Monday, January 6, 2014

Three weeks in....

Things have been crazy since we left Tennessee for Florida, our cruise, family visits and then our move to here in Ecuador. I recapped most of those first weeks in our main blog and will continue here with our arrival on Dec 12th.

After a restful night at a Best Western (paid for with forgotten points - yippee!), we headed to the Miami Airport where Stu planned to drop me and our luggage while he returned the rental car. We got to the airport, found our drop off point and realized we never put gas in the car. Oops! Big circle made and he finally dropped me off, moving the luggage with the help of a porter to a waiting area.

Stu had been able to check-in online and get his boarding pass but for some reason the online check-in wouldn't accept my passport number. A wonderful gentleman from American Airlines tried to help us and failed but he did move us over to the Priority line  since we were flying Business Class.(we assumed we had to be at the International line). He didn't leave us until we were in the right spot for a ticket agent to help us. Muchos gracias to him! The clerk quickly got me checked in, printed our boarding passes and checked all our luggage.

If you remember, we originally knew we'd have one extra bag (Stu's scuba gear) in addition to the three each allowed bags (thanks to booking Business Class). We also had an allowance of 70# as compared to the normal 50#. Before we left TN we realized we would have two extra bags and by the time we got back from our cruise and repacked everything it was obvious we'd have a third extra bag. $450 for the bags but it was worth it...sad part is, if we had booked our tickets ONE DAY EARLIER, they would have been $50 a bag. Sigh...oh well. Weight? Nothing much over 62-64#.

Now comes the BIG surprise, a bonus we hadn't anticipated. We got free admission and tickets for four complimentary drinks in the Admiral's Club. Since it was now 1:00 pm and our flight wasn't until 7:30 pm, having a comfortable and safe place to sit with food, drinks and free WiFi was a real treat!

Our flight was uneventful, comfortable with delicious food (better than many restaurants), free personal movie selection and great service. We arrived at the airport less than 30 minutes late (we took off late, big surprise - NOT) and went quickly through immigration, getting our passports stamped. Being at the front of the plane, we were at the front of the line...a HUGE perk since the plane was full. From there it was on to baggage claim where we managed to find all our bags - eventually. The large carts were reserved for commercial groups/tours so we had to get three of the smaller carts to move all our luggage. Once again, Ecuadorian courtesy abounded. The guards quickly directed us to the xray machines and their porters helped us unload the carts, put the luggage on the belt and then reload our carts.

Now it was time to run the gauntlet of excited family members watching for their relatives. Round and round we pushed and pulled our carts until we got out to the main waiting area. We had reserved a room at the Howard Johnson's and confirmed their free airport shuttle. We never touched a bag again...they moved the stuff to the shuttle, then into the hotel, then up to our room! Will we stay there again? Absolutely! Our room was huge with lots of space for the luggage without it being in our way. Hot showers taken, slept well in a very comfortable king bed. Oh, and the A/C was already running in the room! We were in Guayaquil, on the coast and in the tropics

We had breakfast the next morning, not free but worth the under $25 for a real brunch - all we could eat and drink. Covered us for both breakfast and lunch! Afterwards we sat in the lobby using the free WiFi and around 11:30 we asked for our bags to be brought to the lobby. While they were being shuttled our driver Emilio arrived from Cuenca. He and the hotel staff loaded all the luggage and we were whisked off to Cuenca!

Emilio was wonderful, a careful driver who spoke English well and passed along interesting tidbits about the areas we were driving through and the history of Ecuador. When we arrived in Cuenca we quickly located the manager of the temporary apartment we had rented, got our keys and the four of us got all the bags up to the second floor apartment.

Things moved quickly from here on in...we did a fair amount of walking in El Centro and stopped at our favorite spots, San Sebas restaurant and Magnolia Caffe. We got a chance to see Huber and KarEn and meet their adorable son, born in June. We also got our first taste of Club Negra beer - delicious!!!

The other big news is moving into our permanent apartment when we had been here only a week! We managed to get a very nice used living and dining room set, a refrigerator and big TV plus two queen mattresses. Before the second week was out we had a brand new stove, the purchase of which was facilitated by our now friend, Emilio, as well as several great pieces of unfinished furniture (bench, small tables, extra chairs for the kitchen), nightstands and a few other miscellaneous items. We also made two trips to Artesa for additional dinnerware as well as some decorative pieces. Here are a few photos, lots more in our SmugMug album.

We have gotten our Visas registered making us official, now we are in the process of getting our national ID card or cedula. We were in the office last Thursday from 10:30 to 3:30 (with a trip out for lunch) and were two numbers away from being called when the main computer system went down. Sigh....we will try again this week.

We've enjoyed meeting friends, having an AMAZING New Year's Eve here - even purchasing our own effigy (although we didn't burn him this year but will next year). Not going to load more photos, hope you will visit our album.

On New Year's day we took a nice walk along the Yanuncuy river across the street from us. Took a lot of photos there, too. ;) On our way back to the apartment we stopped to enjoy a wonderful holiday parade. Parades and fireworks are big here and we've enjoyed every minute!

Last thing of note, the weather has been beautifully sunny and dry. But that means the rivers are getting low. We've had rain off and on the last two days and the rivers are flowing much better! It's all good....

I will try to blog more often but it's all WiFi dependent....soon we will get our own line and no longer share with our downstairs neighbor. Again, it's all good!!
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