Sunday, November 28, 2010

Quito, Day 3, Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Day 3 started out very early for Ken.  At 5 AM he went to pray the rosary in the Quito's historic district with Andres's father.  On the 20th of every month, the people of Quito pray a "Rosary at Dawn" in honor of La Dolorosa (aka Our Lady of Sorrows...aka Our Lady of Quito).  On April 20th, 1906 Our Lady opened and closed her eyes for more than twenty minutes before the amazed gaze of forty students of the College of San Gabriel.

I found this picture on-line as we were not allowed to take pictures when we saw her.  To read more about Our Lady of Good Success click here.  Ken said that there were about 100 people in the procession.  They carried a picture of La Dolorosa and many people dropped flower petals along the way.  The procession leader used a loudspeaker so all could hear the rosary.  Could you imagine people praying the rosary in the U.S. streets at 5AM with a loudspeaker?  How wonderful!  Below are some pictures Ken took of the procession.
Rose petals everywhere!

Ken brought home 3 roses for his "girls".
 Ken returned to the hotel and took a little rest. 
Meghan examined the guide map before we started on the day's adventures.

We saw many women working while wearing their babies on their backs as we drove out of Quito.

We spent the rest of the day travelling to and from a city called Otavalo.
(Click the picture to make the map larger.  I circled Quito and Otavalo in red.)
We hired a tour guide named Nelson from the hotel.  He spoke English very well and was an excellent guide.  During the 2 hour ride to Otavalo, Nelson pointed out the many flower farms Ecuador is known for.

Meghan snoozed on the way.

I tried to take as many pictures as I could from the car window.  The roads are very narrow and wind through the mountains of Ecuador.  When I saw something to take a picture of, we were past it by the time I got the camera ready.  As a result, I have a lot of pictures of the guard rails in Ecuador.

The valleys were lined with flower farms. We never actually saw flowers, just fields.

These plants are used to make tequila.  However, we were never served tequila in Ecuador.  Everyone seemed to prefer whiskey.
Beautiful mountains.
Not the greatest picture due to the glare of the car window, but these cave-looking things are carved by the farmers that work nearby.  The residents scrape the stone from the mountains and use it as soap.

Nelson stopped in a little town called Cayambe along the way that was known for its biscuits.  We were happy to have a break from the car and enjoyed Coca-Cola, milk, and biscuits.  This was also the site of the most primitive toilet we found: a normal toilet without a seat.  (Thank goodness that was the worst.) 

Mmmm...Coca-Cola from the bottle!
Crunchy little biscuits that weren't too bad.

Camille is a happy traveller!
More flower fields.
Colorful textiles for sale along the road.

The roads were tortuous and Meghan held on for dear life, even in her sleep!

We stopped at a beautiful hostel (Hosteleria Puertolago) that was on Lake San Pablo.  Look at all these flowers!

Senor Nelson took our picture

Ken and Camille check out the lake.
Many volcanoes are still active in Ecuador.  This volcano, Imbabura, has not erupted in 14,000 years but is not believed to be entirely extinct.
Cute little cottages.  On the left is the dining room.
More proof we were there :-)
I'm not sure why, but the hostel had llamas.

At last we made it to Otavalo!
Otavalo is the site of a market where the indigenous people of Ecuador sell their wares.  Ken enjoyed haggling with the people in Spanish .  He says he doesn't like to haggle, but given that he would never have to see these people again, it somehow made the bargaining easier.
The market in the square.  Many other South American countries sell goods made by Ecuador's Indigenous and call them their own.

We had to be very careful of pickpockets, etc while at the market.  When Nelson parked the car, a very old, scary looking man stood very close to the car, peered in the windows and scared the heck out of Camille.  Senor Nelson even stayed with his car rather than wander with us through the market.  We did manage to make some nice purchases that some of you may see under the Christmas tree this year!

After spending about an hour at the Otavalo market, we travelled to Cotacachi, a city know for its leather goods. We ate lunch at a restaurant recommended by Nelson.  Ken and I insisted that Nelson eat with us.  Nelson ordered steak and then gladly let us pay for it without protest.  Nice guy, but steak for lunch?

On the way out of the restaurant, we saw a funeral procession.  I tried to discreetly take a video and keep Camille from pointing at the same time.  Here is the result:

The streets of Cotacachi were lined with leather stores.  We did not find anything to buy so we walked back to where the car was parked.  However, our car and driver were gone!  This was really the only time during our trip that I felt uneasy.  Fortunately we had our driver's cell phone number.  Unfortunately, finding a phone in Cotacachi was a task.  Finally we walked into the restaurant we had eaten in and discussed our predicament with our waiter.  He took us about a block away to a store with a bunch of phone booths and managed to call Senor Nelson.  It turns out that when he returned to the car after lunch, one of the tires was really low so he had gone to fill it with air.  He figured we would spend more time shopping and wouldn't miss him.  Thank goodness all ended well!

