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Monday, June 5, 2017

A Hidden Surprise in Cuenca...Stand Next to Jesus!

Most people (who live here) know about the TodoSantos (or Todo Santos) church located on the end of Calle Larga.

What I knew:
  • Todo Santos means 'All Saints'
  • The architecture is impressive
  • It was recently re-opened after an extended period of renovation
  • It is beautifully lit up at night
  • A 'working' convent is part of the complex, as well as a restaurant down below
  • Nuns bake bread from an old wood-burning stove
What I didn't know:
  • The original part of the church was built back in the 1500's
  • It was the first church built in Cuenca
  • A fire darn near destroyed it about 10 years ago
  • The complex also includes a school for several hundred children
  • There's a garden where what's grown is used in the restaurant
  • ....annnnd....you can climb up to the top of the steeple and stand next to Jesus!!!

I met a wonderful couple from Gig Harbor, WA (near where I lived) while in the Galapagos.   Their next stop was Cuenca.  While having dinner with them here, they told me about how they climbed the steeple of Todo Santos.  WHAT???   I didn't know you could!!!  So, I added it to my list of To Do's.  I love to climb things, especially for the reward at the end....the VIEWS!

After I got my teeth cleaned ($35) a block away, I wandered over to TS and found a young woman at a desk inside the main entrance to the church.  I asked her about the 'stairs'.  She said 'un dollar' (one dollar).   I paid and thought I would just head up the steps on my own.  She closed the huge wooden doors to the church and escorted me to the top...stopping along the way to explain a few things, open up shutters to reveal stunning views, and to warn me of places where I needed to duck my head.

Instead of the usual brick and/or concrete you encounter climbing around the inside of a church, this one was a maze of wooden timbers.  The steps were narrow...at first about 24 inches wide and then down to about 18" at the very top.  The wooden steps wove around 8" round timbers jutting every direction that exists.

Believe it or not, at one point back in the 1960's these walls were white-washed.  When the church was restored, they also painstakingly restored the original frescos.

This window may look small, but the cutout is actually about 4ft wide.  Look at the first photo above and you'll see it directly above the main arched doorway.

As we climbed, my tour escort opened the shutters to reveal magnificent views.   Even SHE was taking photos!!

The school belonging to TS below.  The orange ball out in the distance is Cuenca's Planetarium.
And you thought it was Orange Julius????

As timbers were added or replaced, they were branded with their year of installation

My guide flung open a set of shutters and there was nothing to prevent me from walking out onto that tiled roof....well....except her.  Scroll back up to the first photo and you can see the level I'm at when this photo was taken.

You can see the blue-domed cathedral at 12 o'clock and two other churches to the left of it.  

Steeeeep and narrow.  So glad I went on that diet.  I was worried my hips might not pass!!!

And there he is....Jesus himself.  I stood right next to him.  He didn't have much to say though.   Quiet guy.

At the last level (the Jesus level), looking back down through the trap door I came up through.  Well....crawled through.  Yes, this last segment requires you to crawl up the steps....that is....unless you're 3ft 10" or less in height.

Looking down on a great plaza on the river side of Todo Santos.  It's such a hidden gem, most people don't know it exists!

Headed back down.
My foot.
Hi Mom!!!!

Sooooo much wood, it would be a blazing inferno if it ever caught fire....again.

So, that's where I went...up there....with Jesus.

Ok....let's get a closer shot.  See him waving???

The 'hidden' plaza around the river side of TS.  Really under-utilized as so many people don't realize it's there.

This wood-fired oven is over 200 years old, though it has been restored.  The nuns bake breads in it and sell their product to make $$ for the operational expenses of the complex.  From what my guide told me, there are 5 nuns who live on the premises.

'Gastro', the restaurant in the lower level.

Kinda cave-like, no?





Yessssss...you get TWO blogs for ONE!!!   That's right folks, just today I experienced yet ANOTHER hidden treasure in Cuenca that I just can't wait to tell you about.

