The dingy condition of some of the hostel rooms we encountered while backpacking through South America prompted my sister and me to spend long days out on the town. Casa Naranja in Cuenca, Ecuador, however, had the opposite effect on us: We didn’t want to leave.
Ecuadorian clothing designer Samantha Ordóñez opened Casa Naranja in her great grandmother’s colonial-style house about nine years ago. We discovered the tranquil hostel behind an unassuming wooden door on the Mariscal Lamar Street in the city's downtown area.
The two-story family home was built 150-years ago around two airy patios. Today, those patios are filled with potted plants, tables, couches, hammocks and often, lounging guests.
Each of the nine plaster-walled bedrooms boasts its own collection of antique furniture, its own eclectic style.
The building is packed with nooks and crannies, windows and doors, ladders and lofts. Laura and I set aside some time to explore.
Ordónez, who designs elegant, tailored sweaters from natural wool fiber, runs her studio in the front upstairs room.
Her mother, Dunia Vasquez, lives in the bedroom next door. Vasquez said she loves meeting people from different cultures. “We offer love, that's the most important thing,” she said, speaking Spanish. Then she passed us oranges for our bus ride north.
The lock on our bedroom door
An upstairs room at night
Though Cuenca is Ecuador’s third largest city behind Guayaquil and Quito, it has the charm of a much smaller place. The markets are lively, the architecture is intricate, the colors are bright, and the streets are cute and narrow.
We actually did enjoy our time outside the hostel.