Sunday, January 29, 2006
More on Mosaico
- I wanted to add a little more about Mosaico. If you are going to Quito this is such a nice place from which to view the city. You see the length of the valley and just how Quito follows the contour of the valley and creeps up the sides of the surrounding mountains.
The view of the Panecillo and the Virgin of Quito statue is wonderful from there. (Panecillo means "little loaf of bread" and it is a small mountain in the middle of old Quito with the monumental statue of the Virgin atop it) When we went this trip, the sky was dark and threatening and then the rain came pouring down. It was pretty spectacular. By the way, that's a bull fighting arena you see in the lower left.
Here's a view inside. It is quite a charming place and the drinks and desserts are especially good.
Mosaico and Itchimbia
Itchimbia is an art gallery on a hill overlooking the old city of Quito. The building is made largely of glass and is of some historical significance. It was moved to this location and re-assembled a couple of years ago. We visited it last year and saw a collection of children’s art. However, this year we found that it was closed. Before we left the taxi, we asked the guard at the gate if the museum was open and he responded affirmatively. However, after we had climbed up the many steps to get there, we found it to be closed. And it was a cloudy and rainy day. So we were somewhat bummed.
As you can see from this photo, there is an outstanding view of Old Quito from the museum. The picture from inside the museum was taken last year and features Terry, Emily and our friend Muriel Johnson who was traveling with us.
Wednesday, January 25, 2006
Orchids and butterflies
We went to find the botanical gardens at Parke Carolina in the heart of downtown Quito on a rainy day. It was all beautiful, but the best part was the orchid house. Ray and I took photo after photo. I had a hard time picking out just four to share.
Do you know how hard it is to photograph a butterfly? There were a lot of spectacular butterflies in the Orchid house and I took a lot of pictures of them. This is the only one that isn't a blur of fluttery wings.
Sunday, January 22, 2006
Christmas at Emily and Cayo's
Cayo told us that most Ecuadorean families celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve with presents, a big dinner and late night mass. Our family has always opened gifts and had our big dinner on Christmas day. On Christmas Eve we went to Marlene's for dinner. Marlene is Emily's coworker and friend. She has been in Ecuador for quite awhile and lives in a high-rise apartment with a beautiful view. It was a great dinner with Marlene and several other of Emily's coworkers. The next morning we opened our gifts and later Emily and I cooked dinner. We had Marlene, Phil, Christa, Mike and their baby, and Emily's friend Ulla over for dinner. It was a big crowd for a small apartment, but we gathered up all the chairs and tables they have and were able to seat everyone. It was a nice day and our dinner turned out great. I really enjoyed cooking with Emily, who is a good cook. It reminded me of cooking holiday dinners with my mother and how much easier and more enjoyable it is to share that job than it is to do it all alone.
One of the nice features of Em and Cayo's apartment is a little terrace just outside the kitchen that overlooks the street below. Andy found it a good place to go for a smoke and not disturb any of us with his smoke. Ray took this picture of Emily and me cooking Christmas dinner from the terrace looking in the window to the kitchen.
Saturday, January 21, 2006
On Friday night before Christmas, Phil (a fellow teacher at Colegio Americano) invited us and several others to his apartment for dinner and to prepare gift baskets for the hired help. It is customary for people to give their domestic help baskets filled with food, toys, etc for Christmas. They sell them at MegaMaxi for around $70, but it seemed cheaper and more fun to buy the stuff individually and assemble them ourselves. Also, Phil is a very good cook and he prepared a large meal of pork roast, soup, salad, potatoes, and vegetables. Emily contributed a Quiche. We were a little short on forks and spoons, but we managed by sharing and eating some courses in shifts.
Phil's picture is at the right above. Below are Terry engrossed in applying a bow to a basket and Christa, Mike, their baby, and Andy with a couple of completed baskets. Mike & Christa are Canadians. He also taught at the school with Emily, however they returned to Canada following Christmas.
Thursday, January 19, 2006
Back to Quito - getting ready for Christmas
The first time we visited Ecuador in 1999 there were no real malls. Also new since that first trip is a big grocery super store in Quito called Mega Maxi. It is part of a chain of grocery stores in Ecuador called Super Maxi, (don't these names sound like feminine hygiene products?) which have been around for awhile, but Mega is a step up, with clothing, housewares, appliances and liquor, as well as groceries.
