Livable Cuenca

Livable Cuenca

Cuenca, in the highlands of south-central Ecuador, is the country’s third-largest city, with about 400,000 residents. It has a reputation for being a charming colonial-era city, built on the site of an Inca settlement—and before that a town of the indigenous Canari people—in a broad mountain valley where four small rivers come together. Cuenca isn’t… Read More

Chilling at Cotopaxi

Chilling at Cotopaxi

Ecuador is a land of volcanoes. When we left Quito, we headed for the country’s most famous volcano: a perfect cone-shaped, snow-capped peak called Cotopaxi. Our base near Cotopaxi was the wonderful Secret Garden hostel, a friendly, laid-back place full of international travelers. There, you can get room, board, and a volcano view for every… Read More

South of the Border, Down Ecuador Way

South of the Border, Down Ecuador Way

A quick flight from Bogota to Quito, the capital of Ecuador, and we were well and truly in the Southern Hemisphere. Quito is a big city (population 2.6 million), sprawling from north to south along a wide valley. It’s also a high city, at an altitude of 2,850 m (9,350 feet). We stayed in a… Read More

Eating in Colombia

Eating in Colombia

Our final post about Colombia focuses on one of our favorite parts of travel: food. In that sphere, Colombia was both a hit and a miss. Most of the Colombian food that we encountered was fairly mild, lacking in seasoning, and heavy on starches. Grilled or roasted meat was typically served dry, without sauces, and… Read More

Jardin and Manizales: Our Final Stops in Colombia

Jardin and Manizales: Our Final Stops in Colombia

Our last stops in Colombia were the small town of Jardin (pronounced “hardeen”) and the mid-size city of Manizales, both in the mountains of Colombia’s central coffee-growing region. Jardin was a vibrant place during Christmas week. Each day, its cafes and plazas filled up with more residents’ relatives visiting for the holiday (some from as… Read More

Impressions of Colombia

Impressions of Colombia

It’s impossible to get a complete sense of a country in a month. But here are some impressions we formed while traveling in Colombia, in the upper northwest corner of South America: Colombia is really big: You could fit California and Texas inside it and still have room for New Jersey. Apart from a week… Read More

From Colombia to Your Cup

From Colombia to Your Cup

The thing our friend AJ was most excited to see in Colombia was coffee fields. As the former owner of a coffeehouse, AJ knows all about how to turn roasted beans into a great cup of coffee. But she knew less about what happens to those beans before they get to the United States.  To… Read More

Corcora Valley and Botanical Garden

Corcora Valley and Botanical Garden

Colombia’s central Andean region is an area of amazing natural beauty. From our base in Filandia, we took day trips to two places that showcased that beauty. In the Val de Corcora, we went horseback riding among the world’s tallest palm trees: the endangered wax palm, Colombia’s national tree. At the Quindio Botanical Garden, we… Read More

Filandia: Colombia’s Most Colorful Town?

Filandia: Colombia’s Most Colorful Town?

After leaving Bogota, our first base in the Andean region of west-central Colombia was the little town of Filandia (population 7,000), a prettier and more authentic alternative to the backpacker hotspot of Salento nearby. Filandia has plenty of shops and restaurants and small hotels, mainly to serve the coffee and cattle farmers in the surrounding… Read More

Christmas in Colombia

Christmas in Colombia

Surprisingly, this is only the second time that Melissa and I have been outside the United States at Christmas. The first time was in Penang, Malaysia—a mainly Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist island where Christmas celebrations were minimal. This year, in predominantly Catholic Colombia, Christmas themes are everywhere. So we’ve been missing our loved ones at… Read More

Echoes of My Grandfather in Coffee Country

Echoes of My Grandfather in Coffee Country

Whatever I expected from the small towns in Colombia’s coffee-growing valleys, it wasn’t to be reminded of my Grandpa Howlett on every street corner. According to family stories, at the beginning of World War II, my grandfather worked for an advertising agency, one of whose clients was a vehicle manufacturer named Willys-Overland Motors. At the… Read More