them in coconut oil - yummmmm!  We're never lacking for ripe Platanos here in Ecuador.   Bo buys them 7-8 for a dollar at our Mercado.  I didn't price them here, but I'm sure you can get a few more for that price.  

One could shop here daily and not lack for anything on their produce-shopping list!

Avocados are a daily fruit in our home.  We eat one or two a day (good fat!!!) because we can afford to.  They've gone up in the last couple months, and now we get only three for a dollar.  Yet, in the USA we were paying $2 for one.  I'm not complaining......

Ginger is abundant here.  We cook with Ginger often, and I love to slice some and steep it in my tea.  A huge chunk costs $1.00.

Every variety of potato was available.  Our grand find was SWEET POTATOES.  I didn't get a photo - I was too excited - it was the first time I found sweet potatoes in our 20 months here.  I'm still enjoying them because I bought A LOT!!!

Radishes were huge!  I also found LEAF LETTUCE today.  You can find Iceberg Lettuce daily at the markets, but leaf lettuce are not that common.  I have a vendor at the 10 de Augusto who has leaf lettuce once a week.  Yes, SuperMaxi always has them, but I don't go there often.

We finished our shopping spree at FERIA LIBRE and Freddy loaded up our produce and drove us on to the Totoracocha Mercado which is only open on Fridays.  Here they bring in FRESH seafood from the coast (which is about 4 hours away).

Colorful beautiful shrimp!

More fish......

........and tons more shrimp!

Maritza helped Karlita pick the best spinach and get the best price.

Beautiful onions - SOLD!

The flower market area was thriving with colorful fresh varieties.

Children work and help their parents.  These two were packaging the Horchata wreath that Teresita bought to make tea with.  This is different from Mexican Horchata which is a rice drink.  In Ecuador, Horchata is an herbal tea drink made from a mix of herbs and flowers and is a typical drink from the province of Loja.

A Colorful HORCHATA  Herb and Flower WREATH - sold for $1.00.

My greatest find at this fabulous market was 


This joyful man was selling the honey, honeycomb, and pollen.  I sampled it and what an incredible flavor.  He is only there once a month, but he gave us his phone # so we can contact him.  The three ñañas bought a bag of the pollen and split it three ways.  Of course, each of us went home with a container of this golden rich honey.

So organically pure and sweet - NO SUGAR ADDED like lots of honey they sell here.

Eggs were abundant and ranged eight to ten for $1.00.  Bo and I buy free-range eggs near our apartment - we pay more, but they are so much healthier and incredibly delicious.

Yes, the meats hang fresh and unrefrigerated at the markets.  Yes, Bo and I buy our meat at the open markets and we're still alive and well. 

What fun we had shopping and spending the morning with Freddy and Mariska.  They were both a wealth of information and made our shopping trip to two markets and then three trips to unload our bags at each of our casitas a delight.  We bid farewell to our Freddy and Mariska and then headed to a new restaurant Teresita picked in El Centro -  "La Brasserie" - for a classy elegant and relaxing lunch.

My Chicken in Bearnaise Sauce and Roasted Vegetables and Salad was to die for!  How I savored it with my glass of Cabernet.  I didn't get a photo of Teresita's pick - Pollo Coq au Vin, roasted vegetables and Potatoes Au Gratin - but it was also a thumbs up!

Karlita's Creamy Champiñón Soup and Asparagus Salad was a third hit!  Check out that creamy dollop in her soup.  Not sure what it was made of, but was it ever delightful.  They also serve a Creamy Pumpkin Soup - which I plan to try next visit. 

After our long dreamy lunch, we stopped at a Panaderia and Teresita bought a cinnabon-type pan to have with her morning cafecito. 

Then we headed for our after-lunch treat.  A stop at El Yogur for a Mora Yogur con Pan de Yucca.  Oh, too delicious for words.  As you can see, this is a popular spot.  This was Teresita's find for us.

Karlita's turn.  A stop at her favorite yogurt shop where we each bought a 16 oz container of thick creamy Greek Yogurt for $5.  It was so amazingly delicious, that Bo and I returned two days later for more!  Bo and I ordered yogurt drinks with Pan de Yucca here, and we sat and visited with the owner, Vicente.  He makes the yogurt himself from scratch, minimal processing, all natural, and it's going to be where we get our Greek Yogurt from now on.  I love when others share their favorite places with us.

La Linda's turn.  The Liquor Store!  My favorite place to buy wine - and where they have a great selection and for much less than Bo and I have found anywhere else.  We had a most delicious Cabernet (Santa Helena) at lunchtime, so I wanted to see if they sold this wine here - and they did!  It was only $9.50 for a bottle - woohoo.  I thought it was going to be a lot more.  I bought it to save for Bo's and my anniversary in September.



