Around the World... One Journey at a Time. Around the World... One Journey at a Time.






Paris and Northern Spain: Day 2

by Kathy 6. October 2010 08:34

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<< Day 1: Paris—Starry, Starry Eyes | Day 3: Paris—Bicycle Tour and Luxembourg Gardens >>

 

Paris—Eiffel Tower, the Seine & Arc de Triomphe

We easily slipped into the rhythm of a different time zone. Although Paris is 9 hours ahead of our time in California, staying up until almost midnight last night for us seemed to do the trick.

We woke at 7 a.m., refreshed and excited about today’s activities. We were going to start the day by riding to the top of the Eiffel Tower. Then we would take a leisurely cruise along the Seine River, viewing the historic buildings along the water’s edge. Finally, we would climb to the top of the Arc de Triomphe and stroll down the busy Champs-Elysees.

First things first, however—coffee and breakfast. Creating the perfect baguette or pastry is an art in Paris. The Rue Cler district, where we were staying, had an abundance of bakers and pastry chefs who have mastered that art. One of the best bakeries in Paris was just around the corner from our apartment.

As usual, Genevieve and Sebastian led the way.

(The metal posts along our narrow street were designed to prevent parking along the sidewalk, but they also provided countless opportunities for the children to twirl, hop, and swing while going to and from our apartment each day.)

Five minutes later, we were in front of the Artisan Boulanger Patissier:

The shop offered a wide variety of breads and pastries, including these:

Sebastian is a croissant connoisseur, and he selected a plain croissant:

Genevieve opted for a giant brownie:

(She managed to eat a third and saved the rest for later.)

We found an outdoor table across the street at the Café du Marche, where Ben and I ordered coffee, hot chocolate, and more croissants.


Our café was on the corner of the Rue Cler (Cler Street), after which the neighborhood was named.  The street is renown for its small specialty shops. After breakfast, we took a walk down the famous street, past the early morning delivery trucks.

A flower shop:

A cheese shop:

Fresh produce:

We then continued a short distance to the Eiffel Tower. Sebastian (in the lower right corner) was happy to be back:

I don’t think any of us failed to catch our breath whenever we caught a view of the Tower throughout our entire stay in Paris. It was just glorious.

Apparently, lots of other people shared the same opinion. Underneath the Tower were hundreds and hundreds of people, all lined up to ride the elevators to the lower observation decks.

Here are Ben and Sebastian, in front of the crowds:

Luckily, we had planned ahead and purchased lift tickets online before leaving home. We had chosen the 10:30 a.m. tickets. While we waited for that time to arrive, we wandered across the street to the Seine River boat dock area.

The wide-open space in front of the docks provided room for Sebastian and Genevieve to play.



Sebastian was also quite the climber:



Back at the Eiffel Tower, we bypassed all of the lines and handed our tickets over at the “special” entrance. Then we waited in a short line for the elevator at the “Pilier Est” (East Pillar).

A bunch of workers were on the iron beams above:

Looking up into the net-covered interior:

The elevator system consists of two parts. The first part takes people up to the second floor, with an observation deck almost half way up the Tower. Then there is another elevator that goes all the way to the top.

The lower elevator moves at the angle of the pillar. Here is a photo of the elevator rails:

Below the elevator car was a mannequin to show how a conductor once operated the elevator from the outside.

(Safety regulations and new technology replaced the man with a computer and interior buttons about three decades ago.)

On the elevator—going up!

The view from the second floor was fantastic!

(Note the safety net that stretches out from the rail.)

In the distance:

Below was the green grass of the Parc du Champs de Mars:

To the right:

Sebastian used a telescope to get a close-up view:

Looking up, we could see the top observation deck.

To get to the top, we stood in a long line of people that zigzagged toward the elevator doors. We got a good look at the large wheels and cables that help carry the elevator to the top.

Genevieve liked the feel of the Tower rivets:

(There are supposedly 2.5 million rivets holding the Tower together.)

Here I am with Sebastian and Genevieve at the top observation deck:

The view down the Seine River:

Close-ups:



Across the Seine River was the Palais de Chaillot, which was built for the 1937 World’s Fair.

In the docking area, we could see one of the red boats that we would be cruising on later today.

The Arc de Triomphe rose tall above the surrounding buildings:

And we could even see the twin towers of Notre Dame through the haze:

Below was our cozy apartment, tucked among the many residential buildings in the Rue Cler district.


The observation deck had a small room in the center, containing a scene with mannequins representing Gustave Eiffel (on the left) and Thomas Edison (on the right):

Mr. Eiffel had designed and constructed the Eiffel Tower for the 1889 Universal Exposition in Paris. He also had created a small apartment on the observation deck, where he greeted “prominent” guests. The depicted scene is supposed to reflect a meeting in which Mr. Edison had presented a model of his phonograph invention to Mr. Gustave during the Exposition.

After we had gazed at the view all around, breathed in the fresh air, gazed some more, and fully experienced the pleasure at being at the top of the Eiffel Tower, it was time to descend.

Going down!


We stopped at the first floor to see the temporary garden that had been set up to celebrate the “International Year of Biodiversity.” The garden contained plants native to Paris, as well as some flower pot fountains.


From the open space in the center of the first floor, the lines of people waiting below looked like ant trails.

The stairs seemed like so much more fun than taking the elevator to the ground. And they were!

Genevieve, me and Sebastian:

The intersecting iron beams, with their angles and shapes, were a visual treat.

Genevieve and Sebastian were soon out front, holding hands (sigh) and chatting away together.

One last photo before we dropped below the city roofline.

A note about the street vendors under and around the Eiffel Tower: There are a LOT of them, all hawking the same handful of items—mostly different sized Eiffel Tower replicas and key chains. Here is Sebastian’s advice, quoted verbatim: “Don’t look the street vendors in the eyes because then they’ll think you want to buy something, and they’ll come over and shove their stuff in your face.” Enough said.

