Tag Archives: Ecuador

“Do you have a menu with pictures please?”

We’ve explored the beautiful world of international markets, so lets now venture into the restaurant scene. As a backpacker, I’m conscious of when and where I splurge, especially when it comes to food, drink and entertainment. With that said, when friends meet up abroad or a group of other travelers are heading out for dinner, sometimes I’ll spoil myself and join them!

Unfortunately I’m not going to post about every country, but here are some memorable meals and unique bites from around the world.

I’m going to start off with a very colorful, protein packed salad in a cafe near Nice, France. Since the extent of my French is “Parlez-vous anglais?” (Do you speak english?) and “merci” (thank you), this was ordered by pointing at a tiny picture and a huge smile.

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This accidental order in Paris came from my eagerness to try “carpaccio”, a plate of thinly sliced raw meat or fish. My innocent mistake was trusting the waiter and agreeing to a similar dish called “Tartare”. This however, is a meat dish made from finely minced raw beef or horse served with onions, caper, seasonings and sometimes a raw egg. Not the same my friends, not…the…same!

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In Spain, I usually find myself nibbling around town due to the ever so popular tapas or pinxtos. Clarification, “tapas” isn’t necessarily a particular type of food, rather a small portion of anything ranging with paella, croquettes, fish and peppers on toast, and so on. Pintxos’ are bites you pick up off the bar and bring back to your table to enjoy. Then, depending on how many sticks you have on your plate tells them how much to charge for at the end. Here are some of my favorite scrumptious snacks in Spain.

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The course pictured below describes my opinion of the country it came from, Switzerland – clean, tasteful and proper.

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Moving on to the hearty land of Germany, specifically the state of Bavaria. Even though I struggle to find lean and light meals there, I can still enjoy a plate of solid comfort food. My favorite is the warm red (or blue or purple depending on which German you ask) cabbage side dish. My not so favorites seen below are the flour and potato dumplings and pretty much anything that may have the word “wurst” in it.

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Before I move on from Germany, I’d like to dedicate a short description and a few photos to the wonderful world of Oktoberfest! Continue reading if you’re up for a story or skip to the pictures to see a few options you may get during the traditional festivities.

The day I learned that the Bavarian language differs from the rest of Germany, goes as follows. My dear friend Carina, you all should know her by now, was attempting to help me order soup. She said she’d do her best since she doesn’t fully understand Bavarian. I asked for anything with vegetables “something that grows or is green” was my request and considering we had been at the festival since sunrise with nothing but a liter of beer, I was excited to consume anything! That was until… until we realized I had ordered liver dumpling soup.

Before…

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During…

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After…

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Other appetizing dishes to coat the stomach while celebrating the largest people’s fair in the world!

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Since I’m usually visiting my friends in Holland, I rarely explore and sit down at a legit Dutch restaurant. I have however, enjoyed the best falafel wrap while in The Netherlands!

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Hungry in Hungary? (Curtesy laugh goes here) Expect meat, potatoes, salad and bread. Not to shabby!

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Sword fish, greens, garlic butter and bread was the choice in Crete, Greece. Naturally complimented by the traditional Greek dessert of Baklava, Ouzo and fruit!

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Heading southeast to Malaysia, I’m going to show you two different ways they can serve up the same meal. First we have the over portioned, grease covered greens aside fried fish.

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After being served the plate above, I mentioned my disappointment to a new local friend who then invited me to a different location to show me how it’s “supposed” to be done.

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My favorite meal in Malyasia wasn’t due to the taste, but the story that comes with it. If your remember the post of volunteering in Malaysia, then you’ll understand that this surprise dish was given and received with much gratitude. Thank you Marcel!

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Jumping over major seas, I’m now bringing you to Central and South America. With several countries, many amazing dishes and unique treats, I’m going to narrow it down to just a few.

First up, Pupusas! These light corn or rice tortilla type patties are stuffed with your filling of choice, then topped with a spicy coleslaw! We were introduced to this savory snack while being treated by a few locals in El Salvador!

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Costa Rica was easy. Just show me to the greens with a bit of fish and whatever drink comes blended, fresh and colorful. Pura vida!

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Jumping down to Ecuador presents some of the tastiest soups and flavorful ceviche I’ve ever experienced! The rich spices, fresh fish and crunchy toppings make for an amazing treat for your taste buds.

