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Cuenca Museum of Modern Art in San Sebas + Marc’s Consignments Tour (Episode 77)

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This day in the life video is a walking tour of the San Sebas (or San Sebastian) area of Cuenca Ecuador.

Marc’s Consignments Cuenca

Our first stop was at Marc’s Consignments. One of our very first subscribers, Marla, will be moving here to Cuenca in June and she requested a tour of one of the consignment stores.

Marc's Consignments Cuenca

Marc’s Consignments is located in the San Sebas area of Cuenca just a couple blocks from San Sebas plaza. In addition to brokering furniture sales, they can also help with relocation services. And if you need something special that they don’t have, they can find it for you. Their stock rotates about every 2 months and they get new items every week so check back often.

Marc's Consignments Cuenca Store

There are two other consignment stores that we know about that are popular with gringos: Cuenca Consignments and JD Muebles. We’ve never been to Cuenca Consignments, but JD Muebles is very similar to Marc’s Consignments.

San Sebas Plaza Cuenca

One of the prettiest, old-world plazas in Cuenca has to be San Sebas Plaza. Locals and gringos alike are often seen relaxing near the fountain, surrounded by flower gardens. Café San Sebas is popular gringo hangout with a nice patio and views of the plaza and the Museum of Modern Art.

San Sebas Plaza Cuenca

Cuenca Museum of Modern Art – Museo Municipal de Arte Moderno de Cuenca

We’ve been to Cuenca’s Museum of Modern Art several times. It’s a beautiful, quite and relaxing art museum with several colorful gardens.

 Museum of Modern Art Cuenca

Museum of Modern Art Garden

However, on this day, there weren’t any art exhibits. The museum is in the process of doing a comprehensive renovation so none of the art was on display except for the outdoor sculptures. We still enjoyed ourselves none-the-less.

Pho Vietnamita Restaurant

After we left the museum, we walked a couple blocks to Pho Vietnamita for lunch. As far as we know, this is the only Vietnamese restaurant in Cuenca, and it’s muy delicioso.

Pho Vietnamita Cuenca Sign

We met Rick, the head chef and owner, during our Visa process. We rode to Machala together to file our paperwork soon after we arrived in Cuenca.

Pho Vietnamita Rick

Rick made us some delicious vegan rice paper spring rolls as an appetizer.

Pho Vietnamita Vegan Spring Roll

We ordered the Vegetarian Pho, which is actually vegan, for our main course. The Vegetarian Ramen uses egg noodles, so it’s not vegan. The Pho bowl was very flavorful and filling.

Pho Vietnamita Cuenca Bowl

INTI-RAYMI Galeria

After we left Rick’s place, we walked down Simón Bolivar toward Parque Calderon. If you’re in the market for unique furniture and home decor, the INTI-RAYMI Galeria might have what you’re looking for. They have more furniture on the upper level so be sure to check that out, too.

Home Decor Store

The Cuenca Flower Market

A walk through El Centro wouldn’t be complete without a trip to Cuenca’s world famous Flower Market.

Cuenca Flower Market

Cuenca Flower Market Lilly

Fogón del Zorro Peruvian Restaurant

After we left the flower market, a dark cloud appeared from out of nowhere (as they often do here in Cuenca) and the sky opened up. We stepped inside Fogón del Zorro just as it started pouring rain. They do have a few options on the menu for us vegans, but since we had already eaten, we just ordered a delicious Peruvian beer to sip while we waited out the storm.

Fogon del Zorro Beer

Hopefully you enjoyed our video, and if you did, please LIKE, COMMENT and SHARE it, and SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel. ¡Muchas Gracias y Hasta Luego!

Plaza Rotary in Cuenca | Outdoor Marketplace (Episode 60)

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While Amelia’s back in the States, I filmed el Mercado de Artesanias Rotary here in Cuenca. It’s usually just called “the rotary” by the gringos and it’s located at Vargas Machuca y Gaspar Sangurima just one block East of Mercado 9 de Octubre.

The Rotary has lots of mostly indigenous vendors selling furniture, metalwork, hand-woven baskets, pottery, kitchen utensils, clothes, bags, rugs, souvenirs, etc. It’s a great place to find unique gifts for your loved ones, or obscure items for yourself.

One of our viewers from the other side of the world (Taiwan) requested a video on this outdoor marketplace and filming it was a good use of my alone time. If you would like us to film something in particular, please let us know. As long as it’s relevant to our audience, we’ll be happy to record it!

Hopefully you enjoyed our video, and if you did, please LIKE, COMMENT and SHARE it, and SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel. ¡Muchas Gracias y Hasta Luego!

Cuenca Pharmacy Tour and Paying Bills + Beet Burgers Cooking Video (Episode 54)

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If you’ve never been to Cuenca or a South American country, you may be curious about basic things like paying bills and shopping at pharmacies. In this video, we’ll show you the unusual (by American standards) way of paying bills and perhaps reassure you about the quality of pharmacies here in Cuenca.

We’ll also share our Beet Burger w/ Black Beans & Quinoa recipe in a cooking video. You can find the full recipe on our sister recipe website, LottaVeg.com.

Beet Burgers

Paying Utility Bills

The process for paying our utility bills here in Cuenca has been a constant learning process. We used to pay for our water, electric and landline at the Farmasol pharmacy near our house, but they stopped accepting utility payments for some reason. Now we go to JEP Cooperativa, which is a co-op bank here in Ecuador.

Paying for Electric, Water and Phone at JEP

JEP

JEP only accepts cash and they don’t accept our American ATM bank cards, so we have to go to a regular non-coop bank first to get cash. We prefer Banco Pichincha because they don’t charge ATM fees.

Banco Pichincha

Our utility bills run about $60/month: $40 for electric, $15 for water and $3 for our landline phone that came with the house. For reference, we have a single family 2-story home that’s about 1,500 square feet. Some landlords include the cost of utilities in the rent, but ours doesn’t so we have to pay them ourselves.

Our Internet with Puntonet

We use Puntonet for our Internet access, which costs us $35/month for high-speed, fiber to the curb. It’s FAR better here than our crappy Comcast service back in Denver. We pay Puntonet with auto-pay using a credit card (no international transaction fees).

Our Mobile Phone with Claro

We use Claro for our Ecuadorian mobile phone. It only costs us $17/month! We bought a cheap Samsung phone for $170 when we setup the account, but it was awful. We still have iPhones with Verizon back in the states (we both still work, Amelia for a company in Denver and I have web design clients) so after we upgraded our iPhones, we swapped the SIM card from the Samsung to our old iPhone and it works much better.

Claro

We’ve tried setting up auto-pay at Claro using our credit card multiple times, but it never works so we go every month in person to pay. When you go in the front door, you have to get a number and wait your turn.

Claro Number

They ask for your Claro phone number at the front desk, but it doesn’t get recorded on the ticket so you have to repeat it to the clerk who takes your payment. It usually takes less than 15 minutes to pay.

How Our Electricity Got Shut Off

In the video, Amelia mentioned that our electricity got cut off one month. That was due to the confusing nature of bill paying here in Ecuador. There is no online access to bills, so we don’t know what the amounts due until we go to JEP. Furthermore, the bills are only available after a certain day of the month, which has been changed several times in the year we’ve been living here.

The bill available dates are currently between the 1st and 5th of the month (it varies). However, they used to be available between the 19th and the 24th, then the 24th and the 29th. If you go before that date, the bills aren’t available so you can’t pay them.

That’s where the confusion arose with our electricity getting shut off. We went to Farmasol to pay our bills (before they stopped accepting payments) and the electric bill wasn’t available yet because they changed the available date. We figured we would save a trip and just pay for it next month after several friends told us paying a month late wouldn’t matter. The next month, we paid our bills after all of them were available, but they cashier didn’t charge us for the previous month’s electricity.

The next month, Farmasol stopped accepting payments and our payment dates changed AGAIN when JEP took over. The missing month still hadn’t been paid so on our first trip to JEP, they charged us for the missing month and the current month, but when we got home, our electricity had been shut off already for non-payment of the bill three months before.

Thankfully, our landlord happened to drop by and we told him what happened. He took our JEP payment receipt to the electric company showing that we had just paid the late bill and our electricity was turned back on a few hours later.

Paying Rent

We didn’t cover how we pay rent in the video, but it’s worth a mention. This is a cash society. We haven’t seen personal checks, online bill pay is still in its infancy here, and most individuals and small businesses don’t accept credit cards.

So in order to pay the rent, we go to the bank, withdraw cash from the ATM and deposit it directly into our landlord’s bank account. He gave us his account information and we use it to fill out a deposit slip.

Paying the bills and the rent is a great way to get our 10,000 steps in for the day!

Cuenca Pharmacy Tour – Pharmacy’s

Farmacias

Pharmacies are abundant here in Cuenca and throughout Ecuador. For some reason, Ecuador hasn’t gone through the corporate consolidation process like the states has so there are lots of consumer options here. Within walking distance from our house, we have a Cruz Azul, Pharmacy’s, Fybeca and Medicity. And we’ve seen others.