Back on solid ground, we headed over to the boat docks to take our cruise. There are many companies offering Seine River tours. I had compared prices and read countless reviews when planning this trip, and determined that we should go with Bateaux Parisiens. I reserved tickets before leaving home—it was very simple. And the one-hour tour was excellent! We were pleased with every aspect of the ride.

The boat was fairly big, and there were plenty of open seats. We snagged some seats on the outside so that we could get an unblocked view of all the sights.

There was a female guide at the front of the boat who provided general information about the tour, and she also chimed in now and then (in several languages) with additional information about the buildings that we were seeing. The boat also had a very good audio guide, where you pushed a button to select your language (English for us, of course), and then held up the flat receiver to your ear so that you could listen to a recorded description of whatever sight the boat was passing. The audio quality and content were both very good.

Starting out, we passed by these lovely houseboats.


Many of the bridges that we traveled under today had statues that might not be noticed by someone driving (or walking) over the bridge.



The Pont Alexander III (Alexander III Bridge) was the most ornate, with its nymphs and golden horses.



The bridge was completed in 1900 and was supposed to represent Russian-French friendship.

Moreover, its single-span steel arch was considered to be an engineering marvel at that time. Here is a view of the span from underneath:

The Pont de la Concorde (Concorde Bridge) runs from the Place de la Concorde, where Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were beheaded.

Standing straight and tall, within the Place de la Concorde, was a granite obelisk from the Egyptian tomb of Ramses II; it is covered with hieroglyphs depicting the reign of two pharaohs (Ramses II and Ramses III).

Under the Pont de la Concorde:

Boats were moored all along this stretch of the Seine. This boat had a snazzy red car on the front.

This modern pedestrian bridge was finished in 1999 and has a double-decker construction that allows access from both the walkway near the water’s edge and the gardens up above.

The Pont Royal (Royal Bridge) was built in the 1600’s and was located next to the Louvre Palace.

The Palace is now a famous museum, and we were looking forward to seeing many of the treasures inside later. For now, we were content to admire the exterior.

The Pont Neuf (New Bridge) was built in 1607 and is the oldest bridge in Paris. Along the upper edge were small, grotesque head sculptures called “mascarons” (a total of 381, according to our guide).

We thought the heads added an extra-special touch.

The kids were having a great time on the boat. Everywhere we looked there was something new. Here is Genevieve, enjoying the sun:

And here is Sebastian, who announced at the end, “I was smiling practically the whole time!”

Our boat reached an island and veered to the right. The island is called “Ile de la Cite” and is the place where the city of Paris was originally founded. The island has many buildings, but perhaps the most famous is the impressive Notre Dame cathedral.

Genevieve and Sebastian know the story of the Hunchback of Notre Dame, and they were quite thrilled with seeing the church where all the action took place.

We loved the gargoyle rain spouts:

The central spire:

Once we were past the island, we had a fabulous view of the backside of Notre Dame:

Further down, we saw other backsides (not quite so fabulous) from sunbathers who seemed to have positioned themselves “just right” for maximum public exposure to the steady stream of passing boats loaded with tourists:

(As they say in France, “Ooh la la!”)

We turned around at the Canal Saint-Martin, a canal almost 3 miles long that was finished in 1825 to help supply fresh water to the expanding city.

Another series of bridges:

This man had a little stool:

A photo shoot was in progress:

A bride and groom were also part of the scene:


A beautiful dome:

On the western end of the Ile de la Cite was the Conciergerie, a 14th century fortress that was turned into a prison; during the French Revolution, Marie Antoinette spent her last days here before she walked to the guillotine.


The Academie Francaise building holds offices for that elite group of members charged with being the official authorities on French language.

The old train station, built in 1900, has been turned into the Orsay Museum, which houses the work of artists from the mid-19th century through 1914--including Cezanne, Monet, Renoir, and van Gogh.

We could see the Eiffel Tower in the distance and knew that we were approaching the boat dock.

Genevieve and the Tower:

Every city seems to have at least one metallic person; this one, however, simply wore a gold outfit and mask, so he/she didn’t have to suffer with all that face and body paint every day.

We still had plenty of energy, so we continued onward to the Arc de Triomphe. We took the underground metro, which was fast and easy to use.

At the Arc, we discovered crowds of people and the beginning of a military ceremony.


The Arc was magnificent!


The interior curve:



Our goal was to climb the stairs to the top of the Arc. After buying our tickets and going through a security checkpoint, we entered the base of the Arc, where there was a small museum with some mock-ups of the sculptural figures that grace the exterior pillars.

We also learned that Napoleon ordered the creation of the Arc in 1806 to honor his army’s triumphs. It was not completed until 1836, after his death.

There was also a video showing the view looking down into the interior of the Arc.

From the video, we could see that the ceremony outside was focused around the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier for World War I.

We then climbed the steps to the top of the Arc. The staircase twisted up inside one of the pillars. Genevieve and Sebastian had fun counting the stairs out loud. (They reached 281, slightly less than the number of 284 that was given in our guidebook.)

At the top, we were just in time to catch the military parade marching down the Champs Elysees:


The Arc de Triomphe is located in the middle of a huge traffic circle.  Once the parade passed, the traffic was allowed to continue circling the Arc. Watching all the cars weave their way around the Arc, and into their desired offshoot roads, was highly entertaining.

At the far end of the Champs Elysees, we could see the green trees of the Tuileries Gardens, as well as the Louvre Palace beyond.

The top of the Arc had safety posts to prevent anyone from falling off.

The Eiffel Tower stood proudly in the distance:

To the east was the business center of Paris, with high-rise buildings and a modern, flat-topped Arc in the center.

Because the staircases were so narrow, there was a separate one for going down. We spiraled our way to the bottom:

The Champs Elysees is a major thoroughfare in Paris. It runs for about 1 ¼ miles and has an almost continuous stream of shops and cafes, as well as a cinema and many residences. It is supposed to be one of the premier tourist destinations in Paris and attracts thousands of visitors. We decided to check out the action.