Nelson next took us to Cuicocha lake at the foothills of the Cotacachi Volcano.  Here's a little note from another site about the volcano:
"Thousands of years ago, the crater basin collapsed after an eruption, which gradually filled up with rain water and run-offs from small streams to form the lake. During a subsequent eruption, two islands appeared and they now stand in the lake’s center. Cotacachi is still an active volcano and you can see gas bubbles emerging from the lake bottom – a clear sign of volcanic activity."

Note that the word "Cui" means guinea pig.  Apparently many guinea pigs live on the islands in the lake.  Guinea pigs are eaten in Ecuador, and we saw them roasted on spits along the road and featured on menus in restaurants.  Honestly, we are open to trying new foods, but we did not try the guinea pig.

Note the bubbles in the lake.  What a beautiful site!
Senor Nelson wanted to take us to the Peguche waterfall a short distance away, but we declined his offer.  Travelling with small children has taught us to rejoice in what we were able to see, but also acknowledge that not everything can be done.  We were exhausted and so were the kids after a very full day.  Thankfully the trip back to Quito went by quickly and the girls enjoyed their naps in the car!
That evening we walked to a restaurant near our hotel.

Note: Carne means meat.  The restaurant was very nice, but anyone who really knows me knows that meat isn't at the top of my preferred palate.

The girls and I, still smiling after a looong day.

Ken and Camille

The food:  shrimp ceviche on the left, chicken kabobs and roasted veggies on the right.  Note: not a chance of getting sick from undercooked meat in Ecuador.
Ken and I look very well-rested in these photos.  The nice part about vacationing with 2 little ones in a hotel room is that when they go to sleep, we have no choice but to also go to sleep. We were in bed by 8:30 almost every night!
Stay tuned for more highlights of our Quito adventures.  Next up:  the Walk of the Seven Crosses and the sighting of Camille's guardian angel.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Quito, Day 2, Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Quito has an elevation of 9350ft, which is quite a bit higher than Gainesville's 183 ft.  (Fargo, ND has an elevation of 900 ft interestingly.)  As a result of this, walking around Quito the first few days was quite taxing.  I had a headache for 2 days that would not go away or respond to ibuprofen at all.  Thankfully our hosts anticipated our altitude sickness and kept our first few days relaxed.

We woke up and had breakfast in our room.
This breakfast was sponsored by Nestle!
Camille relaxes in the hotel room with her bunny balloon.

Andres and Sol took us to a museum illustrating the history of Ecuador's tribes and the influence of Spain and Christianity on the country.

Interesting art outside the museum.

After the museum, we drove into the valley outside of town and ate lunch at Andres' parents' house.  Here are some photos of the trip to the valley.
Driving on brick roads

Everything is built into the side of the hill.

Narrow roads and tight squeezes along the way! 

A beautiful stream...hard to get a picture from the back seat of the car!

 As we moved farther away from the city, the landscape became more beautiful.

For some reason, stopping the car for a cow in the road is always fun!  According to Andres the man herding the cow is over 100 years old and is a fixture of the neighborhood.

From L to R: Andres, Sol, Andres' cousin, Andres' aunt
The first course was locro soup, which is a potato soup.  They put cheese (seen in center of table) and sliced avocado into the soup.  I really liked this soup.  Yum!  Everyone is drinking either wine or boysenberry juice.  Ecuador is known for their juices and we had a wide variety while there. 
The second course was a delicious broiled fish served with rice and broccoli.  I didn't take a picture of it because it looked just like what we eat in the U.S.
Waa waa de pain are special breads made especially  for all souls day (aka the Day of the Dead).  We didn't actually eat this bread for lunch.  We just looked at it.  The name waa waa comes from the sound of crying children, which is what the bread is shaped and decorated to be.  We were able to try some later in the week.

Camille enjoyed playing at Andres' home.  Andres' cousin brought his son Franco who was 4 years old.  Camille played with toys with him, but didn't quite understand that she had to speak Spanish to him.  Camille also liked to play with Andres' dog.
Camille and the dog, Leia, named for the Star Wars character.  Note:  dogs are not allowed inside the home in Ecuador.
Beautiful landscaping!

Meghan and Andres' mom check out the plants in the greenhouse.  We and our girls were treated like family!

