Who is out there?

I am signed up for this trip June 6th to July 19th.  Any of my fellow travelers on this site yet?  Pam

  • In reply to pam.kotler101514:

    Hi, Pam - I have received your note of July 27! Success so far!
  • In reply to caromar1121440:

    Okay, success at last.

    Now I forget what all I was going to say.

    1). The sidewalks in Cuenca are full of potholes and regular holes. Wear sturdy shoes and watch where you are going all the time. It is too easy to fall. And pedestrians do not have the right of way so always be careful crossing the street.
    2). The Roads Scholar staff, the staff at the apartments and the staff at the Spanish school are uniformly wonderful. They are warm, welcoming and very helpful.
    3). I was in the beginning Spanish class. It was all good except that there is no workbook, only sheets of mimeographed (sometimes illegible) exercises. I found that difficult and wished that I had brought a basic workbook (you can't count on buying one there). Most beginning workbooks cover the same material so you could use your own....or there was some conversation among the staff about providing one.
    4). I had a lot of trouble with the altitude, never really did adjust. I saw several doctors there (I had a recurrent sinus infection...never had one before in my life and they are no fun at all). Narcisa (our Road Scholar guide) was extremely helpful in making sure I got to the right person (she knows everyone in Cuenca) and translated for me in the doctor visits. I wish I hadn't had the sinus infection but it went as well as it possibly could.
    5). The apartments are extremely nice, almost luxurious. There are free washers and dryers along with toilet paper (which you have to go down to the lobby to get). The staff there will clean your apartment for a minimal amount of money (although they take a long time to do it). Alternatively, they will lend you cleaning supplies if you want to do it yourself.
    6). The one thing the apartments (and all other buildings in the historic district) lack is heat. When we were there, the temperature ranged from 45 to about 60 most of the time (warmer during the day) and it gets cold in those historic buildings. The school also does not have heat and so, even when it is warmer outside, the apartments and school can be chilly. Take a sweater or jacket and be prepared to wear them a lot. I only took one jacket and got heartily sick of it by the end of six weeks.
    7). I don't think I saw a dirty bathroom anywhere in Ecuador. However, toilet paper is not meant to go down the toilet and is in short supply. Sometimes there is none in public bathrooms, sometimes it is outside the door to the bathroom. I suggest taking your own along. Fortunately, I had a lot of packets of kleenex which worked well.
    8). There is a Ecuadorian version of a 7-11 (Tia) right down the street from the hotel which has most of what you might need. The food there is not great but it is the closest store. There are also open air markets close by to get some wonderful veggies and fruits. And restaurants are amazingly inexpensive.
    9). In spite of being sick, I had a wonderful time. Ecuador is beautiful and the people there were nice and welcoming. Most of the people you will meet on the street do not speak English but they love it that you try and speak Spanish and some combination of Spanglish will always work.

    I think that's it for now. If I think of anything else, I'll write again or feel free to ask any questions.
  • In reply to pam.kotler101514:

    Take along one of those rubber things that you use to screw off bottle tops. All bottles are amazingly difficult to open and one of those rubber things would have been perfect. Otherwise, you have to keep finding someone to open things for you.
  • In reply to pam.kotler101514:

    Hi Pam, I can see this message. Thank you for trying again. I'm not sure if there is a character limit or a time limit that might have affected when you typed out a long reply. We are so eager to hear how your trip was. If you can post shorter messages, I have a feeling that they will show on the board.
    Alison
  • In reply to pam.kotler101514:

    Pam, thank you so much! This is so very helpful. Too bad that you came down with a sinus infection, but it sounds like you were well taken care of. We really appreciate your comments and tips! Looking forward to our trip. Will certainly bring several jackets and sturdy walking shoes. Bye for now.
  • In reply to pam.kotler101514:

    Thank you so much for letting us know about your experience , Pam. I’m so sorry that you were fighting a sinus infection. I know how miserable that can be. These are excellent pointers on what to expect. I have been debating taking books (dictionaries, phrase books and the like), I think that will be a good idea. My thought is that I could ship them back home before we go to the Galapagos. I am also adding a sweater and a jacket based on your comments. Most of the shirts I plan to take are long-sleeved but thin fabric. Sun protection plus quick to dry was my thinking. Might not be enough in colder buildings. Thank you again for taking the time (twice!) to type up notes for us curious September people .
  • In reply to pam.kotler101514:

    Thank you, Pam, for all those great tips. I was surprised at the temperature range; I had been thinking it would be warmer as it is close to the equator, but the altitude could create that difference. So good to know I should be bringing warmer clothing.

    Sorry to hear you had trouble with your sinuses. Hopefully you have fully recovered and this does not put you off from visiting other places at higher altitude.

    Good to know about the bottle tops; I would have been so frustrated and running off to find a vice grip-lol!

    Marianne
  • In reply to pam.kotler101514:

    Hi Pam. Thanks so much for your suggestions. I do love Ecuador since they use dollars but I was wondering how easy (and safe) it was for you to use ATMs there. Not sure how much cash I want to carry but there are a lot of activities and meals "on our own" on this trip so I know I will need cash. Did you go on any other excursions not arranged by Road Scholar? Getting excited...Marilyn
  • In reply to mdavis2746013147:

    There is an ATM right across the street from the apartment building which I certainly felt safe using during the day. I mostly used cash during the trip because, although restaurants, etc. say they take credit cards, they really don't, especially for small purchases. But everything is so cheap there that most purchases are small. I am not into cooking so I ate out most of the time, never paying more than $10 for dinner and usually less. I just went to the ATM occasionally and got $60-$100 at a time. I probably only spent $500 the whole trip (but I don't buy souvenirs or much in the way of "stuff"...I did buy a nice sweater for $17). You will hear warnings about pickpockets (and one person did have his phone stolen) but it wasn't much of a problem. I think being careful but not anxious is the approach to take.
  • In reply to pam.kotler101514:

    Thanks that is reassuring...I am originally from NYC (now in Illinois) so I think I have careful but not anxious down : )
    Any favorite things you did with all the free time?
  • In reply to mdavis2746013147:

    I have been assuming that Gran Colombia Suites has Internet? I have been doing most of my Spanish on the web and I am hoping I can still use those resources in Cuenca..save me from carrying too many books. Thanks...I think you are the only one who has shared any information about your trip so far. Was your group the first to go? It looks like there are a lot more trips on the schedule for next year.
  • In reply to mdavis2746013147:

    Hi, Marilyn - the Gran Columbia Suites website has a list of amenities in the apartment suites which includes Wi-Fi and Direct TV. I’m planning on bringing an iPad to continue my on line Spanish lessons as well as ebooks for reference. Hope that will save space and weight for packing! Looking forward to an amazing adventure!
    Carol
  • In reply to caromar1121440:

    Hi Carol,
    You are obviously better at maneuvering around their website..I went to the Gran Columbia site and found photos but never found a list of amenities. Since I've been doing most of my studies online, it is a relief to know it will be available.
    Thanks!
    Marilyn
  • In reply to mdavis2746013147:

    No problems at all with the internet. There is an occasional problem with the TV, not the reception but the TV itself. But they have someone there who takes care of electronic stuff so things can be fixed easily.
  • In reply to caromar1121440:

    Thanks for this. I had no idea this was how you could see the number of people signed up for your trip. Good to know!