We’re having a blast in Disney World right now, so I’m not going to take much time on this post. Mostly, I’ll just comment on some of the highlights of our time in Quito, and the nearby town (ie. 2 hour bus ride) of Mindo, where we spent a night.
The town of Quito was larger than we expected, but is a beautiful city surrounded by mountains on all sides, and colorful buildings in the valley. It gets pretty hot in the day, and quite cold at night, so we always had to be prepared for both. We stayed in the historic center, which had some buildings with interesting architecture, including a beautiful cathedral we stopped at to listen to a sermon (even though Emily was a bit frightened by the echo).
One day we went to the largest park in Quito, Parque Carolina, which also had botanical gardens and a natural science museum. We very much enjoyed both, and also took a ride on some paddle boats around a little lake. The playgrounds were a hit as well, even though we were all pretty tired from walking.
We stayed at Hotel San Francisco de Quito, which included a simple breakfast. But a couple days, we got up too late to enjoy it, so had to find food elsewhere. At one nearby restaurant, we had an interesting experience which it turns out is fairly common in this part of the world. After we ordered our food, the workers went out to buy the ingredients to make it. And when I paid for our $11 breakfast with a $20, I got a $5 bill back, and the rest in small change, mostly nickels. In many other places we went, they couldn’t even break a $20. I guess you’ve got to have change in Ecuador.
One of the most popular tourist sites near Quito is Mitad del Mundo, which is a monument and park that straddles the equator line. We enjoyed the museums there, where we learned about the history and indigenous peoples of Ecuador, saw and heard some traditional music and dances, and played more on the playgrounds.
After a few days in the city, though, we were ready to get out to somewhere warmer and greener. I even saw a fight one day outside our hotel, where several people were beating someone up. I was surprised that the police, over 100 feet away, were slowly walking toward the scene, almost apathetic to the situation. So we decided to take a 2 hour bus ride to the small town of Mindo. And we’re so glad we did! It’s such a peaceful town with perfect weather. We stayed in a little Bed & Breakfast called Cascafesu, run by a really sweet couple.
Our first day in Mindo, we went zip lining for less than 1/3 the price you’d pay in Costa Rica. And that afternoon, we went on a really interesting tour of a chocolate farm. We got to see the entire process of how chocolate is made, including opening the cocao fruit, fermenting it, drying it, roasting it, crushing it, removing the shells, pressing it into a liquid, adding sugar, and some of the other things they do for different kinds of chocolates. Our tour guide, Christine, was really good with the girls, and we all learned a lot. We especially enjoyed all the chocolate samples. The brownies at the end were particularly delicious!
And in the evening we went to a “frog concert” where we got to hear the songs of many different types of frogs and toads, and even an owl. We went on a little night walk to see them, along with some interesting bugs, and a natural glowing stick. It was a fun night. The next day, we slept in, then went to a butterfly house, which was also surrounded by some beautiful hummingbirds, and took the bus back to Quito. We left for Florida the next day through Bogota, and have been enjoying Disney World, except for the shock of high prices. I’ll be writing more experiences there in my next post. Until then, enjoy the pictures and videos below.