And, noooo....no Ginszu knives are involved.

Yet another guest told me about a cool coffee spot I didn't know about.  It's located ABOVE the Panama Hat Museum on Calle Larga.  

I rather pride myself in ME being the person who informs my guests of all the cool hotspots (oxymoron?) they should check out during their stay.  But, I must admit I don't know everything there is to do in Cuenca!!!

Anyhoo, just a couple blocks from my apartment is the Museo Del Sombrero.  There, they show you how the Panama hat (which originated in Ecuador, not Panama) is created.  It's amazing how many styles and colors they have.  I just wish I looked good in any of them.  Instead, I look like a GORF.  Any visitor coming to Cuenca should go there.  

What I didn't know is....in the back and up a set of stairs is a really cool terrace overlooking the entire 'new town' part of the city and the river Tomebamba below......and, they serve an array of coffees.

I had to go.  If it involves a lofty view, I must see it.   I entered the museum slash working factory and asked where the coffee shop was located.    You must walk through the entire Panama hat shop to the other end, then up a short set of stairs and....voila....there it is!!

It's a very tranquil spot with tables and chairs and plants on a terrace with endless vistas and overlooking the river below.   I ordered a $2 capuchino and started clicking away.

It's open the same hours as the museum, therefore it closes at dusk Mon-Fri, 5pm on Saturday, and 1pm on Sunday.  There's an adjacent interior room where, if you're lucky, music is played for an hour or two before closing.  I spotted a piano, guitar, and drums.

Photos of this little hidden gem:

The entryway from the street.

Up a couple-o-stairs and 'voila'
Well, whaddaya know....Gringos in Panama hats!!

A tile placa depicting the view from the Barranco (embankment)

So, there you go.  You can move to Cuenca.....Ecuador.....South America.....and sitcherass in a reclining barcolounger and plant your I-phone or I-pad in front of your face, you can slurp down your vente mocachino 5.384 pumps of chocolate, 7 ice cubes made from purified water from Greenland, slim no foam, no-kill straw, shaken not stirred.....ummm....forgot what I was ordering..... or have GORKO or LUZU or NANU NANU broadcasting your favorite show of all shows of all the 1,837 channels you have available to watch and entertain you until you're a Zombie and the Russians re-program your brain......or......you can get out and Live Life and experience the gems Cuenca (or your town) has to offer.

Afterwards....THEN you can go home and  plant your I-phone or I-pad in front of your face or have GORKO or LUZU or NANU NANU broadcasting your favorite show of all shows of all the 1,837 channels you have available to watch and entertain you until you're a Zombie and the Russians re-program your brain!!!!!!

Or, while I'm on this theme, let me quote from the inimitable 'Mame' (in this case, I choose Lucille Ball playing the role).

Life's a Banquet, and most Sons of Bitches are Starvin to Death!!!

(cue symphony)

Open a new window,
Open a new door,
Travel a new highway,
That's never been tried before;
Before you find you're a dull fellow,
Punching the same clock,
Walking the same tight rope
As everyone on the block.
The fellow you ought to be is three dimensional,
Soaking up life down to your toes,
Whenever they say you're slightly unconventional,
Just put your thumb up to your nose.
And show 'em how to dance to a new rhythm,
Whistle a new song,
Toast with a new vintage,
The fizz doesn't fizz too long.
There's only one way to make the bubbles stay,
Simply travel a new high way,
Dance to a new rhythm,
Open a new window ev'ry day!

Just sayin.....


About Me

My photo
Palma, Mallorca, Spain
This is all about my transition from an American lifestyle and culture to my newest adventure, life in Spain, in the city of Palma on the island of Mallorca in the middle of the Mediterranean sea!! I moved from the USA to Cuenca, Ecuador, South America and lived there for 7 years before moving here to Spain in early 2018. To read about my adventures in Ecuador, check out my other blog "Ahhh Cuenca!!". I'll be recapping some of my day-to-day experiences (and mishaps) to highlight what it's like to live in Europe....across the pond.

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