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Entries about cocktails

Birthday celebrations

Guayaquil

31/1/14

The only class I had today was this morning, between 7-9 am; a B2 conversation class. I felt touched because one of my students gave me a special birthday cupcake. It was really big and the sponge and icing were both bright red. As soon as she'd given me it and I'd thanked her, all four of them broke out with 'Happy Birthday To You' - then the moment they finished that they carried on into the Spanish version, 'Cumpleaños Feliz'. I don't know what they do in Spain, but in Ecuador when native speakers sing 'Happy Birthday' in English, they stretch out 'ir' in 'birthday' to 'irrrrrrr'.

We did some work on fluency and some on small talk, and seeing as it was my birthday, we finished with a few snacks I'd brought in. The idea was to create a bit of a party atmosphere and provide an opportunity for small talk practice in a freer, authentic and more relaxed situation. It seemed to go down well.

Some birthday post arrived for me at the language school after my conversation class had finished. I stayed online at work for a couple of hours then took my post back to the flat, had some tuna mayo & iceberg lettuce rolls for lunch and then went back online and spoke to my nearest & dearest on Google Video chat. I had a lovely chat with Dave, and Emma, Kate and I opened our presents to each other on video. I saw our birthday cake being lit and heard 'Happy Birthday' sung to us. Mum had sent me an indoor sparkler so I lit that while on video as well. It was lovely to see everyone!

Friday night isn't the best time for us teachers to go out here because on any given week the majority of us have to be at work by 8 am on Saturday morning for class, so I saved my Guayaquil birthday celebration for the next day.

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In the evening we went to Sushi Isao, the same sushi place we went to last October, because I remembered it being very good. Apparently it's the only sushi place in Guayaquil that is actually owned by a Japanese and has Japanese chefs - there are quite a few sushi places here but they aren't as genuine.

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There were about 10 of us there. One or two ordered individual things but most of us shared two 'boats', which have 54 pieces of sushi in each one. Last time they did actually come in a boat-shaped dish but this time they were only on normal platters. The others refused to let me pay for my share of the bill!

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Before that we had a drink or two at a bar nearby called 'El Manantial'. We sat at a long table outside the front and the waiters brought us drinks. I think I've mentioned this before, but in Guayaquil people don't seem to go up to the bar to order drinks at all; ordering through waiters seems to be the done thing. I had an 'Alexander' cocktail which in Ecuador is made with brandy, Creme de Cacao, condensed milk and crushed ice, but elsewhere is usually made with gin instead of brandy and cream instead of condensed milk. They love their condensed milk here.

After the sushi we went to a sports bar. Most of the others shared something I've also seen in Brazil - a great tall container filled with beer that has a tap for you to self-dispense beer from. I had two caipirinha cocktails because they had a 2-for-1 offer. I thought something fruity would be a nice contrast to the sushi and the Alexander cocktail I'd had before.

Some people went home after that but five of us carried on back to El Manantial where we had a last drink. I had another - you guessed it - Alexander cocktail. When the place closed at 2 am I went back by taxi.

Posted by 3Traveller 03:54 Archived in Ecuador Tagged night sisters dave cocktails mum ecuador guayaquil english_teaching sushi_isao birthday_celebration Comments (0)

Party by the beach

Montañita


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Yesterday I went to the beach town of Montañita for our staff Christmas party.

We Guayaquil staff had to go as superheroes, and the staff from Quito had to go as supervillains. I went as a female Thor, as I had a plastic horned helmet and drinking horn to use. I plaited my hair and made a hammer out of cardboard and foil.

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Some of the other costumes I saw were very good - Superted, Wonder Woman, the Joker, 'Supermaxi' (Supermaxi is the name of a well-known supermarket in Ecuador), The Incredible Hulk, Lara Croft, Captain America and many more. Before we had dinner we all had to show off our costumes. The field was then cut to six semifinalists, from which the overall winner was chosen. I didn't make the semifinal unfortunately... Supermaxi won!