It is a modern, American style super store, but with much more interesting produce and food items. I admit to a great fascination with browsing the aisles of Mega Maxi and finding treasure like amazing tropical fruits, guava candy, a block of cane sugar and a vast variety of bottled aji, the ubiquitous Ecuadorean hot sauce, made from tree tomatos.
Mega Maxi had a huge Christmas tree in the main floor lobby. Oddly enough the white and blue disks that decorate the tree say 'Oreo" (the cookie) on them.
The mall, Quicentro, is like an American mall in almost every way, including many American brand name stores and restaurants. It also includes some Ecuadorean stores, which, for me, were much more interesting than the Gap or Liz Claiborne. The prices are pretty comparable to American prices as well, which are very high by Ecuadorean standards. You can see in the picture that this mall was nowhere near as crowded two days before Christmas as an American mall would be.
Emily was never much of a mall person here in the States, but she says she finds the mall in Quito is just so convenient that she shops there a lot. Their apartment is not far from either Quicentro or Mega Maxi, another factor. Getting around Quito in taxis and public transportation is tiring and time-consuming.
As Terry mentioned earlier, Arasha was a considerable step above other Ecuadorian accomodations we had experienced. For us, it was just great to relax in the pool with a Pina Colada, soak in the hot tub, or get a body massage. We did quite a lot of those activities around rigorous games of mini-golf, hikes, eating like pigs, and making/eating chocolate.
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
The toucan lived in a big cage up behind the main building.
Monday, January 16, 2006
The big hike
The trail was the width of a road at first and covered with wood and nut shell chips. The guide spoke very little english, but I understood him to explain that we would be walking through a secondary forest. The nearby primary forest contained very large trees. After about a half hour, we reached a man-made beach next to a river. This was for children and others who want a short hike to a river to swim and play, but are not interested in the longer trek. From there, the trail became much narrower and, in the steep parts, contained many short log segments planted on end as steps. This was a good idea, however there were two flaws - they tended to get slick with moss and they were designed for/by folks with much shorter legs and strides than Andy and me.
It didn't really matter, though, because Benito would regularly ask us if we wanted an adventure. Being men in a country where macho behavior is the norm, we of course said "sure". At that point, he would step off the trail onto a steep muddy slope and head straight down to short-cut the sissy trail. On these "adventures" Andy and I learned to take hold of trees and shrubs and keep our bottoms close to the ground. We wound up sliding and getting pretty muddy. I was wearing light trousers over a swim suit and Andy had a pair of shorts. I also had a backpack that soon becamed caked in mud.
When we finally arrived at the river, we were hot and muddy. After a large swig of water, we stripped down and prepared to wade into the cold water for a swim. Benito poked us and pointed to an animal swimming in the water near the far bank. I asked him what it was and he replied - a crocodile. I said "Really?!?" and he said, "just a small one". Then he grinned and admitted that it was just an iguana. We watched the iguana swim downstream and climb out on the rocks, then we eased our way into the swimming hole. After getting used to the water tempurature, it really felt good to soak off some of the sweat and mud.
The return hike was easier as we stayed on the trail. And, even though it was an exertion, going uphill was easier on the blisters and my old joints than the steep declines.
Sunday, January 15, 2006
Saturday, January 14, 2006
When the beans were roasted he spread them out on the table and showed us how to peel the crispy skins off the beans.
Then he put the beans into a grinder and ground them up. That's Andy manning the grinder. Harder than it looked!
This is how the ground up beans looked--rich and chocolate-y and mmmmm, that smell!
The ground chocolate went into a pot and back onto the stove, where water, powdered milk, sugar and vanilla were added as the chocolate melted into a thick, rich sauce. Then we all got to sample it served over fresh bananas and pineapple.
Friday, January 13, 2006
One of the features that was available at Arasha was a hummingbird sanctuary. A short van ride took us to a trail head. From there, we walked along a ridge through an orchard of lime trees. The trees were mature and were absolutely loaded with limes in varying stages of ripeness. We noticed a guy who was picking some and he allowed me to take his picture.
When we arrived at the sanctuary, there was a covered structure with flowers and hummingbird feeders, but no hummers. There was also a man-made stream with small fish. It was situated at the edge of a peak with a great view of the resort across a small valley.
Here are a picture of Terry & Andy under the cover and one of the view back toward the resort.