Starting out:

The lampposts were very ornate, with good gripping points for Sebastian’s toes:

The sidewalks were very wide, providing ample space for both pedestrians and outdoor cafés. Sebastian and Genevieve walked along in front of us, arm in arm, happily talking:

Stylish roofs rose above trees that lined the street.

We made it half way down the Champs Elysees before the children became a bit weary. The busy street did not have a lot to offer us, other than shops and cafés--neither of which interested us at the moment. We took the metro back to our apartment, appreciating our quaint and quiet neighborhood.

Tonight we had dinner at a pizza restaurant near the end of our street. The food was good, the service pleasant, and the meal was very relaxing. I kept trying to speak French whenever possible, but sometimes I would mix up French and Spanish—I caught myself saying, “Merci, Señor” to the waiter. Ai-yai-yai!

Back at the apartment, we enjoyed some quiet time together. What a day! Sometimes things turn out even better than you imagined.  Today was one of those days.  We all went to bed with smiles on our faces.

<< Day 1: Paris—Starry, Starry Eyes | Day 3: Paris—Bicycle Tour and Luxembourg Gardens >>

 

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Map of Our Journeys

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Places We’ve Been, w/Quick Links

Bhutan
   Bumthang Valley
   Gom Kora
   Kanglung
   Mongar
   Paro Valley
   Punakha Dzong
   Sangdrup Jongkhar
   Thimphu
   Tongsa
   Wangdi Phrodrang

Bolivia
   Caranavi
   Guanay
   Janko Marca
   La Paz
   Laguna Colorada
   Laguna Verde
   Llica
   Potosí
   Queteña
   Rurrenabaque
   Sajama
   Salar de Coipasa
   Salar de Uyuni
   San Pablo
   Santa Rosa
   Sorata
   Sud Lipez
   Tupiza
   World’s Most Dangerous Road

Canada
   Banff National Park
   Battle Hill Nat'l Hist. Site
   Boya Lake Prov. Park, BC
   Burns Lake Bike Park
   Canyon Sainte-Anne
   Chetwynd
   Dawson Creek
   Eastern Townships
   Fort Nelson
   Isle-aux-Coudres
   Jasper National Park
   Kluane Lake, YK
   'Ksan Historical Village
   Lake Louise
   Liard Hot Springs
   Montreal
   Niagara Falls
   Ottawa
   Quebec City
   Quesnel
   Thousand Islands
   Toronto
   Vancouver
   Vancouver Island
   Victoria
   Watson Lake
   Whistler
   Whitehorse

China
   Beijing
   Datong
   Forbidden City
   Great Wall at Mutianyu
   Hong Kong
   HuaShan
   Lijiang
   Summer Palace
   Terracotta Warriors
   Tiananmen Square
   Xi’an
   Yangshuo
   Yungang Caves

Costa Rica
   Arenal Volcano
   Finca Corsicana
   Hanging Bridges
   Manuel Antonio
   Poas Volcano
   Proyecto Asis
   Quepos
   Sarchi
   Sky Trek Zip Lining
   Venado Caves
   Zarcero

France
   Paris

Ecuador
   Amazon Rainforest
   Chaquiñan Bicycle Trail
   La Mitad del Mundo
   Napo Wildlife Center
   Papallacta Hot Springs
   Proyecto DCR
   Quito
   Yasuní National Park

India
   Bagdogra
   Darjeeling
   Delhi
   Gawahati
   Jaigaon
   Kalimpong

Mexico
   Baja California
   Crucecita
   Frida Kahlo Museum
   Hierve el Agua
   Huatulco
   Marietas Islands
   Mazunte
   Mexico City
   Monte Alban
   Oaxaca City
   Patzcuaro
   Puerto Angel
   Puerto Escondido
   Puerto Vallarta
   San Agustin
   San Martin Tilcajete
   Santa Fe de la Laguna
   Santa María el Tule
   Sayulita
   Studio of Jacobo Angeles
   Teotihuacán
   Teotitlán del Valle
   TzinTzunTzan
   Yagul
   Yelapa

Namibia
   Caprivi
   Dead Vlei
   Elondo Village
   Etosha Nat'l Park
   Hippo Pools Camp
   Hoba Meteorite
   Katutura
   Khowarib Camp
   Moose McGregor's Bakery
   Mowani Camp
   Ngepi Camp
   Nkasa Lupala
   n'Kwzi Camp
   River Dance Lodge
   Seisfontein
   Seisriem Camp
   Sossusvlie
   Swakopmund
   Treesleeper Camp
   Twyfeltein
   Windhoek

Peru
   Balsas
   Barranca
   Cajabamba
   Cajamarca
   Caraz
   Cañón del Pato
   Celendín
   Cerro de Pasco
   Chachapoyas
   Cusco
   Huamachuco
   Huánico
   Huaraz
   La Oroya
   Leymebamba
   Llanganuco
   Lima
   Machu Picchu
   Moyobamba
   Nuevo Jaén
   Pallasca
   Pampas
   Tápuc
   Tarapoto
   Tarma
   Tingo Maria
   Tocache
   Yungay Memorial

Portugal
   Burgau
   Coimbra
   Evora
   Lisbon
   Marvao
   Nazare
   Obidos
   Portimao
   Sintra
   Sitio

South Africa
   Johannesburg

Spain
   Barcelona
   Bilbao
   Hondarribia
   Madrid
   Montserrat
   Nerja
   Rock of Gibraltar
   Ronda
   Santillana del Mar
   Tolosa
   Zaragoza

