Archive for January, 2012

Long Awaited “On the Road” Movie to be Released Summer 2012

Here below is an article from, my favorite publishing industry on-line newsletter which writes not just about books, but books into film as well…

On the Road Finally Nearing Destination?

A long, strange trip to bring Jack Kerouac’s novel On the Road to the big screen (Kerouac asked Marlon Brandoto play Dean Moriarty in 1957, and producer Francis Ford Coppola acquired the rights in 1980) may finally reach its destination at the Cannes Film Festival in May.IndieWire reported that “the post-production is wrapping up and European theatrical dates are slowly coming into focus.” The film is directed by Walter Salles (The Motorcycles Diaries) and stars “a promising young cast” that includes Sam Riley, Garrett Hedlund, Tom Sturridge and Kristen Stewart, as well as veterans Viggo Mortensen, Amy Adams, Steve Buscemi, Kirsten Dunst and Terrence Howard.”We just finished the edit and the mix in Paris,” Salles said. “There are still a few steps left until the film is completely finished (designing titles and credits, getting the digital workprint back to 35mm, etc.) The independent company that produced the film, MK2, is now working on the site and trailer. As for release dates, they tend to vary from country to country when a film is distributed independently.”

IndieWire noted that “the release in France, which producer Charles Gillibert revealed on Twitter is set for May 23rd, running concurrently with the tail end of this year’s Cannes Film Festival (scheduled for May 16-27). This primes the film for a potential premiere on the Croisette, which will precede the Gallic theatrical release.” On the Road does not have a North American distributor yet.

January 18, 2012 at 12:13 am 2 comments

Why Cuenca, a City I Love, is a Top Retirement Destination

Have you ever traveled to a place and then wanted to go back? Somehow it spoke to you of comfort and you felt at home? Cuenca, Ecuador does this for me.  I have been there before. Loved in then, love it now.

Cuenca (Santa Ana de los Quatros Rios de Cuenca is the official name) is beautiful, clean, charming, and welcoming. It is also livable, presuming you have life or travel experience in other countries and are easily adaptable.

Over the past five years I’ve found Cuenca continuing to appear on polls and magazine lists as a top retirement destination worldwide.

It attracts more residents from around the world than any other Ecuadorian city.

Umm, what’s up?

Well for one, Cuenca is a UNESCO Heritage Trust Site full of splendid colonial buildings and cultural events.  Think happy visuals and pleasing experiences.

Catedral de la Immaculada Concepcion

Cuenca (which means “basin”) is nestled in a valley surrounded by the Andes with panoramas and vegetation that are fabulous eye candy – lavender flowering jacaranda trees swaying in the breeze, Tipu Tipuanas (aka the Pride of Bolivia) brimming with yellow flowers, pepper trees and weeping willows, roses of every variety and color – among the most perfect I’ve ever seen – including the gorgeous roses of France!

The Tomebamba and three other rivers pass through the city with grassy knolls on both sides for miles, inviting you to lounge and fall asleep to the sounds of the water. Bridges and walk ways are mostly of old stone, and there are lovely homes, both old and new to admire. The skies are clear and crisp, the clouds ever changing in their shape, and the colors, especially at sunset, are amazing.  For the most part, the air is uncommonly fresh if you come from a place like Los Angeles.

Along the Tomebamba River

Stately buildings along the Tomebamba

Approximately 200,000 people of mostly Spanish, African, mestizo, and indigenous descent live there. The elevation is 8,200 feet.

The pluses for retirees (and others):

Again, physical beauty, nature in abundance – this is also a bird lover’s paradise; and, there are thermal baths and waterfalls just outside the city

Bookstores and Libraries – meet new friends at Carolina’s Bookstore (American owned), or at book and DVD exchanges Thursday mornings at Windhorse Cafe

Cuencanos – the people of Cuenca are kind, helpful, friendly, and educated (it’s a university town)

Culture – art fairs, concerts, cathedrals, historic buildings, museums, theatre – often free and all year long

Made to order lunch at La Negrita

Made to order lunch at La Negrita

Ex-pat activities, clubs and meet-up groups

Fresh and often organic produce (see photo to right)

Housing – apartments, condos, and homes, often gated, and often built with green, eco-friendly materials, more affordable than in North America and Europe (average 2 + 2 unfurnished is $5-600/month); “Gringolandia” to the  northwest of town is a favored area

Gringolandia along the Tomebamba River


Insects and other creatures – rarely a mosquito and other pests at this altitude, but there might be a few ants as well as large moths almost 12” from wing to wing whom you can befriend.

