At this time of the year many of us, for different reasons, leave the bright lights and merriment of our own hometown to travel abroad. We go for various reasons: we don’t want to be alone in familiar surroundings, we’re thinking that, at this point in time, we’re not compatible with family, we’re grieving and want to get away, or we simply enjoy the sheer pleasure of traveling. I’ll be going, too, in imagination – to a sweet, small country called Ecuador where celebrations in the streets are happy, lively, and colorful. If you haven’t yet formulated your traveling plans, you might want to consider Ecuador.
I’m reminded of Ecuador for two reasons: I receive information from International Living and lately their focus has been on Ecuador, and I’m in the midst of organizing papers and came across a box filled with memories of five months spent in a beautiful place; a place so enjoyable that it’s perfectly understandable that people from different parts of the world are wanting to buy and live there.
Ecuador’s centuries old buildings and cathedrals have plenty of history. And now I’ll generalize and say that the people are kind and helpful, the hostals are clean and have a nice array of travelers, it’s easy and pleasant to get around (a little knowledge of Spanish is helpful), the food is excellent – north, south, east, west – there’s plenty to admire, fresh fruits and vegetables are plentiful in the large markets, it’s inexpensive, and additionally, this is a chance to buy a Panama hat. If you haven’t read THE PANAMA HAT TRAIL by Tom Miller you might want to take it along. It’s a good book about Ecuador; it’s witty and informative.
I’d like to tell a simple story because it was a sign of how it would be for me in Ecuador – one helpful person after another. In Quito, the capital, I checked out of one hostal for no particular reason other than another was highly recommended. I wandered the unfamiliar streets and wondered where oh where could this place be. Suddenly next to me stood a high school boy. He asked in English if I needed help. That sounded like an offer, and it was too good to refuse. He took my suitcase, and away we went walking and talking right to the door of the lovely mother and son operated hostal. He wouldn’t accept a tip. He said that he wanted to practice speaking English. Very nice, I thought. Though being an American, I’ve yet to understand how people know one when they see one. Quito, the capital, has what many big cities have, its own history, museums you don’t want to miss, historical sites, and culture. The following are a few places to consider:
and Hassan’s Cafe, located at Reina Victoria No 24 399 Y Colon, Tel.: (02) 223-2564
You’re probably saying, I’m not going to Ecuador to eat Lebanese food. And I’m saying, Ah, but this is very tasty Lebanese food, and it’s a good chance to mingle with the locals.
Let’s leave the big city of Quito for the beautiful colonial city of Cuenca; we can always return. In Cuenca many of the hostals have wonderful old, big, beckoning courtyards. It’s a joy to walk along the streets and come upon small museums, old and well-used churches, restaurants, markets, the Tomebamba River, etc. and finding history in all of it. it’s a walking city and with a map, quite easy to navigate. One of the places I stayed at was the utterly charming Inca Real. Finding a hostal or hotel is not a problem, or, if staying a while, an apartment for $200-$250/month with kitchen and full bath.
A good guidebook and intuition helps when walking along Cuenca’s streets. Eventually Raymipampa Restaurant on the main square will appear just when it’s time to eat. And also El Maiz Restaurante although it’s a little out of the way, is not to be missed,
Now for a hair-raising bus ride from Cuenca south to Loja and then Vilcabamba. It’s worth the bus ride because it’s a chance to see the land and the people in a different way, and that’s all I’m saying. Loja is a good stopover for the night. Time to get acquainted with this interesting old city, and find a place to stay, and enjoy the evening before leaving for Vilcabamba tomorrow to savor the mountains. It’s tomorrow already? To the beautiful mountains by taxi or bus. Perhaps staying at Le Rendez-vous Hostal owned and operated by a couple from France who built it after touring South America and deciding to make Vilcabamba their home. Time to hear about what’s happening in Vilcabamba from Serge and Isabelle. Or check out other places to rest and revive; what makes one person happy, doesn’t necessarily make another. – a soft mattress, a hard one, maybe a hammock; it’s all there waiting.
So much to see, the coast, the city of Guayaquil, the Galapagos, the Amazon, and north to Ibarra, Otavalo, Cotacachi, etc. Ah, yes, another time, perhaps.
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The pleasure in traveling consists of the obstacles, the fatigue, and even the danger. What charm can anyone find in an excursion when he is always sure of reaching his destination, of having horses ready waiting for him, a soft bed, an excellent supper, and all the eases and comfort he can enjoy in his own home! One of the great misfortunes of modern life is the want of any sudden surprise, and the absence of all adventures. Everything is so well arranged.
– Theophila Gautier, WANDERINGS IN SPAIN