We rent a gorgeous apartment in Quito for the next two weeks in the city, situated in a pleasant suburb just up the slopes from the Mariscal New Town in a wide quiet street. From the street there are great views over the city, the apartment is tucked behind a secure wall and gate, loads of character and is attached to the owner, Sandra’s home. She’s always on hand to help us should we need it and even calls us when its raining to see if we’d like her to call a taxi for us. There is a huge lounge and dining room, good kitchen, separate TV area, three bedrooms, huge bathroom and even an ironing room which is a fleeting novelty for me!
Monday 22nd October 2012
Exhausted from our first day of filming and late night in our new career as movie stars (!) we have a lazy late start in our new apartment, eventually wandering out for great cake and coffee in a local bakery. Then an outing to the supermarket to stock up on provisions! You cannot imagine what a treat this is for everyone and we get terribly excited filling our trolley!!! Quito has good supermarkets – all ‘SuperMaxis’. We scare ourselves by spending about $180 but that does include a couple of bottles of good wine which don’t come cheap! We’re back just in time for Fernanda and the driver to pick is up for our second day of filming at Pululahua Crater!
Turns out the rest of the crew have all been up since 3am and filming the rest of the clips. It’s an hours drive up to Pululahua and another 30 minutes or so down the bumpy track into the crater and to the place of the final scene. Everyone is ready for us and Martin and I have to drive along a stretch of road, then stop to give the hikers a lift in our pick up! The best bit is having the producer film us through the windscreen whilst lying across the bonnet of the car (he asks Martin to drive slowly and not brake hard!).
We are spoilt with a lovely dinner at the Pululahua Crater Eco Hostel before we head back to Quito. The hostel has a great restaurant where they’ve fed us delicious food for two days, great views and loads of activities. We look around and see they have accommodation ranging from smart rooms with wood burning stoves to comfy tents with mattresses and pillows which would be a really cool place to stay! And a jacuzzi. We wish we’d arranged to stop over here and get to sleep in an active volcano – have we mentioned it’s apparently one of only two populated active volcanic craters in the world? The kids are fascinated by this fact and keep asking ‘But why would you decide to live inside a volcano?’ In fairness, it hasn’t erupted for around 3000 years, but who knows when it might start again? After all, three of Ecuador’s volcanoes along the Avenue of Volcanoes have erupted in 2012 already.
Back in Quito we say goodbye and get our wages too which is a bonus and will make a change to have an income column on our budget spreadsheet! On the way back we have to wait 15 minutes in a long queue at the side of the dual carriageway as it’s a Monday and if you have a 1 at the start of your number plate you can’t drive in the city in rush hour times on Mondays and Thursday – part of an unusual scheme to try and reduce the congestion in the city!!
Tues 23rd October 2012
After a delicious cooked breakfast, we jump in a cab to the Travellers Inn for our Spanish lessons. You have to keep your wits about you for taxi trips – most have meters but they switch them off at night and charge extra. Official taxis have yellow number plates but white plated taxis ‘seem’ to be the same! They prefer to do the trip on a price and ask at least 2 dollars – which of course most innocent gringos will pay happily. We soon get wise to it and ask for the meter which is about $1.40 between home and the Inn! We have another lunch at Crepes and Waffles – all a bit stressful with arguments about milkshakes and ice creams! Looking forward to eating at home in the evenings! After afternoon lessons we head home via the supermarket and enjoy tortillas for supper!
We are ridiculously thrilled to find certain goodies from home and I do my first round of ironing and we’re excited about having smart looking shirts. After their initial excitement of having separate rooms, the children enjoy building a camp in Ben’s room and they decide they’ll all sleep together in there!!!
Weds 24th October 2012
Our weekday routine means breakfast at home, usually eggs, then heading off to hail a taxi to school. Lessons are 9.30 till 11.30. The children have been having their classes together with Anita, but today, a new teacher called Andrea starts so the kids can split their classes. They take turns to have 1 on 1 lessons with either Andrea or Anita and love it.
Today, I’ve brought bagels, cream cheese, salami and avocado for lunch and use the kitchen at the inn to make up lunch for everyone. The kids have their perfect lunch, watching TV and playing on the computers, whilst Martin and I head up to Crepes and Waffles for coffee!