United States National Parks
   Arches National Park, UT
   Badlands National Park, SD
   Bandelier National Monument, NM
   Bryce Canyon National Park, UT
   Cahokia Mounds (UNESCO site), IL
   Carlsbad Caverns National Park, NM
   Canyon de Chelly Nat'l Monument, AZ
   Cape Hatteras National Shoreline, NC
   Capitol Reef National Park, UT
   Civil Rights Memorial, AL
   Death Valley National Park, CA
   Denali National Park, AK
   Devil’s Tower National Monument, WY
   El Morro National Monument, NM
   Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C.
   Glacier National Park, MT
   Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
   Grand Tetons National Park, WY
   Great Basin National Park, NV
   Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, HI
   Joshua Tree National Park, CA
   Kaloko-Honokohau Nat'l Hist. Park, HI
   Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks, NM
   King's Canyon National Park, CA
   Martin Luther King Jr. Nat'l Hist. Site, GA
   Mesa Verde National Park, CO
   Montezuma's Castle Nat'l Monument, AZ
   Monticello, VA
   Mount Rushmore National Memorial, SD
   Mt. Rainier National Park, WA
   Olympic National Park, WA
   Petrified Wood National Park, AZ
   Pinnacles National Monument, CA
   Pu'uhonua o Honaunau Nat'l Hist Pk, HI
   Pu'ukohola Heiau Nat'l Historic Site, HI
   San Antonio Missions Nat'l Hist. Park, TX
   Tuzigoot National Monument, AZ
   Walnut Canyon National Monument, AZ
   Washington Monument
   White Sands National Monument, NM
   Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, AK
   Wright Brothers National Memorial in NC
   Yellowstone National Park, WY
   Yosemite National Park, CA

United States, Cities and Places
   The Alamo, TX
   Alaska Wildlife Conservation Cntr.
   Alpine Loop in CO
   Anchorage, AK
   Antares Junction, AZ
   Arctic Circle, AK
   Barrel Oak Winery in VA
   Biloxi, MS
   Bottle Tree Farm in CA
   Calico Ghost Town, CA
   Canfield Mountain Trail System, ID
   Cape St. Vincent, NY
   Carson City, NV
   Carter Caves State Park in KY
   Chappie-Shasta OHV Area, CA
   Child's Glacier, AK
   Circle B Chuckwagon Show in SD
   City Museum in MO
   Cody, WY
   Corn Palace in SD
   Crazy Horse Memorial in SD
   Custer State Park, SD
   Dalton Highway, AK
   Dinosaur Tracks in AZ
   Discovery Place in Charlotte, NC
   Dry Falls (Sun Lakes-Dry Falls), WA
   Fairbanks, AK
   Front Royal, VA
   Gallup, NM
   Goffs, CA
   Grand Canyon Caves, AZ
   Grand Canyon Skywalk, AZ
   Grave Digger Monster Truck in NC
   Great Salt Lake, UT
   Hackberry General Store in AZ
   Hannibal, MO
   Hatteras Island, NC
   Hawaii (Big Island)
   Hickison Petroglyphs, NV
   Holbrook, AZ
   Hole in the Rock, UT
   Homer, AK
   Honey Island Swamp Tour in LA
   Hoover Dam, NV
   Hyder, AK
   Jim Gray’s Petrified Wood Co. in AZ
   John’s Peak OHV Area, OR
   Kailua-Kona, HI
   Keepers of the Wild Nature Park in AZ
   Kennecott, AK
   Kennecott Copper Mine in UT
   Kingman, AZ
   Lake Havasu, AZ
   Lake Tahoe, NV
   Las Vegas, NV (winter 2010)
   Little Brown Church in IA
   London Bridge in AZ
   Loneliest Road in America, Hwy. 50, NV
   Los Angeles, CA
   Lost Colony Show on Roanoke Isl., NC
   Lowe’s Speedway in NC
   Mardi Gras World in LA
   Mark Twain Museum in MO
   Meteor Crater, AZ
   Million Dollar Highway, CO
   Minnesota Zoo
   Mitchell, SD
   Moab, UT
   Moab, UT (dirt biking)
   Montgomery, AL
   Montpelier, ID
   Navajo Nation, AZ
   Needles, CA
   Nevada Beach, NV
   Newberry Springs, CA
   New River Gorge, WV
   New Orleans, LA
   Niagara Falls 
   North Pole, AK
   Oatman, AZ
   Old Faithful Geyser in WY
   Omak Stampede, WA
   Painted Desert, AZ
   Park City, UT (summer)
   Plymouth, NC
   Portage Valley, AK
   Portland, OR
   Prospect OHV Trail System, OR
   Resaca, GA
   Riverside State Park, WA
   Rock City in TN
   Rosa Parks Library and Museum in AL
   Roswell, NM
   Russian River, AK
   Salt Lake City, UT
   San Antonio, TX
   San Diego, CA
   San Juan Islands, WA
   San Francisco, CA
   Santa Catalina Island, CA
   Seattle, WA
   Sedona, AZ
   Shoe Tree in CA
   Shoe Tree in NV
   Silverton, CO
   Sonora, TX
   St. Louis, MO
   St. Paul, MN
   Talkeetna, AK
   Telluride, CO
   Route 66
   Twin Knobs Recreation Area in KY
   Virginia Beach, VA
   Washington D.C.
   Wayne Fitzgerrell State Park in IL
   Williamsburg, VA
   Winom Frazier OHV Area, OR
   Winslow, AZ
   Zion National Park, UT

Planning Our Adventures

For us, each journey begins with the initial heart pangs to venture to a certain part of the world. Then the ideas start coming together . . . ahh, the possibilities . . . and the dream evolves gradually into an actual plan. But, oh, the joy of the dream!  Click here to learn more about how we plan and prepare for our journeys.

Where Are We Now?

Click here to discover where we are now, as well as our uncoming travel plans.


Words for the Heart

“. . . and then the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

Anais Nin

Around the World: One Journey at a Time | Ecuador Around the World... One Journey at a Time. Around the World... One Journey at a Time.






Ecuador

by Kathy 3. June 2011 16:24

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<< Quito: Proyecto DCR, and Guayasamín | In Search of the Equator (Not yet posted) >>

 

Papallacta Hot Springs, and Bicycling


I was brought up to deliver what I have promised, and to expect that others will do the same.  Moreover, if someone delivers something different than what was promised, there should at least be a good explanation, accompanied by a suggested remedy to “make things right.”