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Peru allowed me to feel joy when items like quinoa and sweet potato overruled the usual carbohydrates of pasta, corn and wheat. I love the ingredients of this country so much that I actually took a Peruvian cooking class!

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I’m going to bring Argentina into the mix due to the impressive meal we were served last year in Buenos Aires. I’m generally not a huge meat eater, so for this steak to hit my tops picks says a lot for the quality at hand. Take a look at those veggies too!

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In the waters northeast of South America sits one of my favorite islands called Barbados. Bajan cuisine includes a vibrant blend of foods with African, Indian and British influences. Not to forget one of my favorites, the amazing Roti from Trinidad!

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Australia and New Zealand (I apologize for bulking you two together, but only for the sake of this post), brought many home cooked meals. Mostly fresh from the farms I was volunteering on or hand picked from the gardens that I helped harvest. No complaints here with the abundance of fresh vegetables and local organic meat!

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Last but not least is the large island of noodles, fish, rice and other objects I don’t really know about (simply because my Japanese is as good as my French). Considering I’m wiring this post from Japan, there’s definitely more to come soon! For now, take a look at these mouth watering dishes!

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Ill leave you with an advertisement that isn’t tempting, but certainly entertaining as it’s a bit different than the usual Big Mac add.

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Notting Hill and Jerk chicken

The longer I’m on the road, the more fascinating people I get to meet. Through volunteering, hostel hopping or simply chatting with another passenger on a long train ride, friends are being made all of the time! Reconnecting with fellow travelers has become one of my new favorite pastimes, as it’s like nothing else I’ve experienced. Theres something to be said about bonding with someone by natural chemistry and to stay connected by choice. A neighbor is always there and you can grow to like a classmate, but to meet someone thousands of miles away from home and stay in touch for years to come takes energy and effort.

In the past, you’ve seen the follow up path crossings, however the next few chapters of this journey will have an abundance of these marvelous people that I’m truly thankful for.

With that said, time to reintroduce a new friend Sophie. Her and I met while volunteering at The Donkey Den in Santa Marioñita, Ecuador. After an easy conversation, we decided that linked travels were in our future. From there, we journeyed south together for a week and parted ways with the “hope to see you again” farewell. Here’s a collage from some of our South American excursions.

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During our time together, the talk of reuniting in her homeland of England started as a casual joke that turned into proper plans. 4 months later and a train to London, brings us together again!

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We spent the weekend with her and her friends as they showed what a holiday in London looks like. After checking out the view from her apartment, we dove into what is still my favorite thing to do in a new city…. the local market!

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A group effort went into the dinner of Paella and greens with dessert being a pile of typical candy for us to try. I’m sorry England, you have not peaked on my list for best sugar delights. Even though the sweet treats weren’t my favorite, this great bunch of eager locals did a fanatic job at adopting us in for their holiday weekend.

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This is a weekend in which London comes even more alive to celebrate Caribbean roots with the famous Notting Hill Carnival. Sophie and her friends took lead as our guides to experience the event. From the bus to the tube we blend with a crowd of participants shuffling shoulder to shoulder.

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Reaching the top brings a huge deep breath and just enough time to adorn my purse with my Barbados flag that was given to me in Barbados, thank you Mikie! Feeling proud to represent my new bag (see the story of my old bag here) and “Caribbean roots”.

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Heading into the festival you’ll see several stands offering souvenirs, drinks and food for sale. The parade really wasn’t what I had imagined as it was more of a group of people randomly making noise in costume as they tried to catch up to the next bunch. The street sights are visually stimulating and definitely a complement to the unique variety of styles that the attendees bring.

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I understand that when you over crowd popular streets with music, food and drinks, a little waste is to be expected. I’m lucky enough to say that I’ve been to festivals, carnivals and holiday events around the world, but this was the first time in which I watched the trash develope into mounds along the roadside. Is suppose this just encourages the eyes to keep focus on the happy people and vibrant festivities.

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Due to the Caribbean influence, the main dishes are ones you wouldn’t typically find in England but more so in the islands. The drinks included but aren’t limited to Jamaican beer, coconut water and Rum Punch.

