Lily Ann Fouts
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7 Weird and Exotic Vegetables We Enjoyed in Loja, Ecuador

Last week I wrote about 19 different weird and exotic fruits you can find in Loja, Ecuador.  This week I’d like to continue the trend by throwing a few weird veggies into the mix!  (By the way, if you want a ton of great info about Loja, Ecuador, check out the book I am writing!)

Though they’re not as numerous as the fruits, we did find several new and uncommon vegetables—and a few familiar but strange-looking ones, like super-fat carrots and giant corn kernels. So without further ado…here are 7 weird and exotic veggies we found in Loja, Ecuador!  […]

19 Weird and Exotic Fruits of Loja, Ecuador

Most of my past week has been consumed with drafting my book about Loja, Ecuador. The act of writing brings happy memories to the forefront of my mind. One such memory is of all the exotic fruits we got to know while living in Loja. I do not exaggerate when I say that every single week when we went to the open air market we encountered a new food (fruit, veggie, or dish) of some sort that we had never seen before.

Here is a sampling of some fruits you can find in Loja. […]

Vilcabamba Valley

Why I Could Never Live in Vilcabamba

Nestled below the steep mountains of Southern Ecuador, a winding one-hour bus ride south of Loja, lies Vilcabamba, in the Sacred Valley of Longevity–that place made famous for its high percentage of centenarians (people over 100 years old).  Researchers eventually found that this was a myth–Vilcabamba doesn’t actually have a higher percentage of centenarians–but overall people are healthier into old age.  In Vilcabamba the weather is almost perfect all year long, the fertile land yields abundant crops of fresh food, people get lots of exercise, and they drink pure water which cascades down from the Andean peaks.

This tropical paradise attracts a large expat population, and English has overtaken Spanish as the primary language of business in the town.  Some estimate the expat population at around 80% of the total, and as you stroll around the town square, eavesdropping on conversations, this certainly seems to be the case.  Coming from Loja, where we were almost the only expats, all the English signs and conversations and Caucasian faces were a bit of a shock to the system. […]

Finding an Apartment in Loja, Ecuador

James Michener famously said, “If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay home.”

Par-tay! Latin American culture celebrates every opportunity!

Fiesta time! Latin American culture celebrates every opportunity!

We loved living in Ecuador and highly recommend it to people who love the Spanish language (or are interested in learning) and love other cultures–particularly Latin American culture.  Ecuador has so much to offer–beautiful scenery (jungle, mountains, beach, you name it), low prices (on most things), nice weather, a lovely culture and wonderful people.  We can hardly wait to go back, and we are seriously considering buying property and making a permanent home there.   […]

Exploring Zamora, Ecuador (and getting my unwanted souvenir)

IMG_4316Wednesday morning, Feb. 12, we took the city bus to the bus station and bought tickets to Zamora for $2.50 each.  No matter which direction you go from Loja, there is a steep climb out of the valley and usually a long descent on the other side, all on winding roads.  This road drops into Amazonía–the edge of the Amazon Basin.  We had various vendors on this bus–some boarded while we waited at the station and others joined us en route–selling everything from candy to jewelry to “cures” for various ailments.

In Zamora we looked around for a hotel and settled with Hotel Betania, for $25 per night.  It’s a clean and comfortable hotel with hot showers and the best rooftop view of the town’s hillside attraction: a giant clock reported to be the largest in the world.  For an additional $3 each, we also purchased a good breakfast on the rooftop terrace (note: if you go, be sure to request breakfast when you check in; they need to know ahead of time).  […]

Festivities in Malacatos

After several days of mostly cooler/wetter weather in Loja (it is rainy season, after all), I felt like getting out of town and heading for some warmth and sun.  Malacatos is a $1 bus ride away, in a valley between Loja and Vilcabamba.  So on Monday morning we walked out to the bus stop (2 blocks from our house) and flagged down the Vilcabamba bus.

On the bus we encountered standing room only, but after a few minutes the assistant called us up to the front and gave us a place to sit up by the driver, so we had a great view!   Every bus here in the Loja area has an assistant, by the way.  I really like that the driver can focus on driving and the assistant goes around collecting the fares and assisting passengers with their luggage or whatever.  Even the city buses have assistants! […]


The town of Vilcabamba, Ecuador.

The town of Vilcabamba, Ecuador.

A few mornings ago I felt the itch to get out of Loja for a bit and do something different. 

“Let’s catch a bus to Vilcabamba,” I suggested to Keith.

We threw a change of clothes into our daypacks and walked the 2 blocks to wait for the bus.  Buses travel between Vilcabamba and Loja every 30 minutes.  It costs $1.30 each way and takes about an hour–a winding, beautiful ride through a steep and verdant landscape dotted by some lovely properties along the way, many belonging to expats.  Close to Vilcabamba is a town called Malacatos with some very wealthy homes–we’ll spend a day exploring it sometime.

Vilcabamba is surreal.  It’s a very hippie, New Age-y village.  Expats outnumber natives and English is widely spoken.  […]

Parks of Loja, Ecuador

One of several replica buildings in Parque Jipiro.

One of several replica buildings in Parque Jipiro.

I love parks!  Green spaces bring a bit of nature into the concrete jungle of the city, encourage people to enjoy the outdoors and exercise more, and provide a lovely place for friends and family to socialize in wholesome ways.  As a traveler, parks are among the first things I seek out in a new city.  They are usually free, and they provide opportunities for me to watch the locals during their happy moments of relaxation–parents playing with their children, friends playing a sport, or young couples in love sitting by a pond and feeding the fish and ducks.

Here in Ecuador (and throughout Latin America, as far as I can tell), weekends and holidays are busy times in the parks.  Especially when the weather is nice, friends and families flock to the recreational areas of their cities and enjoy the opportunity to visit, celebrate, and play together.

Loja, Ecuador is lucky to have several very nice parks within its city limits.  We have managed to visit all of the main parks in town and we are lucky to live reasonably close to several of them.  Here are our favorites so far: […]

The Ride from Guayaquil to Loja

January 23, 2014

The older man with a fat nose and a round, jovial face rushed forward into the vacant seat behind us.  He had been near the back of the bus since we left Guayaquil several hours earlier.  He dropped something as the bus lurched forward.  I reached down to see if I could pick up his item and hand it back to him, but he had already recovered his can of WD-40, which he held up to show me with an “I-have-a-trick-up-my-sleeve” grin on his face.    I did a double-take.  The can had a little switch and a pattern of little holes punched into the side.   “¿Es una radio?” I asked.