During our travels, however, we have discovered that many people—both in other cultures as well as our own—tend to be a bit looser in their standards. We have learned to be more flexible, to go with the flow, and to not complain (in most cases) so long as we receive something that falls within the “general ballpark” of what was promised.

Today we had one of those “general ballpark” experiences.

Months before our trip, I had arranged a bicycle outing for our family to explore two different areas outside of Quito. First, we would be bicycling about 15 miles from a mountain pass in the Andes Mountains to the small town of Papallacta, where we would bathe in the natural hot springs. Afterwards, from the same mountain pass, we would bicycle another 35 miles on back roads, including a section along an old railroad line called Chaquíñan, which passed through mountain tunnels.

The owner of the biking company was a Dutch man named Arie, and he was supposed to be our guide for the day.

We were a bit surprised when another man showed up in Arie’s place—an Ecuadorian man named Roberto. He seemed pleasant enough, and we thought, “No biggie.”

We headed northwest, out of Quito. The drive to the pass was supposed to take about 1 ½ hours.

Our 2-lane road followed a series of switchbacks down into a valley, where the homes were stacked like tiered cakes.




One house had a festive, bright blue and white paint job:

Some of the homes appeared to be abandoned, but one can never be sure:


After about 20 minutes of winding roads, Genevieve’s face was looking a little green. We put her in the front passenger seat for the rest of the day to minimize the carsickness.

Crossing over a river:

And leaving the tall buildings of downtown Quito behind:

Even though we were still in the "city" of Quito, the hillsides were covered in green:

The narrow road was constructed with many miles of interlocking bricks:

Once we reached the suburb of Cumbaya, the road widened and became 4 lanes of asphalt. 

A traffic circle in Cumbaya had three cement pillars inlaid with a ceramic tree design containing colorful birds, fruit, and leaves:


Cumbaya is where Quito’s new airport is being built.  Roberto said that this community is considered an expensive place to live. It has a big university, good schools, large homes, shopping malls, and modern-looking buildings, such as this Home Design Plaza:

Beyond Cumbaya was the Chiche Bridge, which usually has bungee jumpers leaping off the sides on weekends.


The cost is supposedly free for those bold enough to jump naked! Yee Haw!

Alas, today was Friday, and there were no jumpers at all, let alone naked ones.

After crossing the bridge, we left suburbia behind us and climbed higher into the Andes, heading up to 13,000 feet.

On one mountainside, a herder was grazing some cattle:

Another stretch of sloped land had been neatly partitioned into crop fields:

A waterfall:

A small chapel was called “La Reina del Páramo” (Queen of the High Plains / Tundra):

As always, I was intrigued by the houses in which people lived. Most of them were made of cinder block, with a few of wood or brick.






A road-side stand offered drinks and lunch:

Lake Papallacta was stunning.


When we stopped to stretch our legs at the lake, I was wondering when we were going to get on the bikes, as we were supposed to ride 15 miles into the town of Papallacta. When I asked Roberto, however, he said that he would be driving us to the hot springs and that we would ride afterwards. It would have been nice to break up our two rides with a soak of our (presumably) tired muscles in the hot springs as originally planned. But, once again, we thought, “No biggie.”

Welcome to Papallacta!

The hot springs were in a resort area, with a separate entrance fee--$7 for adults, and $3.50 for kids.

Inside were changing rooms and lockers for belongings.

Sebastian and Genevieve, heading for the changing room area:

I had envisioned the hot springs as being natural pools of water, but instead they consisted of a series of swimming pools—very clean and well-maintained. The 12 thermal pools ranged in temperature from scalding hot, where I could barely stand up to my ankles for 10 seconds, to icy (brrrrrrr-freeze) cold.

Like Goldilocks, we dipped our toes in a few and found one that was the perfect level of warmth. It was a large pool that had a small “cave” under a bridge and a small waterfall at one end.

Large signs touted the health benefits of the thermal springs, including:  stimulating the immune system, improving the respiratory system, relaxing the muscles, increasing blood flow, and eliminating toxins.

While I can’t say that any physical miracles occurred while we were soaking, the heat of the water was indeed soothing.

Another area had a shallow pool with some rocks in the center that Genevieve and Sebastian enjoyed swimming around and around:

As I was soaking in an adjacent pool, a man who worked at the hot springs came over and spoke some rapid Spanish to me. It took me a few minutes to realize that he had an issue with my swimwear—in particular, my rash guard shirt that I was wearing over my swim top to protect against the sun’s rays. He also didn’t like my board shorts. He kept telling me that I couldn’t wear “clothes” in the pool. And he gestured toward the front entrance, saying that there were bathing suits for sale in the resort gift shop.

I tried to explain that I was wearing a bathing suit, and that women in the U.S. wear board shorts and rash guard shirts as their swim suits all the time. However, I got confused with the Spanish verbs “llevar” (to wear) and “lavar” (to wash), so I think I told him something like U.S. women wash their clothes in the pool all the time. Ai-yai-yai! No wonder he looked confused! When I finally lifted up my shirt and showed him my bathing suit top, he seemed very relieved and started nodding his head. So I took off the rash guard, and that seemed to make him happy. I don’t think he wanted to press the board shorts issue.  Unless the resort required all men to wear skimpy Speedos, my board shorts were staying on.

Next to the kids’ shallow pool was a small area with icy cold water. After Ben showed his bravado by submerging himself up to his neck, Genevieve and I gave it a try. After the initial shock, it wasn’t too bad!


Dipping in cold water is purported to have all kinds of health benefits. With the immediate constriction of blood vessels along the skin, our internal organs get a rush of blood that supposedly regenerates capillaries and improves circulation. There are also claims that the stimulation from the frigid water helps to destroy diseased cells, increase metabolism, and strengthen immunity.

In any event, I didn’t linger, and was soon thawing out in a hot pool. The rapid change in temperature from cold to hot was refreshing!

