Written by Marcia Bethea.
How would you like to fly to an exotic destination and not have jet lag? Well, have I found the place for you!
My husband and I were invited to a wedding in Quito, Ecuador. About 20 seconds after opening the invitation, we were ready to pack and go. Our only concern was the timing as we flew out of Detroit Metro the morning after the war with Iraq began. Being almost fearless travelers, our not changing plans was justified completely. We encountered NO problem at the airport, during our flight (on entering or leaving Ecuador), or with the questions we were asked. Central and South America is one of the safest places to vacation as the war is totally in the other direction.
What is so wonderful about South America is that the time zone was the same this time of year! We flew 5 hours out of Houston (5 hours back to Newark) and we never had to reset our clocks…..wrist or body! It is a wonderful feeling to arrive at a destination high in the Andres and be ready to hit the road running! OK, so the flight arrived at night….the next day we were ready! Of course, one does have to be aware of altitude sickness and watch for the signs (headache, difficulty breathing), but we experienced no problems.
Quito has much to offer. The scenery is beautiful, the people are gracious and generous, plenty of Spanish heritage and indigenous history, and it is the center of the earth! We visited Ciudad Mitad del Mundo (center of the world) with a latitude of 0º 0º 0º! We were there on the 21st of March in time for the Vernal Equinox! Oh, and they say you weigh less at the center of the earth due to the bulge…I don’t know if they meant my bulge or the earth’s!
Inside the museum is an ethnographic display of the various cultures that make up Ecuador. This includes the Colorados, where the men color their hair red, an Afro-Ecuadorian group, and many indigenous groups with the most famous being the Otavalenos from Otavolo where the daily marketplace is a site to behold!
Leaving the Center of the Earth monument, we had lunch at El Crater Restaurant which sits on the edge of a crater now reclaimed for farming. Watching the mist swirl, shroud and then clear was a mystical way to spend an afternoon. It is rewarding to know that Abercrombie and Kent uses the same restaurant.
Ecuador is one of the largest exporters of roses. From any sidewalk vendor, you can buy 2 dozens for $1.00. Right…$1.00 for 24 large roses! The Andres are mighty and you might think of cold weather but the temperature was 60 degrees in March. The flowers are grown inside hot houses and easily transported to the city center, plentiful and a delight to our eyes.
Travel a short distance and you are in a desert valley. Travel again for 20 minutes into another valley and you see another climate altogether. Fruits are plentiful and so different than Michigan. Tomato juice…The fruit is grown on trees and is green…delicious!
Even Quito with its 60-mile length had different weather within the city. We were at the Virgin of Quito (a statue that was a gift from Spain in 1970) and it was raining. Made a phone call to the city center and the sun was shining! Back in our car and within 20 minutes (nothing is easy about driving in the city) and we were back at city center and without clouds.
The food is very unique. The national dish is cuyes (guinea pig) and is eaten with bean, hominy and fried pork. Oh yes, and with your fingers! Another favorite serving is the potato-like yucca fried with cheese in the center and sprinkled with sugar. Have you had hard boiled dove eggs? Wow, what wonderful tastes. We were visiting friend so our menu choices were determined for us but available at local ethnic restaurants. There are the traditional Italian, Chinese, French restaurants and McDonald’s, KFC, Pizza Hut as well.
With more time, you can visit other areas such as Otavolo, Cuenca, Banos, the rain forest, Amazon, Quayaquil, and the beaches.
As for the wedding, it was held in a fifteenth century sanctuary called Quapulo and like most churches, covered with gold. The ceremony took 1 hour and we could throw rice! About 300 people attended the reception at the JW Marriott, the newest hotel (and greatest) in Quito. Although the culture tends to party late, we had to depart at 12 midnight as we had an early morning flight to catch.
We have begun our plans to return. It is such a warm country, both the temperature and the people, that we could easily get our “summer place” there.