Trip Start Dec 31, 2011
Trip End Jan 17, 2012

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Where I stayed
Mercure Alameda Hotel Quito

Flag of Ecuador  ,
Saturday, January 14, 2012

We arrived in Quito in the late afternoon on the 14th and returned to the Mercure Alameda Hotel. We had some time to wander at a crafts market nearby our hotel. Found that they had excellent prices and even talked themselves down in price! After doing a little shopping we went to dinner with a local family hosted at their house. We spent some time speaking with the mom (Maria) and her teenage daughters (Alex and Daisy). We had some good food - more quinoa soup, chicken, potato salad and a yummy desert. We also had an oatmeal fruit drink that was quite good. It was very interesting to spend time with a local family and hear their perspective on life in Ecuador.

On Sun Jan 15th we had our city tour of Quito. First stop was the equator which is approximately 9 miles north of Quito. They have a very nice museum set up and have experiments set up to demonstrate how they determined that this was the true equator (the French previously had marked the equator in the wrong spot). We got to see how water empties out of a sink on the equator (it just pours straight out the hole), three ft south of the equator ( the water spins clockwise) and just a few ft north of the equator (the water spins counter clockwise). We also got to balance an egg (and a gnome) on a nail and try to walk a straight line on the equator (with eyes closed - difficult!). They also had information on how the people of the amazon created the famous shrunken human heads and to see and touch one (weird!). From the true equator we went to the monument where the French had previously thought the equator to be. They have a giant monument set up there and statutes of all the French researchers. Kinda funny considering they were wrong! While we were taking a picture at the false equator the gnomes had an unfortunate accident - they fell off the sign and 2 broke their legs :(. Damn false equator!! After the visit to the equator we had lunch in old town Quito in the square. It was fun to watch all the people and families out on Sunday. They close down all the streets around the main square and have all sorts of entertainers around. After lunch we walked around the old town and got to peek in the presidential palace and we went into one of the most ornate churches we have ever seen. Lots of wood carvings and everything covered in gold leaf. After the walking tour we returned to the hotel and then headed out to a local park that was holding a Sunday market. Again they had great prices on all their goods and it was also fun to see all the families and children out and about. That evening was our farewell dinner held at a local museum. We had a private tour of the exhibits and then had dinner set up on one of the floors of the museum next to a shrunken head and other artifacts from the amazon. Very unique setting for dinner. It is sad that our trip is coming to an end, we have met lots of nice and interesting people.

Monday Jan 16th- our last day in South America:(. Today half of the group departed in the morning but our flight out wasn't until 7:30pm so we had some time on our own to explore. We took a couple of cabs (4 dollars only!) up to a cable car that went up to Pichincha volcano. The cable car rose up several thousand ft. (Quito is at 9200 ft and the top of the cable car is at about 13,000 elevation. We wandered around up top for a while and the clouds parted enough for us to have a good view of Quito from above. After the cable car 10 of us piled into a minibus cab and went to to the botanical gardens which was beautiful. Returned to the hotel and Sara and Joli decides to take one last trip to the crafts market for those last minute goodies. While there it started to pour cats and dogs. We tried to wait it out but with only 10 minutes left before the departure time for the airport we and to run for it. A soaking did occur! Luckily we were able to change before heading to the airport and our transfer bus was late. It was also rush hour in Quito and we only got to the airport 1 hr before our scheduled flight. Thank goodness it wasn't crowded and security is much easier than in the US. Linda still had time to shop before boarding the flight! The only mishap was that Sid misplaced his moneybelt somewhere along the way. That totally sucked! Arrived in Miami around midnight. Linda, Sid, Frima and Bob left for Buffalo in the morning and Sara and Joli are typing this blog right now waiting for the shuttle to the airport to return to Phoenix :(. We all had a great time and sorry it is over (although glad to be able to use the water again and flush toilet paper down the toilet).
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