A lot has happened in that time. In quickie bullets:
- I was diagnosed with cancer the month before that.
- Two months before that, I travelled to Palma, Mallorca, Spain for 3 weeks to see if it might be viable to move/live there. This resulting from being bitten by the bug while visiting after a cruise 7 months before that!
- While having chemo and radiation treatments, I submitted my documents to obtain a Residency Visa in Spain.
- 3 days after my final treatment in late November, I flew to Mallorca to search for an apartment, which I found the day before I was to fly back to Cuenca.
- 1 month later, in January, I flew back to Mallorca to set the apartment up with furniture (IKEA!!) so I'd have a place to land come March when I was scheduled to move.
- Between January and March, I dealt with the requirements (read 'bureaucracy') to have Gracie (remember my dog?) move with me. It involved several hundred dollars along with sending a blood sample to Germany (!!!) for them to analyze and confirm she didn't have rabies.
- Also, during that same period of time, I closed down my B&B and sold off all the personal possesions I had therein. Because it was a B&B, I had 3 beds, 3 microwaves, 3 TV's, 3 desks....you get the idea....almost 3 of everything. I did it all without having a single 'garage sale' where tons of people descend upon my home, pawing through my stuff, etc. I did it all online...a Virtual Garage Sale (VGS). Well, everything except my car.
- In March, I moved to Spain. But, without Gracie...she had to stay back until May.
- In May, I flew baaaaack to Cuenca for a little over a week with the sole purpose of gathering up Gracie and taking her back with me to Spain. I also sold my car in that week.
- Meanwhile, I still had 3 short-term rental apartments to maintain due to booking commitments as far out as March, 2019. I was able to do that with the help of some local friends.
- I started writing my 'Magical Mallorca' blog...all about my living experiences in my new 'neck of the woods'.
Ok, now you're semi-sorta caught up.
Fast forward....... WOOOOOOOSSHHHH!!!
March Fifteen, Two Thousand Nineteen A.D.
I once again hopped on a plane (UGH...my 7th time between Cuenca and Palma!) and sat in a single seat for 10 hours to fly back to Cuenca and wrap up my bitness there for the last time.
My priorities were only two:
- Close down the 3 apartments and sell all the personal possesions I had therein. That meant, 3 beds, 3 refrigerators, 3 microwaves, 3 toasters, 3 washers, 3 dryers, 3 sofas, 3 dining room tables, 3 stoves, 3 TV's, 3 sets of dishes, pots/pans, etc, 3 blenders, 3 vacuum cleaners, 3 apts of sheets, towels, decorations, etc. Sound familiar? Anyhoo....all total there were about 800 items to sell...none of which were 2 turtle doves nor a partridge in a pear tree!
- Be re-tested for any signs of cancer cooties.
Beyond those two priorities, as far as I was concerned, there was nothing else. No visiting friends, dining out, sightseeing, sleeping in late, relaxing, etc...not until those two bullets were marked Complete and Finito.
And I had 30 days in which to do it.
Luckily, I had already itemized the entire inventory the year before, so that gave me a head start. Once I took, and boarded, the photos online and got the website published, things started flying off the shelves. I was heads down from 7am to 8pm almost every day allowing only a few minutes to run across the street to grab some fast food to inhale.
One day, I inhaled the wrong food. The next morning, and for 24 hours after that, I hurled 16 times!!! TMI? Sorry.
Mixed in with all this flurry was an individual (we'll call him 'DD') who I knew very well, who indicated he might be interested in buying 'everything' (chocolate, strawberry, AND vanilla!!) and asked me to give him a price. Wow, that would be great!!! What would I do with all the remaining free time!!!??? Then, DD wanted to tweek it a bit...just strawberry and vanilla. Then, only chocolate. Then, chocolate and vanilla with some sprinkles. Suffice to say, I produced 6 Excel spreadsheet versions before DD and I came to an agreement. Time was ticking and I didn't know what to sell/not sell until we settled on a final purchase list.
A knock on my door one morning and I was informed (by a messenger) that DD decided he didn't want to buy ANYTHING!!! At this point I only had 10 days left!!!! WTF!!!
(What The Fooey)
Meanwhile, I had my cancer tests which included a blood examination, drinking glop, an enema, a diarrhea explosion, an MRI, and....oh....almost forgot...another diarrhea explosion....ummmm....in a popular restaurant no less. TMI again? Don't worry, it's over. No more TMI to share with you.
I had an appointment to review the test results, but that day ended up being the infamous 16 puking day. Luckily, I was able to get another appointment the following week and I was told everything came out (hmmm...maybe I should re-word that)...AOK. All clear. For now.
