I'll start with my most recent trip to South America, specifically Ecuador and Peru. This trip was one of the most memorable for many reasons:
- We shared the adventure with my family (2 sisters, their husbands and our parents.) and the 8 of us had the most incredible time!
- I was able to re-discover my parents through a different optic, learn more about their past and how this has shaped their future.
- Reconnect with extended family I had not seen for many, many years and consequently learn more about my heritage and my cultural infuences.
- Enjoy an Amazing Race of a trip at a very affordable price.
- Capture priceless memories that will live in on in both my mind and in digital pixels, the latter of which I can gladly share with you all;)
We set off for our Equatorial destination with a mix of excitement, anticipation and anxiety that is prevalent amongst world travelers. It's a thrilling combination of delight and slight trepidation, kind of like when you’re slowly climbing the first monumental hill of a roller coaster, right before the car creeps its way over the steepest point and you drop into oblivion. That's how I feel right before I take off to an unknown destination. It doesn't matter how many fodors or frommers travel books you read, how many on-line resources you research about the country and culture you aim to visit, literary text and pictures are limited in their ability to capture the true essence of a new world. No, it takes tangible components to make it happen. You must breathe, smell, taste, and visibly observe a place to capture its soul. You have to "touch" it.
And that is what we set out to do...
Touch the birth place of my parents and grandparents, the culture and country that influenced their first formative years and impacted the people they are today. Made it even more special that said parents were on this amazing adventure along with the three of us and our husbands. This trip went beyond a leisure vacation; it transcended geographic boundaries and ventured into our emotions and thoughts. Made us reflect on our past and most of all our future.
We arrive at Guayaquil, settle into my grandmother's vacation apartment, shower, eat breakfast and then make our way to the famous Malecon 2000. A beautiful stretch of restaurants, lounges, parks, museums, concert halls and pedestrian walks at the base of the great Rio Guayas for all to see and admire. The project was a big undertaking for Guayaquil and has since been very successful attracting locals and tourist alike. First a little history on the city name:"Guayaquil is known as the "Pacific Pearl’. It is the main port of Ecuador, thus, it is of great economic importance to the country. Legend tells that the city was named after an Indigenous Chief, "Guayas", and his wife, "Quil". Both of them chose to die before surrendering themselves to the Spaniards." Interesting right? While we strolled along the scenic boardwalk we realized it was time to saciate the palette and around us lunchtime was being served in full swing.
So we prepare ourselves for our first sit-down Ecuadorian meal. Let's start off with a fresh batch of ceviche. How about a Churrasco (steak, eggs, rice and beans)? Craving for a Guatita instead? Or maybe a breaded Ostrich (yes you read right, ostrich as in the bird) steak, mashed potatoes and white rice will do? Whatever your choice, the first meal was delicious. I will candidly say however, that although it was one of our most "expensive" (for 8 of us, included seafood appetizers, exotic entrees, 2 pitchers of sangrias, cocktails, beers, and cappuccinos we paid under $50.not bad), it was not the most memorable of our meals. (The most memorable was far less expensive and farther South. Details to come soon;)
As you can imagine after that meal we had some serious calorie burning to do. No problemo, we set out to walk from one end of the malecon to the tip-top of Santa Ana Hill to reach the colorful and colonial Barrio Las Penas. The walk was mostly uphill and by the time we reached the scenic lighthouse we had burned a considerable amount of that arroz con menestra.;)
The Barrio de las Penas is GORGEOUS. A little excerpt from my travel books revealed the following piece of history: "The Barrio las Peñas located at the foot of the Santa Ana hill is an area of the city with a coastal colonial architecture. It was destroyed and reconstructed several times as a consequence of fires, in particular the great fire of 1896. It has only one street called Numa Pompilio LLona in honor of a famous Ecuadorian man of letters. This street starts at the Planchada which was the place from which the city was defended and ends at the old installations of the Brewery, one of the Guayaquil's first industries."
The character of the colonial architecture of the homes are further emphasized by their delicious bold and bright exteriors. Each home has a majestic view of the city and the great river Guayas and the combination makes for an incredibly charming and quintessential neighborhood. The locals have made it even more attractive by establishing tons of little danceable lounges (everything from Salsa to Bachata to Spanish Rock) all from within walking distance to each other, as well as plethora of International dining options should you wish to stay all day and night. We found the intense uphill climb most rewarding once we were able to appreciate the majestic views at the top.
We finally arrive in Salinas and realize why they call it "Little Miami." Beautiful beach town with a chic, modern facade. We eagerly make our way to what will be our home there during our stay. My mother's aunt owns a beach-front vacation apartment within walking distance of the beach, nice set up if I do say so myself.
So after settling into our respective rooms, and changing into our beach gear, we head out for some much coveted fresh seafood... and boy did we score! Ladies and Gents I introduce the BEST place in the world for THE MOST AMAZING CEVICHE, a place rightly called:
The ceviche here is by far the most outstanding we have ever had, ever. Such fresh, scrumptious deliciousness it's hard to describe with words. Just imagine the most delectably-divine-melt-in-your-mouth-lemony-shrimp you've ever had and then multiply it by 10! I think my sister's expression says it all:
After having without a doubt one of the most memorable meals ever, we decide it's high time for a refreshing dip in the ocean.
We end up thoroughly enjoying our stay at the beach. The parents lounged, we girls sipped on carpirinhas (that rival those I had in Rio) whileperusing the hand-made jewelry conveniently brought to our side; and the guys went jet-skiing. Fun, fun times!
Afterwards we decide to explore Salinas at night with dinner and dancing, this city also mimics Miami with a hapenning night-life.
After discovering a restaurant called Quisqueya La Bella and deciding it wouldn't hurt to try just how good these Ecuadorians make Dominican food, we were pleasantly surprised to learn the menus offered a nice variety of both Ecua and Dom food. We opted for the former and ordered some great dishes, dishes that unfortunately later gave us a brief bout of "Atahualpa's revenge", but that was bound to happen. (I apologize in advance for the TMI;)
We wake up the next morning eager to have one more farewell ceviche before we head back to prepare for our evening flight to Lima, Peru. Our mode of transportation this time is a fancy smanshy high-speed deluxe bus (didn't know those existed did you? the high-speed part comes from the driver pushing the pedal to the medal and getting you to your destination in half the time while you clutch to your seat and hold on for dear life:) Although they drive like they are piloting a jet and not a passenger bus I will say that for $4.50 a person the ride was extremely comfortable with cushy seats, extremely cool AC and even an action movie to boot. Check out what the girls did while the men were kept entertained by the screen, must of been an adventure flick by the look on their faces:)
Next post will be all about Lima, Cusco, Sacred Valley and Machu Pichu, Peru. Stay tuned.