This blog post picks up where my last one left off…
DAY 3: This was the day of the engagement party and since it was an outside venue, based on the previous two days’ weather, we were obviously concerned it would be a wet, cold, muddy mess. But thankfully the light drizzle ended about mid-morning, and by the time of the party (1:30 p.m.), the sun was out and everything was dry and pleasant. I spent the morning resting, catching up on emails and enjoying some leisure time at my bed & breakfast. My taxi driver picked me up and took me the short distance to the home where the party was being held. Maria had been telling me about all the planning and work that had gone into it, so I knew it would be quite the event.
Richie and Camille actually have a rather unique love story – it began in second grade! Their families were both living in Minnesota, and Richie had a huge crush on a little blond girl in his class. Richie’s family knew all about Camille because in his words, “All my memories of my second grade experience were related to my interactions with her.” In contrast, Camille barely took notice of Richie. When he was in fourth grade, Richie’s family moved to Georgia and that was the end of prospects for the romance, or so everyone thought. But in tenth grade, Richie discovered Facebook and found Camille on it. He messaged her and asked if she remembered him from second grade. She had absolutely no recollection of him and in her words, wondered if he was one of those “creepy internet guys her grandmother had warned her about.” But Richie told her to check her yearbook and was able to convince Camille he really was her classmate. He also told her about a note he’d written to her back then, telling her he liked her. One thing led to another and their chatting turned into a romance. They went through the rest of high school and college living in their respective states and visiting occasionally. It was a long distance relationship for 5.5 years! Finally, Camille entered graduate school in Alabama and they were within driving distance of each other (2.5 hours). Then Richie graduated and moved to Alabama and they were together in the same town for the first time, but it was short lived – he was offered a job back in Minnesota! Camille finally graduated with her masters degree and immediately returned to Minnesota. So after 8 long years of mostly long distance dating, they are finally engaged and planning a life together. Oh yes, and that note Richie told Camille he wrote to her? Some time later her mother found it in a scrapbook of her school papers!
After Maria and Ivan welcomed the guests, Richie told their story for the crowd of around 200 – in Spanish. All the while, we were served lots of appetizers and then a huge lunch of typical Ecuadorian fare. As lunch was being served, Richie, who is quite the singer, regaled us with some Frank Sinatra tunes. Below is a short video of one of them:
After lunch, a duet of singers took the floor and sang a variety of songs, including what was obviously Latin American oldies. As I’ve said before, Latin Americans love to dance! Here is a clip of the happy dance crowd:
Maria’s aunt was “leaving early” and graciously offered to drive me back to my bed & breakfast. At that point I’d been at the party 4.5 hours, but when I left it was still going strong!
DAY 4: There had been some discussion of trying to go back and visit Cotacochi and Cuicocha this day, but in the end the decision was made to tour Quito. Richie and Camille, along with the other cousins, were all flying home late that night, so it seemed best not to attempt the 5 hour round trip drive again. After a leisurely breakfast time, they picked me up and I checked out of Casa Magnolia. I had booked another Airbnb more in the heart of Quito for my last few nights on my own.
We started our tour at TelefériQo, which is a cable gondola ride up Pichincha volcano. Here you go from over 10,000 feet to nearly 13,500 feet in about 20 minutes. We were told to drink lots of water and eat sugar to combat the possibility of altitude issues. It is something to take seriously – a girl from another group fainted while we were waiting in line to board the ride! I hate it when I’m prescribed to eat sugar. 😉
Maria stayed behind with her aunt and cousin, because she’d been up there before. Ivan, Richie, Camille, Nick and I rode up together, and Maria shot this video of our ascent:
Once up top, it was much cooler and there was a definite change in the flora and fauna. The view of Quito was spectacular:
While up there, we ran into a man playing indigenous music. I was thrilled to see him, because some time ago I had heard him, along with another man, playing at the cruise ship tents in Manta. I almost bought one of their CDs then, but didn’t, and I’d regretted it ever since. The man had several instruments for sale, and Ivan ended up buying the man’s most prized one. He told us the story about how the instrument was recently made from a long ago cut and dried piece of bamboo, and then played one final tune on it for us, before relinquishing it (for a sizable amount of cash) to Ivan:
Afterwards, we headed to the historic area of Quito. Here we visited Plaza Grande, which is the main park/square at the heart of the city. A busy area any day of the week, but even more so on Sunday, the Presidential Palace sits on one side of the square. I marveled at the fact that one could walk or drive on the street literally right in front of it – a far cry from the White House!
Not far off the square, we visited La Compañia de Jesus. This church was begun in 1605 and took 160 years to complete. Easily the most ornate church in Ecuador, the entire inside is covered in gold leaf! Photos were not allowed inside, but I did get a picture of one of the entrance doors with a peek (see Wikipedia link for inside photos).
From there, we headed for a lovely lunch spot right off the square, where we indulged in various traditional Ecuadorian foods. I enjoyed “Locro de Papa,” which is a cheesy potato soup with onions, garlic and cilantro and served with sliced avocado. This dish is popular in the Andes area, but not the coastal area where I live. I loved it!
Following lunch, we made our way up to another lookout spot called El Panecillo. Here, there is a statue of “La Virgen de Quito,” which is actually based on Revelation 12:1-6 and 12:13-16. She wears a crown of twelve stars, has wings and is standing on a chained dragon atop of the world. A placard reads, “The body of the Virgin Mary over the devil and the world as a sign of good conquering evil.” You can climb up inside the statue, where there is a museum showing pictures of its construction, as well as some miniature replicas of many of the churches in the city.
Our biggest surprise there was finding the second of the indigenous musician duo. It turns out that this man was the son of the other one and the maker of the instrument Ivan bought! Here is a picture of him instructing Ivan on how to play his new instrument.
After all of this touring, we stopped off to see Ivan’s brother and enjoy a beverage at the coffee shop he owns. Then they dropped me off at my new Airbnb, and we all bid each other goodbye until their next visit to Ecuador.
Stay tuned for Part 3, and the rest of my exploration of Quito, including “The Middle of the World”…