After lunch we had to hurry to a church so that Andres and Sol could talk to the priest that would approve their marriage on Saturday.  Ken stayed in the car with sleeping Camille while Meghan and I explored the church.  The church was undergoing some renovations.

Wow!  What a fabulous statue of Christ!

Sign on the pew. (Not sure why I took this picture.)

Look at all of the flowers!  Ecuador and Colombia are the largest flower suppliers to the U.S.

While Ken was in the car, I also served as a witness and signed the marriage certificate (or some type of document like that) for Andres and Sol.  They each had to have 2 witnesses stating that they weren't already married and were genuinely getting married.  To be honest, I don't really know the details.  Everything was in Spanish.  I had to show my passport and sign on a line.  For all I know, I signed away my first born to a Spanish convent.  I am certain a priest was present :-)

After the church visit, there was a bit of stress regarding car arrangements.  Because the city of Quito has so many people, the country recently passed a law that if your license plate ended in 1 or 2 on Mondays, 3 or 4 on Tuesdays, 5 or 6 on Wednesdays, 7 or 8 on Thursdays, and 9 or 0 on Fridays, you have to keep out of the city on those days (or some sort of arrangement like that).  This reduced the traffic a bit each day, but imagine having to get around on those days!  As a result, we had to trade cars with Sol's mom who happened to be at work and then arrange transportation for her mom to get home.  Somehow it all worked out.

We next went to a shopping mall that was within walking distance of our hotel.  Their shopping malls look pretty much like ours, except that they have a ton of children's stores.

Camille has fun in a store

Waa waa de pain decorations hanging in the mall

A grocery store was in the mall so we stopped to get some groceries.

L to R Andres, Camille, Me with Meghan, Ken

Next, we went to eat dinner at a restaurant in the mall called Crepes and Waffles

So many delicious decisions!  What should we get?

Andres and Sol

Camille had a waffle topped with banana, Nutella, and ice cream with strawberry juice to drink!  We also tried mango juice and papaya juice.  All were delicious and were the amazing remedy for my altitude sickness headache!

A few random notes:  Quito has circus performers all over the place!  When your car is stopped at a red light, people stand in the crosswalks juggling or eating flames.  Of course, they are hoping for a donation when your light turns green. Stray dogs also freely roam the city.  We had to be careful that animal-lover Camille did not try to pet any of them!

We were exhausted by the end of this day and I am now exhausted at the end of my day.  Stay tuned for more Lamb adventures in Quito! 

Monday, November 22, 2010

Quito, Day 1 Monday, October 18, 2010

We travelled from Naples to Miami without incident along Alligator Alley.  Ken and I were disappointed with Alligator Alley as we were hoping to see more swamp and alligators.  Along the way I discussed with Camille that we were going to Miami.  She now refers to the city as "your ami" when talking to me.  I now officially have ownership of the city "my ami". 

At the airport, it did not take us long to go through customs.  I guess the US is more worried about what's being brought in than what is leaving the country.  We actually brought Camille's car seat onto the plane, which worked out great.  She was strapped in, surrounded herself will airplane pillows and took a nice nap on the flight.  Landing in Quito is an experience.  Since the city is in a valley surrounded by volcanoes and mountains, the plane has to pretty much drop itself onto the runway.

We experienced our first encounter with Ecuadorian hospitality in the airport.  During passport checks, there was a special line for handicapped and pregnant women.  Because we had two small children, we were ushered into this much shorter line.  It was nice to be in a country where children, the elderly, and families were valued.  Step 2 was getting our luggage and Step 3 was putting our luggage through an x-ray machine.  Just beyond the x-ray machines were automatic sliding doors that led out to an area to meet our friends.  Because Camille is at the stage of taking everything literally, she saw the sliding doors and knew that we must have arrived at "Equa-door".

Our friends Andres and Sol greeted us at the airport with a cute balloon for Camille and drove us to our hotel a short distance away.  We freshened up a bit, then went to a restaurant for dinner.  The restaurant overlooked the entire city of Quito and was encased in glass doors that opened up for a spectacular view.  Unfortunately it was too dark to get a really good picture.

We ate cheese empanadas encased in sugar.  Yum!

The orange round food is potatoes with cheese and onions.  We also ate eggs, beef, sausage, and avocado.

By the end of dinner, it was very late and the kids were tired and fell asleep!

On the way back to our hotel we stopped at a little grocer to get some breakfast food.  Ecuadorians are so helpful that they even have people that "usher" your car to the best parking spot.  Interestingly, most of the food in Ecuador is made by Nestle and the milk is preserved and kept on a shelf rather than in a cooler.
We had a good night's sleep at the Howard Johnson La Carolina, our home for the week.