As we packed to leave, dark rain clouds were drifting overhead.

Now for the bike ride that we had all been looking forward to! We drove back up the mountain and unloaded on a dirt road near a sign that welcomed us back to the metropolitan area of Quito:

The bike company provided helmets and safety gear for us. It was immediately apparent that Sebastian’s bike was too big for him—he could barely reach the ground with one foot when he came to a stop, and his hands were too small to grip the brake levers properly. We adjusted the seat as low as it could go, watched him do some practice laps, and hoped for the best.

We would be traveling along a dirt road over the mountain, mostly downhill, with a couple of slight uphill climbs at the beginning. I’m not sure of the mileage, but it wasn’t very long as Ricardo had assured us that the ride should be completed “in about half an hour.”

Starting out:

Sebastian began having problems right away with his brakes, and we had to stop several times to try to remedy the situation. We had to wait for Ricardo and his stash of tools—he was following behind, allowing a large delay to avoid being right on our fenders.

Genevieve, waiting for the boys to catch up:

The road ahead:

Waiting, once again:

Genevieve and I had plenty of time to enjoy the surrounding scenery together--look at those wildflowers, high in the Andes Mountains!

After the third long stop waiting for Ricardo to arrive (and listening to the unhappy noises emitted by Sebastian), I was thinking that this situation was “not okay.” Arie had assured me in his emails that he had smaller bikes for the kids, and Sebastian was obviously on an adult-sized bike that was much too big. Sebastian was not only miserable, but his inability to use the brakes was dangerous—especially on a downhill dirt road with some steep drop-offs to one side. This was a “biggie.”

When Ricardo finally arrived, I told him that we had a definite problem with the bike being too big. I didn’t raise my voice, but I was addressing the issue head-on. My statement, however, was met with silence. No explanation, no apology, no “how can we make this work” . . . nada.

I took a deep breath and turned to Ben, whose brain was churning in a “Mr. Fix-it” mode. Ben finally figured out a zip-tie solution to bring the brake levers closer to the handlebar. While not perfect, at least Sebastian could now pull in the brake levers without having to let go of the handgrips.

Sebastian and Ben:

 

Genevieve chose a good line between the puddles:

We stopped at the edge of a long valley . . .

. . . to take a closer look at an unusual circular complex that was being built:

The building was ringed with angels and the Star of David, and there was a tall column in the center with a sculptural figure of a mother and child:

Continuing onward, the road was fairly flat now, and we passed by some cows:

Near the end of the road, we pushed our bikes through a stretch of mud that had some deep, gloppy sections. Here is Genevieve:

All too soon, the ride came to an end.

Roberto and Ben worked together to load the bikes back onto the van:

The next part of the ride was supposed to be 35 miles, and I was looking forward to some vigorous exercise.

During our drive, we passed this house—full of character with its faded green paint and hanging laundry:

A watermelon stand:

We turned off the main road and drove through the town of Pifa.

Some houses in Pifa:







The town had a lovely central square:

An open market:

A bright blue flower shop:

This abandoned building stood on a corner:

Two young girls wore bright party dresses:

Red track suits seemed to be a common uniform for high schoolers (we had also seen them in central Quito):

Waiting to cross the street was a woman and two boys, one with a white hat and guitar:

A man and his moto gave me momentary pangs of bike-envy:

The twisty mountain roads would have been so much fun on a motorcycle—perhaps we could experience that on another trip.

We stopped in front of a weathered building that was the former train station for the town of Puembo.

This would be the start of our ride along the old railway route known as Chaquiñan.

First, we were to have a picnic lunch of sorts. The rain was pelting down as Roberto popped the back of the van open and began making us gigantic (and delicious) sandwiches:

The kids ate in the van, while Ben, Roberto and I ate on the covered railway platform. The blue doors of the station were beautiful:

After lunch, we slipped on our gear and were ready to ride!

The trail was for bikes only, not cars or vans, so Roberto would be meeting us with the van at a certain spot on the trail. He said that the ride would take no more than an hour. Really? 35 miles in one hour? I wasn’t quite sure if that was possible, especially with Sebastian, so I asked Roberto. That’s when I discovered that Roberto had shaved many miles off of our ride. We would only be doing a very short section—about 10 miles (if that). I told him that Arie had said our ride would be much longer. Again, I received a shrug of the shoulders and a silent response—no explanation . . . nada.

Okay. Another “biggie”, in my opinion. But what were we gonna’ do? So the ride would be short. Much too short. But we would make it a good one.

And we did.

The first part of the ride took us through the back area of Puemba:






Notice the corn stalks rising above the wall behind Genevieve:

Then we peddled along a rural lane:



The land dropped off on our right, with a river down below:

We were riding a trail that had been cut into the mountainside:

One of the intriguing parts of this trail--indeed, the part that had originally made me want to do this ride--was the series of train tunnels. They were thrilling!

Sebastian, Genevieve and Ben--getting ready to enter the second tunnel:

Some of the tunnels immersed us in complete darkness.

Yes, we finally see it! The “light at the end of the tunnel”!

Spying another dark opening on the trail ahead made us practically giddy.

One very long tunnel had peek-a-boo cutouts that provided periodic light:

Inside the tunnel:

The final tunnels were beautiful, curved snippets:

Near the end of our trail was a rustic playground. We felt that we were just starting to warm up on the bikes, and we didn’t want the ride to be over. Genevieve and Sebastian jumped on the teeter-totter, and we made these final moments on the trail last as long as we could.

Roberto had told us that he would be waiting at the end of the bridge after the playground.

Crossing the bridge:

Ben helped Roberto load the bikes one last time:

Looking across the small valley, we could see the last segment of the trail we had just ridden:

There was a large restaurant down along the river. As we were leaving, the restaurant owner was driving down the hill and stopped to have a lengthy chat with the driver of a small pickup in front of us. We waited. And waited. Were we invisible? I leaned out the window and took a few photos, saying, “Maybe this will get his attention.” Roberto laughed and said, “Good idea!”