In the video, we toured a Pharmacy’s, but most of the larger pharmacies are pretty similar. They’re a lot like a Walgreens or CVS back in the states and they have a lot of the major brands.

Lubriderm

Most of the beauty products are a LOT more expensive here. My physical therapist has us bring back Cetaphil for her because it only costs $11 in the states compared to $41 here.

Cetaphil

Most of the packaged medicines and vitamins are kept behind the counter so you’ll need to ask for them. In the smaller pharmacies like the Cruz Azul in our neighborhood, nearly everything is kept behind the counter.

Cruz Azul

If you would like us to look for something in particular, just let us know.

Núcleo Nerve Medicine

Núcleo

Núcleo is a drug that’s available in most countries, but not the United States. This drug helps regenerate damaged nerves and the protective sheath around nerves. It also helps with neuropathy from nerve damage or diabetes. And from my experience, it actually works without side effects and only costs me about $45/month.

Due to my spinal issues, I have nerve damage in my hands, legs and feet. The neuropathy in my feet was really bad before I started taking Núcleo several months ago. I’ve also regained some of the lost feeling in my hands and legs. It’s difficult to say for sure if this is solely due to the Núcleo or if part of the improvement came from my stellar physical therapy here in Cuenca or the natural healing process.

Regardless, it’s unacceptable that this isn’t available in the states when it’s available in most other countries. It could help millions of people suffering with nerve damage or diabetic neuropathy. I was prescribed Gabapentin following my surgeries, but the side effects, especially depression, became unbearable so I had to stop taking it. Núcleo would have really helped me.

Tosta Sourdough Bread

On our way home from paying our bills, we stopped by Tosta for some delicious sourdough bread. We timed it perfectly because it was straight from the oven and still warm! Yum!

Tosta

Tosta Inside

Tosta Bread

Hopefully you enjoyed our video, and if you did, please LIKE, COMMENT and SHARE it, and SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel. ¡Muchas Gracias!

Video Transcript

Hi veggie lovers! I’m Amelia with
Vegans Abroad. JP is behind the camera.

Today we are going to go pay our
utilities and our cell phone bill.

We also need to go to the pharmacy,
which is perfect because we had a viewer ask us

to do some video of the
pharmacies here in the area.

We will post these videos, all of our videos,

at 2 p.m. Eastern time every
Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday

and we do stick around for about an hour to answer any questions or comment on any

of your comments so please join us and
remember to subscribe and ring that bell

so that you get notified on all our
latest and greatest.

♫ Upbeat Music ♫

I’m standing outside Claro. Amelia is
inside paying our bill. We’ve tried to

set up automatic payments
with our credit card at Claro several times,

but for some reason it never works correctly.

So we just come down here once a month

and pay in person. It’s $17 a month
for our mobile phone bill here in Ecuador.

There is another company called
Movistar, but most of the people we

talked to recommended Claro
so that’s why we went with them.

And after we leave here after Amelia pays our bill we’re gonna head down to JEP and pay our utilities.

Now that we could also pay
online if we had a JEP account, but since

we don’t we just go pay it in person, too.
And you have to pay that with cash.

They don’t take credit cards there so we’re
gonna go do that next and then go down

and tour a couple pharmacies.

JP: Still waiting?
Amelia: Still waiting.

It actually hasn’t been that long.

I’m going into JEP now to pay our
utilities, which is the water, electric

and we pay I think $3 a month
for a landline that just came with the

house that we rent so it just is part of
rent as far as I’m concerned.

As another thing we do pay our utilities in cash here.

Umm.. I’ve heard that you can set up a

JEP account pay some of these online
but we haven’t tried that.

If somebody knows let us know.

I’m standing outside of JEP
waiting for Amilia.

You can’t use your phone or any
electronics while you’re in the banks here.

They all have security guards. The security guard will come up and yell at you and tell you to

put your phone away or leave. So I’m just
standing outside under a shade tree next

to this woman selling delicious looking
cherimoyas and cherries.

They have the most amazing dark cherries here!

Oh my God they’re like candy!

A: Success!
JP: All paid?
A: All paid.

JP: So they aren’t going to shut off our electricity again?
A: No. [chuckling]

We’ve had some issues figuring out
when we’re supposed to pay bills

and they changed our due date and they changed the location where we can pay them,

but luckily our landlord helped us through all of that.

We only had our electricity shut off for what, nine hours?

JP: Yeah [laughing]

That was embarrassing. [laughing]

And the funny thing is we had just paid it that morning!

But we didn’t realize we
had a short window and somehow one month

apparently didn’t get paid when they
made the bill switch. I don’t know.

Now we are heading over to the pharmacy
right down the street

to get JP’s prescriptions.

We decided to stop on the way home
and get some bread from Tosta.

We timed it perfectly, although
that was an accident and they had just

pulled some fresh out of the oven. Yay!I

[sounds of cutting bread]

JP: Yummy bread.
A: I know. I’m hungry and I could not wait for a piece.

A: We are back from running our errands and
enjoying our delicious bread from Tosta.

A: Sitting outside and
enjoying the wonderful weather.

JP: I know. It’s beautiful here today it.

A: It is. We had…a viewer asked us
to record the pharmacy’s,

which we were happy to do so

since as I mentioned we needed to go
anyway. There are many different

pharmacies out here they’re super easy
to find. Umm, there.. I think they’re pretty

similar to like a Walgreens or a Rite
Aid. What do you think JP?

JP: Yeah they’re very similar to like Walgreens,
except a lot of the stuff is behind the counter.

JP: Things that you don’t actually need a
prescription for but they still keep it

behind the counter anyway.

A: Just obviously to minimize theft.
JP: Yeah.

A: Especially the little stores everything in the little
pharmacies are behind the counter so you

have to know what you want because most
of the people working there do not speak English.

JP: So the pharmacies are the ones
that we know of are Farmasol, Medicity

No, that was Fybeca.
Fybeca, Farmacias, Cruz Azul,

which is Blue Cross in English.

A: Yes and I think..
JP: Is that it?

JP: There may be more there’s a lot

of pharmacies and a lot of little ones like
the little one in our neighborhood.

JP: The Cruz Azul. It’s really tiny. They..
Almost everything is behind the counter there.

A: Yeah, but they’re really helpful so we’ve
gone and gotten prescriptions there

before and they have had to order them
but they get them the same day usually.

JP: Usually the same day or the next day.

A: But if you’re in a hurry I would definitely

recommend going to a larger pharmacy

or if you actually do want to
wander up and down some aisles..

JP: And see all the stuff.
A: Yes. Go to a larger pharmacy.

A: The interesting thing, I mentioned
prescriptions. JP, you want to..?

JP: Oh yeah I’ve got my
prescriptions here.

This is Núcleo. And this is a drug that
helps with the regeneration of nerve damage

and the protective sheath that coats nerves.
And this is not available in the United States,

but it is available here and it
doesn’t even require a prescription.

I’ve been taking this for a few months and I
definitely think it’s helping with my

nerve damage from my spinal issues
and I don’t feel any side effects from

it so it I feel better I’ve got more
feeling back in my hands and legs and

feet and there’s no side effects.

A: Yeah and it’s very affordable so a lot of

the stuff here is really affordable um
the doctors will write you a

prescription so that you know what to
get from the pharmacist, but then we can

go back and just buy them normally.

JP: Yeah, we just show them the box.
A: Like the B vitamins, for example.

JP: We got these B Vitamins, too. My neurologist

here recommended I take these
every day as well

because that’s also supposed
to help with nerve damage.

A: So not everything
is available over-the-counter.

A: I think that they have changed their
policy on antibiotics

and that you do need a prescription for that.

[loud car alarm; laughing]

JP: Car alarms galore. It’s non stop here.

A: Anyway, not everything is available over-the-counter.

A: Some prescriptions..
[loud car alarm]
JP: It’s never-ending.

A: Not everything is available over-the-counter.
Certain things like antibiotics require

a prescription now.
I would assume opioids probably.

JP: Probably. You used to be able to buy
antibiotics without a prescription

You could just walk in and tell them
you want some and they give them to you,

but because of the over over prescribing of

antibiotics and all the antibody
antibiotic resistant bacteria or

whatever now they’re.. they require
prescription now, thankfully.

[chewing sounds]

JP: Anything else?
A: I was hungry.

JP: Amelia’s hungry. I’m hungry, too.

JP: All right.
A: The bread is delicious.

JP: All right. So now you’re gonna go do yoga?
A: Mm-hmm.

JP: I think I’ll do my workout and then we’re
gonna do some cooking this afternoon.

A: That’s the plan.
JP: All right. See you soon.
A: See you soon.

I decided to make Beet Burgers
because JP and I have not had them in..

..ages I think a year, year and a half maybe.
And they sounded really delicious.

The beets here are really good and it’s
pretty quick and easy to make.

