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January 15th, 2012
January 15th, 2012

Hats off to Mexico, Toronto, as well as Quito, Cuenca and Vilcabamba, Ecuador

Hats for sale in the Cuenca ´museum´ of Straw Hats
Hats for sale in the Cuenca ´museum´ of Straw Hats
From the last posting in México City, our travels have been varied and exciting.  First of all, after the hustle and bustle of the capital city we took the winding nine-and-a-half-hour bus ride over the Sierra Madre to the west coast of Mexico.  Turning north on the outskirts of the old tourist city of Acapulco we “hair-pinned´ along the coastal road to the fishing town of Zihuatanejo where we were to spend Christmas with our youngest daughter, Leah.  The town (Zihua as the locals call it) has grown over the last few years but still has the laid-back feel of the sleepy, little fishing village of its origin compared to the modern, planned sister-city of Ixtapa with its many large, glitzy hotels, wide boulevards and well-watered gardens.  With its contrived growth to produce a “modern tourist destination” Ixtapa has lost the true charm and natural warmth of Mexico and its people.  We were very glad to be in  Zihua with the local people celebrating Christmas in old fashioned ways, starting with the procession of the Virgin of Guadeloupe, the sides of the canal and main motorway decked with vendors selling poinsettias, roses, other natural flowers and of course piñatas being handmade in all shapes and sizes.  We also enjoyed the safe, clean beaches of Zihua, our favourite being Playa La Ropa and going for a Christmas Eve sail on a 14´ catamaran.  

Shortly after Christmas we flew to México City to show Leah some of the sights from our first visit, as well as enjoy some new ones.  As an Art History professor, Leah´s expertise led us to the highlight of this second visit to the capital - a visit to Frida Kahlo´s family house and one she shared with husband, Rivera Diego, in a residential, colonial district of the city.  The house has been turned into a very interesting combination of actual living spaces decorated with artefacts of the couple´s original furnishings as well as many of their smaller paintings.  The beautiful tropical garden that they both enjoyed has been maintained and restored, making it a tranquil respite from the chaotic buzz of the city.

Leaving Mexico on December 29th, we headed to Toronto and daughter, Christina, and Sam´s home to await the birth of our ninth grandchild.  Leah proceeded back to Burlington, Vermont where she is teaching at St. Michaels College, a small liberal arts university in that beautiful city, albeit cold and snowy at this time of year.

We did not have to wait long for the appearance of a little, healthy, baby boy on December 31st - what a great way to celebrate New Year´s Eve, 2011.  Welcome dear little Rustom Martyn Kazak!  Toronto, unseasonably mild, was very good to us so after helping with the little family´s adjustment to the new addition we commenced the South American portion of our travels.

Flying to Quito, Ecuador via Miami and Bogota, Columbia, we were met in Quito airport by our son-in-law, Juan and whisked off to Cumbaya, a suburb of Quito to see our daughter, Esther, and grandchildren, Maria Leticia and Juan de Dios (meeting this dear little boy for the first time at 14 months).  After enjoying family time with them we took the short 45 minute plane flight from Quito to Cuenca to enjoy for the third time the historic city that was at one time the capital of the large country of Colonial Peru.

Cuenca, nestled in a beautiful valley and spring-like in climate, is home to many universities and ex-pats looking for a good life style and great hiking.  We enjoy just walking the streets taking in the culture of old buildings - restored and those in need of it (some that even the Clarks would balk!); the indigenous people still wearing bowler hats and bright coloured dress; the locals and tourists enjoying coffee in the numerous coffee houses; the beautiful cathedrals and churches on many of the street corners; the more touristy shops like this museum of making straw hats (one could buy any shape or size as represented in the title photo).  We are staying in a back-packers hang-out right in centro historico and awake every morning to the peeling of the church bell just across the street.  The Hostel La Cigale is a converted colonial house that offers clean rooms with private baths and a substantial breakfast for the two of us at $24 a night!  

A highlight of this visit was the processions (known as Passe de Ninoon Saturday, January 14th from several churches and the cathedral in centro historico.  Full of colour and pageantry re-enacting the escape from Bethlehem of Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus as well as local ethnic dances and bands, the processions proceeded in front of us as we sat and enjoyed the view from a park bench in the town square.  

From Cuenca we jumped on a bus for the city of Loja and the valley of Vilcabamba where we are told our life-span will exceed a hundred years if we stay put!  The scenery has been spectacular and the experience rewarding.  We are glad we decided to explore more of Ecuador´s many valleys and lifestyles here in the southern part of the country rather than heading to the coast again.

For more photos and daughter Leah´s take on Zihuatanejo and Mexico City go to:
http://tiddley-bits.blogspot.com/[/url].  IGNORE the notice that blogger page not found and simply click on Tinza´s Tiddley-Bits to restore the link and then scoll down to Mexico City and Zihuatanejo postings.

More Images

poinsettias and pinatas in Zihuatanejo, Mexico
poinsettias and pinatas in Zihuatanejo, Mexico
At the Frida Kahlo museum in Mexico City
At the Frida Kahlo museum in Mexico City
Chapel at retreat in outskirts of Quito
Chapel at retreat in outskirts of Quito
restored house in Cuenca
restored house in Cuenca
the peace of the Cathedral in Cuenca
the peace of the Cathedral in Cuenca
part of the procession to celebrate the Passe de Nino
part of the procession to celebrate the Passe de Nino
Even the Clarks are baulking at this restoration!
Even the Clarks are baulking at this restoration!
action on the streets of Cuenca - young indiginous woman and child with wheelbarrow of cherries
action on the streets of Cuenca - young indiginous woman and child with wheelbarrow of cherries
Young participants in the Passe de Nino procession
Young participants in the Passe de Nino procession
View from bus window of hairpin turns from Cuenca to Loja
View from bus window of hairpin turns from Cuenca to Loja
View from bus window the beautiful green mountain side.
View from bus window the beautiful green mountain side.
Bridge under construction over the deep valley for local traffic.
Bridge under construction over the deep valley for local traffic.
View from our room at Le Rendezvous Hostal of the mountains in Vilcabamba.
View from our room at Le Rendezvous Hostal of the mountains in Vilcabamba.

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