Afternoon lessons are from 2.30-4.30. Afterwards, we speed home and prepare for our first dinner party in S America! Abby and Lorraine join us for dinner. We’ve been talking about having roast dinner for about two months – unfortunately, oven limitations put paid to this but Melon and Parma Ham starter, Bolognese, Strawberries and Ice Cream goes down well! Zoe makes a ‘Welcome to our House’ sign for the door and we have a lovely evening!
Thursday 25th November 2012
A regular day of Spanish school, bagels for lunch at the Inn, a trip to Juan Valdez coffee shop for Catherine and me, good for practicing how to ask for latte, not to strong, just one shot and ‘do you have a lid for that please’ ! It’s delicious – and so much better than the first time I visited when no quantity of sugar would make the strong coffee drinkable!
We have leftover Bolognese for supper and an early night!
Friday 26th October 2012
Another day of Spanish school – the kids have bagels and play on the computers through the lunch hour. Martin and I head to Crepes and Waffles for a grown up lunch and a heavy duty debate about parenting techniques. How to balance independence and experiential learning with good discipline and why we always seem to be at subtle odds in our approaches! Being together 24×7 forces us to face our differences and challenges head on which is good but sometimes intense!!
At home, we have tasty Carbonara and the kids watch movies!
Saturday 27th October 2012
It’s the weekend! After months of not noticing a difference between weekdays and weekends, we’re back in a normal routine which has a surprisingly good feel to it! So, its a real treat to get a lie in and a lazy late start. Eventually, the girls and I go to explore a local park with huge statues and great views then we all meet in Jardin Shopping Mall for late lunch and a bit of shopping! Zoe eats from the Pizza Hut stand, Lara and I have KFC and Ben and Dad go up market and pop into Noe for sushi! We call into the supermarket and then back home, the kids enjoy watching movies and we have sausage and mash for tea! It could have been a regular Saturday back home except we would never have eaten KFC in Brighton!
Sunday 28th October 2012
In the morning we head off to the cable car station at the foot of Volcan Pinchincha and take the 2.5km ride up on the ”TeleferiQo” to almost 4000m above sea level.
We are amused to note the blatant difference in prices for Ecuadorians and Extranjeros (foreigners!) as we queue for tickets but are then pleasantly surprised to be directed to a ‘fast’ queue and jump on the next cable car that’s pulling around.
There are spectacular views over the city as we ride up and even more so at the top! We really feel the altitude up there and we’re all out of breath just walking a little way up to the 4000m mark. You can hike all the way up to the summit at 4680m but we decide against it! I’m glad that we’re well acclimatized to the Quito altitude -others have returned from this trip with nausea and headaches, so we’re happy to simply be a bit puffed out!
To the kids horror, we skip the fun fair at the foot of the cable car and head back to town to meet Kate, the Quito coordinator for Kaya Volunteering, through whom our Galápagos project has been arranged. She introduces us to another family, just starting their volunteer project in an indigenous village near Quito. They’re from Switzerland and have also been travelling on a family gap year, so its fun to exchange notes. Kate is keen to see how we all get on as we’re her first families to undertake volunteer programs in Ecuador.
We take the trolley bus down to the historical centre and go on walking tour with Kate plus a local guide. Lara manages to score a few shoulder rides and the best bits are seeing a Franciscan procession with all the countries of South America represented in national costumes, with dancing and music , then playing hopscotch in La Ronda, one of the oldest little streets in the centre, going back to 1480.
We also share a traditional empanada there with Kate – full of cheese and covered in sugar, a weird combination, and we celebrate the fact that Zoe’s tooth finally came out as we traipsed around the city! Home late for delicious steak and potato rostis, courtesy of chef Dad and to put the tooth carefully under the pillow!
Monday 29th October 2012
Martin has to spend the morning working, in contact back with the office in Brighton so his teacher teaches the kids. We are worried about Lara’s foot again – the creams prescribed, one of which is a strong steroidal cream (!) seem to have done nothing and the little raised line is slowly progressing across the underside of her foot! We call the pediatrician who saw her and he suggests we see a dermatologist. Luckily Carlos at Travellers Inn knows a dermatologist and by 5pm Lara and I are headed to the hospital to see him! He immediately diagnoses that she has ‘larvae migrans’ (migrating larva) from a parasitic worm – yuk! But common and easily treatable with one single pill! Simple – hopefully! It should be cleared up in less than a week – lets hope so!