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Thank you to Sophie and new friends. Our first weekend abroad was filled with quality memories that are still being smiled about! Cheers to tiger suits, Curly Wurly’s and Jo-Jo’s dancing skills (my rib still thinks about her everyday).

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Can you balance in a handstand on the equator?

My final 48 hours in Ecuador was spent in the capital city called Quito. Between checking in, checking out, bus transfers and rides to the airport, my “tourism time” was limited so I’m going to wrap it ip in one post.

Although it was a short visit, my adorable accommodations made for the perfect hideaway from the busy streets surrounding it. The Butterfly Hostel is a combination of rooms for temporary guests and apartment styled living for extended stays.

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The kitchen was useful and the common area was overflowing with vibrant colors.

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The owner Diana is beyond welcoming, almost instantly feeling like family. She helped with directions, local eats and “anything needed”. Thank you for the wonderful conversations and warm greetings!

Exiting the hostel took me on a fun walk through the popular neighborhood called Mariscal, otherwise known as the tourist district or “gringolandia”. I really didn’t spend too much time exploring here because my ultimate goal for the day was to get to the equator.

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My trek of reaching the equator consisted of a walk to the metro that dropped me off at the terminal to board the bus to the final transfer leading me to the “Metad de Mundo”. (Middle of the world -aka- the equator). Due to the crowded journey and not so safe areas, the pictures I captured along the way were minimal.

These are the only two photos I snagged. First, a woman selling chocolate covered strawberries topped with a marshmallow. I have yet to mention how much they love their marshmallows here!

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To my knowledge, this isn’t a typical sight but it made me instantly say in my head, “In case of an emergency, please use as a flotation device”.

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As I finally made it to the entrance of the park, I was fully prepared for the mobs of tourists and families that would be following the guides.

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Hmm, looks like I have the place to myself. I actually felt a little awkward walking around this huge park as one of the only visitors.

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Most of the store tenants that I passed appeared to be so eager to see another human, that it almost felt mandatory to stop and look at every shop. Even harder to say “no gracias” to all of them.

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I made it!

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They say it’s hard to walk in a straight line on the equator, turns out standing on your hands is easier!

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On the way back I treated myself to a frozen yogurt, just my size! Can you imagine a chain shop in the states trying to stay in business selling this option?

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I now leave Quito with a major announcement to all of the people who know and share my love for frozen desserts. An Ecuadorian traditional delight has now topped my list over ice cream, gelato and brace yourself… Even better than frozen yogurt!

Helado de Paila means “ice cream from a copper pan.” Sugar, pure fruit pulp, and egg whites are placed in a brass pan, which is on a bed of ice, sea salt and straw (to slow down the melting of the ice). The pan must be previously prepared by boiling it for three days with ash and bitter orange. The ingredients are then stirred as long as necessary to make the mixture freeze.

This simple but time consuming process develops what I can best describe as the creamiest snow cone mixed with the iciest frozen yogurt. My favorite part is the extremely cold, firm texture that prevents it from instantly melting in the South American sun.

I preferred the non traditional flavors that included but wasnt limited to chocolate and my personal favorite of vanilla. I devoured mine with so much enjoyment that I forgot to take a picture! Here are a few I found online. Introducing Helado de Paila!

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Well that’s it for now Ecuador, next stop is Peru!

Travelers tip: I highly suggest not going on a city search for Piala the day of your flight out of the country… Without a map! I barely found my way back before heading to the airport. Oops.

The Rastafarian Cancun of Ecuador, Montañita

Montañita is a growing town that was once a hidden gem for local surfers. Back in the 60’s it was a fishing village and linked to the hippie movement, thus explaining the Rastafarian vibe that still exists today. Amongst the several residence, there’s a large population of backpackers, beach bums and travelers just passing through. I was told it’s the “Cancun of Ecuador” and to enter with an open mind, no intentions of sleeping and to have a proper exit plan. Thankfully, I had Sophie with me and we were both on a chill vibe during our whopping 30 hours in this tornado of controlled chaos.

We checked into our hostel, knowing not much time will be spent there. Quick tour of the Iguana Backpackers Hostel. The front area with kitchen is small, but a few backpackers show that it still does the job.

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In the back there’s a relaxed open area for well, anything you want!

