Thursday, February 11, 2016

Ecuador day 5: last of the colonial city

Today was our last day of Spanish School in Quito. After only 4 days, Drew is putting simple sentences together, and I am understanding people when they speake simply and slowly.  I can still only put the most basic sentences together, but I'm worlds ahead of where I was before I got here. Hopefully we can keep up with practicing and get better so that someday we can ride motorcycles across Chili, or some other similar adventure which requires self sufficiency in a foreign country.  The school had lunch for us today, which was a jovial affair. After lunch, Drew helped our teacher do our dishes. 
Drew and Angelica, our super patient, funny, and excellent Spanish teacher, doing the dishes. Angelica is standing in high heeled shoes!
    There aRe lots of schools here. We chose Aiolola because of its high online ratings. We made a good choice. The teacher especially made our education fun and productive.    We had planned to go up a cable car to a nearby mountain, but we were tired, so instead we walked around Quito a bit more. 
A street still decorated for Carnival. Such colorful buildings!
The presidential palace.
Some type of marching practice by the presidential palace guards.
A last meal in Quito in the New Orleans style restaurant that we went to the other night.
We will be on a boat for then next 5 days and I'm pretty sure we won't have WiFi until next Tuesday. It is very possible that we won't have it then either. After that, we go straight to Cotopaxi National Park, and our hotel there doesn't have wifi either, so it may be a while before the next post.  So now off we go to fulfill a lifelong dream of mine. Excited!!!

Ecuador day 4: more of Quito in Spanish

We had our third day of Spanish school today, and later on the street, I had my first moment of actually thinking in Spanish without "thinking" about it. Granted, it was a tiny, simple thought, but I was encouraged that the last three days are getting me somewhere. With only devoting 4 days to the language, it may be too much to ask of my brain to know enough Spanish to get by comfortably when traveling in Latin America.    After school today, which was the first day more stores are open after Carnival, Mario the school cook directed us to the best restaurant in Quito! 100% vegetarian Indian and Ecuadorian buffet.  I ate, although my tummy was still quite unsettled. It was delicious, and the best value we have found.  For the rest of the day, we needed some energy.
A double shot of espresso to prepare for our afternoon activities.
 The activities for today included a tour of La Compañia and a trip up to El Panecillo.
The exterior of La Compañía.
La Compañía is the most extravagant church in the Americas. It was built by an order of wealthy Jusuit priests between 1605 and 1765. The tour guide told me that 54 kilograms (120 lbs) of gold was used to glitz everything from the walls to the ceilings, to the alters. Unfortunately for my faithful readers, no photographs are allowed inside the most beautiful part of the church. Something about paintings being stolen and then finding a camera with pictures of the stolen pictures on it. Anyway, I really enjoyed the tour. Drew was tired of churches and didn't want to pay the $4 entrance fee, so he went shopping for a fabulous t shirt, which I'm sure you will see much more of in the next dozen posts.  We hired a taxi for the short ride to El Panecillo.
The statue of the Virgin of Quito at El Panicillo is a 30 meter high metal statue that dominates the skyline from Old Town. 
 
View to the south from El Panecillo of the very colorful south end of Quito.
Panoramic of Old Town Quito central historic district, where we have been spending our days.
 
We ate crackers and peanut butter for dinner, since we were still satisfied from lunch and my belly still was not feeling 100%. We managed to pry out the cork from the bottle of wine that our child waiter opened for the night prior, and studied in our room. Vacation doesn't have to be all fun and games, right

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Ecuador day 3: conjugating cathedral.

Our third day in Ecuador was similar to day 2 except with harder school and better churches.  
Drew and our teacher Angelica in our private classroom. We worked on verbs this day.
All the students at Aiola Spanish School this week during our daily break. Drew and I are probably the second and third oldest students.
After school we grabbed some lunch at a restaurant out of the tourist area. It was the best food we had had since our arrival, but I paid for it, big time later that night. Something did NOT agree with me.
Our big activity of the day was to go tour the Basilica. It's late and I am typing this with Drew snoozing beside me, so I can't give all the facts now, but this church is not as old as some. It is, however, the largest in South America.
By largest, I mean huge! The stone is not nearly as elaborate as the other churches we have seen, but the height and architecture are awesome, as in awe inspiring.
Look at the size of these doors!
$2 got us inside, which was impressive to say the least, but another $2 got us up in the towers. We first went to the south turret tower. To get there you had to walk across this sketchy plank walkway that traversed OVER the stone ceiling of the church. 
After the plank and a short steep ladder (where Drew called it off) I climbed the craziest tourist attraction I have probably ever done. This ladder/stairs with no cage, guide wires, warning signs, or protective devices of any kind was at least 300 feet in the air. I felt somewhat brave until I saw a local negotiating the ladder one handed while holding his toddler.
But the views of the city and the 150 m twin clock towers were spectacular!
 

