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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Ecuador, Round 2

The past week is a total blur…
Living life, Ecuadorian style, takes stamina. At least the way I was living it!
This was Ecuador, Round 2.

From the plane, I was whisked to Sake, a restaurant ala Bond Street that Jose Luis owns. A dozen rolls, sakes, and catching-up stories later, we rest up for a long day of sightseeing. Teleferico, Statue de Libertidad, Historic Quito, churches, and a quick manicure, one day has gone, and we’re on a plane bound to Cuenca, the colonial city of Ecuador. Me, I LOVE colonial cities. Seemingly, there are four in the Americas that bear resemblance to each other. After this trip, I’ll have hit all four: Cusco (Peru), Antigua (Guatemala), Cuenca (Ecuador), and Cartagena (Colombia). The first I visited was Cusco, a city I wound up helplessly, but happily, stuck in for over a week. Then, when I visited Antigua, I was eerily reminded of Cusco. The buildings in all of these cities are brightly colored, with various iron balconies, stone pillars, and tile work dotting the facades; fabulous gardens lie within each building and cobblestone streets connect one adorable alleyway to the next. They blend both old and new civilizations: ruins of churches stand next to brand-spankin-new white-washed government offices stand next to crumbling poorhouses stand next to restored private villas. Each Plaza Mayor is reminiscent, in both size and feel, to the one before it. So, Antigua reminded me of Cusco, Cuenca now reminded me of Antigua. (I’m told Cartagena is the best of the them all, I can’t wait!). So now, here in Cuenca, I am enamored once again.

Dashing from the charming boutique hotel to dinner with fantastic friends, who are of course, cousins of other friends (everyone is related here in Ecuador), we are served wedding-worthy platters of skewers, cheeses, sushi rolls, cured meats, hummus/pita combinations, olives, and guac/chips. 1-2, 4-5, 9-10 bottles of Veuve are brought out, popped, poured, and overturned back into their waiting chillers. Fruit platters replace the apps, Perrier-Jouet replaces the Veuve (that we’ve gone through a whole bar of….), tipsy replaces sober. The next day brings more long, lingering meals with friends (this time, the brother of another family). 2 PM-4-course lunches become 5 PM-snacks-and-cocktails; same company, easy conversation. Everyone owns magazines; for younger, for older, for the rich, for the traveled, for the gay, the straight, the conservative, the liberal. By the time I left Cuenca, I met all of my Galapagos friend Antonio’s extended family (cousin JD, brother Andres, girlfriend of other brother Yona, Yona’s brother and friend who works at the magazine, blah blah blah….). I have a hit-list of to-dos (restaurants, bars, hotel spas) for the rest of my South American itinerary and about ten new emails to add to the list of people to play with (en Espanol, of course…)

In Cuenca, we walked the town, photo-op here, Ecuadorian sweet there. Then, caught an evening plane to Guayaquil. Next apartment, next unpack, next waiting chauffeured car to whisk us to the next destination. China’s (Galapagos dive partner) birthday! First to have a drink with Roberto and Antonio (kiss, kiss, I love your cousin, brother, future sister-in-law), then onto the Mediterranean tapas place to meet apprehensively-turning-30-year old China and Priscilla, my Miami girl who lives in Ecuador. The girls! I was in serious need of some girl talk about all the faces and places I’ve seen. Drinks, apps, MORE photo-shoots. Back for sleep before the World Cup game (Ecuador-Costa Rica) in the AM. 7 AM wake-up, very early, grrr…. Have you been able to tell, I have YET to sleep? Thursday brings an amazing win for the underdog, Ecuador moves to the next round. The whole country declares holiday, wearing their yellow Ecuador T-shirts, and waving their flags, celebrating their country, the win, in the streets, restaurants, bars, residences, and offices. I feel lucky to be here, to witness. World Cup, something us Americans are JUST becoming hip to, is infectious. Ecuador proves that to me. This isn’t a Super Bowl, this isn’t the World Series, or the U.S. Open, this IS World Cup - completely different animal. Amazing…. Parties all day, parties all night. More drinks, more friends, more festivities. And then, alas….it’s over. And fast as it came, as quick as it passed, it’s over. A week in Ecuador, a week of new friends who feel like old friends, a week of fun. I can DEFINITELY get used to this…

So, now the only think that’s got me riled is:
Shit, will Panama compare?


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