Next Stop…..

EUROPE!!! Since I am graduating this May my friends and I decided as a graduation present to ourselves we are going to spend a month exploring different parts of Europe. My friend is studying in a master’s program in Bristol, England, so my other friend I are flying out of New York City the day after graduation and meeting her in London.
We just finished our tentative itinerary. We still start in London for a few days then make our way to Paris, After Paris we will head to Barcelona. Barcelona to Rome, Rome to Munich. Then off to Budapest to Prague to Krakow to Berlin, Lastly, to Amsterdam where we will finish up our trip a month later and make our way back to London to catch our flight back to New York City.
We are still in the process of figuring out all of our activities in each location. We do know for sure while we are in Barcelona for my birthday we will be skydiving!!!
We are trying to be as efficient as possible because we certainly do not have a lot of money. We will definitely be utilizing couch surfing, especially to enhance our experience abroad. I have already begun searching for people to stay with in each location and have already been welcomed by what seem like wonderful people.
I couldn’t ask for two better friends to share this upcoming experience with. It will surly be a beautiful and life changing experience.
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La Plaza Foch

           

La Plaza Foche is a great place for young people to go. It is the center of numerous restaurants, bars, clubs and hostels. It is also very easy to get to and from other places in the city in Quito. From where I lived, it was a 5 minutes bus ride about 4 bus stops away.

I spent a lot of time at La Plaza Foche with friends, whether it was meeting for lunch, dinner or for dancing.

Wednesday night is “ladies night” in most of the bars located in La Foch. The first Wednesday I was in Quito, 4 other girls and I met in La Foche to see what “ladies night” was all about. We arrived to one American bar that only allowed women inside until 10pm while the men all stood outside the door. There was no charge for us to go inside and all drinks were free until 10pm. I could not believe this. I think it is such a great idea but extremely odd at the same time that women have to basically hurry to get drunk while the men stand outside waiting until 10pm like animals.

La Plaza Foche offeres fun for all ages. It is fun to be around so many people experiencing the night life of Quito whether it be dancing to American, Salsa or Reggaeton. Or having dinner outside at a BBq restaurant or eating Ecuadorian foods.

    

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Dance

I am amazed and impressed by how important dancing is within the Ecuadorian culture. Watching the people dance, whether it was with their families, friends or strangers in a club, you cannot help but smile and want to join in.

When family and friends get together in the United States for a party it is mostly just a gathering, talking and eating. I spent New Year’s in Quito and it is normal for familiy and friends to dance and dance and dance all night. We left our families home at 6am and people were still up dancing.

One of the most popular hotspots for salsa dancing was at a bar called El Aguijon. It was packed on Wednesday nights with unending music and dancing. I can’t begin to explain the amount of fun in this place. Everyone is so nice and there to enjoy the beautiful dancing. I definitely struggled with the dancing. (salsa is not as easy as it looks!)

I wish there were more places in our area here in Buffalo for this type of dancing. It has beauty to it, whereas most of the dancing in the United States is inappropriate and has no true movements to it.

I hope to return very soon, partly just to be immersed in the music and dance again!!

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The Markets

               

The markets in Ecuador are so beautiful and have so much to offer. The products are all handmade and it is such a great feeling to give money to the people who crafted these goods. They are slightly pushy and persistant about buying their products, especially when they tourists. It is also difficult to negociate prices when you don’t speak spanish because they know the tourists have the money to spend. Many of them sell similar products so it is a good idea to continue looking and try negociating with someone else before purchasing.

There is always beautiful crafts, jewelry, clothes and food. I loved going to the various markets throughout the area. I’d love to explore them in other South American countries as well. I had to pay an additional fee coming home for my suitcase being too heavy (I shopped a bit too much at the markets).

