Once we decided to winter over in Ecuador to work on our dental initiative and miss winter in Kentucky, we started looking for a place to live. We enlisted the help of our dear friend Joe Molinaro, who had spent several months in Quito teaching ceramics and collecting material for a book he would publish. He contacted our mutual friend Victoria Carrasco, an artist who had taught a year at Morehead State University on a Fulbright Scholarship.
Vickie found us an apartment very near her own.(Her former apartment, just below us and now occupied by Vickie’s lovely niece Romina, her husband Rodgrigo and their adorable 1-year-old daughter, Javiera, is the same apartment which was hit and destroyed by an airplane, piloted by a teenage trainee, only a couple of years ago; but don’t tell our daughter and son, Erin and Ian; they might worry about us. Just kidding; they’ll find out soon enough. What the heck; we figure lightning doesn’t strike in the same place twice. Even so, every time a plane goes over loooow, which is about every 15 minutes, we always say “And don’t hit Vickie’s house”). This is also the place where Joe had lived when he was in the city. It is situated about 20 minutes from Quito central and overlooks the Guapalo Church and the valley in the distance. The thing we love most about our apartment is that when we retun from our travels, we feel like we’re coming home. It doesn’t get any better than that.
Guapalo is located on the same route that Francisco de Orellana followed on his trip to discover the Amazon River. It is a hillside neighborhood with narrow cobblestone streets, lined with houses, coffee shops and cafes. Here you find the Iglesia de Guapalo, built between 1644-1693 on the site of an even older convent. The church has a great collection of colonial art, including crucifixes and a pulpit carved by Juan Bautista Menacho, an indigenous sculptor of the 18th century. The main altar, painted by Miguel de Santiago, and the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe by Diego de Robles are original masterpieces.
There is a mountain behind Guapalo which is covered with pine trees. It is a protected area providing a great green backdrop for this magnificent hilltown. Our apartment is called Apartamentos Panoramico and is located on a dead end street, Calle San Ignacio. Our landlord, Ramone, is a great guy who always has a smile on his face and cleans our apartment every day. We have used the apartment as home base as we traveled with our project, never worrying about security, knowing on our return Ramone would be right there, smiling and bringing us up to date on who might have called to invite us to dinner.
In the late afternoon the clouds roll in and the top of the distant mountain disappear and gradually the entire village disappears, Brigadoon-like. When this happens, the village will not be visible again until the next morning, when the sun blasts through the clouds and that lovely view once again comes into sight.
When we leave in the morning to head to town, we climb 82 steps to get to the main drag. This gives us our cardio workout because not only is it straight up, but at an altitude of 10,000 ft. Most days we like to walk to the center of town, rather than take taxis. This way we have really learned our way around town. When we get into the heart of town, we find our favorite laundry and the cabinas, where we can call the U.S. for 6 cents a minute and use the internet for 60 cents per hour. Also in the area is Libri Mundi (bookstore) and for great shopping opportunities John Ortman’s La Bodega, and Ruthi’s favorite store in Quito, Galeria Latina, for Alpaca sweaters from Bolivia. But best of all is our favorite, Cafe Este´, the really cool cafe/bar where the music is great and eclectic, the art on the walls changes every few weeks, and the breakfast, desayuno, comes complete with fresh-squeezed juice, eggs, toast, real butter, preserves made from fresh fruit, an entire bowl of fresh fruit, and cafe con leche and costs a whopping $3.50! We always brag on the cook so she takes special care of us. At lunch, almuerzo, on days when the soup or entree contains meat (we’re seafood-eating vegetarians), she prepares a separate veggie soup and then gives us a choice of fish or shrimp. The whole thing is topped off with fresh juice, her homemade pastry and cafe con leche. (Oh, yeah; we’re losing weight down here; no problem). This gal knows her way around fresh herbs and spices and could go toe-to-toe with great chefs in Paris and New York. Ruthi and I want to stow her away in our luggage come March 10. She will be sadly missed, as will be the bartender who has kept us in the best coffee (outside our own apartment) and juices in Ecuador.
Note–We haven’t written about our adventures in Iguazu Falls and Buenos Aires yet-that will come in a later blog. But, in late February, upon our return from Argentina, we discovered that the rainy season had ended in Ecuador and along with the really warm, sunny days, we also were getting beautiful sunrises out our picture windows. Ahhhhhh, Ecuador.
Ruthi and Rankin