Although, I had to review my notes a
couple times because, like I said,

I haven’t made him in a long time.
So let’s run through our ingredients.

OK. So I have two beets, which I have to grate.

These are raw. I have peeled them.
I have 1 cup of black beans that I have rinsed and

drained.. or drained and rinsed.
I have 2 cups of cooked quinoa.

One onion that I need to chop still.
1 teaspoon paprika.

1 teaspoon cumin.
1/2 teaspoon mustard.

1/4 teaspoon salt (kinda hard to see in there).
I have 3 tablespoons minced garlic.

And then I need to make a flax egg.
That’s first thing I’m gonna do and to

do that I’m going to grind up two
tablespoons of flax.

We use a coffee grinder to grind all of our seeds.
We actually do not use this to grind coffee, FYI.

Alright so this is super simple. Just
putting in my two tablespoons of flax

seed which is going to make us some flax meal.

[coffee grinder sound]

So I actually have a little bit more than
two tablespoons.. once it’s ground.

A: You can buy ground flax meal we just did not.
JP: It’s better if you grind it fresh.

JP: It loses its nutritional value as it sits.

A: So I am going to measure out the two tablespoons

and the rest of this we can use for our
breakfast tomorrow and I’m just gonna

give this a quick stir with my teeny
tiny little fork.

Alright and that just needs to sit and
it will kind of turn into this

jelly-like consistency, which will be our
flax egg. So we will set that aside and

then the next thing I need to do is
grate these beets. So I need a cup of

grated beets and I’m not exactly sure
how much that’s going to be, so..

JP: Those are raw, right?
A: Yes. Raw peeled. Please make sure you peel them.

I don’t think the peel of beets would
taste very good.

I did slice these up so they will fit
into our little tube here.

[food processor sound]

So we need a cup of grated beets.
Boy these look delicious don’t they?

JP: Wow, they’re so red!
A: I know.

A: I think we’re gonna have plenty.
We have extra quinoa because I

made a little extra intentionally so we
can have that for breakfast in the

morning and we’re gonna have a little
bit of extra beet, grated beets which is

delicious in salads, which we’ll
also have tomorrow.

I still need my food processor so I didn’t rinse it out.

I did change the blades so we’re now using

this one not the shredder one. We’re
going to put in our grated beets, one cup.

Black beans. I think I’ll go ahead and put our spices
in so that I don’t end up making a mess.

Quinoa is going in here as well. This is
gonna be a very hearty burger JP.

And very pretty. And then lastly we want to
put our flax egg in and in case you have

not made one yet you can see this is
your end result it’s kind of gelatinous.

I’m just gonna pulse this until
everything is blended. We don’t want

things to be mushy we want them
still to be a little chunky.

[food processor sound]

Yeah I think this is good.
Oh my gosh it smells really good.

I’m really excited to eat these!

I’m going to set this aside for a moment,
chop my onion, and I’m going to sauté

the onion and garlic and a little bit of
veggie broth until the onions are translucent.

All right, I’ve heated a quarter cup of veggie broth.

And to that I’m going to add
my three tablespoons of minced garlic.

That spoon’s a little too big to get in there.
I can keep trying but it’s just not gonna work.

And….. Whoops. Our onion..
So in my, on the website we say

to use a yellow onion, which I did not have.
I think any onion will do.

JP: I agree.

A: I love these red onions. I love white onions and I love yellow onions.

They’ll all be delicious, but we can only use one so purple it is.

Ok. And like I mentioned before I’m

just gonna sauté these until they are translucent.

JP: And over here, we’re making some
green beans to go with our Beet Burgers.

While the onions are cooking, onions AND
garlic are cooking, I am going to

transfer our beet mixture to a bowl
because we are going to add in the

onions and garlic along with two
tablespoons of whole wheat flour to this

mixture and then we are going to form
them into patties.

And then we’re going to bake these.
I should mention that.

We are going to bake them in a 350 degree oven.

Wow looks really good.

Alright, I think our onion and garlic is looking good.

So veggie lovers it is dinner time for the
dogs and they are right underneath our feet,

waiting to be fed. They’re gonna have to wait
a couple more minutes. Sorry babies.

Last up before we form these into
patties is to add in two tablespoons of flour.

And I am using whole wheat flour.

All right, now I just need to grab, grab our baking sheet

and then I will make our patties.

This should make six patties.

And you can see I’m just molding them.
They’re kind of fragile.

A: But boy they really look good, don’t they?
JP: They sure do.

A: I love the color. I’m glad I decided to use a red onion.

Fate intervened. Umm.
The nice thing.. these are fragile..

You don’t have to flip these though so
we’re going to bake these now

for 30 to 40 minutes until they’re nice
and done and a little crispy.

Alright..

A: Mmmmm..
JP: Wow! Those look yummy!

A: I know! They look really good, don’t they?
JP: They smell good, too!

A: They DO smell good! Oooo! This is quite hot!

Dinner is ready!

Perfect!

A: This looks delish, JP.
JP: Wow, that does.

A: Uno más.

A: Do you want lettuce and tomato?
JP: Yes, please.

A: I’ll give you two slices.
JP: Thank you.

A: Well you’re very welcome.
JP: That’s so red!
A: I know.

A: Pile that right on top.
JP: Wow! Looky there! Looks so good!
A: I know it’s so pretty!

And then I’m gonna do ketchup and
mustard on mine.. and then I’m gonna eat!

JP: What kind of mustard?

A: Well I’m gonna use regular yellow mustard.

I know you like the spicy brown mustard.

Any of your favorite condiments will do.

A: Avocado would be really good with this, too.
JP: Oh, it would be good.

JP: All right, let’s eat.
A: Next time. Let’s eat!

That’s all for today veggie lovers.

I hope you enjoyed our day in the life
video and I hope you found the pharmacy

information helpful. And I also hope
that you give our beet burgers a try.

Please remember to subscribe. Ring that
bell so you get all the latest and greatest.

And we will see you next time.

Caught In The Rain + Organic Food Shopping in Cuenca Ecuador (Episode #23)

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Today we ventured down to Tienda Néctar located in El Centro, one of our favorite organic markets. They carry a few things like tahini, dates and organic soaps that can be difficult to find. They also get Braggs Liquid Aminos on occasion.

After Néctar, we came back home for lunch and then left again for Jungle Gym back in El Centro on Calle Larga. On our way back home, we got caught in a rainstorm. We waited for about 10 minutes in the ATM kiosk at Banco Pichincha and then under the awning at the Valgus Hotel.

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Tienda Néctar in Cuenca Ecuador

Tienda Néctar Cuenca Ecuador

There are lots of little organic markets in Cuenca, but unlike some of them, the owners at Tienda Néctar speak fluent english. That means they can help you find things more easily, and they’ll even special order some things for you.

They offer a variety of organic products, from nut butters to soaps to wine. It’s not a vegan market so they do carry a few animal based products, but not many. They also offer therapeutic massage and juicing protocols, if that’s your thing.

Chinnumol from Namaste Indian

Unlike back in Denver, we run into people we know on the street nearly every time we leave the house. Since everyone walks here, it’s much more common to pass someone on the street. That means we actually get to interact with people a lot more.

Chinnumol from Namaste India Restaurant Cuenca Ecuador

Chinnumol is the hostess at Namaste India Restaurant on Calle Larga y Benigno Malo, one of our very favorite restaurants in Cuenca. And one of the reasons we love going there is Chinnu’s happy demeanor and infectious smile. She always makes us feel right at home.

Namaste has a sizeable vegetarian menu with several vegan items on it. If you tell them you’re vegan and ask them not to use any animal products in your food, they’re happy to oblige. They will also cook without oil and coconut milk, if you’re concerned about high cholesterol, like me.

Recipes on LottaVeg.com

Beets Radishes Cuenca Ecuador

Our other website is LottaVeg.com where we post our plant-based, vegan recipes and meal plans. I mentioned two recipes in the video: Ginger Vinaigrette Beets and Sauteéd Radishes. They’re a very tasty way to eat veggies that a lot of people don’t like. Give them a try and let us know what you think.

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We hope you enjoyed our trip to Tienda Nectar in Cuenca, Ecuador today. Please remember to like, comment and share our video, and also subscribe to our YouTube channel. If you’d like us to make a video about something specific or if you have questions, please let us know in the comments.

Links to Info & Places We Visited in the Video

Cuenca Days 2018: Celebrating Cuenca’s Independence (Episode 22)

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This weekend is bustling with activity here in Cuenca, Ecuador as we celebrate the annual Cuenca Days 2018 event. Cuenca achieved its independence from Spain on November 3rd, 1820 and they pull out all the stops to celebrate Independence Day with art fairs, food festivals, parades, concerts and fireworks.

Thousands of people descend on our little Andean mountain city this time every year, while many of the native Cuencanos head to the coast to escape the chaos. The streets, parks and restaurants are packed with people, and everyone seems to be thoroughly enjoying themselves.

We hope you enjoy seeing the beautiful scenery, and the interesting people during Cuenca Days 2018 here in Cuenca, Ecuador.