As I was feverishly trying to sell everything that remained, DD's messenger showed up and watned to buy a bed. A few hours later, he also wanted a microwave and a set of sheets. BUT, this time he had cash in hand. This pattern kept going for several days until DD ended up buying dozens of large items and even being upset that I had already sold some things that he wanted! SHEESH!!!
Cut to the chase. Though it came down to the wire, I sold over 550 items via the VGS method, donated smaller items to a charity, and kept some things for myself to bring back to Spain with me.
I wrapped up the selling part on Friday before I was to fly out on Tuesday. Sat/Sun were days for trucks to come by and pick up the big items. It was also the time for me to clean, patch holes, do a makeover job on the rooftop patio, and since the beds were gone, to check into a hotel for the remaining 2 nights.
I hadn't realized it was a holiday weekend. That left me with only Monday, the day before flying out, to take care of business such as closing a bank account, stopping internet service, get my security deposit back, etc.
At the end of the work day, on Monday, I had to say my goodbyes to two very special long-time Ecuadorian friends. It was difficult, as one of them is 88 and the other...who I always called 'Mi Amor'...was like a Grandma to me. She's 78. There was no holding back crocodile tears...for either one of us. We knew we probably wouldn't see each other again.
Tuesday morning, I said goodbye to the Otavalan family who sold textiles from a stall just outside the front door of where my apartments were located. They are/were the sweetest, kindest, most generous people I think I've ever known. They would always greet me with a big smile and an 'HOLA DANI!!' no matter how many times I'd walk by.
Off to the airport. I flew to Quito and had about a 5 hour layover before my flight to Madrid. While I was killing time, I decided I'd better check on the status of my flight.
You KNOW there's a hitch comin up in this get-along story, don'tcha?
I looked up my reservation online. It said departing 5:40pm on Monday, April 15. WHAT??? This is TUESDAY, APRIL 16TH!!
I looked at my original booking confirmation and, yes indeedy, it said Tuesday, April 16th! But, my boarding pass said Monday, April 15th! ANNNNDDDD....get THIS....it said departing 5:40pm on Monday the 15th and arriving at 11:10am, Monday the 15th! How does THAT work? Flying backwards???
The security guard directed me to the Information desk since the Iberia Airlines counter was not staffed yet. 'Ms Info' told me IB doesn't fly on Tuesdays! I showed her all my records. She used another phone to call the IB Customer Service dept and gave me the phone to chat with them. Apparently, somewhere along the line, my original flight was cancelled and re-booked for a day earlier, but I never got wind of it.
IB was able to book me on another flight for the following day (Weds), but I had to take care of booking another flight from Madrid to Palma since I was going to miss my original flight. I also told the rep I had bid on an upgrade seat for $200 and 'won' it and asked what would happen to that? I did it for the extra legroom on such a lonnnng flight. First, she said she wouldn't be able to do anything since Premium Economy wasn't available on the plane I was taking. After putting me on hold for the 15th or so time, she came back and told me she got me into Business Class. GREAT! That would save me from becoming a hatchet murderer by being stuffed into a small seat with little legroom for 10 hours!
I called a friend who owns a hotel (Quito Airport Suites) right on the perimeter of Quito airport and he said he was full, but he now has a 2nd property which he could give me. He sent a taxi to pick me up. The property ended up being a slice of heaven with beautiful landscaping and 3 red golden retrievers (redtrievers?) to greet me.
The next day it was back to the airport after the noon check-out and another 5-hour wait before departure. I didn't end up in Business Class, I ended up in Premium Economy which the IB Rep said they didn't have. But, no matter, I had the legroom I wanted.
When I started to write this particular article, I thought I was only going to post a bunch of photos of the results of the renovation of Plaza San Francisco which I could see from my apt. The project started while I still lived in Cuenca and, now having gone back for the last time, I was able to see the final results.
Plus, the TranVia (Light Rail) project finally was in operation (though in a testing phase). It is the first line in Cuenca, some 12 miles long stretching from one end of Cuenca, through old town, out to the airport, and beyond to the Industrial park where a lot of manufacturing jobs exist. It was also a project that went 2 years past its original timeline with a lot of political and contractual upheaval. It was nice to see it gliding along and all the construction mess turned into attractive landscaping.
Cuenca continues to be on the move of improvements. In just the one year I've been away, the light rail came to fruition, new parks have opened up, the Plaza San Francisco has been converted from a shanty eyesore to a public plaza already hosting festivals and concerts, and the ripple affect from these projects is being seen in other buildings being restored or given a facelift.
NOW....ON WITH THE PHOTOS!!!
Note: In some photos you may need to scroll left/right to see the entire shot.
Here's what Plaza San Francisco looked like before the renovation.
In July, 2017 they started by trashing the place.
By August 7th, it looked like this.
Every single cobblestone was considered 'heritage' stone and had to be pried out by hand.....one by one....and preserved so it would be re-used in the 'new' plaza.
