When I was planning my trip, my Ecuadorian friend asked me, “Why are you going to Loja? Just get in for a few hours and leave.”
There are two things Loja is known for: coffee and music. How could I not there?!
I left Vilcabamba early after my morning yoga class. I fell asleep on the bus and woke up an hour later when I noticed a lot of people emptying out. “Estamos en Loja?” I asked my seatmate, feeling very confused. “Sí,” she said.
My confusion came because as I looked around, it didn’t look like the capital of a province. But then again, I was on the outskirts of town. Oops…
After locating my hotel for the night (yes, hotel. Hostels are non-existent in Loja), I started food hunting.
I was told I had to try a tamale from El Tamal Lojano. Since I went at 11:00, the restaurant was quite empty. For $1.35, I got a tamal de pollo (chicken tamale). Instead if the usual ají (Ecuadorian hot sauce), I got a side of cilantro sauce. It was a nice change!
The tamale itself was not bad. Perhaps I’ve eaten too many Mexican tamales in my time that I expected something else. Inside, there was chicken, peas, raisins, and a piece of hard-boiled egg.
I strolled around the city and really liked the feel. The architecture is an eclectic mix of classic to modern. The sun was shining, and everyone seemed to be in a cheerful, laid-back mood.
I had a quick stop at Gina’s Café De La Casa located next to Parque Central. If this place was located next to my home, then this place is where I would spend all my time and money at.
I joined the Free Walks Loja walking tour because it was free (kind of… tip-based tour). My guide was Kevin, a young entrepreneur who started this business a few months ago. The tour group consisted of me, Kevin, and Jody, a Canadian nomad who lives in Loja and has been to over 100 countries. Travel envy…
During the two-hour walk, we got the lowdown on the history of Loja, observed the different types of architectural styles of the city, strolled through some churches, climbed to the top of Teatro Bolívar, and went inside a local artist’s home.
But our most important and final stop was at the restaurant, Sed Satiata, a lovely café situated next to Plaza Independencia. We sampled coffee.
After drinking the coffee, Jody and I saw “adios” to Kevin and sat on the balcony of the restaurant as they were doing soundchecks for the city’s free concert every Thursday.
By the time we finished chatting, it was past 22:00, way too late for coffee bean shopping. But I did meet a new friend and showed me her neighborhood.
Thanks to some roosters, I woke up at 4:00 and decided to start my long journey back to Riobamba.
I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked Loja. It is a city with a lot of cultures, amazing coffee, and a relaxing atmosphere. I can honestly say I would like to live there if the conditions are right. English teacher, anyone? I’ll work for coffee!