Hopefully you enjoyed our video, and if you did, please LIKE, COMMENT and SHARE it, and SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel. ¡Muchas Gracias!

Links to Info & Places We Visited in the Video

Cuenca Flower Market + Fresh Tea & Cold Beer in Cuenca Ecuador (Episode 20)

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Today we did another one of our Sunday afternoon city walking tours. On our way to the Cuenca Flower Market, we stopped by Télicioso Tea Room to get some of our favorite tea. Then, after we bought Amelia some new earrings and some beautiful flowers at the flower market, we went to Simón for some papas fritas y cervezas (we recorded this in March 2018 before I realized I still had high cholesterol, which you can read about in my blog post on LottaVeg: Can Vegans Get Heart Disease?).

We hope you enjoy seeing the beautiful scenery in Cuenca, Ecuador, and the interesting people we encounter along the way. We’ve also included some Spanish language learning opportunities for you.

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People & Places

Télicioso Tea Room on Calle Larga in Cuenca Ecuador

Amelia read an article stating that most commercial tea bags contain plastic, so she decided for our health and the environment, we would start making our tea from fresh tea leaves.

We first went to Sukasa to get a teapot. It’s a very “American” store located in Gringolandia. We’ll do a video of Sukasa and the surrounding area at some point. Gringolandia is the area where most of the older gringos live in Cuenca.

The next stop after we acquired our new teapot was Télicioso Tea Room. It’s located next door to Café Libre, one of our favorite plant-based, vegan restaurants in Cuenca. Télicioso has a wonderful assortment of fresh tea leaves.

Telicioso Tea Room Cuenca Ecuador

The owner, Katherine, speaks fluent english and is very knowledgeable about tea. She has some of the same flavors and a few new ones each time.

Telicioso Owner Cuenca Ecuador

You can reuse your tea bags so be sure to take them with you. She’ll also tell you how to measure the tea and how much to use of each kind.

Telicioso Owner Tea Bag Cuenca Ecuador

While you’re waiting, you can channel your inner child and enjoy a little swing time like Amelia is doing in this photo.

Teliciouso Swing Cuenca Ecuador

Cuenca Flower Market

One of our favorite places to visit in Cuenca is the Flower Market located across the street from the New Cathedral. It’s so beautiful that it topped the worldwide list of National Geographic’s Top 10 Outdoor Flower Markets. It truly is breathtaking.

Flower Market Cuenca Ecuador

Many of the booths at the Cuenca Flower Market are run by indigenous Ecuadorian women adorned in their traditional garb as you can see in the video. But many of the younger women wear western style clothes consisting of jeans and long sleeve t-shirts, like the woman in this photo.

Flower Market Cuenca Ecuador

You can buy all sorts of flowers by the bundle or in premade arrangements at the Cuenca Flower Market. The women who work at the market are always busy making new arrangements, but they’re eager to help you pick out the perfect flowers for your home or special occasion.

Flower Market Cuenca Ecuador

Ecuador is the world’s third largest exporter of cut flowers and they’re incredibly abundant here…and reasonably priced. A dozen roses typically cost less than $5, and they’re ridiculously beautiful. The buds are huge and they’ll last for as long as two weeks. Place them in a central location in your house and their aroma will welcome you home when you open the door.

The lilies that Amelia bought in the video also smelled fantastic. We could smell them all over the house! That bundle cost us $8, which is more than we usually spend on flowers, but they were also more exotic than the roses we usually buy. On the day we went, the roses looked a little wilted so we opted to try something new.

A lot of street entertainers gather near the New Cathedral and the Cuenca Flower Market, like this father/daughter duo. You have to watch the video if you haven’t already. Her little dance is ADORABLE!!!

Daughter & Father Playing Music Cuenca Ecuador

Simón Restaurant

When we visited Ecuador on our exploratory trip, Simón was the very first restaurant we tried for dinner. They don’t have much in the way of vegan options, but they do have a delicious vegetable soup and a vegetarian panini that can be veganized by leaving off the queso y mayonesa (cheese and mayo).

Simón Cuenca Ecuador

They also have some of the best papas fritas (french fries) in all of Cuenca. Most of the papas fritas are pan fried in Ecuador, rather than deep fried. That means they aren’t nearly as oily. Plus, the papas are far more delicious here, which means the fries are muy delicioso.

We know these aren’t healthy, and neither is the beer, but we’re not perfect. We eat a whole-food plant-based no-oil (WFPBNO) diet at home, but we like to enjoy some delicious papas fritas and cold beers on occasion (at least we used to before we found out about my high cholesterol). It probably looks like we enjoy it more than we actually do since we tend to record videos when we go out to restaurants, but these are (were) a rare treat for us.

Besides, we want to show people that you can still enjoy your favorite food and drinks, and still be vegan. Our friend Rosy from Fratello Vegan verified that all of the Club beers, as well as Pilsener beers, are vegan…so bottoms up!

Simón Papas Fritas Cuenca Ecuador

Every place we’ve ordered papas fritas in Ecuador serves them with mayonesa, and most of the time it’s in a small condiment bowl. That means it probably (hopefully) gets thrown out when we don’t eat it.

Rather than waste it, we order our papas fritas “sin mayonesa” (without mayo). The server always looks at us funny and usually still brings it anyway, but at least we try not to be wasteful.

Cuenca Planetarium

Cuenca’s Planetario is located in Parque de la Madre. We haven’t been inside yet, but the outside looks cool. They just finished giving it a fresh coat of Martian red. We’ll take you inside someday.

This photo was taken pre-paint job, but I thought it looked out-of-this-world with the crazy clouds mixed with blue sky behind the dome and the guy sitting on top of it. The bottom of that ladder wasn’t touching anything. It was tied to the top of the dome with a rope and dangled alongside while the guys climbed on it to strip the old paint and then repaint it.

Planetarium Cuenca Ecuador

They must not have OSHA here because we’ve seen some pretty crazy behavior from construction workers. While walking home one day, I saw a construction worker standing on top of a brick wall two stories high hitting the bricks under his feet with a sledgehammer to knock them loose. He then bent over, picked up the bricks and threw them down into a dump truck parked on the sidewalk below…all while balancing on a wall no wider than 5 inches! ¡Fue muy loco! (He was very crazy!)

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We hope you enjoyed our visit to the Cuenca Flower Market, Télicioso and Simón today. Please remember to like, comment and share our video, and also subscribe to our YouTube channel to help us spread the word about veganism. If you’d like us to make a video about something specific or if you have questions, please let us know in the comments.

Spanish Words & Phrases

hola – hi/hello
¿Cómo están? – How are you?
Bien. ¿Cuál es su nombre? – Well. What is your name?
Bienvenidos a mi sala de té. – Welcome to my tea room.
Veinti tazas – Twenty cups
Necesitamos practicar mucho. – We need to practice a lot.
Naranja, jengibre y manzana té – Orange, ginger and apple tea
Algunas flores – Some flowers
Veinte dólores – Twenty dollars
¿Cuál es el nombre? – What is the name?
Los lilios – The lilies (the spanish word is spelled lirios, but lots of words are different here in Cuenca and in Ecuador)
Tengo hambre – I’m hungry
La macana – the scarf (this is a Cañari word, the language of the indigenous people)
Papas fritas y dos cervezas – French fries and two beers
Sin mayonesa – Without mayonnaise
Salsa de tomate – Ketchup

Links to Info & Places We Visited in the Video

Physical Therapy in Cuenca Ecuador + Riverwalk (Episode 13)

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Today, I went for my regular physical therapy appointment for my continuing spinal issues. My physical therapist (PT), Karina, specializes in neck and back physical therapy and she’s really good at it. She got her degree in Belgium where she had to learn English and Dutch at the same time.

In 3 months, Karina has helped me dramatically improve the numbness in my hands and feet, and I’m also much stronger thanks to the safe exercises she has given me. I showed her the exercises the PT’s gave me back in the states, and some of them she said are dangerous for me.

Every PT I saw back in the states specialized in sports therapy, not spinal injuries like Karina. In retrospect, their style of rehab was designed to get me back on the field or the court rather than to help me walk normally, reduce numbness or improve feeling in my legs. That makes sense considering sports gets more attention and money than anything else in the states. I was paying 5 times more for a lower quality of care and less individualized attention.

My ongoing medical care is one of the main reasons we left the states and moved to Ecuador. We simply couldn’t afford medical care or quality health insurance. My two spinal surgeries cost almost 1 million dollars and it almost bankrupted us even with Obamacare covering most of it. If I ever need another surgery, having it done in the states is financially impossible. Plus, my ongoing care expenses were costing us several hundred dollars per month in Denver. Now they cost less than a hundred.

If you have any questions about our experience with medical care here in Ecuador, please let us know in the comments or drop us a note.

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People & Places

Karina, My Physical Therapist

My PT’s name is Karina. She works out of her home office near Gringolandia on the western side of Cuenca. If you’d like her contact info, please let us know.