For dinner we had a barbecue. There were loads of steaks, chicken pieces and sausages, as well as a table filled with bowls of salad and small cheesy baked potato halves. As well as the meat, I had some delicious pasta salad and coleslaw. There was a bottle of Argentine wine on each table as well.

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After dinner the dancing got started! There was a small cocktail bar set up with Zhumir aguardiente (firewater), vodka and rum, soft drinks and orange juice.

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I had a lot of Zhumir & orange, drinking from my drinking horn! In between the bar and the pool was the dancefloor. After everyone had been dancing for a while some firedancers appeared and put on a show for us. One of them twirled around flaming balls on strings and the other one had flaming torches. At one point the latter balanced one of the torches on his nose!

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There were two other guys there, hired for the occasion I think, who had dressed up in what I assume is traditional tribal costume from either the highlands or the rainforest, with colourful masks and straw-fringed clothes. They were the life and soul of the party.

After some more dancing some people decided to get in the pool fully clothed... I got in after a while but I got changed into my bikini and board shorts first. It felt quite surreal to be in the pool so late at night. The water was very warm. After a while two tied-together giant bamboos were put across the pool and some of us tried to walk across it without falling in... I managed it but some didn't.

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When the party eventually started winding down in the early hours, some of us paid a visit to 'Cocktail Alley' in town. This leads out onto the beach and has tiny cocktail stands lining it on both sides. I had a Maracaibo cocktail, made of passionfruit juice, rum, coconut liqueur and condensed milk, and an Alexander cocktail, made of very finely crushed ice, brandy, condensed milk, cinnamon and créme de cacao.

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I got chatted up by a Peruvian guy who wanted to give me a free surfing lesson in exchange for an English one and insisted that Peruvian men are better than Ecuadorian ones because they are gentlemen and don't hassle girls. I politely declined and mentioned Dave, which resulted in the Peruvian thinking I was married, so I didn't enlighten him to the fact that I'm not yet.

Soon after I went for a quick look at the beach. It was quite crowded and the lights spilled onto the sand.

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Then I rejoined the group for a bit before some of us went back to our accommodation - it was now between 3 and 4am. I'd had a really, really good night.

Late morning, today, after a lovely English breakfast laid on for us, I went back into town to do some Christmas shopping. I also bought my bus ticket to Guayaquil (we had to make our own way back). As well as some Christmas presents for family, I bought myself a present too - a lovely polished stone ornamental knife. After I'd dumped my shopping at the accommodation and changed into beachwear I went back out to meet up with the others at the beach. It was perfect beach weather, at least 34 degrees and barely a cloud in the sky.

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The sea was quite warm - no 'getting used to it' period of time needed at all - yet refreshing, and the waves were big. Montañita is a centre for surfing and I could see why. It was exhilarating to bodysurf and to swim out to beyond where the waves broke. I worked out that technically, if I carried on swimming in a straight line, I would just miss the Galápagos Islands and would eventually hit the coast of either Indonesia or Papua New Guinea on the other side of the Pacific!

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After a nice swim or sunbathe some of us went to a coffee shop in town. I had a frappacino mocha - exactly what I needed.

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Once I'd got back I only had about 15 minutes before I had to go and get the bus back to Guayaquil with some of the others. The journey took about two and a half hours.

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Posted by 3Traveller 03:04 Archived in Ecuador Tagged parties coast beach market buses cocktails barbecue ecuador montanita cocktail_alley Comments (0)

Sushi, cocktails and a beautiful view

Guayaquil

This is about a great night out I had last night with some of the other teachers.

It started at Restaurante Sushi Isao in Urdesa district.