 

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Canopy Jumping in Mindo

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I didn’t have a lot of time to really explore the country of Ecuador (But I definitely will some day!) I did have the opportunity to travel to Mindo (a popular tourist destination in the Summer). It is about two hours outside of Quito. Here you are surrounded by the nature of this beautiful country. It has a little town with many opportunities to raft, hike, zipline, and canopy along the trees for a cheap price.
I traveled with a few students and a teacher from Academia Columbus. We hiked for a few hours to see the natural beauties and of course took the opportunity to do the highest level of canopy jumping!!! I will post the video soon.
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Academia Columbus

The school I attended was fantastic. It was only a 20 minute (uphill) walk from the home I stayed at. I took intensive Spanish classes Monday through Friday from 8:30-1. It is in a house-like setting with multiple classrooms, a patio and kitchen. They welcome new students from all over the world beginning on any Monday of the year and you can take classes for as long or as little as you’d like. Every Monday I was there we would welcome new students. There was never more than 10 students total and they have 4 teachers there so classes were very small and were broken up based on your level of Spanish. (Great way to learn!)
Every day they had a different activity after classes that were optional. Some days it would be a cooking class, others it would be a tour around the city, salsa lessons etc. 
It was also very convenient to ask the teachers good places to eat, dance, great travel deals and different places worth traveling too. It was a very laid-back atmosphere and the teacher-student relationship definitely becomes more of a friendship.
They were so willing to help and make the experience all that it should be.
      
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La Comida

One thing I miss the most about Ecuador is the food I ate. It made me realize how unheathy and unnatural we eat in America. All the natural flavors came out in every bite when I hate the local foods. I will say, when I had the opportunity about half way through my month’s stay to have a slice of Pizza Hut’s pizza, I devoured it so quickly because I missed that taste of America.

I had a lot of opportunities at my school to learn about the different foods and how to cook Ecuadorian style cuisine. One of their most popular dishes is Ceviche which is served cold with shrimp, onions and a mix of orange juice and tomotoe juice. (Pictured here) I was able to taste all the fruits (Living in the U.S, we miss out on so many delicious fruits!) One of my favorite fruits was the Granadilla (pictured here) 

Rice, eggs, chicken, potatoes and cheese were very common in most dishes. It was common to go to a small local restaurant, pay $2 for a bowl of soup, rice beans and chicken and a glass of juice.

It is very common to set time aside in the morning to have breakfast with family every morning. It may not be huge but consists of some fruit and bread. Lunch is the biggest meal of the day (similar to our dinner options and size). For dinner, it is common to eat around 8 or 9 o’clock. This meal is very tiny, for example a tamale and some rice. I felt so much healthier with my eating habits. I have incorporated a lot of their habits into my diet even being back in the U.S.

 

   

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The Equator

       

Standing on the center of the earth is one of the coolest things I have ever done. Mitad del Mundo (center of the earth) is a very large tourist attraction and is about a half hour bus ride from Quito. I traveled with the students from my Language school and did a brief tour and learned about the history of the indenous people of Ecuador and how they lived.

In the picture above, I am walking in a straight line on the Equator but gravity is pulling me in either direction so it is very difficult for everyone to walk straight. The tour guide showed us many cool aspects of the Equator. For example, on the east side of the Equator leaves drain down in a clockwise position and on the West, they are counterclockwise. Also pictured is a “clock” based on the position of the sun and the shadow reflects what time it is.

Standing on two different hemispheres is amazing feeling. 

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Road to Otavalo

     

Otavalo is about two hours away from Quito. It is a beautiful indigenous town known for its markets. Here you can find beautiful handmade jewelry, crafts and clothing. It is very fun and challenging negotiating prices of the items with the sellers. It is important to speak the language or have someone with you that can help because they will be hesitant to lower the prices when they see tourists! This is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country of Ecuador.

The drive from Quito is very scenic and enjoyable to Otavalo as well. We stopped in Cayambe, the city of roses and yummy bizcochos (buttery flaky pastry). We also stopped to see the allegedly bottomless lake, Lake Quilotoa.

These areas outside the city make you feel immersed within nature and the indigenous culture.

              

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