Chapter 1: The Wolfpack Goes Shopping

We arrived in Quito on Saturday night, and even though a cute, geographically-challenged little boy stole my window seat on the flight, I was ecstatic the second I saw Quito’s lights. Landing there by night is incredible, because it’s a long north-south city sitting in a valley and the airport is right in the middle. I was anxious until we boarded our hostel shuttle and started covering familiar territory. Quito is still the city I loved in 2009.

Our hostel was on the north end of the Mariscal, basically the gringo-y district full of bars, tour agencies, restaurants and hostels. The location was great and the hostel was more like a bed and breakfast than the backpacker-infested bunkhouses that I so despise.

The first true Vacation Success was dinner. When I was here two years ago, I had this uncanny sense of direction for the Mariscal. It’s not a big area but I could navigate the grid and locate any business without a second’s hesitation. This time, I was counting on my sixth sense instead of practical things like street addresses to find the best Mexican restaurant on Earth – Red Hot Chili Peppers. Apparently these things never leave you, because we found it without a single wrong turn and the frozen blackberry margaritas are every bit as delicious and potent as they used to be.

I promised the girls a massive wool-and-everything market in the form of Otavalo on Sunday. There were no disappointments and I think we made the blanket, poncho, jewelry, sweater, hat, bag, scarf and art vendors very, very happy.

Upon our return to Quito, we had dinner with “my other mom,” Ibis. I’m 4-for-4 with host family placements, but she’s got the gold medal on lockdown for quirkiness and loveliness. She still speaks in all capital letters and is just a genuinely wonderful person. “BREEGHEED! HOW ARE YOU? HOW IS YOUR FAMILY? HOW IS YOUR BROTHER? WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN DOING? HOW IS AMELIA? THIS HAPPENED! THAT HAPPENED! WHEN ARE YOU COMING BACK TO ECUADOR?” It was a total time warp to be a guest in my “own” house, looking across the street at the window that used to be Amelia’s, watching the same buses chug by on Calle Eloy Alfaro and wanting to fall back into my old routine. After a delicious homecooked meal, Ibis took us for a drive through the Historical Center, somewhere I’ve only been at night on a chiva. Sorry, Bogotá, but Quito’s Centro KICKS ASS. It’s huge, beautiful and clean, and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Seeing it lit up and quiet is like a different world.