Ecuador and the Galapagos Part 1: Getting to Quito

Friday, March 13, 2015

Today has been a day of roller coaster emotions. We were excited to be going to the Galapagos for spring break, but my excitement has been tempered by sadness. As we were finishing our packing, we got word that one of my dear co-workers lost her husband today. His fight with cancer was short, and the odds were mercilessly stacked against him from the start. Nevertheless, the news was sad. God rest his soul. I wish I could be there for my friend, and I am torn about getting on a plane to have a vacation while she has experienced this terrible loss. Please keep her in your prayers, as our family does.

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I finished my last work meeting of the week last night and went back to the office for a few minutes to drop off files and settle all those last minute details. I was home by 10 PM. Greg was so excited that he could hardly stand himself. This trip has captured his imagination like none other in my memory. I am excited too. Genene, the world traveler, is taking it all in stride. Will it be better than Universal Studios, where one of her classmates is spending spring break?

This morning we got Genene off to school so that the real packing could begin in earnest. Before I had even gotten in the shower, the power went off in the entire house. The day was overcast, so the whole house was dark. Have you ever tried to pack duffel bags in the dark? It’s not easy. Luckily we had some headlamps left over from our ill-fated Inca Trail expedition, so I put one on and went around the house looking like some kind of half-assed coal miner. The power came back on after a couple of hours, and we got it all done in time to pick Genene up from school. We took her out an hour early, figuring that a little island education would be as good as that last hour of math class on the Friday before spring break.

Action Limos took us to the airport, and I am continuing to LOVE the Global Entry. Today, the regular line to go through security and screening was miles long, and there was NO ONE in the TSA pre-check line. We were finished with all the xrays and bag checks in a jiffy and had time to eat dinner in the airport.

The flight was uneventful. I watched “Wild,” which I thought was passable. Reese Witherspoon’s performance was inspired, but her character was not very likeable. I have a hard time investing two hours in a movie if I do not like the characters. I also had trouble accepting that Laura Dern was Reese Witherspoon’s mother. They look more like drinking buddies. Genene watched “Big Hero 6” and thought it was really good. Greg watched “The Good Lie” and liked it.

We did make a rookie mistake on the flight. United offered to SELL us some food as the flight first began. We had just stuffed ourselves and so declined the offer. I was under the mistaken impression that they would pass through the cabin again and offer to sell us a snack. They did not. In fact, the crew only passed through the cabin and offered water two times during a 5 1/2 hour flight. I thought that was pretty sorry. We were parched by the flight’s end.

By the time we got on the ground in Quito at 11:00 PM and through customs and immigration, we were starving. We had hired a driver to meet us. I know that taxis are cheaper, but at 11:00 PM, who wants to take a chance? It’s very comforting to see a friendly face holding the “GORDON FAMILY” sign among the throng. It took less than an hour to get to the hotel, and we begged the concierge to have the kitchen make us something–anything! They obliged with a white bread sandwich and some potato chips and we devoured it like a pack of ravenous wolves and hit the sack.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

We had no plans, so we set no alarms. I love days like this. We drowsed until 8:30 or so and strolled down for breakfast in our lobby. The coffee was delicious, and we enjoyed fresh fruits and scrambled eggs. Everyone had a healthy appetite. Quito is at about 9,350 feet above sea level and is the highest capital city in the world. I have been a little worried about a repeat of last summer’s altitude sickness drama with Greg. I didn’t want another endoscopy without benefit of anesthesia, so I have been watching him like a hawk. He is taking a bigger dose of altitude medicine and does not seem affected as he was in Peru last summer. Perhaps that bleeding ulcer he had then was the bigger part of his problem.

Genene having breakfast:

The colorful courtyard where we ate breakfast:
 

Our hotel is located less than three blocks from the central plaza in Quito and so we wandered down there to see the sights.

