Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Quito Trip

A few weeks ago I had a chance to go to Quito with a group of people on a shopping trip.  What fun!

We started out at 8:00 in the morning and drove down there in a school bus that was obviously designed for children as opposed to adults.  Fortunately it wasn't anywhere near full and many of us could have a seat to ourselves so our knees weren't bruised by the end of the trip.  The organizers learned from that and said they would definitely get a bigger bus for the next trip.  We were given organic yogurt made by friends of Jenny, one of the organizers, muffins made fresh by Charlene, the other one, and generally treated like royalty.

Quito is definitely a big city with people pretty well packed in between the mountains.  Many of the scenery photos may be a bit blurry.  I took them through the window of a moving bus.

We started our shopping expedition at a local market with produce, meat, flowers, and local products.  It was a great place and I could have spent hours and more money than I want to admit.  As it was I left with some amazing pork chops, a pound of shrimp, some black cherries, and some prepared pulled pork to have for dinner.
Are these shrimp gorgeous or what?  I got a little over a pound of the peeled ones on the top shelf that you really can't see very well because of the glare of the flash.  By the way, the ones on the bottom shelf, second from the left (the very biggest ones) are $8/lb.  Yep, that's all.

These are herbs and spices.  The dried materials are fresh herbs and medicinal plants. It smelled fabulous around this stall!

These were some of the most beautiful plants. They were stacked up almost to the ceiling. That top one was  about 15 feet up.  It was impressive.   I have no idea how they would have gotten it down if someone bought it.
Again, goods stacked to the ceiling.  Oh, to the right of the lovely stack of baskets is evidence of how one closes shop here--no doors or locks, just the fabric hung across the front of the stall.  At the top left of the photo is part of a sign with "Cabinas" on it.  Those are mini-rooms with a telephone in each of them.  They're larger than a phone booth (but not much) and have a chair in them.  Many people don't have telephones and when they need to call someone, they come here and pay by the minute.

Is this gorgeous or what?  This was just one aisle out of about half a dozen of them. It's a treat for both the eyes and the nose!

This picture, to me, typifies Ecuador.  In the background are the jam-packed residential areas of Quito, at the left of the photo is a Kia dealership, next to which are the ubiquitous taxis that are everywhere in every city.  On the right is a traditional tienda with goodness only knows what merchandise in it and behind that a slightly more modern store with a factory next to it and offices and/or apartments above.  In the very center is an electric pole with extensions on it to help with the extra lines that keep going up faster than the electric company can handle them.  The old and the new.

From there we headed to one of Quito's big malls.  This one was four stories high and had all the shopping conveniences of a mall in the States.  We had scheduled the trip so we could have lunch at the mall.  If I do this again, I'll have an early lunch at the market.  The food court was pretty much what you expect from a food court.  My favorite part of the whole trip was a Baskin Robbins Pralines and Cream ice cream cone.  It's my all-time favorite sweet treat and has been since they introduced it back in 1967.

From the fourth floor, all the way down to the main floor.  There was a promotion going on at the mall promoting eco-tourism and there are exhibits all over the mall reinforcing that theme.  Right behind the alligator and his habitat is the glass-walled elevator.  It's the second elevator I've seen in the six months I've been here.
As you can see, this is a mall just like any mall you'd see in the States, Canada, or other places in "first world" countries. Isn't that a cute little rope bridge?  While I was there, one little boy was trying to talk his mom into letting him cross it.  He lost that argument.
There were three birds like this, hanging from the ceiling.  They were beautifully made and each was about four feet across.  One other thing to take notice of is something you see all over Ecuador--people being physically close to one another.  These two friends or possibly sisters are walking down the corridor one with her arm around the other.  In the US we might assume a romantic relationship.  Here that never crosses anyone's mind--it's just how it is.

I checked out a few things I'd been looking for but didn't find anything inspirational until I found a shop that sold yarn.  I was very good and only bought two balls that were on sale.  I'm so good.  I ended my visit to the mall at Mega Maxi, a large grocery/department store.  They had some interesting things there that I don't see in stores here and I got a few fun things that I don't plan to get often but were fun to have.

On my way back to the bus I saw something that might go over well in the States--there was a car wash-to-go pulled up to a car in the parking lot and while the owner shopped, the fellow with the portable soap and water was busy washing the car.  Interesting.

When I got there I discovered a new addition to our group.  We had apparently attracted a stray dog who was more than happy to go back with us.  We had quite a time convincing him to leave the bus so we could be on our way.  If there weren't so many stray dogs here that need to be adopted, someone probably would have taken him home.  He was just so adorable and so very loving.

On the way home we made a couple of quick stops.  We stopped at a flower market and got some fabulous flowers at even more fabulous prices.  These people raise flowers right there for export and have the little shop for tourists.  What fun.  I didn't even know calla lillies came in purple and blue.

All those flowers have to come from somewhere and when you drive through the countryside you often see flower farms like this one.  Many are much larger with acres of fabric covered greenhouses filled with row upon row of flowers in various stages of growth.