Laundry Day in Río Tomebamba

Physical Therapy Cuenca Laundry

The indigenous people can often be seen washing their laundry in the river. This struck us as odd when we first arrived, but we’re used to it now. Looking at this practice objectively, it would be more odd for them not to wash their laundry in the river since they’ve been doing it for thousands of years. Some of the rocks have been worn down from centuries of laundry.

La Universidad de Cuenca

Physical Therapy Cuenca Universidad de Cuenca

La Universidad de Cuenca campus is just like every campus I’ve been on. There are lots of young, beautiful people walking here and there. Lots of flowers and big trees. The university was founded in 1867 so they just celebrated their 150th anniversary.

This is where I go to swim for exercise and physical therapy. They have a nice lap pool and gym facilities that are open to the public. The pool costs $2.50 per visit. I’m not sure what the cost is for the racquetball courts or gym, but I seem to remember $5 gets you access to everything.

The pool area has lockers but you need to bring your own lock. I found a combination lock in a hardware store. We’ve since seen them at lots of places here in Cuenca. There are also changing rooms with showers and toilets.

RumiSol Yoga Studio

Physical Therapy Cuenca RumiSol

Amelia loves going to RumiSol Yoga, and I love her going there, too! In addition to being great strength training exercise, yoga helps her relax and puts a smile on her face. And a happy Amelia makes a happy JP!

Physical Therapy Cuenca Olesya

We bumped into Olesya, one of Amelia’s yoga instructors, on our walk home. She’s also very interested in a plant-based diet.

Computron

Physical Therapy Cuenca Computron

Our bluetooth speaker died! We listen to music around the house every day and we also use the speaker for the Anonymous for the Voiceless Cube of Truth events.

So we stopped by this new electronics store, Computron, that’s in our neighborhood to buy a new speaker on our way home from my physical therapy and Amelia’s yoga. The staff was very helpful and they had a good selection of speakers, as well as most other types of electronics. The speakers ranged in price from $14 to $34. I think I paid over $100 a few years ago for the speaker that just died, and our new less expensive speaker has a better sound.

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We hope you enjoyed our walking tour of Cuenca, Ecuador today. Please remember to like, comment and share our video, and also subscribe to our YouTube channel. If you’d like us to make a video about something specific or if you have questions, please let us know in the comments.

Links to Info & Places We Visited in the Video

Shoe Shopping in Cuenca Ecuador + Cervezas at Inca (Episode 12)

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Today, we went shoe shopping in Cuenca, Ecuador, and as a reward for my extreme patience, we went to Inca Lounge for cervezas on our way home. We also stumbled upon some improv dueling rappers in Parque de la Madre. You just never know what you’re going to see while walking around Cuenca, Ecuador!

We hope you enjoy following our shoe shopping experience, and the interesting sights here in Cuenca, Ecuador. We’ve also included some Spanish language learning opportunities for you.

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People & Places

Graffiti Art in Cuenca Ecuador

Graffiti is a common sight here in Cuenca, Ecuador. Some of it is even commissioned, like this one on Ave. Solano. This wall had a lot of unsightly graffiti so some professional graffiti artists were hired to cover it with something more appealing. This also helps to prevent future graffiti since they seem to respect each other’s work.

Bike Lanes & Sidewalk Tiles for the Blind

Cuenca has lots of bike lanes, and more are being added all over the city. Their hope is to make the city more bicycle friendly so people ride to work and school for both improved health and environmental friendliness.

The tiles that make a line down the center of the sidewalk are for blind people. They use their walking sticks with the tiles to stay oriented on the sidewalk. These tiles are used all over the city.

The Shoe Store That Shall Not Be Named

This is one of Amelia’s favorite places to go shoe shopping in Cuenca, but as far as we know, it doesn’t have a name. It’s located on Benigno Malo a couple blocks north of Calle Larga. This was one of the first stores we stumbled upon during our first exploratory trip to Cuenca.

Amelia in Shoe Heaven

Amelia swears she doesn’t have a shoe addiction, but isn’t that what all addicts say? 🤔

Today, she was on a mission to find some tall boots. We see a lot of women wearing tall boots in Cuenca, and we like how they look, so Amelia wanted a pair of her own. This was the start of a lot of shoe trying on….

Moving On to Emily Shoes

We struck out at the unnamed shoe store, so we ventured onward to Emily Shoes a couple blocks away. After trying on what seemed like every shoe in the store, Amelia finally struck gold. She found a pair of tall boots that she liked (not these), and also a new pair of low boots (or high shoes?). The boots were $34 and the shoes were $28; both made of synthetic materials.

Victory at Emily Shoes

Shoe shopping in Cuenca was as success today. This store does have a name, but no online presence that we can link to. It’s common, especially for the older businesses in El Centro, to not have a website or even a Facebook page. Most of the new businesses outside El Centro at least have a Facebook page, but most businesses in Ecuador have not branched out to a website yet.

Folding Fans for Hot Flashes

Like her mother, Amelia is experiencing hot flashes a little younger than most women (she just turned 50). That means she’s often burning with the fiery heat of a thousand suns. Hopefully, these $2 folding fans will help.

Gringo’s Laundry in Cuenca El Centro

There are over 10,000 gringos in Cuenca, Ecuador. That means a lot of businesses, like this laundry service, target them directly.

A lot of apartments, especially in El Centro, don’t have a washer and dryer so residents must find another way to do their laundry. While we have seen laundromats, it only costs about $3 to $4 per load to pay someone to do it for you. They wash, dry and fold your laundry so you can enjoy your time doing other things. Plus, it helps the economy by supporting local businesses.

Inca Lounge & Bistro

I don’t really think of Inca as a bistro, but it certainly has the lounge vibe. It’s located on the riverwalk next to Río Tomebamba just east of Benigno Malo.

Inca is popular with the gringos during the day, but it’s mainly an Ecuadorian hangout after dark. That’s probably because Ecuadorians like to start their evening late after most of the gringos are already in bed.

Amelia Modeling a Club Verde

Club Verde is my favorite domestic light beer in Ecuador. It’s very crisp and refreshing, and cheap. This giant bottle costs $2.50 at Inca.

It’s actually called Club Premium, but most of the restaurants list it as Club Verde on their menus. The brewer also has a Club Negra (dark beer) that Amelia prefers over the Club Verde, and a Club Roja that we’ve never tried.

Our good friend Rosy from Fratello Vegan wrote the the company and confirmed that all of the Club beers are vegan. They don’t use any animal products in their brewing process. Yay!

Dave at Inca

Dave is a gringo that manages Inca. He’s almost always there. Tell him JP and Amelia said hi if you go there.

Chips & Guac (and Salsa) at Inca Lounge

Inca has really good chips, guac and salsa. We like to go their for a mid-afternoon snack and cervezas on our way home after we’ve been out walking around El Centro. We usually have to order extra chips if we get both the guac and the salsa.

Inca Vegetarian Menu

Most restaurants have a vegetarian (vegetariano) section on their menu, and most items are either vegan already, or can easily be veganized by asking them to skip the congealed mammal fluids (aka cheese and sour cream, aka queso y crema).

Inca’s Veggie Stir Fry is vegan, and the other vegetarian items can be veganized. They also have a vegetarian burrito that can be veganized. We’ve tried several things on the menu and they were all tasty. Be sure to remind them to skip the queso y crema.

Helado Balancing Act

Helado (ice cream) is very popular in Ecuador. We frequently see people walking down the street eating an ice cream cone, which may partly be to blame for the rising health epidemic of obesity, heart disease and diabetes here. Ice cream is loaded with sugar AND fat, both contributors to the increase in poor health around the world.

However, seeing these women walk down the sidewalk with their trays of ice cream balanced on their heads was worth of a share. People are amazing.

Improv Dueling Rap in Parque de la Madre

You never know what you’re going to stumble across while walking around Cuenca. Today, we passed by some improv dueling rappers by the planetarium in Parque de la Madre. You can listen to a short segment in the video. This is such an interesting place!

Share the Love

We hope you enjoyed our shoe shopping adventure, snacks and cervezas as Inca Lounge and our surprise improv rap here in Cuenca, Ecuador today. Please remember to like, comment and share our video, and also subscribe to our YouTube channel. If you’d like us to make a video about something specific or if you have questions, please let us know in the comments.

Spanish Words & Phrases

¡Que linda! – How cute!
afuera – outside
vegetariano – vegetarian
vegano – vegan (a lot of people, both gringo and Ecuadorian, don’t know what this is)
el queso – the cheese
la crema – the cream (also sour cream)
el helado – the ice cream
Está lleno de la gente – It is full of people
Estamos muy relajado – We are very relaxed
las cervezas – the beers
¿Qué más? – What else?

Links to Info & Places We Visited in the Video

Supermaxi El Vergel Cuenca Ecuador (Episode 11)

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Esta mañana (this morning), we visited Supermaxi El Vergel to get some of our staple supplies like soy milk, mushrooms, apple cider vinegar, crackers, wine, etc. We also buy trash bags, laundry detergent, canned goods, spices, tofu, condiments and other packaged items at Supermaxi.

