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Easter Sunday in Quito

Quito


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Emma, Mark and I had to head off to the airport at lunchtime today, I back to Guayaquil and Emma & Mark back to London via Amsterdam, so we decided to just wander around Quito Old Town in the morning and see whether there was anything particularly Easter-related going on.

After having breakfast and opening Easter things from home, we hopped on the Trolebus and got off at Plaza Grande, before heading to the Cathedral. Before going in Emma, Kate and I chose a candle (blue because it was Dad's favourite colour), I bought it and we then lit it inside for him.

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While we were inside an Easter service started, somewhat startlingly with the first couple of lines of the tune to 'Joy to the World' - perhaps in Ecuador it's the tune to an Easter hymn? A little later on the cantor and congregation sang a hymn that we all recognised, despite it being in Latin American Spanish: 'When All the Saints Come Marching In'. It felt a little odd hearing a normally familiar hymn in a foreign language! Shortly before we left they started singing another hymn that was clearly Eastery because it mainly consisted of alleluias, though going by the tune and the proportion of alleluias to other words it wasn't 'Jesus Christ is Risen Today'.

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On the pavement on the road to one side of the cathedral there were some artists working on paintings (in oils I think) with completed works for sale. It was interesting seeing them at work. Emma and I both bought a small painting from one of the artists. We then wandered up to Plaza San Francisco to see whether anything much was going on there. There wasn't really, but we did stop at Tianguez café and some of us had drinks. Kate and I had big glasses of thick, delicious, freshly squeezed guanabana juice.

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After this we wandered round a bit more.

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We went into a centre with a museum in it and, I think, the Ecuadorean national archives, but all we could find was a gift shop and a smallish gallery of religious art, so we didn't stay long. Then we made our way to the right Trolebus stop to get back to the hostel; as we passed through Plaza Grande we stopped to watch some traditional dances that were being performed.

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After getting off the Trolebus at the other end, we nipped into a branch of 'Oki Doki' convenience store for me, Emma and Mark to stock up on snacks for our flights. Then a quick stop back at the hostel to finish packing, check emails and have a lovely unexpected Google Hangouts video chat with Mum, before Emma, Mark and I left for the airport. It was sad saying goodbye both at the hostel and the airport. Their flight left before mine did. Kate and Andrew were staying in Quito for the night and flying back to the UK the next day.

Posted by 3Traveller 10:57 Archived in Ecuador Tagged art airport cathedral sisters dad mum quito andes ecuador explorations unesco_world_heritage_site ecuadorian_cuisine plaza_grande plaza_san_francisco traditional_customs easter_celebrations Comments (0)

Visitors: Malecón, Las Peñas, Cerro Santa Ana and salsa

Guayaquil

Yesterday I only saw Emma, Kate, Mark and Andrew in the morning when I met them at the language school and took them to the bus terminal. They were going to Playas for the afternoon. It turned out that the night before, after they got back to their hostel after taking part in the first part of my lesson, they went swimming in the hostel's pool; on getting out of the pool Kate put her foot through the filter cover by accident, cutting and bruising her foot quite badly.

Today, while I was teaching in the morning the others looked round the Malecón, complete with botanic garden and the Museum of Anthropology & Contemporary Art. As soon as work finished at 1 o'clock I caught a bus into the city centre to meet them for lunch. I was held up considerably in traffic but we eventually managed to meet up. I wanted to take them to the restaurant E and I went to about a month and a half ago that sells delicious 'Encocado' (fish or shrimps in a creamy coconut sauce with rice), but unfortunately I couldn't find it, so we went somewhere else instead for lunch - the place on the Malecón that Mum and I went to in February. Kate, Emma and I all had sea bass which had been lightly breadcrumbed then grilled, which was amazing. I'm pretty sure it was the best breadcrumbed fish I've ever had!

Suitably refreshed, we headed over to Las Peñas to have a good nose around.

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We popped into a little art gallery and also saw at least two artists at work in their studios.

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We then took the side way up Cerro Santa Ana, the same way I'd taken Mum in February. We met this amazing dog on the way;

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Once at the terrace at the top we went up the lighthouse and had a look inside the chapel.