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When we arrived we were given a free mixture of tuna, raw carrot, one or two unidentifiable raw vegetables and a delicious white sauce. We asked what was in the sauce but were told that the recipe was a secret! Four of us then shared a boat platter - it came piled with 54 lovely pieces of sushi. It was only $46! I tried various different kinds with different seafood - tuna, salmon, eel, another type of fish of which I didn't find out the name, and crabstick. The eel was brown and had a sweetish yet savoury sauce on it. One type of sushi came cased in a very light tempura batter, (which worked very well) and most of the nori roll types (with the seaweed casing) had a chunk or two of avocado in the middle as well as fish and a white type of sauce. I don't know whether it's common or not to have avocado in sushi in Japan - if not then I suppose this was the Ecuadorian touch.

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After Isao we got a taxi to Las Peñas district and had a couple of cocktails at a small but very colourful karaoke bar at the foot of the long steps up Cerro Santa Ana. The inside walls were painted orange and blue and had framed photos of Guayaquil from the turn of the 20th century hanging on them.

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At bars in Guayaquil, or the ones I've been to at any rate, there's always waiter service; you don't go up to the bar yourself. The karaoke microphone was passed around from table to table, but none of our group had a go. They were all Latin American songs. I had an 'Alexander' cocktail, one of the most delicious cocktails I've ever had in my life - brandy, coffee liqueur, condensed milk and crushed ice, with a cocktail cherry.

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After that I had a White Russian, which was also nice but tasted slightly bland having come just after the incredibly tastebud-grabbing Alexander cocktail.

E had told me about a famous bohemian bar next door with a live band, so I was keen to go there next. E and I went while the others carried on up Cerro Santa Ana (to a bar where they were to meet up with W and a friend of his). However, when we tried to enter we were told we had to pay $5 entry fee, so since I only had about $8 on me and I wanted to save it for another drink or two, plus E didn't want to pay it either, we caught up with the others instead.

The bar we were in now was also very small, tiny in fact, and being further up the hill, had an amazing view of the city lights below. The others stuck to beers, but I fancied another cocktail. The only cocktails the guy had came from bottles of pre-mixed stuff, but I had a piña colada anyway. I swear there was no pineapple juice in it at all, and there was no ice. It was so thick and gloopy that I didn't actually like it very much. But the atmosphere and view made up for it!

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Some of us carried on to the top of the hill to see the views over the whole city at night, but the entrance to the plaza was gated off. The security guard behind it told us it gets locked at midnight. I took one or two photos anyway but couldn't get high enough to get views in every direction.

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We went home after this - I arrived back at 2.40 am, so had a nice lie-in this morning before catching a bus to Urdesa to take up D & A's invitation to swim in their pool. It was typically hot, at least 32-33 degrees, so it was wonderful to get in the water.

Posted by 3Traveller 04:14 Archived in Ecuador Tagged night cocktails ecuador guayaquil cerro_santa_ana las_peñas sushi_isao Comments (0)

Excursion to Punta Blanca and Montañita

Guayaquil, Punta Blanca and Montañita


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Excursion weekend! We left on Saturday the 15th and came back the next evening. I and the other teachers from the language school where I work had been invited to a party held at Punta Blanca by the British Consulate in celebration of the Queen's birthday, and after that finished we carried on up the coast to the surfers' town of Montañita for the night and next day.

The dress code was pretty simple - we had to wear white or cream as much as possible, and a hat. I hadn't managed to get a hat before we left, but the situation got resolved when we were nearly out of Guayaquil. We stopped at a rare traffic light and were surprised by the amount of traders who descended upon us and the other cars; it's normal for a couple to wander round cars at traffic lights further into the city, but not for so many to do so at once. All of a sudden someone asked me "Don't you need a hat?" I looked to my right and saw a trader with a couple of piles of hats walk past, so he was stopped and a couple of hats were passed back to me to choose from hurriedly. Just then the lights changed so we pulled over to continue the transaction. I paid $5 for a wide-brimmed, tightly woven but semi-floppy white hat. I'm glad I bought it,because it will come in very handy in the future, especially with the sun as hot as it is.