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Our room equipped with the necessary sleeping nets. Ps, having the mosquitos trapped in with you is not beneficial to a good nights sleep.

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My favorite part of this entire hostel was the sign that made me giggle out loud when it caught my eye.

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Approaching the outside of town, it looks so innocent and welcoming.

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As you turn the corner and head into the main strip, the vibrancy begins to deliver.

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Perfect handstand photo, thanks Sophie!

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Ceviche on the street? Yes please! The choices were shrimp, conch or fish. We shared a mix of shrimp and fish to be topped off with hot sauce and corn nuts.

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Fortunately for us, there was surf finals happening the day we were there! After observing the streets we agreed is was time for sandy toes. Here’s the walk as we head towards the competition.

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I haven’t had a real snow cone in years! I skipped out on the green goo topped with condensed milk and went with the piña and fresa (pineapple and strawberry).

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As we near the action, you could feel the energy was building. Over the roar and applause, you could hear the announcer listing countries with their scores. Both of us had a confused grin as he says, “Ecuador… Peru… Brazil… Hawaii… and…” Now I’m not a part of the surf world, so there’s probably something I’m missing, I just didnt realize Hawaii had separated into it’s own country.
An additional peculiar thing, is seeing a sun loving surf crowd fully clothed, on the beach! Bizarre or am I unaware of another memo?

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I also didn’t realize it was relay style. One would sprint out of the water as the other was racing in. Apparently I need to study this sport a little more before I observe!
Side note: If you say you’re from California, expect to give a full explanation to why you don’t surf.

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I thought these were pretty cool shots.

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As the sun goes down, the crowd doesn’t stop. In fact, the streets light up and what was once the fruit stands have turned to drink stands and the restaurants are now dance clubs.

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Believe it or not, that’s all you get from my evening pictures, as we turned in for an early nights rest before the bus tomorrow. (Yes Bevan, I know… I’ll have to try again with you next time).

My favorite photo of the day in Montañita!

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This was also the last evening spent with my (perfectly opposite) new pal Sophie.
You were such an unexpected gift that enhanced my journey along the coast of Ecuador. Cheers to broken bunk beds, awkward email names, and no bananas in a smoothie… ever. I send you off with much love and a “Salud” till next time!

Isla de Plata! -aka- “The poor mans Galapagos.”

Our morning started off with a walk to the sea where we got some time to observe the daily routines of the Puerto Lopez fisherman.

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Observation number 1: Duck and cover doesn’t always work when there are this many birds. One of the sweet girls from our group got an unpleasant drop from above.

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Looks like “catch of the day” will be shark.

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As the boat arrives, it’s requested that our shoes come off for the hour journey to the island. Not to completed without our “yes, I’m on a tour” safety vest.

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Along the way they made sure we got the full experience including a family of dolphins playing around!

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As we approached the island, it was clear why so many take time and energy to maintain such a beautiful piece of land. Pirates or locals, maybe a bit if both?

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Either way they smiled and gave a head nod as our entire boat made “ooh” and “awh” sounds at the turtles and fish that surrounded us!

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We get to debark and after a quick foot rinse, the tour begins!

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They warned her that flip flops weren’t a good idea. In her words, “It seems the urge to say I told ya so is universal”. First one, then both in hand.

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Sophie commented on my fashion statement. Well, my ears were burning… Problem solved!

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The trek takes you up, down and around the coast of this gorgeous place with the intention of getting a glimpse if several of the native animals. Up to this point, the only other living creature that seems to be welcoming themselves are the mosquitos that love to squeal in your ear and make incredible eye contact. (I actually got bit on the eye lid!)

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Finally spotted the Blue Footed Boobies!

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We make it to one of the highest points for these amazing views!

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Fun with effects!

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After the climb, we’re back in the boat for a pit stop that we’ve all been waiting for… Sun and swimming!

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As we make the final stretch, what Ecuadorian boat tour wouldn’t be complete without motor trouble… Again.

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If you notice the swells in the back ground are definitely creating a rock to the boat that leads me to switch places with this poor guy who was getting sea sick. (Sophie and I were making faces at the boat trouble, but his natural expression puts ours to shame).

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Back on shore (lucky for the sick guy) and I leave you with one last photo with a snazzy effect. What a day!

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