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Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Our Departure from Quito

Aloha Everyone,

Smooth process in departing from Quito. Miami International terminal is very confusing. With ongoing renovations, one needs to follow a Google map to navigate a labyrinth. Thank goodness for Maira who assisted us by getting us through the maze with J.J. in a wheelchair. She took charge of getting us in the correct TSA pre approved line for Global Entry card holders, going through custom and immigration and rechecking our bags to Los Angeles.

Due to stormy weather conditions in Miami, our flight departure was delayed by over 3 hours. It was a full flight. Fortunately, J.J. and I were able to recline our seats into a flatbed and get a few hours of sleep.

Aloha -- Cathi

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Our Final Week of Dining-in & Out in Quito

Aloha Everyone,

When you figure 2 meals a day times 8 days, I ended up with a large selections to choose from.

Here are 10 that made the cut including a couple of breakfasts and wonderful helados (ice cream) we enjoyed this afternoon. The white gelato is made of guyabano (sour sap) and it has become my favorite tropical juice as well.

Aloha -- Cathi

Monday, June 28, 2021

Return to Centro Historico & Lunch at Hasta la Vuelta, Señor Restaurant

Aloha Everyone,

We love the Centro Historico neighborhood. Though far different than the Centro Historico in Cuenca, the pace of life here in Quito seemed mellowed by comparison. Surrounded by magnificent buildings enveloping the Parque Grande, where the Presidential Palace stands, we felt the impact of Ecuadorian history.

The restaurant we chose, “Hasta la Vuelta” is located on the third floor of the Palacio Arzobispal building. Third floor in many countries including Ecuador is really the 4th floor in America. I asked for an elevator but a waiter who was running up the stairs balancing colorful tropical juice drinks on trays in his both hands replied “No. but the view up there is worth the climb.”

We would have to say the view from down below was superior but it was quieter as we didn’t get tourists walking around taking photos. Food was interesting :-)

Another highlight of the day was a visit by Dr. Espinosa. The main purpose was to give us COVID-19 test. But J.J. and I were delighted to have a chance to meet his wife, Dra. (Doctora) Espinosa.

Aloha -- Cathi

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Life Threatening Heat Wave in the Pacific Northwest

Aloha Everyone,

Oregonians are not accustomed to the scorching summer heatwaves that is making their lives unbearable. In order to combat 114 degrees historically high temperatures, the city has opened “cooling centers” offering its citizens to come and stay in the community gymnasium or convention centers.

A friend, whose daughter lives in Portland mentioned that her daughter and her husband decided to go up to the mountains to escape from the heat.

With the effects of global warming, one wonders if some parts of the world, including sections of the United States, would become unlivable.

This is no longer someone else’s problems. Each one of us must do our share to reduce gas emissions and preserve natural resources.

Aloha -- Cathi

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Debates About Masks

Aloha Everyone,

Life is uncomplicated when everyone is mandated to wear masks. For the past ten weeks, J.J. and I have been using a minimum for one new surgical mask per person per day. That equals 140 masks.  Additionally, I use a cotton cloth mask over it. The cotton mask is reusable and it can be hand washed and dried in the sun.

In Ecuador, surgical masks and colorful embroidered masks are sold everywhere. One can also purchase, “Made in Ecuador” masks from drug stores and supermarkets. Roaming vendors likewise sell masks.

As the two of us prepare for our return to the USA, there are lots of confusion and conflicting information for the traveling public. We don’t know when or where masks are still required. 

By the time we are safely back in LA on the 30th of June, J.J. and I would be able to share our personal experiences regarding masks.

Aloha -- Cathi

Friday, June 25, 2021

Lunch with Dr. Espinosa at Vista Hermosa Restaurant

Aloha Everyone,

J.J. and I invited Dr. Espinosa for lunch so that we could thank him personally for the extraordinary medical care he has extended to the two of us.

The restaurant he chose is located in the Centro Historico with fabulous views from the 5th floor dining area and its terraced roof top. Fittingly called “Vista Hermosa” (Beautiful View) it has been operating since 2012. More than the gastronomic menu, the three of us spent our time talking about our families, foreign travel experiences and personal hobbies.

Dr. Espinosa is a soft spoken man, kind and considerate. J.J. and I call him an old-World gentleman. We learned that his parents, his wife, some of his cousins are all in the medical field. Dr. Espinosa told us that his older son wants to be a pilot. His younger son is pursuing medicine and he also has a teenage daughter.

When I mentioned about our lunch to our sons, my sister and some friends, they all echoed, “That certainly would not happen in the United States. If you want to see your doctor, you have to get an appointment way in advance. They have no time to see their patients socially.”

Aloha -- Cathi

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Business People’s Lunch & Arabic Dinner

Aloha Everyone,

Our hotel, Mercure Quito Alameda, belongs to the Accorhotel chain. It is located in a business district of Quito.  
During lunch hour, the coffee shop of the hotel posts a daily “menu del día” to attract business clientele from nearby offices. J.J. and I only became aware of this special lunch menu on Monday when we returned from Cuenca. The two of us were 15 minutes too early and we ended up ordering “same old same old” items from the menu.

