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Where tall tales, real and imagined, absurd and compelling, are served with a smile
Expatified in Quito, Ecuador
This morning I jumped out of bed like my feet were on fire and pushed open the shutters off of our tiny ‘master’ bedroom – which also serves as our kitchen, dining room, and study – and breathed in the cool, Andean air of Quito. At this altitude, there is a bite to it despite the time of year, and an involuntary shiver wracks my body. Below on the street, quiteños (people from Quito) are bustling about amidst more scattered groupings of non-quiteños – this is the vibrant Mariscal Sucre after all, known affectionately (or disparagingly) as gringolandia (gringo land). Carefully leaning out against the rickety railing that fronts a small deck-type thing, I casually shout out, “Buenos días todos. ¿Qué noticias hay?” (Good morning, everybody! What news is there?). A kid with a cannon for an arm hurls a potato at me (potatoes are big in the Andes) and everybody else stays mum. Apparently there is no news this morning.
After a breakfast of llapingachos (potato and cheese pancakes) and some kind of pattie stuffed with a spicy, minced meat (I don’t know what it was, but it was good), me and the missus are off on an Ecuadorian adventure. We jump on the MetrobusQ and head south through the mountains, watching the bold colors of this South American wonderland flash past. Our destination: Baños, a touristy town (hey, we’re new here) with endless opportunities for fun. First we’re going to have a mountain race on rented ATVs (Amber will win because she races dirty), then we’ll hit the thermal baths for a steam before grabbing some local, tooth-breaking taffy and setting up shop with a cocktail or two in full view of the surrounding volcanoes, hoping to see some lava-type activity (but more hopeful that we don’t). After that, nightlife, Ecuador style (I’d tell you what this means but I’m still sorting it out).
Location: North-central Ecuador, nestled in an Andean valley at about 10,000 feet making it the second highest capital in the world (not to be mistaken with the second highest university in the world, CU, which I live next to in Boulder); sits along the flanks of the active Pinchincha volcano and nearly straddles the equator, which is a different word than Ecuador, including the spelling (as demonstrated here) though ecuador is Spanish for equator, so there you go.
When to go: There is the rainy season and the the dry season – if you prefer rain, go in the rainy season (weirdo); bottom line, a quirky combo of equator proximity and altitude makes for a basically year-round springtime (which equals year-round cleaning, I guess).
Attractions: The Historic Centre which was the first (along with Krakow, Poland) to be declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The Metropolitan Cathedral. The Virgin of El Panecillo. Edgardo’s jerky stand on the corner (see below). The Galapagos Islands where Darwin’s ghost might tell you to naturally select yourself off of his islands from the bow of the HMS Beagle
Famous Ecuadorians: Alejandro Aguirre, a famous poet and author; the painter Oswaldo Guayasamin; and – I kid you not – Michael Craig Judge, creator of Beavis and Butthead, Office Space, and other seminal works of cultural genius, born in Guayaquil, Ecuador, in 1962.
Cuisine: Corn – or maiz – and lots of it. Corn dumplings, toasted corn, corn pancakes, grilled corn, corn po-boys, corn scampi – those last two don’t exist (I was channeling Bubba from Forrest Gump). 4,000 varieties of potatoes; seafood; mucho pork, and even indigenous beef jerky (charqui). This is not your typical Sip & Go jerky. This is the real deal considering that it is claimed that beef jerky was invented in the region. Get it and pay homage to the unknown, pioneering jerky visionary. For cocktails: canelazo, hot water with rum, cinnamon, some sugar, and lemon or lime. Great way to take the chill off – even first thing in the morning.
Famous resident authors: Other than Aguirre (who is dead and therefore doesn’t count), Jeff Moore, an ornery rascal the locals have taken to calling bribón irascible (ornery rascal).
Ecuadorian Proverb: El diablo más sabio más por motivo de su edad que por motivo de ser al diablo. This proverb roughly translates into, the devil is wiser more on account of his age than on account of being the devil and has opened my mind’s eye like a Jim Morrison peyote trip.