We typically buy all of our fruits and veggies at the mercado, but the mercados don’t carry everything and we really like Supermaxi El Vergel. It’s clean, reasonably priced and feels like a Safeway or Kroger back in the states. Oh, and the people who work there are all really nice and helpful.

Check out our other video about Mercado 27 de Febrero Organic Thursday Market in Cuenca Ecuador for more info on mercados.

We hope you enjoy this tour of Supermaxi El Vergel. We’ve also included some Spanish language learning opportunities for you.

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Tour of Supermaxi El Vergel

La Sombrilla

Sombrilla Supermaxi El Vergel Cuenca Ecuador

It’s often sunny and rainy on the same day…and in the same hour…in Cuenca, so Amelia always has her umbrella (sombrilla/paraguas) handy.

There is technically a difference between a sombrilla and a paraguas in the Spanish language. A sombrilla is specifically to provide shade from the sun, while a paraguas is specifically to provide protection from the rain. A sombrilla doesn’t have to be water resistant, but a paraguas does.

However, Amelia uses the same umbrella for both. I always wear a water resistant hat and carry a rain jacket (un impermeable) in my backpack. You just never know when it’s going to rain.

Supermaxi El Vergel – Cuenca Ecuador

Supermaxi El Vergel Cuenca Ecuador

We love the Supermaxi El Vergel that’s near our house. It’s super clean, it has most everything we need, and the employees are very friendly. We buy most of our produce (fruits and veggies) at the mercado, but we buy almost everything else at Supermaxi.

When we were researching our move to Cuenca Ecuador, we couldn’t find a video of the inside of Supermaxi so we didn’t know what to expect. We assumed it would be similar to a supermarket in the states, but we didn’t realize it would be just like a supermarket in the states.

If you take someone from the states and plop them down in the middle of Supermaxi El Vergel, they wouldn’t know they were in Ecuador (except that everything is in Spanish).

Health & Beauty Aisle at Supermaxi El Vergel

Aisle Supermaxi El Vergel Cuenca Ecuador

This is the health & beauty aisle in Supermaxi El Vergel. It looks a lot like a Walmart, Safeway or Kroger.

They have most of the brands that you see in the states, which means most are tested on animals. We try to buy things like deodorant and skin care products at one of the small organic stores around town. Most of them carry cruelty-free products, but they’re more expensive (as you’d expect). We’ll share videos of them later.

The prices on most things are lower than you’d pay in the states, but some things are similar or higher. For example, sunscreen is a lot more expensive here, almost twice as much! Alcohol, processed foods and paper products are about the same price as the states.

But food is a LOT less expensive here. Produce is about 1/3 to 1/10 the cost as the states. Plus, the fruits and veggies are much higher quality and MUCH more flavorful here. We usually get avocados, mangos and papayas 3 for $1. We can get 10 bananas for 50 cents, a huge bunch of Swiss chard or spinach for 50 cents, and 5 pounds of delicious yellow potatoes for $1.

We were spending between $600 and $800 per month on groceries in Denver. Here, we spend between $100 and $200 per month, and the quality is far superior.

Vegan Foods at Supermaxi El Vergel

This is another thing we had a hard time figuring out before we moved here: are vegan processed foods available? And the answer is yes, they are.

Vegan Milk Alternatives at Supermaxi

Almond Milk Supermaxi El Vergel Cuenca Ecuador

You can get both soy milk and almond milk, but that’s about it for milk alternatives. They don’t have a GMO label, so we’re assuming they’re GMO-free since all products containing GMOs must be labeled here (see more on that below).

You can also get vegan yogurt (yogurt vegano), but yogurt is a lot different here. It’s a creamy liquid that you pour out of the container instead of eating with a spoon. It’s not thick like we’re used to.

We haven’t found any vegan butter yet. They do have several different types of dairy-free margarine, but we don’t eat that so we go without butter. Instead, we use avocado, peanut butter or jam on our toast.

Yes, Supermaxi Has Tofu

Tofu Supermaxi El Vergel Cuenca Ecuador

They also carry a few different types of tofu, but they don’t always have all of them at the same time. They don’t have a GMO label so we’re assuming they’re non-GMO, but they’re probably not organic. That means pesticides were probably used, but no genetic engineering.

The smoked tofu (tofu ahumado) is very flavorful and a nice addition to stir fries. The regular tofu is just like tofu in the states and the density is equivalent to firm/extra firm. The baked tofu (tofu horneado) with basil was also delicious.

Vegan Meat Substitutes at Supermaxi

Vegan Meats Supermaxi El Vergel Cuenca Ecuador

They also have several different types of meat substitutes for hamburgers, hotdogs and sausage. We haven’t found any TVP (textured vegetable protein) yet, but lentils make a good substitute for that.

We don’t buy many meat substitutes anymore since we eat a mostly WFPB (Whole-Food Plant-Based) diet so we don’t visit this section very often. It’s used to be located between the conventional processed meats and the butchered meats, but they have since moved them next to the soy milk behind the guard desk at the entrance. They moved the tofu there, too, so all of the cold vegan products are next to each other.

Vegetable Broth at Supermaxi

Vegetable Broth Supermaxi El Vergel Cuenca Ecuador

Supermaxi doesn’t carry liquid vegetable broth (at least we haven’t found any). But they do carry cubed vegetable broth (caldo de verduras) that dissolves in water.

HOWEVER, this vegetable broth from Nestlé contains trans fats in the from of vegetable shortening. We no longer buy this for obvious health reasons.

Apple Cider Vinegar at Supermaxi

Apple Cider Vinegar Supermaxi El Vergel Cuenca Ecuador

ACV (apple cider vinegar) is a staple in the vegan kitchen, and Supermaxi carries a few different brands of it so you won’t have to go without that.

They also carry several different types of oils and vinegars. We rarely cook with oil, but we use a lot of vinegar on salads and in recipes.

Super Affordable Quinoa at Supermaxi

Quinoa Supermaxi El Vergel Cuenca Ecuador

Most quinoa comes from Peru, which shares Ecuador’s southern border. That means it doesn’t have far to travel so it’s much cheaper here. This large bag of quinoa is only $1.12!

Quinoa has gotten so expensive in the states that we stopped buying it, but it’s back on the menu here!

Spices at Supermaxi

Spices Supermaxi El Vergel Cuenca Ecuador

We cook with a lot of spices, so we were happy to see such a large spice selection at Supermaxi. There are some independent spice shops in El Centro that we also visit for some of the rarer items, but we’re able to find almost everything at Supermaxi.

The spice package labels are in Spanish, so remember to take your translation app with you. Supermaxi offers FREE WI-FI so you can look things up online, too.

Vegan Cereal (as of Oct 2018)

SuperMaxi Vegan Cereal

One of our YouTube viewers asked about vegan cereal options at Supermaxi. They have a large healthy cereal section, but most have oil and/or animal products of some sort. However, this brand is completely vegan and oil-free.

Rolled Oats at Supermaxi

Rolled Oats Supermaxi El Vergel Cuenca Ecuador

We ate rolled oats (hojuelas de avena) nearly every morning back in Denver, either cooked or uncooked, so we were concerned we wouldn’t be able to get them here, but we can!

They have several different brands and types of oats: conventional, non-GMO and organic. We prefer the non-GMO kind because it’s a lot less expensive than the organic. We have even found steel cut oats on occasion. Last time Supermaxi had them, we bought 5 containers!

Zapallo (Squash) at Supermaxi

Squash Supermaxi El Vergel Cuenca Ecuador

One thing that is sorely lacking in Ecuador is squash. This is the only type of squash that we’ve found. It’s called “zapallo” which literally translates to “pumpkin,” but it certainly doesn’t taste or look like a pumpkin.

Zapallo tastes like a cross between a yellow squash and a butternut squash. And it looks like a cross between a pumpkin and an acorn squash. Here’s a picture I took in the mercado, where they sell it by the slice:

We use zapallo in our stir fries a lot since it’s so low calorie and filling: 100 grams has only 24 calories and 3 grams of fiber! That means you can eat it guilt-free! It also has a very mild flavor so it takes on the flavor of the spices in your recipe.

Organic Produce at Supermaxi

Organic Produce Supermaxi El Vergel Cuenca Ecuador

Supermaxi has a small organic produce section with lots of delicious options. Ecuador doesn’t allow GMO crops to be grown in the country, so the quality of non-organic food is already much higher, but you can find lots of organic fruits and veggies here, too.

Mercado 27 de Febrero also has a special organic market every Thursday morning and there are several organic popup markets around town, if that’s uber important to you.

Common Sense Food Labels in Ecuador

Nutrition Label Supermaxi El Vergel Cuenca Ecuador

While we continue to struggle in the states to make food labels easy to read, the little South American country of Ecuador has already done it. Every packaged food has this easy to read label indicating the amount of sugar, salt and fat contained in the product.