After the third photo, the man stopped talking and put his vehicle in gear to move forward.

In retrospect, taking the photos was kindof risky, as he was obviously a man with (at least perceived) “power”, and this was . . . Ecuador—enough said.

Then we witnessed a little unsettling exchange involving the assertion of power . . . and the acquiescence. Cruising by us, the restaurant owner leaned out of his window and greeted Roberto, asking him if we had just finished eating at the restaurant. Roberto wasn’t truthful in his response--he said "yes." But perhaps it’s not really “lying” when you tell a fib in order to prevent what you think might be negative consequences. (I'm sure that entire books have been written on that subject.)  After Roberto's response, the owner asked him if the food was good. Again, another fib, and smiles all around. And we drove off in an uncomfortable silence.

At the top of the hill, we passed through an unusual neighborhood, in which many of the huge homes seemed to be in an abandoned state. This modern-looking house had a dilapidated roof, and the front windows had gaping holes like someone had chucked a few items through them.

The tall walls around most of these homes had the standard broken glass embedded in the top.

The school, however, looked freshly painted and well-maintained:

Eventually, we could see the tall buildings that marked the beginning of Quito’s business district:

Our bicycle trip hadn’t gone exactly as anticipated—there had been unexplained itinerary changes, many fewer miles than promised, and the size of Sebastian’s bike had created some sketchy and tense moments. However, the tunnels had been amazing, and we had gotten to experience the hot springs of Papallacta. The glass was decidedly more full than empty.

Tonight for dinner, we walked down our street to a small rotisserie chicken restaurant, called Don Pollo.

We ordered at the counter and then found a small table in the back. This was definitely a local restaurant—cheap, good food! It was the type of place that we love to stumble upon when traveling.  For about $10 total, we received four plates of fresh, perfectly cooked chicken, rice and a few vegetables.

A local man stopped by our table to chat. He asked where we were from, and he wanted to tell us about his experience of visiting New York City in the past.

Looking toward the front, as the cook chopped up our baked chicken into pieces:


My plate came with a piping hot bowl of soup—flavored with a few chicken feet, which were floating around in the bowl. The soup was delicious. Genevieve wanted to try it, and we ended up sharing the bowl between us.


Genevieve remarked that when she eats a “regular” piece of chicken, she doesn't really know that she is eating a CHICKEN—i.e., a feathered animal that once squawked and walked around. However, when she is staring at a bowl with chicken feet in it, then she KNOWS that she is eating A chicken. Hmmm. Very perceptive.  Perhaps we should have more chicken feet displayed with our meals.  It would be a very good thing to become more aware of the once-living creatures that we consume daily.

Sebastian announced, "This chicken is the best chicken that I’ve ever eaten in my whole life!” Now that is a huge compliment.

Our meals also came with orange soda, which we never have at home. Sebastian thought the soda was a special treat. But the thing he liked best about it was the pattern of bubbles in the bottom of his glass. Indeed, he was elated to discover that his bubbles looked “just like a smiley face.”

I took a photo, which turned out fuzzy . . . but can you use your imagination?

And this is why we travel. So that we can soak with our kids in hot springs high in the Andes Mountains.  So that we can bicycle through pitch black tunnels that once were part of a railway system.  And, most of all, so that our kids can look into a glass of bubbles at the end of the day and see a big smiley face.

It’s all about perspective.

Comments (3) -

6/4/2011 5:50:45 AM #

Donnie W. Jennings

Hi Kathy!

I just told Sheryl about you and Genevieve eating the chicken foot soup!  You should have seen the expression on her face!lol  We eat cow lip barbecue in Mexico one time!  Sounds like y'all had a great trip, as always!  Thanks for the effort.  I will be leaving on a 12,000 mile solo ride on the BMW GS up through Canada and Alaska in two weeks.

Donnie

Donnie W. Jennings United States | Reply

6/4/2011 2:34:32 PM #

Kathy

Hi Donnie,
Cow lip BBQ sounds quite interesting!
Your new adventure sounds like a lot of fun!  Will you be posting an ADVrider story as you go?  
Our paths may cross!  We are heading out this Monday for a 2-month RV trip with the kids through northwestern Canada and Alaska.  We'll keep an eye out for you!  
As always, please tell Sheryl "hello".
My best wishes to you both,
Kathy

Kathy United States | Reply

6/5/2011 5:38:07 AM #

Donnie W. Jennings

Hi Kathy!

I have threads in both Canada and Alaska sections on ADV looking for advice, road conditions, etc.  I will post a bit there while on the road, but I don't plan on doing a proper RR.  My loop will be Yellowknife, Inuvik, Deadhorse, Denali Highway, Hyder, and home.  I hope y'all have a great time!

Donnie

Donnie W. Jennings United States | Reply

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Map of Our Journeys

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Our travel map



Places We’ve Been, w/Quick Links

Bhutan
   Bumthang Valley
   Gom Kora
   Kanglung
   Mongar
   Paro Valley
   Punakha Dzong
   Sangdrup Jongkhar
   Thimphu
   Tongsa
   Wangdi Phrodrang

Bolivia
   Caranavi
   Guanay
   Janko Marca
   La Paz
   Laguna Colorada
   Laguna Verde
   Llica
   Potosí
   Queteña
   Rurrenabaque
   Sajama
   Salar de Coipasa
   Salar de Uyuni
   San Pablo
   Santa Rosa
   Sorata
   Sud Lipez
   Tupiza
   World’s Most Dangerous Road

Canada
   Banff National Park
   Battle Hill Nat'l Hist. Site
   Boya Lake Prov. Park, BC
   Burns Lake Bike Park
   Canyon Sainte-Anne
   Chetwynd
   Dawson Creek
   Eastern Townships
   Fort Nelson
   Isle-aux-Coudres
   Jasper National Park
   Kluane Lake, YK
   'Ksan Historical Village
   Lake Louise
   Liard Hot Springs
   Montreal
   Niagara Falls
   Ottawa
   Quebec City
   Quesnel
   Thousand Islands
   Toronto
   Vancouver
   Vancouver Island
   Victoria
   Watson Lake
   Whistler
   Whitehorse