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After that the others went back to have a lie down and a swim in the pool. Later on we met up with 'E' at a nearby restaurant for dinner. The others were slightly shocked to find a security guard armed with a shotgun outside, but 'E' and I are used to it so we didn't bat any eyelids. Once inside, Emma and Kate had a lovely surprise because they saw Encocado on the menu! I was craving steak so I had that instead; it was delicious.

After we'd had dinner, we set off via taxis to a karaoke bar in Las Peñas that I've been to before. Kate and Emma were desperate to try the famous 'Alexander' cocktail I'd told them about (which in Ecuador is made from brandy, creme de cacao, condensed milk and crushed ice), so they and I had ones.

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I had intended for us to join my colleagues at a nearby bar for a drink or two before we carried on to the Captain Morgan, but as it turned out we didn't have time. We didn't want to be late for Captain Morgan!

The walk down the Malecon to where the boat was moored was very atmospheric in the dark, with the La Rotonda Monument and the Moorish Tower both lit up.

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After buying our tickets and waiting a while, we were allowed up the gangplank. A short while after the ship started to sail, a couple of guys with pirate hats came over and insisted on us posing for photos - he took photos with our cameras for us and if we'd wanted to we could have bought an official photograph from him for $5, but we chose not to.

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A lot of the music they played was salsa and merengue - and luckily for the rest of us, 'E' gave us an impromptu lesson in both! It was really, really good fun.

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We came back in to land at about 2 am. E rang for two taxis for us, one for me and her and one for the others.

Posted by 3Traveller 06:21 Archived in Ecuador Tagged art night museum hostel buses sisters salsa botanical_gardens cocktails ecuador guayaquil explorations cerro_santa_ana las_peñas malecon_2000 ecuadorian_cuisine river_trip river_guayas Comments (0)

Carnival, Day 3: Baños, tree swing and Ambato

Baños, La Casa del Arbol and Ambato


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Breakfast included a bunch of mini bananas hanging up for people to pick from! I've seen these in the supermarket before and they're not baby normal bananas; they're a separate type altogether. As soon as I saw them I really wished I liked bananas. I stuck to rolls with blackberry preserve in them, coffee and some scrambled eggs.

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After breakfast we took a taxi up one of the nearby mountains to a popular tourist attraction for Ecuadorians (I only saw a couple of non-Ecuadorians apart from me).... a swing that hangs from a tree placed so that when you get pushed, you swing over the edge of the mountain. There's a little treehouse in the tree branches that we climbed up into - there were spectacular views over forested mountains.

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The seat hung from a very long rope and it also had a rope that came round the front of the seat and clicked in to help prevent the person from falling out. One nod towards Health & Safety along with the metal support that helped keep the branch steady and unlikely to break. The go on the swing and climb up into the treehouse were both free. Needless to say, the experience of swinging so high felt like flying and it was absolutely exhilarating.

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On the way back from there it was fascinating to walk through town.

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Baños is filled with sugar cane stands, as well as traditional sweetshops selling sweets made from sugar cane and other things. At the doorway of each shop there was what looked like a wooden hook for coats or hats, but was actually for kneading and pulling what looked like a very stretchy rock or taffy that they pulled out and then cut into sticks. I didn't buy any this time, having decided to buy some in June when I come back here for longer, but there was a chap handing out free samples outside his shop so I tried one of those. The texture and taste was quite a like a chewit.

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After that I left the others in town and took the bus to Ambato with the intention of watching the Festival of Fruits & Flowers processions which Ambato is famous for holding at Carnival time every year. Unfortunately it looked like I had missed them, but it was still interesting to look round Ambato for a bit. Although I had missed the processions, when I arrived in the main square I could see and hear a concert going on right in front of the cathedral. That part of the square was absolutely packed.

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I walked through the main square, looked round a small and quite disturbing modern art exhibition and went into Ambato's modern cathedral. On the 30-second walk between the exhibition and the cathedral I bought something from a street stall - a soft batter bubble with sugar on top. It was only 25 centavos and it was delicious. The woman and her assistant did all the preparation in the street, kneading and shaping the dough-like batter before dropping the results into a large metal pan on the grill.