A little way down the road we stopped for bizcochos.  They're a little bit like shortbread cookies.  They're quite wonderful.  A bag of them, still warm from the oven, are $1.  I'm guessing it was pretty close to a pound of cookies.  Here it's traditional to dip them in something.  They had samples of a gorgeous red honey, mora (local blackberry) jam, and caramel dip.  I got the caramel dip. Oh my, what luxury.

Partway back to Cotacachi we started to see a tiny bit of a rainbow, then it turned into a nice, big one and pretty soon there was a second one next to the the bright one.  I wish I could have taken a better photo of it but this will have to do.

By the time we got back to town it was a little after 6:00, drizzling a little, and we were all tired and happy with all our purchases.

I had my pulled pork for dinner, put my groceries away, had a bizcocho for dessert, and headed for bed all happy and full.

Here's what I discovered--I'm even happier to be here in Cotacachi than I was before I went on my little trip to Quito.  I had fun and I'll do it again but I hadn't realized how unaccustomed I had become to the hustle and bustle of the city.  The shopping mall was still less stressful than ones in the States and there were almost no crying babies but it was loud and things were definitely rushed.  I was also reminded that I really hate the traffic there.  We drove along next to the streetcar line for quite a ways and the biggest thing I noticed was how crowded it was, even in the middle of the day.  It's how I will get around if I go down there on my own.  It was also as friendly, polite, and clean as I've become accustomed to (in the market and mall, not in the streets).

I'm looking forward to the next time I get to go on one of these little shopping trips.


  1. What a great post. I always enjoy seeing what your next adventure will be. I do have a suggestion for anyone living down there concerning the dog. I noticed there is a rope around his neck. It will in time become an embedded rope cutting into his neck. If you find a dog like this look carefully to see if you can remove the rope or collar. It is a horrible way to die.

    1. Yes, he had some kind of twine stuff and it was tangled up in his fur. If we had been here in Cotacachi we would have taken him to the vet to have it removed but we didn't even have any scissors and he didn't like to have anyone touch it. It made me feel bad for him.

  2. Looks like you have the best of both worlds...the peace of Cotacachi, with the shopping options of Quito on occasion.

    1. Yep, I'm truly blessed. And of course in addition to Quito there's Otavalo and Ibarra. I need to head to both of those places with camera in tow one of these day--well one of these days after I've had a chance to do blog posts with all the photos I've been taking for the last couple of months.

  3. I love “Cynthia goes to Ecuador” because I am a down to earth man. She is not trying to sell/rent us expensive real-estate, nor getting us into money-making seminars and schemes. She lives in a modest apartment in town; not in a gated community away from the people of Ecuador.

    Through her pictures and posts she has shown us the real Ecuadorian people. The man, woman and children of the street, in their real habitat and living conditions. We have met her landlord, the laundry man, the restaurant lady, the doctor, the taxi driver, the cashier, the cook, and the dancers. She has shown us pictures of roosters, guinea pigs (cuys), hummingbirds, her humble backyard, avocado trees, flowers and the mountains...

    Absent are pictures of humongous villas with over sized rooms and expensive furniture. I love her tiny apartment, suitable for enjoying the peace and quiet that Cotacachi provides to those who let her cradle them.

    Ecuador needs more expats like Cynthia. I hope down the road I will be able to enjoy their blogs too.

    1. Wow! Thanks. I really enjoy writing my little posts with all the "homely" things around here. It's just the world I live in and the world I love to share with my friends and I consider all of you who read my blog to be friends. I'm honored to count you among them, Edward.

    2. Great post!!! I completely agree. Cynthia has by far the best blog for getting the real picture of her adventure. I love to see it along with her. Even though It's with envy. I think she is one of the bravest Women I have met. I am amazed that she had the courage to pick up everything and move to a foreign County. Way to Go Cynthia!!! I wish I could be there too.

  4. Cynthia - I know I'm a few days late with this comment but it's so nice to see you back in action posting new posts and with pictures. We're conflicted on how many days we should stay in Quito when we arrive Jan. 3; as of right now I've booked just 2 nites at Hotel Andino and on the 4th we have a meeting with our attorney. On the 5th we plan to head for Cotacachi. Hopefully between now and then we can put "feelers" out to rent a small apartment (also more in central city vs. the gated communities) and spend a few days acclimating ourselves to the altitude, etc. I almost think we should spend an extra day in Quito to just check some of the city out - I'm sure we'll have to return for stuff related to our resident visas/Cedulas.

    Again, nice to see you back in action and I remember our visit to Mall of America years ago - overwhelming! Ken and Barb.

    1. Everyone's going to have a different opinion on this and part of it is going to depend on you. For me, it was good to get to Cotacachi right away to have quiet time to get acclimated to the altitude and recuperate from the trip. I had Sheila here to show me around town at first but we only went out a few hours a day (my choice). Quito will still be there when you want to go visit and it's only a $2 bus ride down there. If you want to do something a little extra there, one extra night with a trip to the old part of the city and wandering in and out of old churches and taking pix of the historic buildings might be fun. Take care--Cynthia