Travel Weekly's Eric Moya was in Ecuador for the 37th Annual TravelMart LatinAmerica, held in Quito. His first dispatch follows.
Are you ready for some futbol?
In Quito's La Mariscal nightlife district, the game was different, the ritual surprisingly familiar: throngs of rowdy bar patrons, in conspicuously similar attire, devouring pizza, wings and beer, with 80-inch flat-screens in every corner offering high-def views of the on-field action.
As Argentina's River Plate soccer team faced Ecuador's Liga de Loja on the latter's home field, about 400 miles south of Quito, my thoughts turned to my press trip colleagues back at the Swissotel, our host property, whose hopes of getting the hotel's sports bar to tune in to the Eagles-Chiefs football game now seemed exceedingly slim. (Ecuador won, by the way, 2-1.)
It was quite a contrast to the previous day's tour of Quito's Old Town, whose well-preserved colonial architecture made it among the first sites to earn Unesco World Heritage status, in 1978. (View a slideshow from Eric's trip to Ecuador here or by clicking on the photos.)
That day, Quito's tourism board showcased its efforts on the revitalized La Ronda street, transformed in recent years into an artisans' showcase.
Woodworkers displayed jewelry boxes crafted from indigenous hardwoods and inlaid with mother of pearl, while vendors of chocolate and beauty products demonstrated how the country's abundant natural resources are put to use in candy and cosmetics. (Ecuador is one of the world's principal producers of flowers and cocoa.)
Also on the agenda were the must-see San Francisco Church, a twin-towered edifice dating from the 16th century, and La Compania Church, an 18th century, gold-leaf-heavy Jesuit institution.
Following a visit to the El Alabado Museum, a 17th century estate that today houses 5,000 pre-Columbian artifacts, we enjoyed the view of the main square as we were treated to lunch at the Hotel Plaza Grande's Belle Epoque restaurant. A tasting menu incorporated seafood and other Ecuador-sourced ingredients.
But by the following night, lobster bisque and chocolate truffles had given way to La Mariscal's promise of Jager bombs and chili cheese fries. I passed on those offers -- and lacked the funds for a $14 can of Guinness at Finn McCool's -- and i
nstead made my way to Mama Clorinda, which serves the kind of homey Ecuadorean cooking I'd been seeking.
I ordered seco de chivo, a cumin-flavored goat stew that provided the perfect counterbalance to the brisk, misty, evening climate. I took note of the clientele: almost entirely foreigners. That night, I ate local cuisine, but did not eat like the locals. After all, it was game time.