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The inside of the cathedral was quite light and spacious, with the inside of the main cupola and behind the altar painted sky blue.

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Near the altar there were pictures of the current Pope made out of what looked like rice grains, maize and other things stuck onto a background (maybe clay?)

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After I'd left the cathedral I was still hungry so I went back to the batter stall and bought another two. This time they had added a couple of small chunks of white cheese to the middle of each, but surprisingly (considering the batter was sweet) it still went well with the batter. Then I had to start thinking about getting back to Baños so I walked back through the main square, passing a stall next to the concert stage where a man was stretching glass bottles by melting and pulling the neck of each to make vases.

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Posted by 3Traveller 12:54 Archived in Ecuador Tagged art cathedral hostel carnival banos andes ecuador procession explorations ecuadorian_cuisine ambato traditional_customs Comments (0)

Reunions

Amsterdam Schiphol, London Heathrow and St Albans


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Edit from January 2019: Again, in this blog's original appearance, on Travelpod, I wrote this retrospectively. Originally I had this split into three separate entries, but I've combined them here.

A near- four hour wait at Amsterdam Schiphol, but time passed quickly because of the amount of duty-free shops to look round. I also saw works of art by Franz Hals, Johan Barthold Jongkind, Karel Appel and more at the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam Schiphol.

At Heathrow Terminal 4 it was wonderful to walk into the Arrivals lounge and be enveloped in hugs by Dave. Kate was there too which was lovely of course - as it was to see Emma once we had joined her upstairs in Wetherspoons, where she was sitting waiting for food to arrive (having thought incorrectly that she had time for a quick bite before I arrived!) I didn't order any food but I did have a Diet Coke and relieved Emma of one or two of her chips.

It was well after dark by the time we got back from Heathrow. Dad opened the door and Mum was close behind. Not much more to say here apart from a repeat the same word from the last entry - wonderful.

Posted by 3Traveller 08:03 Archived in Netherlands Tagged art airport museum sisters dad dave mum layover st_albans Comments (0)

Municipal Museum, Guayaquil

Guayaquil

Before today I hadn't been to the city centre since the Independence of Guayaquil procession on 9th October, so I fancied a visit to the Municipal Museum and a chance to say hello to the iguanas nearby. On entry they asked me for ID, which I hadn't expected, but when I froze and I said I didn't have any on me, they said it was OK and I just needed to type my name into their computer instead.

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That done, I was free to wander round. On the ground floor there was an interesting collection of pre-Columbian artifacts, including zoomorphic jars and jugs, money shaped like very flat axe-heads, actual axe-heads, 'La Mujer de Colonche' (a sandstone monolith fertility figure of a nude woman, made by the Guancavitca culture who flourished between 500-1533 AD), and more. There was also a case holding what I think are the thigh bones and a tooth of a mastodon!

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In other rooms there was a display about three British pirates who attacked Guayaquil (William Dampier being one), colonial Spanish artifacts like guns and swords, a map of Guayaquil from 1741, republican artifacts, a room of colourful paintings by Ecuadorian artists and a separate room of religious paintings. I recommend this museum but I do think it could do with some information in English to accompany the artifacts!

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The museum is very close to the cathedral and Iguana Square, so I headed there next.

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I took a few photos of the iguanas, but then I noticed crowds spilling out of the cathedral, so I went over to have a look inside. It turned out there was a service going on; I was quite surprised because it was a Saturday. The altar was flanked by white-robed priests and choirmen. I hung around at the back while a hymn was sung (one I didn't recognise), took one or two photos and then left.

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I didn't want to go straight home so I thought I'd have a wander down the Malecon and see if anything was going on there. A large crowd was sitting on some steps, gathered round some 'actors' (I use this term deliberately loosely) who were performing some kind of comedy sketch. I didn't understand much of what they said apart from at one point when I heard a list of fruits being mentioned! I walked past and climbed up a looking-out tower right next to the river. A plastic Christmas tree had been put up further along the Malecon. Took some photos and then got a bus home.

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Posted by 3Traveller 13:51 Archived in Ecuador Tagged art museum cathedral iguanas ecuador guayaquil malecon_2000 guayaquil_metropolitan_cathedra pre_columbian_artifacts Comments (0)

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