China
   Beijing
   Datong
   Forbidden City
   Great Wall at Mutianyu
   Hong Kong
   HuaShan
   Lijiang
   Summer Palace
   Terracotta Warriors
   Tiananmen Square
   Xi’an
   Yangshuo
   Yungang Caves

Costa Rica
   Arenal Volcano
   Finca Corsicana
   Hanging Bridges
   Manuel Antonio
   Poas Volcano
   Proyecto Asis
   Quepos
   Sarchi
   Sky Trek Zip Lining
   Venado Caves
   Zarcero

France
   Paris

Ecuador
   Amazon Rainforest
   Chaquiñan Bicycle Trail
   La Mitad del Mundo
   Napo Wildlife Center
   Papallacta Hot Springs
   Proyecto DCR
   Quito
   Yasuní National Park

India
   Bagdogra
   Darjeeling
   Delhi
   Gawahati
   Jaigaon
   Kalimpong

Mexico
   Baja California
   Crucecita
   Frida Kahlo Museum
   Hierve el Agua
   Huatulco
   Marietas Islands
   Mazunte
   Mexico City
   Monte Alban
   Oaxaca City
   Patzcuaro
   Puerto Angel
   Puerto Escondido
   Puerto Vallarta
   San Agustin
   San Martin Tilcajete
   Santa Fe de la Laguna
   Santa María el Tule
   Sayulita
   Studio of Jacobo Angeles
   Teotihuacán
   Teotitlán del Valle
   TzinTzunTzan
   Yagul
   Yelapa

Namibia
   Caprivi
   Dead Vlei
   Elondo Village
   Etosha Nat'l Park
   Hippo Pools Camp
   Hoba Meteorite
   Katutura
   Khowarib Camp
   Moose McGregor's Bakery
   Mowani Camp
   Ngepi Camp
   Nkasa Lupala
   n'Kwzi Camp
   River Dance Lodge
   Seisfontein
   Seisriem Camp
   Sossusvlie
   Swakopmund
   Treesleeper Camp
   Twyfeltein
   Windhoek

Peru
   Balsas
   Barranca
   Cajabamba
   Cajamarca
   Caraz
   Cañón del Pato
   Celendín
   Cerro de Pasco
   Chachapoyas
   Cusco
   Huamachuco
   Huánico
   Huaraz
   La Oroya
   Leymebamba
   Llanganuco
   Lima
   Machu Picchu
   Moyobamba
   Nuevo Jaén
   Pallasca
   Pampas
   Tápuc
   Tarapoto
   Tarma
   Tingo Maria
   Tocache
   Yungay Memorial

Portugal
   Burgau
   Coimbra
   Evora
   Lisbon
   Marvao
   Nazare
   Obidos
   Portimao
   Sintra
   Sitio

South Africa
   Johannesburg

Spain
   Barcelona
   Bilbao
   Hondarribia
   Madrid
   Montserrat
   Nerja
   Rock of Gibraltar
   Ronda
   Santillana del Mar
   Tolosa
   Zaragoza

United States National Parks
   Arches National Park, UT
   Badlands National Park, SD
   Bandelier National Monument, NM
   Bryce Canyon National Park, UT
   Cahokia Mounds (UNESCO site), IL
   Carlsbad Caverns National Park, NM
   Canyon de Chelly Nat'l Monument, AZ
   Cape Hatteras National Shoreline, NC
   Capitol Reef National Park, UT
   Civil Rights Memorial, AL
   Death Valley National Park, CA
   Denali National Park, AK
   Devil’s Tower National Monument, WY
   El Morro National Monument, NM
   Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C.
   Glacier National Park, MT
   Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
   Grand Tetons National Park, WY
   Great Basin National Park, NV
   Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, HI
   Joshua Tree National Park, CA
   Kaloko-Honokohau Nat'l Hist. Park, HI
   Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks, NM
   King's Canyon National Park, CA
   Martin Luther King Jr. Nat'l Hist. Site, GA
   Mesa Verde National Park, CO
   Montezuma's Castle Nat'l Monument, AZ
   Monticello, VA
   Mount Rushmore National Memorial, SD
   Mt. Rainier National Park, WA
   Olympic National Park, WA
   Petrified Wood National Park, AZ
   Pinnacles National Monument, CA
   Pu'uhonua o Honaunau Nat'l Hist Pk, HI
   Pu'ukohola Heiau Nat'l Historic Site, HI
   San Antonio Missions Nat'l Hist. Park, TX
   Tuzigoot National Monument, AZ
   Walnut Canyon National Monument, AZ
   Washington Monument
   White Sands National Monument, NM
   Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, AK
   Wright Brothers National Memorial in NC
   Yellowstone National Park, WY
   Yosemite National Park, CA

United States, Cities and Places
   The Alamo, TX
   Alaska Wildlife Conservation Cntr.
   Alpine Loop in CO
   Anchorage, AK
   Antares Junction, AZ
   Arctic Circle, AK
   Barrel Oak Winery in VA
   Biloxi, MS
   Bottle Tree Farm in CA
   Calico Ghost Town, CA
   Canfield Mountain Trail System, ID
   Cape St. Vincent, NY
   Carson City, NV
   Carter Caves State Park in KY
   Chappie-Shasta OHV Area, CA
   Child's Glacier, AK
   Circle B Chuckwagon Show in SD
   City Museum in MO
   Cody, WY
   Corn Palace in SD
   Crazy Horse Memorial in SD
   Custer State Park, SD
   Dalton Highway, AK
   Dinosaur Tracks in AZ
   Discovery Place in Charlotte, NC
   Dry Falls (Sun Lakes-Dry Falls), WA
   Fairbanks, AK
   Front Royal, VA
   Gallup, NM