Saturday, April 10, 2010
Plants! A Basilica! The Poor Devil! Fruit! La Ronda! Part 2
NOTE: This entry is broken into two parts, the first detailing Thursday (also Karla's birthday) and the second detailing Friday. That should help make what was originally one looooooonnnnnggg entry more palatable for those of you with short attention spans :)
Part 2: Friday (April 9, 2010) - our visit to the Friday fruit market here in the neighborhood of La Floresta, and our return to the Old Town to visit la Calle de la Ronda for dinner and people watching.
FRIDAY MORNING: Again in La Floresta, we headed over to the small Friday fruit market. Vendors close off about a block and sell their fruits and vegetables to locals. We were interested in checking it out and possibly acquiring something tasty as well (and, at the request of our friend Cory, to being the "great fruit hunt"). Surprisingly, most of the fruits and vegetables at the market were familiar to us. Blame this on globalization, I suppose, but prickly pear, star fruit, and papayas just don't seem exotic anymore.
However, we did manage to find one fruit we'd never seen before (well, it turns out, we've seen it, just not in its raw form). This strange fruit with its oblong shape and red fuzzy prickles caught our attention, and after some discussion with the Andean woman vending it, we were able to sample it. Breaking the skin in two, you eat the pulp inside, making sure not to eat the stone in the center. The pulp reminded Karla and I of something sweet-tart and gummy, almost like a big chewy grape. The vendor informed us that this fruit was called achotillo. We ended up purchasing a small bag to bring back with us to the hotel. (We also acquired some strawberries, but those aren't really anything to write home about.)
Later, after dining on some this strange and wondrous fruit, I did a little research on-line, and sleuthed my way to the Wikipedia article about the fruit. (I couldn't quite remember the name the woman had told us - hachotiso? achopiso? - so my initial Google search came up empty - I ended up using Google images to find a picture of the fruit and then, based on that image's description, I finally found what I was looking for.) It turns out that achotillo is the fruit from the rambutan tree, which means that it's a kind of lychee fruit!
La Calle de la Ronda
FRIDAY EVENING: After a lazy afternoon of napping, we awoke refreshed and ready to head into the Old Town like we'd originally planned for the day before. It was raining, and also there was a mass of traffic heading in the same direction (it's a popular place among travelers and locals), so what should have been a short taxi ride turned into an hour-long expedition. Nevertheless we finally made it to la Ronda!
We had actually walked through here on our second day in Quito, but during the day, and especially since it was Easter Sunday then, most of the shops were closed up. However, this night, the street, which encompasses three blocks on the south edge of Old Town, was alive, despite the drizzle. Quiteños, Ecuadorian tourists, and international visitors meandered the streets, visiting shops and dining in many of the cool little restaurants, listening to music performed by street musicians, and generally having a merry old time.
We wandered for a while, umbrella in hand, until settling on a restaurant at an intersection midway in la Ronda. The friendly waitress helped us with the menu, bringing an additional one in English so that we could determine what type of food we were ordering (it was still hard to figure out exactly what ingredients were involved), and she tried to explain as best she could in Spanish and pantomime the answers to our questions. Still, we had one hit and one miss. The gallina I ordered (yes, second day in a row I broke down and ordered meat) came and was quite tasty - hen with potatoes in some sort of a cheese sauce. The fritada that Karla ordered came and - surprise - it wasn't just the mixed vegetables and fruit we thought it was. It turned out that fritada not only was a mixture of corn kernels (two types - fried and boiled), plantains, and potatoes, but also featured fried pork! Chalk it up to cultural miscommunication.
Karla and I traded meals (she had no qualms about eating hen, but refuses to eat anything from a pig) and I commenced upon a course of crash and burn out of my vegetarianism the likes of which has not been seen since I ordered a beef and gravy sandwich in New Orleans just out of college! And I must admit two things: 1) the pork was damn tasty, especially covered in this spicy condiment the name of which I haven't yet learned and 2) it didn't bother me at all, neither philosophically (I had already decided I would eat meat at some point in this journey as food is one way to understand a culture) nor physically.
After dinner, we wandered back down la Ronda and had hot chocolate and galletas (cookies). Then we decided to head out to the nearby Plaza San Martin to catch a taxi. But before we could quite make it off of la Ronda, we kissed at the same intersection where the restaurant was a mime was entertaining passersby. The mime took the opportunity to make encouraging motions about our show of affection. We laughed and headed out of la Ronda, to the thumbs up of the mime.