A Cuencan Moth

Medical care – outstanding, state-of-the-art hospitals (three) with top notch equipment; three universities with medical schools; physicians and dentists who have also studied in the U.S. and Europe; small herb, vitamin, and indigenous medicine shops; a school of naturopathy which is scheduled to open in spring 2012; medical costs about 1/5 what they are in North America; affordable private medical insurance; and a government health plan if you are over 65 and living in the country on a pensioner’s visa. Cuenca is also considered a top medical tourism destination.

Restaurants – Austrian, Chinese, crepes and waffles, Ecuadorian, East Indian, International, Japanese, Mexican, Spanish, vegetarian, and more; $2.50 to $20 depending on where you choose to eat

The charming owner of La Negrita

Safety – physical safety, it’s unlikely you will be assaulted, think 1950’s America; economic safety (the country is considered stable, at the moment)

Sports and Exercise – fly-fishing (there is an ex-pat fly fishing club), golf (one club), swimming pools, tennis courts, running and walking groups, Tai Chi classes, yoga classes, dancing classes, for your brain… language classes

U.S. dollar-based economy – for Americans this makes life easier

Value – economic (Americans can live here for $1000/month), mental (gentler life style than in North America), spiritual (maybe more time for yourself)

Transportation – for the moment prices are reasonable – between $1 and $3 in town for a taxi; around 50 cents on the bus (25 cents if you are over 65); you may not need a car; there’s a gorgeous, easy to get to airport

Cuenca's beautiful airport

Weather – for anyone coming from a very hot, humid place, or a place where it snows, Cuenca might be considered heaven with its comfortable “springtime” weather

The challenges:

Clothing, Furniture, Electrical items, and Toiletries – ouch!!  No Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s, Nordstroms, Marshalls, TJ Maxx, or Steinmart… rare to find quality clothing (bring your own); not the best quality furniture but it will do and there are exceptions, just search; bring your own lap top (all computer equipment and appliances cost more than they do in North America); no organic cosmetics or hair color found recently but maybe someone will start an organic business soon?!

Ecuadorian buses – usually with standing room only; even though there are places designated for the disabled and the elderly I have not witnessed men and young people getting up for women or the elderly

Ecuadorian driving habits – if you are hit crossing a road on foot it will be your fault, be careful!!

Ecuadorians who party, party late into the night with loud music that can be heard for blocks. This can be any night of the week. Unless you are a night person and wish to hear fabulous cumbia melodies vibrating in your head, you might choose the “Gringolandia” area for living if you prefer to retire early and wish an atmosphere of peace and quiet.

Gasoline emissions – even though petrol costs a little over $1 a gallon, it is unrefined, and, there are no emission standards like those in North America; cars and diesel buses emit noxious odors, especially in the downtown area; you might consider protecting yourself with a face mask when on main city streets

Hard for the physically impaired, unless you have a driver, as it is not a wheel-chair accessible city – roads are not flat and smooth, the city is on different levels, and there are a lot of stairs (escalinatas) to climb or descend

Movie theaters – just two, but better than none.  One plays films in English.  You may end up downloading, exchanging, or bringing DVD’s

Petty theft – you must watch if anyone is following you, not carry valuables, and not wear expensive jewelry

Weather – I have heard that some Americans have contracted pneumonia and had to be hospitalized so it is advised that you research the climate and assess whether or not it is compatible with your health needs; also related, please note that some people are sensitive to Cuenca’s bouncing weather patterns from 70 in the afternoon to 40 at night.  June, July, and August are known for heavy rain every day.