They were all stacked up (by hand) nice and neat then hauled away to be stored offsite, out of the way of the project.
Like many civic projects, it wasn't JUST the plaza being renovated. It also included adjacent streets, sidewalks, and a few buildings. In the next photo, the street stones were also pried up so trenches could be dug to lay new drainage lines and utility conduits. This photo was taken late September.
The sidewalk in front of our building needed to be replaced, too. All the old concrete was jackhammered out. While waiting for the new surface to be laid, access to businesses were made from wood planks and bricks. VERY OSHA!!!
Speaking of OSHA (or lack thereof) nobody had a problem walking around, through, or in the midst of machinery in operation, open trenches, construction workers, mud, etc. We just watched our step and carried the kids across the planks. No biggie. No lawsuits.
By mid-December marble tiles were being laid for the new sidewalk surface in front of our building.
By late December the adjacent street was 95% done and somewhat back to normal except for finishing the new sidewalks.
Meanwhile, over on the plaza, graders graded, and graded, and graded and thumpers hammered the soil down hard. Layers of sand and plastic and other materials were put down....who knows why. Let's just say they were making SURE the underlayment was going to hold up for a LONG time.
Now the cobblestones were brought back to the site. Workers filled steel wheelbarrows to shuttle a load of stone to the men spreading concrete over steel mesh to put them in place one by one by thousands. Was there a concrete mixer truck nearby? Nope....just your good ol' fashioned backyard mixer being filled with sand, gravel, and water by men shoveling their wheelbarrows full from nearby supply piles.
The plaza is finally taking shape. You can see the planned water fountain in the middle. Also, across the street at the San Francisco Church, a small plaza and the street in front of it are being re-done.
A building across the street from the plaza is undergoing a nip/tuck.
One of the main intentions of the restoration project was to return the plaza back to the public versus being overrun by shanty merchants. The design purposely kept the space open as much as possible to accommodate concerts, festivals, and other public events. The city constructed new merchant spaces that line the outer perimeters of the plaza.
Though a different project, the city also undertook renovating the domes of the cathedral. With new tile and accent lighting, the domes look stunning at night.
No, the new plaza didn't get trashed right away. This is an old photo before the project so you can compare the same buildings in the after photo (next). Be sure to scroll left right. Though it's not a jaw-dropping difference, you can see the trickle-affect a civic project can have on nearby properties. Several of them took the opportunity to spruce themselves up. The one that really stands out to me is the light blue building which has nice architectural features but has looked dreary for many years....until now.
The building to the right of the mauve-colored building was re-faced with brick.
The city also gave each of the building tenants several potted geraniums to enhance their balconies.
See what a little makeup can do?
So, here's the final product!!
The plaza was completed and re-opened about a month before I arrived. From start to finish was a little over a year and a half.
Each of the cube-shaped structures you see are the merchant kiosks. Instead of having to bundle up all their inventory (as they did before) and cart the bundles all over the adjacent blocks to storage spaces, they can now simply close their shutter-like doors and be done. Likewise, they no longer have to start before the crack of dawn to bring all their inventory from the aforementioned storage spaces, to their site, and rebuild their display EVERY day!! From my observation while there, they appear to have trimmed off 3-4 hours from their workday.
Just as intended, a performance stage was erected for a one-night concert and taken down the next day.
CLICK HERE: Watch a Before/After Video of Plaza San Francisco
The 'OTHER' notable project that was completed just before I arrived...was the FIRST line of Light Rail, called 'TranVia'. I was hoping to ride it but they were still in the testing and public education phase (ie; don't park your car on the tracks just to run in and pick up a pizza. Yes, it really happened). It (the light rail project...not the pizza) took MUCH longer than planned, but I'm glad it's finally here and hope its future will be successful.
Well folks, that's IT for my Cuenca blog. Time to wrap it up with a bow. Time to put it to rest. Like that guy Al V. Duhsane says, time to say 'Oh Vwar'. Or, if you're reading this from Italy 'Uh River Dare Chee!'. Or, if yer from Texis, 'Happy Trails to You, Until We Meet Again!!!'.
I wrote 233 articles over the 7 years I was in Cuenca. Whew!! And, someone (I dunno who) looked at it over 380,000 times!
I had a ton more photos to publish and several more story ideas waiting for their day in the page-shine as well. But, damn those round to-its are hard to find!!
Now I can focus on procrastinating writing my new blog 'Magical Mallorca'.
It's all about my experiences living in and around Palma... Mallorca... of the Balearic Islands...of Spain....in Europe....on Earth.
Why don'tcha come up and see me some time?
CLICK HERE TO GET STARTED ON YOUR BLOG TRIP TO MALLORCA!!