September 4-8, 2015
We arrived in our amazing accommodation in the Mariscal region of New Town, Quito. That night (our last of the tour) we went out with our group for one last dinner together. The restaurant, the Friend Banana, was ok. Prices here in Quito seem very inflated. I'm not quite sure how anyone affords anything here. Our tour leader, Carmen, said some nice things about each of us and after dinner the majority of the group went out for a drink. Sylvie and I didn't get anything, as prices were high, even for US standards. It wasn't too hard to resist a beer as all the beer in Latin America suck! 4.2% ALV is about the strongest beer you can find and their all adjunct lager microbrews. Yuck!
Sylvie and I woke up early and attended our first Spanish lesson! While waiting for our Spanish instructor we met a couple in front of the school, Harold and Christine. They are traveling Latin America for 3 months. They were lawyers in Pueblo, Colorado but quit their jobs to travel. They are staying with a host family for a week and taking classes at the same school as us. We talked for a while. I gave them one of my travel business cards and wrote my email on it. We ended up meeting them the following day and walked around Old Town together. We saw them the following day at the school and met up with them that night for drinks at the popular hangout square in New Town, Quito. It was really nice talking to likeminded people; we talked about travel, learning Spanish, and life in general.
About Our Spanish Lessons - I wrote a handful of companies while we had limited access in Cotopaxi inquiring about Spanish lessons. Since we would arrive in Quito on a Friday and I did not want to want until Monday to start classes I asked if they would accommodate us for a weekend lesson. Although a few schools got back to us we went with the Simon Bolivar School—it had great reviews and the price wasn’t too much more than the others. They agreed to provide us with a private teacher (me, Sylvie, and one teacher) for $14/hr on Saturday and $12/hr for the lessons during the week. We have agreed on taking classes for three days. I am actually enjoying the classes more than I had anticipated…it’s a good mental challenge. We’re both catching on rather quickly. We are taking 4 hours a days and by the end of the lesson we’re both a bit mentally drained--We do get a 30 minute break though. We would highly encourage people wanting to learn Spanish to take courses through the Simon Bolivar School
In old Town we visited quite a few churches and some other tourist destinations. Sylvie and I split a mango on the street. We've really started to enjoy the street vendor style mango with a squirt of lime juice and salt...Que Rica! Old town is a stark contrast to New Town, where we are staying. Old Town seems more like a typical city we've seen so far; a bit run down, street vendors selling junky things, crowded streets, stone piazzas. There were a few street performers, some live music, and tons of people gathering. Many places were closed because it was a Sunday.
Sylvie, Christine, and Harold went up the top of Basílica del Voto Nacional, the tallest church in Quito. Sylvie climbed the stairs to get to the second floor of the church, then walked across a wobbly wooden cat walk to get to steep steel stair/ladder to access a small look out point on top of the church. From this point, there was the option take two more flights of almost vertical stairs (more like a ladder) to get onto an even smaller vantage point on top of one of the church towers. Sylvie opted to enjoys the view from the first lookout, where she saw panoramic views of the city. It was $2 to enter to church and climb the towers, so I opted out and finished my book while I waited.
Afterwards, Sylvie and I took a cab to Mercado Central to buy some veggies for dinner. We also bought some beef...no idea what cut of meat it was- quite tough and gristly. We walked around the market to find a place to eat lunch but every place literally served the same thing--rice, beans, potatoes, and fried chicken. We're looking forward to going somewhere where the cuisine has more variety and flavor. We cooked dinner for the first time and it was the best meal I had eaten since being in Ecuador.
We went out a few nights in the popular downtown area of New Town, Plaza Foch. There were clubs everywhere. It seemed very American- everyone was wearing American brands, listening to American music, and selling American drinks. What amazes me the most is that not many people speak English. I think that it is mostly due to the their shitty education system- Scott's opinion. I am betting in more developed/sophisticated areas English will be smoked more frequently. People here will look at me if I say the words "five dollar" however they don't hesitate to give me a $5 bill as change for the Coke and Oreos I just purchased. The bill clearly reads "Five Dollars" on it but they don't know what that means. How can an entire people use another countries Music, Food, MONEY and not even be able to understand it? We went to a Kentucky Fried Chicken and Ordered an "American Cone" for dessert. Ha!
People in Latin America seem to drink a LOT of juice, for breakfast as well as snacks throughout the day. There have been juice stands scattered throughout every city we've been to. They seem to make juice from every possible fruit. I think it may have to do with not having access to fresh drinking water.
Sylvie and I are taking a 10-11 hour overnight bus ride from Quito to Puerto Lopez. It's a town on the Pacific Coast. We basically threw a dart at a board and selected this location. It's near Isla De La Plata (poor man's Galopagos) and only a 4 hour bus trip to Guayaquil (likely our last city in Ecuador)! I'm looking forward to some real food--ceviche! We are rather anxious to leave Quito as it's been a little long to stay in one place. Especially given the high cost of food and the lack of activities.