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The scenery wasn't spectacular like it is further up the coast and in the Andes, but it was still different to the UK. It was quite hilly (though not mountainous) a lot of the time and the sides of them were covered in bushes and shrubbery, some green and some brown with the occasional touch of pink. We did pass a banana plantation at one point though, and a field of what some of the others said was plantain at an early stage. Quite often billboards appeared at the side of the road - a series of Coca-Cola ones and a series of Banco Pichincha ones are two lots I remember. In Ecuador (and in Bolivia and Peru from what I remember when Dave and I were there), out in the middle of the countryside you quite often come across political slogans and murals painted onto shack and shop walls, even abandoned ones. The name of Rafael Correa appeared a lot - the current president of Ecuador.

On entry we had to sign the visitor's book that I noticed had been printed specially for this occasion, and were given a glass of wine each by a waiter. Then we found a table and sat down. Soon a waiter began bringing us each a plate of small empanadas and Ecuadorian ceviche. It was all delicious – some of my students have told me about ceviche and how it's different to the Peruvian sort, so I was glad I could finally try it. In Peru ceviche is raw fish with lime and chilli - Dave and I had some when we were there but I didn’t like it because of the chilli – but in Ecuador you can have other kinds of seafood as well, and the fish at least is cooked, albeit still cold; the sauce has tomato in it, and there isn’t any chilli. In our mini glasses of ceviche at the party, however, there were only prawns, no fish. It was delicious, as were the empanadas. As well as wine they had free beer and soft drinks as well, so we found no reason to resist...

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After a while of eating, drinking and chatting, there were a couple of speeches. They were both in Spanish, and neither was repeated in English, so I didn’t understand a lot of what was said. I did surprise myself though by recognising more words than I could have expected, and more of the general meaning. At the end of the speeches the Ecuadorian and British national anthems were played; a recording of people’s voices sang the Ecuadorian one, but the recording of the British one was only music.

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When the speeches had finished I went for a quick look at the beach. I noticed a little fishing boat nearby, and further along there were three men pulling on a long line that went into the sea. I assumed that if I waited around for a bit the net would come out, but it must have been a very long line because I waited for quite a while and the men pulled the line further and further back up the beach, but nothing appeared.

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Not too long after that we all had some more food. This time we had to queue up for a served buffet of chicken, special sausages, beef, potatoes in foil, vegetables (carrots, cauliflower, green beans), a white very cheesy sauce and chimichurri sauce, which is an Argentinian green sauce made of garlic, parsley and other things. Of the two sauces I just chose the white one because I didn't realise what the green sauce was until after I'd eaten my plateful and was too full to have anything else. I really wish I'd had some of the chimichurri now because it sounds pretty nice!

A while after eating, I noticed that there were some rather prehistoric-looking black birds flying overhead and even more flying around over the beach. Something clicked in my head as I realised the fishermen must have pulled in their nets by now. I went back out to the beach but didn't get too close because I didn't want to intrude. I think they'd already brought in the catch and packed it up in the truck nearby, because I didn't see any fish, only men wading in the sea doing something with one of the nets, while lots of empty nets lay on the sand. There was a crowd of pelicans in the sea next to them, a couple of birds standing at the edge of the sand that Iooked from the distance like white storks, and the strange big black birds flying above. The pelicans and other birds weren't fighting over anything, which makes me think even more that the catch had already been brought in.

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There was dancing after it got dark:

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We teachers didn't leave until past 7pm when things were winding up. We arrived in Montañita between 8 and 9pm. Unfortunately it was drizzling a bit when we arrived and it didn't stop for nearly all the time we were there, but that didn't stop us having fun.

Our accommodation was great! All our drinks were free, and on the patio we were given a free barbecue of sausages, red peppers, ribs, medium-rare steaks, salad and pitta bread. The steaks were so lovely I had four, but I didn't have any ribs or sausages because I was full up by then! They kept bringing out more and more meat, and I couldn't resist. We sat around for a while after that, variously in armchairs, a swinging seat, a hammock, a sofa and ground cushions. Some of us had beers, but I had a rum and coke.

