Turns out that yesterday, Sunday May 3, was Mother’s Day in Ecuador. Consequently, everything was closed and I wasn’t able to find a decent meal upon arrival. Luckily I brought a peanut butter granola bar so I didn’t go to sleep with an empty stomach but I woke up with a big appetite.
The place where I’m staying, Hostal Guayanga, is fairly rough around the edges but the location is perfect, the price is right and the breakfast this morning was excellent. I was served two fried eggs with two large pieces of bacon, a piece of cheese and a small empanada (sort of a sandwich/bread roll). To drink I was given a large glass of fruit juice. I think I tasted pineapple and mango but I’m not sure what else was included – fresh and delicioso! And, of course, coffee. It was served instant style but they provided fresh milk instead of powdered. I will need to find a good place for a more robust morning caffeine experience.
Price tag for 1 night’s stay is $13.50, including breakfast. They also have free WiFi, a variety of simple conveniences and they’re very friendly. I have a private room but I share a bathroom. It’s fine for me but my wife would probably be appalled. My kids would be in tears after a steady diet of Marriott Courtyards and Hampton Inns. Due to my late arrival I lost my private room with private bathroom. I think it’s an appropriately punitive price for missing my flight in Houston.
Everything appears to be very inexpensive. As I walked around the “Old Town” near La Plaza Grande I noticed most restaurants serving “almuerzo” (lunch, and the main meal of the day) charging a whopping $2. For this big sticker price you get a pretty solid helping of hearty soup, a sandwich, a side or two and a drink (tea or soft drink I assume, probably not a martini). There was a guy on the street selling what looked like pretty yummy pastries of some sort for $0.30 each.
I must say, it’s really nice that the official currency in Ecuador is the US Dollar. It’s so much easier. For example I stopped for an espresso at a small cafe and they gave me the wrong change, probably figuring I was just another dumb gringo who wouldn’t notice. They were partially right; I may be a dumb gringo but I can count. Sacajawea dollar coins appear the be the most likely form of change. Paper money seems to be far less common.
I feel like a giant walking around the city. Most people appear to be about a foot smaller than me. I don’t really like standing out quite so much. Being a gringo is enough. I didn’t walk terribly far this afternoon. My phone says I covered only 5500 steps but I was ready for a rest due in part to altitude (Quito is @ ~9200 ft) and San Francisco like topography (steep hills in every direction). I suppose my advanced age and relative lack of physical fitness plays a role too but I prefer not to dwell on these details.
Two way traffic is not possible on many streets in this part of the city. Most sidewalks are about 2-3 feet wide. Narrower in some spots. There’s probably some sort of protocol I’m violating when I try to decide whether to step down to the street level or hug the wall when someone needs to pass the other direction.
Anyway, Day 1 was delightful. I love the hustle and bustle. I love the narrow streets and colorful buildings in Old Town. I love catching unexpected views of the emerald hillsides. I could watch locals milling about La Plaza Grande all day long. And, I might do just that tomorrow. Well, maybe not all day.
Okay, time to do some Spanish homework. I have about 50 verbs I’m supposed to learn for tomorrow.