We also went over to the twin tower side and I climbed up one of the towers. This is looking back at the turret where I had just been. If you look closely, you can see people in ,the turret.
We also went over to the twin tower side and I climbed up one of the towers. We were actually inside looking out from behind the clock face.
This is looking back at the turret where I had just been. If you look closely, you can see people in ,the turret. The view from the clock tower was even more spectacular than from the turret, I think. I was something like 350 feet up in the air in a stone building in an area prone to earthquakes.
A very cool feature of this church is that the "gargoyles" are in the form of Ecuadorean animals. This one is the frigate bird.

Enough pictures of the basilica. I will say, it was the most impressive structure I have ever been in.

We headed back to our hostel it try to open the bottle of wine we bought without a cork screw. We have up and went to a great restaurant just steps from our hostel.
Microbrews on tap!
The restaurant is run by an expat from New Orleans. He has his two sons working the 5 tables, one of which couldn't have been more than 7. The PoBoy sandwiches were great and we sat next to a man from Portland who had worked with Drew's uncle!
Except the intestinal distress I experienced through the night, day 3 was a fun day in Historic Quito. 

Monday, February 8, 2016

Ecuador day2: we is learnin' Spanish

We had our first day of Spanish school today. I'll take some pictures of the school and talk more about it I a later post. Suffice it to say I am typing really fast in English right now, because my brain works that way. But, we did learn a lot,even in our first day. After 5 hours of instruction, we were free to wander the city, so we found a restaurant and ordered what we thought was sautéed shrimp for Drew and pickled fish (cerviche), but got deep fried shrimp and pickled shrimp instead. Oh well, that's part of the adventure.  We wandered Old Town and took in a couple of the very ornate Spanish colonial churches.  
Iglesias (or Basilica) de la Merced. One of Quito's newest churches , completed in 1742!
  From youngest to oldest   
Iglesias San Francisco is Quito's oldest colonial edifice and the largest religious complex in South America. Construction was begun in 1534 on the site of an Incan royal house.
All that churching made us tired and hungry; time for a snack.
this cake is made from a very old recipe from 1082, supposedly.
The umbrellas of the cafe where we ate the cake on the Plaza San Francisco
An unusual activity that we have seen everyone doing because of Carnival, is involves chasing each other around with compressed air canisters that shoot flour.  
Kids and adults alike shoot each other with flour as a sign of affection. Last night on Calle la Ronda, we saw alone woman smash an egg in her friend's hair, which our teacher told us is also a sign of affection. Culture!
I love exploring shopping malls in other counties.
Drew thought he might be able to get us locals only discounts if he blended in more, so he bought these stellar shorts.
I will spare you a picture of me in my nightgown.  One more shopping stop   
A stop in the supermercado for a large bottle of water, some fruit, a beer, and some peanut butter and crackers.
Before retiring to our hostel to study and relax. 
Our hostel Rincon Familiar
 

Ecuador day 1: feet on the ground.

I tried to post this on Sunday but for some reason I couldnt.  Our room is pretty nice. Big, clean, with a nice patio and a good view of some rooftops.  
Our big room
 
Our private patio
   
View from our room at hostel Rincon Familiar
    After we took a little nap, we went out exploring Old Town Quito. On Sundays, the police block off some of the streets on Old Town. Our hotel proprietor directed us to Calle de la Ronda. The guidebook says this is one of the best preserved colonial streets in the city. 
Calle de la Ronda
 
Street musicians
 
Our first meal of beer and pizza
 
Street food family
 
Construction started on Santo Domingo church in1581 and continued through 1650.
Construction started on Santo Domingo church in1581 and continued  through 1650.
Service In the church
  We felt perfectly safe walking the streets tonight. There are mostly locals and tourists out and about, and it was not crowded at all. As we chill in our room watching Spanished dubbed episodes of Modern Family, we can hear fireworks outside, probably part of Carnival.   Tomorrow we start Spanish school, so we need to get some rest. Buenos Noches!

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Ecuador Day 1: feet on the ground

Our room is pretty nice. Big, clean, with a nice patio and a good view of some rooftops.  
Our big room
 
Our private patio
   
View from our room at hostel Rincon Familiar
    After we took a little nap, we went out exploring Old Town Quito. On Sundays, the police block off some of the streets on Old Town. Our hotel proprietor directed us to Calle de la Ronda. The guidebook says this is one of the best preserved colonial streets in the city. 
Calle de la Ronda
 
Street musicians
 
Our first meal of beer and pizza
 
Street food family
 
Construction started on Santo Domingo church in1581 and continued through 1650.
Construction started on Santo Domingo church in1581 and continued  through 1650.
Service In the church
  We felt perfectly safe walking the streets tonight. There are mostly locals and tourists out and about, and it was not crowded at all. As we chill in our room watching Spanished dubbed episodes of Modern Family, we can hear fireworks outside, probably part of Carnival. Tomorrow we start Spanish school, so we need to get some rest. Buenos Noches!