The highest level ingredient goes on top and the lowest goes on the bottom. The options are high (alto), medium (medio) and low (bajo). They’re also color coded for extra easy understanding: red is high, yellow is medium and green is low. It’s so simple it’s hard to believe the US can’t figure out how to do it.

Ecuador also has the standard nutrition label that looks just like the labels we see in the states, except they’re in Spanish and the amounts are all metric. You won’t often see serving sizes in cups (tazas) or ounces. They’re either grams or milliliters, which makes it a bit tough for us Americans, but we’re learning.

GMO (GE) Food Labels

GMO Labels Supermaxi El Vergel Cuenca Ecuador

While Ecuador doesn’t allow GMO crops (more accurately called GE or genetically engineered crops) to be grown inside the country, they do allow some products containing GMOs to be imported.

We were never sure if this Kikkoman Soy Sauce contained GMOs back in the states, but I think it’s a safe bet that it does. Thanks to Ecuador’s mandatory GMO labeling, all products containing genetically engineered ingredients must sport this “contiene transgénicos” sticker.

Again, it’s so simple that a tiny developing country in South America can do it, yet GMO foods are still not labeled in the states. Gee, I wonder why.

Checkout Lines at Supermaxi El Vergel

Checkout Supermaxi El Vergel Cuenca Ecuador

Supermaxi has similar checkout lines to grocery stores in the states and they also accept credit cards. You just need to go to the customer service desk at the front of the store near the express lane and get a free Supermaxi card. You’ll need your passport or cedula (government ID card) to get it, but we just keep a picture of our passport on our phone for these types of circumstances so we don’t have to carry it all the time.

One thing that’s different with the checkout lines here is that you can’t push your shopping cart through the line. The carts are too wide to fit so they stack up at the entrance of the checkouts and you often have to move them out of the way to reach the checkout conveyor belt. Occasionally, someone gathers up all the carts and puts them back, but it can become quite the obstacle course until that happens.

If you have too many bags to carry, the baggers have a special cart that they load (you can see it behind the lady in the photo above). Then they’ll wheel it out to the parking lot or one of the waiting taxis.

Bag Check at Supermaxi El Vergel

Bag Check Supermaxi El Vergel Cuenca Ecuador

There is a bag check with a security guard at the entrance of the store. You’ll need to check any bags or backpacks you have (except your purse or empty grocery bags) and he’ll give you a little claim tag so you can get them on your way out.

The guard is standing off to the side in this photo so you can’t see him, but someone is always there watching the bags and checking them in for customers.

Our Supermaxi Haul

Groceries Supermaxi El Vergel Cuenca Ecuador

Everything you see in this photo cost us a little less than $30. The wine was the most expensive thing, and it cost about $7. They have several descent wines from Portugal, Spain and Argentina that are less than $10 per bottle.

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We hope you enjoyed the video of Supermaxi El Vergel in Cuenca, Ecuador. If you want to know if they carry something that we didn’t discuss in the video or the blog post, let us know in the comments and we’ll look for it the next time we go.

Please remember to like, comment and share our video, and also subscribe to our YouTube channel. If you’d like us to make a video about something specific or if you have questions, please let us know in the comments.

Spanish Words & Phrases

la sombrilla – the umbrella (for sunshine)
el paraguas – the umbrella (for rain)
un impermeable – a rain jacket
Pasión por el Rojo – Passion for the Red
los muebles – the furniture
Bebida de Almendra – almond milk
Medio en Grasa – medium in fat
Bajo en Azúcar – low in sugar
Bajo en Sal – low in salt
Alto en Sal – high in salt
Tofu Ahumado – Smoked Tofu
Contiene Transgénicos – Contains GMOs
Caldo de Verduras – Vegetable Broth
mani – peanuts
la avena – the oats
hojuelas de avena – rolled oats
las papas – the potatoes
el aceite – the oil
la sal – the salt
el apio – the celery
el zapallo – the pumpkin/squash
las champiñones de ostra – the oyster mushrooms

Links to Info & Places We Visited in the Video

Turi Church Stairs, Mall del Rio & Feria Mascotas in Cuenca Ecuador (Episode 5)

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Today, we decided to hike up the 439 stairs to the Turi Church again, just for exercise (yes, I also think Amelia is trying to kill me!). Then we circled around to Mall del Río where we went shopping for a new pair of shoes for me, but we bought Amelia new shoes and shirts, instead. Then we went to Parque El Paraíso for the Feria Mascotas (Pet Fair).

We hope you enjoy seeing the beautiful scenery, our shopping experience and the interesting things we see along the way. We’ve also included some Spanish language learning opportunities for you.

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People & Places (and Animals)

Turi Church Cuenca Ecuador

Turi Church Cuenca Ecuador

We like to hike up the 439 stairs to the Turi Church mainly for exercise, but the views are also incredible. Check out our other Turi Church Hike in Cuenca Ecuador for more info on Turi and more beautiful scenery.

Recoja el Excremento De Su Mascota

Recoja el Excremento Cuenca Ecuador

This sign reads “recoja el excremento de su mascota” which literally translates to “pick up your pet’s excrement” but a more accurate translation would be “pick up your dog’s poop.”

These signs instructing people to pick up after their pets are in most parks, but they don’t provide poo bags, so remember to bring your own.

Río Yanuncay – Cuenca Ecuador

Yanuncay River Cuenca Ecuador

There are 5 (yes, I was right) ríos or rivers that run through Cuenca: Tomebamba, Yanuncay, Tarqui, Milchichig and Machangara. The Tarqui runs into the Yanuncay. Then the Yanuncay, Milchichig and Machangara all feed the Tomebamba river. The Tomebamba river joins other rivers in Ecuador, and eventually feeds the Amazon River that leads to the Atlantic Ocean over a course that’s nearly 4,000 miles long.

Río Tarqui – Cuenca Ecuador

Tarqui River Cuenca Ecuador

The Tarqui River joins the Yanuncay River not far east from where Amelia is standing. Then the Yanuncay River meets the Tomebamba River on the easternmost end of Parque El Paraíso.

Tarqui River Park

Tarqui River Park Cuenca Ecuador

I’m not sure what the name of this park is, but it’s right next to the Tarqui River. Cuenca has a lot of these types of beautiful statues/art in their parks.

Shopping & Offices

Veinticuatro de Mayo Shopping & Offices Cuenca Ecuador

There are a lot of new developments around Cuenca, despite a tax law passed by the former president, Correa, that nearly killed the construction industry in Ecuador. The new president, Moreno, had a special referendum and the people overwhelmingly voted to remove the tax and now construction is expected to resume.

As a result of the decreased construction over the past few years, there is a major housing shortage in Ecuador, and especially, Cuenca. Due to the shortage of supply and increased demand, the cost of both homes for rent and for sale has increased. This has forced thousands of young people in Cuenca to continue living with their parents, even after they get married and have children. They’re hopeful that more housing construction will increase the supply and decrease the cost.

Gato Raro (Rare Cat)

Street Cat Cuenca Ecuador

There are cats in Ecuador, but they’re not nearly as common as dogs. We rarely see cats on the street, most likely because of the abundance of dogs that roam the streets looking for food. It’s reasonable to assume street cats don’t have a long life expectancy here….

Roundabouts Galore in Ecuador

Panamericana Highway Roundabout Cuenca Ecuador

Los redondeles or roundabouts are far more common here than in the states. The majority of major intersections are roundabouts, and they’re also common in the middle of highways, like this one in the Panamerican Highway.

Stop signs also seem to be completely optional here. “Pare” means stop, but very few people stopped at this one. As you can see in the video, the silver truck blew through it at about 50 mph!

Turi Stairs – Cuenca Ecuador

Amelia Turi Church Stairs Cuenca Ecuador

Amelia loves to torture me with exercise, especially the Turi stairs. There are 439 steps up to the Turi Church and I always spend most of it looking at her backside. Thankfully, it’s a nice view 😁

It’s a tough hike, but the views are amazing!

Turi Church (La Iglesia de Turi) – Cuenca Ecuador

Turi Church Cuenca Ecuador

The bells were ringing when we reached the top of the stairs, as you can hear in the video. The Turi Church can be seen from most places in the city below, but it’s even more spectacular up close.

View from the Turi Church

View from Turi Church Cuenca Ecuador

This is the reward when you reach the top of the stairs in Turi. You can see the New Cathedral off in the distance, and the Cuenca airport is barely visible on the upper right of the photo. The road that runs diagonally up the middle of the photo is Avenida Solano.

Ancient Riverbed Far Above Cuenca Ecuador

Riverbed Far Above Cuenca Ecuador

Walking along Av Mirador de Turi heading west from the Turi Church, we spotted this ancient riverbed that’s about 400 feet above the main city of Cuenca. It’s fascinating to see this so far up the side of a mountain.