Today we went down to the cafeteria at 5 after 12 and there were already at least 8 people waiting in line. Hot corn soup, 3 choices of entree (some asked small portions of each) rice, mashed potatoes or salad. My plate of beans and a cooked banana was very good. J.J. selected arroz & mariscos (seafood dish) & mashed potatoes. We had a choice of fresh tropical fruits juice to complete our practical business lunch. The cost was $5.99 per person! No wonder the cafeteria soon became busy with diners and take out orders.

For dessert, J.J. and I walked across to our regular neighborhood store and purchased 3 kinds of cookies. The large almond cookie slightly resembled Chinese Almond cookie. Chocolate dipped cookie reminded us of a brand from Honolulu, but the best was the small nondescript galleta, which tasted like biscotti. We still have a half dozen other varieties to try.

For dinner, J.J. and I walked about 3 blocks to a restaurant called El Arabe. We shared hummus served with Arabic bread, J.J. had lamb kabob and we completed our meal by sharing a Baklava. Our dinner cost was $21.00. Restaurant prices average $50.00 per day for lunch and dinner, two persons inclusive of non-alcoholic drinks, food, taxes and service charge.

The standard tip is 10%, usually added to the bill along with a 12% VAT. The locals ask visitors not to add more. Sometimes tourist restaurants conceal that the service charge was already included in hopes of getting additional tips.

Aloha -- Cathi

Where Are We Going Next?

Aloha Everyone,

According to the latest news coming from the European Union (EU) countries, each is desperately trying to attract vaccinated Americans to visit. While we seem to have lots of options, the entry rules could change without any warning. We are therefore exploring other options.

J.J. and I will be wrapping up our Ecuador stay and returning to the USA on 30th of June. The months of June, July and August are the height of the summer travel season. This means prices for airline tickets and hotel accommodations will increase as demands accelerate. J.J. usually begin booking our tickets within 2 months of our travel dates and secures accommodations which maybe canceled without penalties.

One of our friends, Lee from Canada who is an avid traveler, is in the same predicament. We are scheduling a FaceTime with her to compare notes. In an ideal world, the three of us were planning to rendezvous in Israel and perhaps reconnect with each other somewhere in the Greek islands in 2021.

I feel extremely fortunate and grateful that J.J. is recovering to the point where he can make our next travel plans. His research is very thorough. So wherever we will head out, it should be an amazing adventure.

Aloha -- Cathi

Monday, June 21, 2021

Returned to Quito

Aloha Everyone

The two of us are safely back in Quito. The taxi ride from our hotel in Cuenca to the airport was less than 15 minutes. Check-in time about 30 minutes. Additional waiting time an hour and a half. The flight from Cuenca to Quito took only 35 minutes. Overall it was a pleasant uneventful morning.

Flying over Ecuador’s valleys from Cuenca to Quito is truly a delightful experience. J.J. and I talked about the green countryside. The valleys were protected by both mountains and dormant volcanoes. Some calderas had lakes.

The taxi we took from the Quito airport to our hotel had an ingenious way of putting plastic shield allowing 3 passengers to ride in his cab.

Our room in Quito is exactly the same stack as the previous one but two floors higher. There are a couple of noticeable improvements including a newly installed safety bar in the shower. We are wondering if this was done to accommodate J.J. We had mentioned that their shower floor tiles are slippery and actually purchased a rubber bath mat to prevent any accidents. We are considered as good guests after spending more than two months. The hotel has very few guests due to the pandemic.

Aloha -- Cathi

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Happy Father’s Day!

Aloha Everyone,

Cuencanos relish going out on walks. Even chilly rain doesn’t seem to deter them. I joined those who were out trying to catch the sun between intermittent rain.

These photos were taken this morning on my 60 minutes walk around the Parque Calderon. Nameless shoeshine man, a young man who serenades passerby’s with a selection on his cello, including melodic Pachelbel’s Canon are but a few of many lasting images I will take with me.

Aloha -- Cathi

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Brief & Joyful Encounter with John Wright

Aloha Everyone,

John, a young American, has been traveling all over Ecuador on a rental motorbike. Our common love for traveling and seeking an adventurous lifestyle easily overcame the age gap.

One interesting experience John shared with us was about getting medical attention in a small town. When his bike accidentally fell on his hand and a rock cut a finger, he needed medical attention at a community health center. In Ecuador, there is no charge even for a foreigner. When John offered to pay, they told him that the service is free, but the staff would appreciate the gift of beer. The three of us agreed that in the USA, an emergency clinic would’ve easily costed $1,000.

It rained all day. J.J. and I took a taxi to Mall del Rio, located in the newer section of Cuenca along the River Tomebamba. After finishing my walk and seeing that restaurants in the complex are local or international fast food chains, we returned to Centro Historico for lunch.

Here are some of the food we’ve enjoyed during the last 6 days of our Cuenca visit.

Aloha -- Cathi