ACCESS CUENCAComing for a month? Here’s a convenient place to stay

Dec 24, 2010

The least expensive “space” we examined in Cuenca was at the Hostal El Hogar Cuencano on Hermano Miguel just north of Calle Larga across from the Escalinata: $6 with shared bath in a dorm room with three twins.

Private rooms are $8 per person, and among the neatest matrimonials in Cuenca are the back rooms on the second and third floors, each with a full bed beside a wall of windows; you walk out a back door and across a balcony, overlooking the courtyard and communal kitchen, to get to the bathroom. Very airy and light, $16 for two, including wifi, but not breakfast. Jonathan lets people in and out; his mother manages Hostal El Hogar and they both live right across the street.

The Hogar accounts for perhaps a dozen Cuenca spaces out of 5,000 or so and though it’s a great value for a night or two, we found plenty of other great values for a night or two. But it’s for a few weeks, or a month or more that the number of spaces nosedives significantly.

Only four facilities in Cuenca offer the kind of longer-term lodging we were looking for. I found all four. And I and saw rooms — studios and one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartamentos — at three. I’ll cover the other three at AccessEcuador.com, but the one Shirlee and I wound up with was perfect for us for the month.

The Apart Hotel El Puente is located on 3 de Noviembre, the frontage road on the north side of the Rio Tomebamba. It’s right across El Puente del Vado (Ford Bridge) at the foot of El Centro. There’s no denying that the two-lane ramp from the river to the downtown, at the base of which the Apart Hotel is situated, is one of the busiest streets in Cuenca. Buses spew diesel fumes all day and part of the night; cars and motorcycles roar up the ramp and round the corner, to get to the west end of Calle Larga.

Thus, the front rooms, we’ve heard, are fumey and noisy, but the back room where Shirlee and I lived was (relatively) quiet and fresh. In fact, our room, 404, is the farthest from the street. And the west-facing window looks out onto the mountains.

Room 404 has two comfortable full-size beds in an alcove, with the sitting/dining area and kitchen in the main room and the bathroom off of that. The kitchen comes complete with a half-fridge, microwave, sink, portable four-burner stove, and all utensils (bring a sharp knife). The water pressure is strong and the shower is hot (though the lav sink 

has cold water only), the wifi works well, and the housekeeper cleaned for 15 minutes every day (changing the sheets once a week; bring your own towels and bath mat).

Fernando owns the El Puente and his son David is a college student; they both speak pretty good English. They charge $300 a month for a single, $400 for a double. You can also rent by the night ($28/$40) and the week, but it’s better to pay for the month even if you’re staying only a couple of weeks (at $200/250 per).

The website is elpuentehotels.com and you can reserve there, or email Fernando at info@elpuentehotels.com

Captions, top: Hostal El Hogar Cuencano; middle: Apart Hotel El Puente; bottom: the sitting area and east-facing window, kitchen area, and door to the bathroom of room 404

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