Laundry Day Cuenca Ecuador

Laundry Day Cuenca Ecuador

Ecuadorians love their dogs and hanging their laundry out to dry. Sunday seems to be a common laundry day here, and everything from towels to bras can be seen waving in the breeze in front, behind or on top of people’s houses.

Wonder Woman Billboard

Wonder Woman Billboard Cuenca Ecuador

Av Mirador de Turi meets back up with the Panamerican Highway, which took us to Mall del Río. There are lots of billboards along the highways in Ecuador, and many advertise American brands.

This billboard is an ad for Justice League and reads “La Mujer Maravilla Se Ve Mejor En Una Televisión TCL” which translates to “Wonder Woman looks better on a TCL television.” TCL is an electronics company that sells TVs so this appears to be a cross-promotional ad for the Justice League movie and TCL televisions.

This is our first time living abroad so it’s interesting to see America from outside the states. One thing we have noticed is the abundance of American pop culture here. It seems that entertainment (and fast food) is now America’s biggest export, especially since most manufactured things come from China.

We visited Nectar, one of our favorite tiendas in El Centro, and the owner’s daughter was wearing a tiara on her head and empty toilet paper rings around both wrists. I asked who she was and her dad said she was La Mujer Maravilla or Wonder Woman. I’m not sure why, but it was surprising to see a little girl in the middle of Ecuador dressed up as Wonder Woman.

Mall del Río – Cuenca Ecuador

Mall del Rio Cuenca Ecuador

Mall del Río is one of the major malls in Cuenca. It has everything you’d expect to see in a mall in the states: a food court, electronics stores and lots of upscale clothing stores. Since online shopping isn’t a thing here yet, malls and shopping centers are still very popular.

Eddie Bauer in Mall del Río – Cuenca Ecuador

Eddie Bauer in Mall del Rio Cuenca Ecuador

American brands like Eddie Bauer are common here, although most of the products come from China. We’ve found the prices to be similar on most things: Some prices are higher, some are lower and some are about the same.

If you want higher quality clothing, you’ll need to go to a nicer store and you’ll spend more. But there are lots of nice and affordable products that are made in Ecuador, too.

Mall del Río Food Court

Mall del Rio Food Court Cuenca Ecuador

The food court in Mall del Río has all the American fast food joints you’d recognize, including McDonald’s, Burger King and KFC. Ecuador has seen a massive increase in health related illnesses like obesity and diabetes over the past decade, and these are no doubt contributing to it. We haven’t seen anything vegan-friendly in the food court aside from salads at the fast food places.

Coral in Mall del Río

Mall del Rio Coral Cuenca Ecuador

You can barely see the store in this photo, but Coral is located on the far end of the mall. It’s the largest store in the mall, and possibly in Cuenca. It’s like a Super Walmart crossed with a Home Depot. They carry everything from food and clothing, to microwaves and bathtubs. We’ll show you the inside on a future video.

Amelia’s New Shirt from Divad Closet in Mall del Río

Amelia's New Shirt from Divad Closet in Mall del Rio Cuenca Ecuador

We went to mall to find a new pair of walking shoes for me, but we struck out on that. However, Amelia found a pair of shoes (los zapatos) and a couple blouses (las blusas).

Since we’ve been here, both of us have lost so much weight that none of our clothes fit properly…and we didn’t have that much weight to lose! We ate a healthy plant-based diet and walked a lot back in Denver, but the food is different here and we walk even more.

They don’t allow GMO’s so they don’t have RoundUp and a lot of the produce is organic and from ancient seeds that haven’t been modified genetically.

The veggies are ugly as hell, but they taste amazing. They’re full of flavor and juiciness like the fruits and veggies we used to have as a kid back in the 70’s and 80’s before food was ruined in the states by Big Ag and government corruption.

We also walk a lot more here than we did back home, over 10,000 steps on a typical day. Some weekends, we clock over 20 miles walking around town, taking Daisy for a walk and walking up to Turi.

And we go to the gym most weekdays. I mainly go to the gym for physical therapy for my back, which I couldn’t afford in the states. Amelia goes because she loves working out and sweating her ass off.

All of this healthy eating and exercise has trimmed a few inches off our waistlines, which means we need new clothes.

C-3PO Shoes from Divad Closet in Mall del Río

C-3PO Shoes from Divad Closet in Mall del Rio Cuenca Ecuador

Bright, shiny platform shoes, like Amelia’s new gold C-3PO shoes, are very popular here. Since the average height for a female in Ecuador is 5 feet tall, platform shoes give them a few extra inches.

Some of the platform shoes have high heels (what we call stripper shoes back in the states) adding 5 or 6 inches to their height! It’s common to see women walking down cobblestone sidewalks and streets in 5 inch stiletto platform shoes! I don’t know how they do it without falling!

Divad Closet Faux Fur in Mall del Río

Divad Closet Faux Fur in Mall del Rio Cuenca Ecuador

We have found a lot of cruelty-free products here, from cosmetics to clothing. Veganism is growing here, and most people are at least aware of animal cruelty issues in the products they buy.

When it comes up that we are vegan, several Ecuadorians (a cab driver, a tour guide, a business owner, a waiter, etc.) have asked us if we’re healthier now. Not one Ecuadorian has asked us where we get our protein.

In the states, we’ve been programmed through corporate junk science, overt marketing messages, and subtle plugs on the news and in entertainment, that a vegan diet is unhealthy. That you won’t get enough nutrients eating only plants. That you’ll die of an unheard of protein deficiency.

But here, in a developing country in South America, they haven’t been brainwashed and manipulated for corporate greed. And they know more about nutrition than the average American who thinks they know everything.

Our Sales Assistant at Divad Closet in Mall del Río

Divad Closet Assistant in Mall del Rio Cuenca Ecuador

This delightful young woman helped Amelia with her shopping at Divad Closet. She didn’t speak very much English, so I was able to practice my Spanish with her while Amelia was trying on clothes.

Like so many of the people we meet in Cuenca, she is from Venezuela. Another refugee from a corrupt government and a collapsing society. She has been in Cuenca for over 6 months. Ecuador is now home to thousands of Venezuelan refugees.

There is a difference between the Venezuelan accent and the Cuencano accent, which is different from other parts of Ecuador. The Venezuelan accent is closer to an accent you would hear in Spain. They speak with a bit of a lisp and pronounce some words differently than Ecuadorians.

The Cuencano accent is very melodic. Ecuadorians outside Cuenca say it sounds like they are singing, and it does. The Cuencano accent is very beautiful, and reminds me of a French accent.

People from the coast of Ecuador drop consonants from the end of words, making it very difficult to understand for gringos learning Spanish. Since Cuencanos speak more slowly and melodically than other Ecuadorians and South Americans, this is the perfect place to learn spanish.

Trail to Parque El Paraíso – Cuenca Ecuador

Trail to Parque El Paraíso Cuenca Ecuador

There are LOTS of walking trails in Cuenca. This one runs along Avenida Diez de Agosto and leads to Parque El Paraíso, our favorite park in Cuenca. The Yanuncay river is behind the trees on the right side of this photo.

Feria Mascotas at Parque El Paraíso

Feria Mascotas at Parque El Paraíso in Cuenca Ecuador

It seems like everyone has a dog in Ecuador. Multiple dogs in most cases. When we take Daisy for a walk around our neighborhood, nearly every yard and courtyard has one or more dogs that bark at us.

This pet fair was mainly for dogs, but we saw a couple of cat oriented booths, as well. It was packed with people and dogs, which made Daisy (and me) very nervous. We knew a woman that was running one of the fundraiser booths, but there were so many people we couldn’t get in to see her.

Pet Adoption at Feria Mascotas

Feria Mascotas Adoption at Parque El Paraíso in Cuenca Ecuador

Several booths had pets available for adoption. The sign in this photo reads, “La adopción es la mejor opción” which translates to “Adoption is the best option.”

There’s a big push here to adopt pets from the numerous shelters around town, but there are still several puppy mill stores. We cringe every time we walk by one.

It was nice to see so many people supporting responsible pet companionship, but it was just too crowded for us, so we left after 10 or 15 minutes.

Share the Love

We hope you enjoyed our hike up to Turi, our shopping experience at Mall del Río, and Feria Mascotas in Cuenca, Ecuador today.

Please remember to like, comment and share our video, and also subscribe to our YouTube channel. If you’d like us to make a video about something specific or if you have questions, please let us know in the comments.

Spanish Words & Phrase

Recoja el excremento de su mascota – Pick up your pet’s excrement
el río – the river
el gato – the cat
los redondeles – the roundabouts
pare – stop
Mall del Río – Mall of the River
La Mujer Maravilla Se Ve Mejor En Una Televisión – Wonder Woman looks better on television
..en el mall siempre encuentras moda actual – ..in the mall you always find current fashion
comida rapida – fast food
la blusa – the blouse
los zapatos – the shoes
gordo – fat
la casa – the house
Feria de Mascotas – Pet Fair
la adopción es la mejor opción – adoption is the best option

Links to Info & Places We Visited in the Video