At 11.30pm nearly all of us walked down the road into town. I could hear cicadas by the roadside. We went to 'Cocktail Alley' and had a couple of cocktails - Mojitos first. You can see in the photos what Cocktail Alley is like - quite a narrow pedestrianised street filled from one end to the other with roadside cocktail stalls under gazebos. Each one had a row of tropical fruit in front of the row of bottles and the cocktail list. Nearly every cocktail cost either $2.50 or $3, and they were pretty large and strong cocktails!

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We sat there for quite a long time. After the Mojitos some of us bumped into people they knew, whilst the rest (including me) went next door into a small club where we danced for a bit. Then I had another Mojito, looked around the beach for a bit with a couple of the others, and got myself a lovely White Russian from another stall. When I stood up after that, to go to a bigger nightclub with those of the others who hadn't already made their way home, I could tell I was a bit three sheets to the wind...

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The club was a bit different to any I've been to in the UK. For a start, although they played some Western songs you hear in the UK all the time, they also played Latin American music (as you'd expect in South America, of course). Also, the rafters,columns and some of the walls were made of giant bamboo, and one end of the club was open to the air, one giant open window without any glass pane or iron bars or anything. I thought it was a good idea because it meant a breeze came through quite often and the air didn't get stuffy.I really liked the atmosphere there. We danced for a while before going home at 3.30am.

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On Sunday morning we had brunch on the big wooden patio at 11.30. As well as a piece of leftover steak from the night before, I got an English breakfast with a twist – the fried egg was quite runny and on a split-open roll, the sausage was one of the short fat Ecuadorian ones from the night before, and it all came with a glass of papaya juice. (There was also bacon, mushrooms and a tomato, but no baked beans thankfully!)

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After I'd had brunch a group of us went into town for a look-around in daylight. We walked along the beach for a bit and then some of the main streets.

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Montanita is Hippy/Rasta/Backpacker Central in Ecuador, with loads of dreadlocked characters on the streets running roadside jewellery and craft stalls or just sitting around not doing much.

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We went into a lovely café where some of us had drinks – I had a ‘Frappacino Bombon’, delicious iced coffee with ice cream and drizzles of condensed milk on top. We split up for a bit then. I popped into a cyber cafe for 20 minutes because I wanted to send a Father's Day email. As soon as I'd sent it the man himself happened to come online, so although I wasn’t able to install the plugin for Gmail Video chat on the computer I was using and he couldn't see me as a result, I could see him which was great!

We went for another wander after that and got some lunch at a roadside ceviche stall. The man had tupperware containers of fish chunks, octopus chunks, prawns and one or two other things on the counter, and in a cupboard inside the stall he had various kinds of shellfish in their shells - oysters, conches and some others I didn't recognise. I chose just to have the fish and prawns in mine. It came with chopped up raw onion and tomato, squeezed lime and chopped up fresh coriander in the same bowl, and there was a communal pot of large dried toasted maize kernels and bottles of tomato sauce and oriental chilli sauce to which we could help ourselves as well. We each got a packet of green banana crisps as a side too. Apparently you're supposed to break up the crisps and mix them and the toasted maize into the main dish, but I had the crisps separately. I did mix some maize in, though, and the taste and texture of it went well with the juiciness of the seafood.

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The journey back to Guayaquil later on was pretty uneventful apart from a stop we made at an isolated petrol station where I discovered some packets of yuca crisps. I secretly found it quite funny that they had a couple of loaves of bread, one or two toilet rolls and cleaning products, a drinks fridge and a few sweets, and the rest of the goods were almost entirely made up of various kinds of crisps...

Posted by 3Traveller 15:55 Archived in Ecuador Tagged beaches parties birds pelicans coast dad cocktails barbecue ceviche ecuador montanita explorations cocktail_alley punta_blanca ecuadorian_cuisine Comments (0)

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