Arrived in Miami after a red-eye flight from Los Angeles and a full day at Disney. Spent most of the day hanging out at the pool and beach. I feel like I am already in a foreign country. Most of the languages spoken around me are not English. The boys had a great time playing in the waves and swimming in the pool. The weather is around 90 degrees and was perfect for a nap. After our time at the beach the kids were wiped out, but we couldn’t let them sleep yet or we would be up at 4AM. We dragged them kicking and screaming to a Cuban Restaurant nearby. It was scrumptious authentic Cuban cuisine. The boys even had Iron Beer, which is a Cuban root beer that tastes sort of like cream soda. After our meal we went to have some gelato and walk the beach. The place we got the gelato was featured on the show Jersey Shore. Unlike the show the gelato was rather tasty. Walking around South Beach I could picture Tony Montana cruising the streets like in the movie Scarface, “Let me introduce you to my little friend”. On our walk down to the beach the kids (Alex and Tyler) got a kick out of the topless sunbather next to us. After our walk we headed back to the hotel for a good nights rest for our trip to the Everglades tomorrow.
We all overslept in the morning. I guess we were more exhausted then we thought. Time to call for a late check out. Our plans for a trip to the Everglades were shot, but it was probably for the better. Obviously our bodies needed the rest. We hustled to get packed and head to the airport. Unfortunately my navigator ‘s game wasn’t on today because we ended up missing our exit and were headed to Fort Lauderdale. From all the spring break clips I have seen over the years I don’t think Fort Lauderdale would have been such a bad place to visit, however we needed to get to the airport and catch our plane to Ecuador. When catching an international flight it is usually best to get to the airport around 2 hours before your flight to give yourself enough time. At around 1:30PM we were still in traffic and our plane was leaving at 2:55PM. Panic was starting to set in. By the hair of our chinny, chin, chins and the help from an awesome porter we were able to get checked in for our flight.
We arrived without fanfare to Quito and grabbed our shuttle to Hostal Quito Cultural in the Old Town. The place is clean and the staff is nice. One of the things we did not anticipate was the lack of English. We are not naive or arrogant as to think that everyone needs to speak English. It is just in all our travels people have spoken some English or were able to find someone that did. In Ecuador it doesn’t seem like anyone speaks even a little English. In hindsight I think we should have taken some Spanish classes. After getting situated in our room we headed out on the town to check things out and get some food. We had dinner at a place called PizzaSA. Who would have thought that some of the best pizza could be found in Old Town Quito?
The Centro Historico or Old Town section of Quito is made up of old restored colonial architecture, churches, and multiple plazas. The area is bustling with activity and noise. Street vendors are hawking everything from apples to lottery tickets in a singsong sort of sales call. Buses are zooming by at high speeds and taxis are zigzagging through traffic constantly beeping their horns. From our room we can hear one of the buses horns playing the tune Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer. All this hustle and bustle is taking place on narrow one lane streets lined with storefronts and restaurants. At the center or heart of Old Town is the Grande Plaza. We had visited it the night before, but wanted to get a look at it in the light of day. We grabbed some pastries at the bakery around the corner and went to eat and people watch in the plaza. History boxes you in from all sides at the plaza. To the Northwest is the Palacio del Gobierno (Presidential Palace) and to the Northeast is the Palacio Arzobispal (Archbishops Palace). There is also the Quito Cathedral, which houses some beautiful artwork including a painting of the Last Supper with an Ecuadorian twist. The church La Merced that is located two blocks north of the plaza intrigued the boys. Built between 1700 and 1742 it has a tower, which measures 47m high. This is the highest point in Old Town. The legend states that it is the only part of the church that was not blessed and is now possessed by the devil. The only person that was able to ring the bell died back in 1810. Since then no one has been inside.
After walking around for a bit we decided to try to do a few Geocaches at a park on the other side of the city called Parque Metroplitano. We hailed a taxi and realized that when we got there that it was not in our best interests to stay at this park. It looked like a fun park to hang out and hike or mountain bike, but we were afraid of getting stranded. Hence we decided to have the taxi take us to Parque La Alemeda. At the park we ate some local food and played a little catch. The people in the park started to gather and watch us play catch. I don’t know if it was Tyler’s blazing fastball or Alex’s wicked curve, but the locals were curious. I think they were confused on why we were throwing the ball instead of kicking it. From the park we decided to walk the two miles back to the hostel.
On the way we wanted to try to find a Geocache and check out the Basilica del Voto Nacional on top of the hill. This church was amazing. The architecture was interesting in that instead of gargoyles it had turtles, iguanas, and other animals protecting it. At this point we were getting hungry so we headed down the hill to our hostel. On the way we ate a roasted banana. Not the best tasting morsel. We got back into town and went to dinner at La Guaragua. The service and food were good and sitting outside made for a fun dinner of people watching.
It was time to make my Lord of the Rings fantasy come true. We were headed to middle earth. I was hoping to see some hobbits or trolls, but to my disappointed it was only a tourist attraction. This is the place that in 1736, Charles-Marie de la Condamine made the measurements for the equatorial line. However, being that was a tourist trap with shops and restaurants we still found it to be fun and would definitely recommend it to others. I mean how many people can say they stood directly on the equator.
We got great pictures of us balancing on the equator and “holding up” the globe, which is part of the monument on the site. The monument stands 30m high and is the centerpiece of the park. We also did some of the tricks like balancing an egg on a nail. The kids got a kick out of this. Everyone had to be filmed doing this. After getting a bite to eat we ran to catch the public bus back to Old Town. Unfortunately since we don’t speak much Spanish we ended up taking a bus that stranded us in an area we were not familiar with. We walked around and asked questions and finally spotted a giant purple dinosaur (Barney). We had seen Barney on our way in, so we knew we were on the right track. Saved by the giant purple dinosaur!
Today we hung out around Old Town and watched all the activities going on. Sunday in Old Town is when all the action happens. We saw parades, musical performers, jugglers, acrobats, and other street performers. People were everywhere, out with their families enjoying the great weather on the weekend.
We went to eat at a small café in front of the Plaza and Monastery of San Francisco. This is the oldest church in Ecuador. Construction for it began in 1534. Inside contains beautiful art and intricate design work. After dinner we headed back to Plaza Grande and got some ice cream for the boys. We sat and ate ice cream and watched a play done by street performers. We didn’t understand a word they said, but it is funny how much communication is non-verbal. Tonight we will get a good rest and tomorrow head off to Parque Nacional Cotopaxi to visit the volcano. Hopefully we will see an Andean Condor or a Spectacled Bear. We’ll keep our fingers crossed.