1) Buy 100 roses and leave them for the maid…not as crazy as it seems. You can buy bundles of twenty-five beautiful long-stemmed roses for $4 almost anywhere. With a little haggling, you might get one hundred for $10. A vase called a “florero” can be had for just two dollars more. Enjoy the amazing colors and delicious scent every time you walk in your room, and the house cleaner will love it when you walk out.
2) Stroll up the rushing Tomebamba River through the old and new neighborhoods of Cuenca. Start at Carolina Bookstore just off Hermano Miguel and Calle Larga from there head south and walk down the always busy flight of steps to the river below. At the river turn right and follow the brick and cobblestone walkways as they head upriver. A feast for the senses and a good glimpse of the differing sides of Cuenca, indigenous families washing clothes, spectacular colonial buildings spilling down the bluff, fifteen-story modern apartment towers, goat herders, an occasional cow, eucalyptus groves, views of the Andes. Watch out when crossing streets, pedestrians are not high on the priority list down here.
3) Watch the latest from Hollywood at the Multicine in the Millenium Mall. An eight-minute walk from the Calle Larga. Head down the steps at Hermano Miguel, cross the Rio Tomebamba and then slalom through the runners and walkers in the always busy health nuts paradise of “Parque de la Madre” turn left at the Planetarium, cross the street to the Millenium Mall. Movies appear in Spanish either translated or with under-titles the same day they start in the US. Don’t faint when the ushers open the doors and thank you warmly for coming.
4) Enjoy a “cono” and espresso in the Parque Calderon’s Tutto Freddo while soaking up the sun, enjoying the beautiful gardens, and watching the locals. This European style ice cream shop fifty-steps from the Cathedral’s front door is an institution in Cuenca. Cakes, ice cream, sorbets, coffees, they have it all. Ago first to the cahier and ask for “un cono simple y un espresso”, $1.80 total. She will give you a receipt, which you hand to the counter attendants, tell them “para llevar” (carry out). Take the mouth-watering treasure across the street, into the lush gardens of the park, sit back, and enjoy.
5) Have an English wool jacket tailor made for you. Head into any tailor “Sastre” in the central area and gesture to them you want a new suit. They will show you all kinds of materials, choose one, and then get measured. Most can have your new jacket or suit done in two days. English cashmere will be $20 - $40 a yard and the tailoring will be $60 for a sports coat.
6) Take language lessons at Simon Bolivar Language School a block and a half from “Parque Calderon” available from 8 – 12 or 2 – 6 everyday. It’s $8 per hour for private lessons and worth every penny. Don’t miss joining in the fun between 6 and 7 each evening at the Salsa, Merengue and cooking lessons.
7) Take a nap on Thursday afternoon so you can be fresh for the 10 pm live music at La Parola. This hip club sitting on an outdoor balcony above the river at Calle Larga and Hermano Miguel will be empty at 9:30 and packed by 11. Remember when you leave you need to show your receipt to the doorman, it’s the law in Ecuador.
8) Go bowling at Mall del Rio. This big mall on the Tarqui River three miles or a $2.50 taxi ride from the center of town has a fun bowling alley, and scores of restaurants and shop. The bowling alley is hidden in the Fun Zone and is exactly like what you would find anywhere in the US, except the price is 1.99 a game, shoes included, and everyone around you will be yelling Strike! But in Spanish.