Thank you, Mariska (isn't she adorable?), for sharing your shopping expertise with us and for bargaining for us.  Mariska's mother is at Feria Libre on Wednesdays and she makes and sells humitas and other delicious foods.  Mariska is there helping her mom on that day.  We hope to visit her there to try her mom's cooking.  Thank you my ñañas, for another memorable Friday together.

Thank you, Freddy, for being our personal driver and for helping us with all our bags.  You're the man! 

Hey, do you readers know Freddy Remache?  If you don't, you should.  He is punctual, speaks English, and is a safe driver and fun to know.  Freddy picked Bo and me up from the GYE Airport this last trip back from the USA.  Our flight was over 3 hours delayed (torture trip).  When we got to the terminal with all our luggage, Freddy was there waiting for us at midnight, and he drove us safely home through the Cajas to our Cuenca apartment.  Kudos to Freddy! I recommend him to anyone needing a driver. 

The End Again!


  1. Wow! What an awesome post. All your photos were so vivid it was like I was there at the market with you, which, of course, I wish I was! Soon. Very soon! Mara

    1. Hi Mara,
      Glad you enjoyed this post - and soon we can go visit the markets together. Won't that be fun!
      Tick tock, tick tock - your a day closer to your move here. How exciting!

  2. Another wonderful adventure that you have shared with us. You and Bo have truly settled into the life and culture of Cuenca. As always the photo and your story bring the whole adventure to life. Prayers for continued health, and good living.

    1. Hi Paulette,
      Thank you for reading and sharing our journey through this BLOG. Yes, we have settled in and made this home - and we enjoy the culture and wonderful benefits of being here. Shopping and cooking is so much fun because of the abundance of fresh food choices and the amazing varieties of fruits an vegetables. This truly is good and healthy living. Thank yo for prayers.
      Keep on reading and we'll keep sharing our journey,

  3. Hi Linda, this is Debbie from Bend, Or. We are finally headed to Cuenca in 3 months :) Your photos of all of this mouth watering fruits and veggies are heavenly, we can't wait to wander through the markets! Do you usually bargain at each stand?

  4. Hi Debbie,
    How exciting that you will be here soon to experience beautiful Cuenca. Yes, we do bargain with the vendors. Some are fair, some are gringo-gauging - but after some time here one learns who they need to bargain with. Bo and I have our regular vendors who treat us like locals and we usually don't have to bargain. But, on this day at new markets, we were definitely bargaining. It's the way here - and it's important to bargain with kindness and to be ready to walk away if the price isn't fair. We are not here to take away from the vendors, but to be treated with the same prices that the locals are charged. The vendors are poor and work hard every day to earn their living. That is always in the forefront when we bargain with them. Compared to the USA, we are always grateful for the price of food here. It's one of the greatest benefits living here. Plus, a lot of the food is fresh and locally grown.
    Let me know when you are coming, and we can plan to meet. I would be happy to show you around the Historic District and share some of my favorite places with you. We can meet for "un cafecito." It's always fun to meet fellow Oregonians coming to Cuenca.
    I'm sure you're counting the days until your arrival.
    God Bless you,

  5. Hi Linda, Thanks for the lengthy reply. We have room in our suitcases if you would like me to bring you anything. I would be glad to pick something up for you or, I can send you our address here in Bend for a delivery. We arrive Sat. Nov. 22. Debbie

    1. Hi Debbie,
      What a generous offer. I have marked my calendar for your arrival date. Please send me your e-mail and I will PM you regarding your generous offer. Thank you and we look forward to meeting you in November. I'll wait to hear from you.

    2. Thanks, Debbie.
      I will private message you.

  6. Hi Linda :) Great day and wonderful pictures! Could you please give addresses of the Greek Yogourt place and of that restaurant where you had lunch? Also how expensive is it? PM is fine, even better, if possible.Thanks

    1. Welcome to our Blog, John and Jane!
      Glad you enjoyed reading about our "Market Day" and enjoyed the photography. The Greek Yogurt place is on Sucre heading towards Tarqui. I don't have that address, but it is a tiny narrow building on the left. The Restaurant, LaBrasserie" is on Antonio
      Borrero 10-87 y Mriscal Lamar. My lovely meal was $9.00. Worth every penny!!!
      Hope you find and enjoy them.

  7. Hello Linda and thanks for the info. One more question, if you do not mind - Sucre, heading towards Tarqui from where ? Is it before or after Tarqui, if we go from Parke de Calderon? Thanks

  8. Good Morning from Florida, Linda!
    I have some questions for you about moving to Cuenca. I need help/advice and would just so love for you to give me some guidance. Would you mind emailing me at barbie.walker@gmail.com . I have had some communication with a teenager there and have her perspective because I have 2 boys but now I need some adult side of it. Thank you in advance!


Leave us your comments and I will respond with any questions you may have. Enjoy our Blog! Linda (y Bo)