Looking for a little piece of paradise in the middle of Cuenca? Parque Paraiso –Paradise Park— may be just the place.
A short walk from Iglesia El Vergel, at Av. 12 de Abril and Calle de las Herrerias, the park, with its groves of willow trees and grassy fields, offers a welcome break from the hustle and bustle of the city. Travel guides advertise the park as prime bird-watching territory but you’ll run into plenty of preening dosmestic ducks too.
On Saturdays and Sundays, visitors can board one of 10 paddle boats and cruise the pond located in the center of the park. The ducks seem to enjoy the pastime as much as the boaters and make themselves available for bread-crumb handouts. There is no time limit on the boats and attendants are available from about 10 a.m. until early afternoon. The best part? The boat rides are free.
Not looking for anything quite so strenuous? Walking trails, complete with suspension bridges in the marshes where the Tomebamba and Yanuncay Rivers converge, circle the park. The area is patrolled by police, both on horseback and on foot, and is considered very safe during daylight hours.
Just want to hang out? How about parking yourself on a patch of remarkably well-kept grass or under a shady tree and enjoy a picnic lunch? You might even be treated to some entertainment, in the form of a rehearsal by the break dancers who often perform in Parque Calderon. It seems that Parque Paraiso is their preferred practice grounds. Just watching them get their knees over their shoulders is enough to warrant a nap.
For those with young children, there is no better spot in the city to play. Most of the playground equipment is in good shape and features such childhood favorites las monkey bars, slides and swings.
For older children and teens, go carts are available for driver’s education on the paved driving track. There are stop signs, yield signs, traffic lights, cross walks and more – everything the fledgling driver needs to prepare for the road. What effect these lessons have once the kids get behind the wheel of real car is inconclusive, but it sure seems like a fun way to learn the rules! This is also a weekend only event.
Final note: If you're an early bird, you can join one of two aerobic classes for a morning work-out in the park.
Directions: Head east from El Centro on Av. Pumapungo, cross Av. Huayana Capac and follow the green space along the Tomebamba River into the park.
Photo captions: Paradise Park gives you room to roam and is particularly popular with families; Photo credit: Mary Ann Dion