 
 

No sooner did we step onto the square than we were accosted by a group of young teenagers. Obviously they had a class assignment and were working in teams. They wanted to interview us in English (sort of). Thankfully they had their questions written out on pieces of paper that they would hold up as they interviewed us. Their command of both written and spoken English was pretty shaky, but I admired their willingness to try to speak. Much of the key to mastering a foreign language is overcoming the fear of trying to speak it. Anyway, they all had their iPhones out recording our answers, and we felt like rock stars. The questions were along the lines of “Do you hate Monday?” (of course!); “Have you ever stolen anything?” (Genene and I were able to say no, and Greg smiled and said nothing. There’s a story there.); “Do you think motorbikes are dangerous?” (Yes, but I like to ride them anyway); and “Are you an adventurous person?” (I’m standing in the middle of a foreign country, so I think so.) It was fun the first time, but as soon as we finished a second group approached with the same questions. Then they wanted to interview us individually.

The loved interviewing Genene and getting their photos made with her:

Holding up their questions on cards:

After about the fourth round, we began to politely wave them off and watched them run away giggling, racing to find more gringos. We continued strolling around the plaza.

We wandered into a church and lit candles for Genene’s grandfather and for our friend’s husband.

 

The altitude does have a way of wearing you out quicker and making you hungry. After wandering around the central plaza for a while, we were ready to find lunch. Last summer in Peru, we had a South American delicacy called cuy. You North Americans will call it….guinea pig. We thought it was wonderful. The Ecuadorans claim to make the best cuy in the world, so naturally we wanted to compare. We asked our concierge where the best cuy in Quito is served, and he put us on a taxi to Mama Clorinda’s.

We got great seats on the balcony with terrific views of the plaza below:

We ate traditional empanadas, a potato soup that was marvelous, and lamb to go with our cuy. It was all delightful, although our family’s decision was unanimous: the Peruvians make better cuy!
Potato soup:
Empanadas:
Lamb:
Cuy! (Second best!)
One of Genene’s best friends has a pet guinea pig, and Genene delights in telling her friend, “I love guinea pigs too. I like mine roasted.”

 

It was easy to find a cab back to the hotel, and the return trip cost half as much as the trip out. I don’t know if the first guy just gave us the gringo upcharge. Traffic was worse on the way out, so perhaps it was an honest difference. In any event, both ways were cheaper fares than most that I take in Houston, so I am not sweating it. By the way, Ecuador uses the American dollar, so that part is quite simple, although we did notice that one vendor gave us change in their old currency. We will add it to Genene’s coin collection.

I caught this street shot from the cab window on the ride back:

With our bellies full of cuy, Greg and I took a nap. Genene went upstairs to her balcony bedroom and finished reading the only paperback that she brought. She will be sorry! I am proud that she is a voracious reader, but she should have paced herself for those afternoons on the boat. Perhaps there will be some books on the boat.

We walked to dinner tonight. We had a wonderful meal at Theatrum. I always love a tasting menu. Small bites, many courses, happy Lori. I love my red wine, and I think I know the difference between the good stuff and the plonk. I drink both. The problem is that I have a very poor memory for names, so even when I find a good bottle, I cannot often remember the name of it. I picked a Argentinian malbec, and the waiter told me my choice was perfect. I love it when they flatter me like that. I also love it when we are both right. It was a wonderful meal, and we crammed into a van with another group of people from Vancouver who were headed back to the same hotel. We are fat and happy and ready for bed!

Our hotel is very charming and centrally located.

The wifi is STRONG and fast, and Genene is texting away with a friend in Houston. I find it amazing that we can stay connected so well these days, although starting tomorrow it will be a different story. There will be no wifi on the boat. We get up early tomorrow and fly to Guayaquil and then to San Cristobal Island in the Galapagos. We will board an 8-cabin yacht and start motoring from island to island. We will see the animals that inspired Darwin to think about adaptation and evolution. It’s going to be something else. I will keep my blog, but I probably will not be able to post it until I return. I’ll be back!

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For John Wyatt, may he rest in peace…..

 

3 thoughts on “Ecuador and the Galapagos Part 1: Getting to Quito

  1. Oh how this Gordon Family lives life to the fullest! From G’s Pi T-shirt to excellent trip update to remembering the departed and bringing us along. I so love our trips! THANK YOU. Sandy

    • Glad to see all is well! Keep on enjoying and we’ll look forward to and continue keeping up with the Gordon’s and their adventures through your very thorough blogs!

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