Please keep in mind that Ecuador is still a developing country, and that no place on the planet is perfect any longer. Despite some of the sacrifices mentioned, I remain an ardent Cuenca fan. I’d love to live in a quiet apartment with a view to the Tomebamba!!

For more information I highly recommend Cuenca resident Connie Pombo’s book Living and Retiring in Ecuador, full of very useful tips, and available on

I also like Sofia Hoffmann’s  site (she’s a Cuencan married to an American), the website which offers practical information for Cuenca and the rest of the country, ditto for Charles Barrett’s, noteworthy for its visa information, and,  For whimsy and fabulous photographs click on Deke and Shirley’s

See for an idea of what is happening at the moment in Cuenca.  I wish I had known about the Gringo Tree newsletter list before my recent trip.  You can subscribe on the web site.

There’s a Cotacachi, Ecuador based blogger, Gary A. Scott, a business man who focuses primarily on real estate; he seems to provide worthy insights at  There are several other ex-pat blogs to discover and learn from; I have yet to discover them but plan to.

If you are curious about discovering Cuenca, I trust this blog has helped a little.  If you are curious about Cotacachi, there is a December entry further down on this site.

Blessings,  Guendalina

January 2, 2012 at 7:42 pm 3 comments

Greeting the New Year 2012 with Neighborhood Tourism

Hello dear readers,

Welcome to the New Year 2012 (of the western calendar)!! How fortunate we are to have survived another chaotic year on our planet.

It is January 1 and I have walked two blocks from where I live to enjoy Sunday brunch at Luca’s Fresh Bites (aka Luca on Sunset at ) in West Hollywood, CA. I am sitting on a leather banquette facing the mountains of Laurel Canyon. The sun is out and it will be 80 degrees today. How lucky I am to live in what is considered to be one of the best microclimates in the world (along with Capetown (South Africa), Perth (Australia), and Valparaiso (Chile)).  Yes, weather is subjective, of course. 😉

I’m not that hungry today (thank goodness!), so I ordered something simple. And I am breaking the food combining basics of waiting one-half hour that I try to follow because everything here is eye candy and so tasty!!! I never feel guilty with their organic wonders.

Homemade granola at Luca on Sunset

To the left  is a photo of Luca’s homemade granola with fresh fruit and homemade yoghurt. The coffee you see is yes, organic (another special treat, I usually drink green tea) but today is a special day. And the Italian latte cup is inscribed “for music Puccini, for art Bernini, and for espresso Pasquini”!!

Luca is owned by a northern Italian and his American wife Rebecca. Everything served here is made with love, and the Italian entrees are authentically Italian as opposed to Italian-American. You can read the menu and see some photos at . I like coming here not only because it is dependable but also because I believe in supporting local businesses that do everything they can to be green, environmentally conscious, and health conscious. I also like that this morning I am surrounded by two lovely Ethiopian ladies, a handsome family from East India, a variety of Asians, and various Americans of other backgrounds.  Today I hear gentle music from the Middle East.  Delightful!

Some people say grow where you are planted. Please know that despite my nomadic tendencies and passion for living in other countries, I still love LA!! I believe it is named City of the Angels for a reason, despite its reputation for glitz and the superficial. Believe it or not, LA, as many other places, can be a marvelous place for inner travel; it offers a plethora of Buddhist, Self-Realization, and Vedic temples, gardens, a great variety of yoga homes and churches, lakes and an ocean, and, need I add, my own little sanctuary in West Hollywood surrounded by trees, green, and the energy of light.

This year I hope to introduce you to more adventures in America and abroad, and to some of the heroes and heroines I meet along the way, such as Luca and Rebecca of today, all doing their part to make our lives more pleasant.

I am open to all the wonders that await me and I send each of you my wishes for a 2012 filled with laughter, happy opportunities, health, prosperity, peace, and traveling if you so desire.

Always with love, Guendalina

January 1, 2012 at 9:26 pm Leave a comment

"If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there." - Lewis Carroll