International TravelWining/Dining

ECUADOR — Part 2

Want the inside scoop on what it is like to live in Ecuador as a retired expat? Well, we found out all the details on the next leg of the recent South American vacation.  And it was quite fascinating, indeed…

After leaving the phenomenal Galapagos Islands (see previous post), we flew to Guayaquil with what was to be a brief stop en route to Quito.  There was a medical emergency on board; indeed all indications were it was a fatality.  I mention this to give major kudos to LAN personnel for their swift response time, briefly deplaning us and getting us back on the plane after a short delay and on we went.  Good news is the gentleman was treated, taken by ambulance and we were told survived!

A friend from Los Angeles retired to Ecuador and, after seeing his life down there, we quickly understood why.  There are approximately 15,000 expats in Quito alone, and 500 in the town of Cotacachi where we spent two days, some two hours outside of Quito.  Want to live the life?  Go there and have the house of your dreams for $100K, with land and gardens in a gated community, spring-like year-round weather, on the US currency and current. Amazon and Netflix deliveries?  No problema.   Something to think about as we babyboomers contemplate our life pathways.
We stayed at a gorgeous boutique hotel/spa (La Mirage) with just 11 unique rooms and the grounds were about as lush as one could imagine in this area. Basically all it takes to have a wonderful garden is to throw some seeds in the ground and nature does the rest. Dinner the first night was at the hotel restaurant, with unexpectedly formal service .. 

If you’re a lover of roses (who isn’t, after all?), then Ecuador is the place to be. The ideal combination of rich soil, long hours of sunlight, and near-perfect weather year around produces gorgeous stems (we saw some that stood nearly six feet!) that grow straight up.   There were rose petals scattered on tables and in the room; they were just everywhere…
The “amuse” or chef’s offering was presented in a music box that worked!


Not your average Caprese salad ..

Weekly arrangement of 100 Ecuadorian Roses 


Fedex flies five planes full of Ecuadorian roses to Russia every day.

We first toured the general area of Cotacachi, including the neighborhood where our friend lives, and met some of the other expats living in this part of Ecuador. Our friend planned a terrific day of seeing traditional haciendas. The second was most impressive, called Hacienda Zuletaa full-fledged working farm and hotel with guests taking advantage of the grounds and environment. They have a fantastic dairy producing delicious cheese (we enjoyed some varieties at lunch) plus a complete garden that sustains all of their needs.  The property, now in the hands of the original owner’s third generation, was once 200,000 acres of land granted by Spain, and is currently 4,000.  It was worth the arduous ride to get there, more than an hour into the mountains on unpaved and challenging roads …  

A home in Cotacachi


Unbelievably green everywhere right at the Equator



The above photos are a private hacienda we visited



Hacienda Zuleta above and their self-sustaining gardens below


You can see I am slightly obsessed with gardens! I keep thinking if I could only translate this at home, but I neither have the space, the crew, the know-how or the weather that these folks have. A girl can still dream … 

The patriarch of the family who owns Hacienda Zuleta was a former President of Ecudor but truly a farmer at heart; it is his vision that guides the Hacienda and his extended family today.






Quito Hills

We then moved to a sister property in Quito proper and were in the able hands of guide John Papski, a 21-year resident of Ecuador originally from London with Polish heritage.  John was recommended to us by our retired friend mentioned above. It was fascinating hearing how he lives in the countryside with his wife and two young children. We learned a tremendous amount about life in Ecuador, both the upside and the challenges. John had been told we wanted to see any Jewish community here and his research led him to Rabbi Tomer Rotem, an Orthodox gentleman who moved here from Israel with his wife and they now have four children. We were not able to accept his kind offer of joining his family for a Sabbath dinner, but we did briefly make his acquaintance at lunch at an outstanding Italian restaurant called Carmine. He gifted us with his wife’s fresh-baked Challah, and it was the most delicious ever. The picture tells it all of just how small this world really is …



Not exactly Kosher (Chicken Parm) but delicious


The incredible Challah


The Pole, the Rabbi, the Americanos, and Carmine, the Italiano in Ecuador.  Go figure.
After two ambitious weeks of travel under our belts, we opted to exercise our “Flex” fare on Avianca and head to Cartagena a day early for some well-needed R&R.  Yes, one does pay a bit more for the advantage of changing itineraries   “on the fly,” but I have learned the hard way that it is well worth it.   


Final post to follow regarding our adventures in Cartagena and Bogota prior to heading back home.
Sight for sore eyes at the Quito airport ..