Tuesday 30th October 2012
Martin works, I have a free day as my teacher has uni work to catch up on. The kids have the luxury of three teachers and one on one lessons. Lara comes with me to bookshop to choose some kids books to read now and then give to the school or foundation in the Galápagos next week.
At lunchtime, the kids and I jump In a cab to nearby Carolina park. Its reminiscent of Central London parks and houses the Natural History Museum, Botanical Gardens and the Vivarium where we’re headed. It’s a perfect lunchtime outing. We enjoy the live snakes, frogs and iguanas and even get to stroke/hold a huge friendly Boa and pay extra to pose for photos with him! He is a very affectionate Boa and determined to wrap himself around your neck. I find this quite intimidating and wish Lara would hurry up and pose properly for the picture at the tail end while I hold his head end!!
Afterwards we meet Martin at Noe Sushi in the Jardin shopping centre across the road. Very civilised. And Ben has his first FaceTime call with his friend Elana back home on the eve of her 10th birthday.
Back to school in a taxi but driver apparently mishears my directions and takes 20 minutes instead of 5, making us late for classes! I resolve to have Ben give all directions in future as his Spanish pronunciation is so much better than mine!
Then home where we find Martin has shopped, worked some more and cooked for us! What a Domestic God!
Weds 31st October
Its Halloween – the children are worried that it won’t be a proper Halloween so I promise we’ll try to find a pumpkin and make it Halloweeny! You can read all about how we got on my Halloween and De Los Difuntos blog post. Martin and I go to investigate the South American Explorers club, which we join. They are based in Cusco too and Buenos Aires and aside from providing a wealth of information on line and in the clubs and a social centre for ex pats and travellers, they also provides a forwarding address for mail from home! This could be useful!
Thurs 1st November 2012
It’s the children’s last lesson – I join them with their teachers on an outing to the water museum and a nearby old cemetery both of which are fascinating . The Yasu Museo del Agua Museum is an amazing interactive place which teaches us a lot about the element water in the world and its importance, plus affords amazing city views.
The cemetery is busy and fascinating in that the graves are stacked up high like a wall of headstones at the feet of each grave, the coffins are slotted into their spots. There are many people visiting, a day early for El Dia de Los Difuntos painting or putting flowers and cards on the graves of loved one.
Back at the Inn, Ben skypes with his friends Jamie and Lilly, then we grab a quick MacDonalds, buys flowers and chocolates for our teachers and then say fond farewell to them.
Friday 2nd November 2012
Its El Dia de Los Difuntos in Ecuador. The kids just want to watch TV! We do washing, sorting, chilling, blogging. Martin works. Eventually I drag the kids out to San Diego cemetery in the late afternoon, expecting we’ve missed all the action. It’s the oldest cemetery in Quito and absolutely enormous – like a small city within a city! We are not too late at all – there are hundreds of people there, an amazing scene and all the flowers and cards that have been left through the day! Many graves are freshly painted, most are covered in fresh flowers and messages.
There are old family mausoleums with the departed stacked up inside, graves of famous Ecuadorians, including much loved president Valasco Ibarra, who’s grave is covered in flowers. Other huge structures like blocks of flats accommodate hundreds more and people have to climb scaffold ladders to reach them.
Outside, there is music, stalls selling flowers, cards, Guagua de Pan and Colada Morada (read more about this in my Dia de Los Difuntos blog). We buy a Colada Morada to go with the Guagua de Pan that Sandra gave us and that we brought with us.
Saturday 3rd November 2012
We sleep in and kids eventually crawl from bed to their position in front of TV! Not so bothered to go to the fun fair then! Martin and I do packing and admin stuff: banking, essential calls and a long Skype call with Oma to arrange her Xmas trip to join us. Eventually there’s just time to pop out for a last meal and finally trip to the bank for cash – as we are fearful we won’t find an ATM we can use in the Galapagos. Zoe chooses Pizza Hut lasagne whilst the rest of us choose Sushi. Its going to be a super early start for our flight to San Cristobal tomorrow.
If you’ve read this all the way to the bottom or even managed to view all the pics, congratulations and thank you! Please answer my quick poll about the images in collage form?