If you’ve known me for a little while, you’ve probably heard of — or even had the good fortune to meet — my good buddy Justin. I’ve known him since college, he was best man at our wedding, and he’s generally regarded as a fine fellow to have around.
We like renting apartments online because then we can cook for ourselves sometimes.
Among his many fine qualities is a deep knowledge of the city of New York, and a great willingness to share this knowledge. From the US Tennis Center to the Bottom Line, Justin has taken me lots of places over the years. He’s even facilitated several Pavlik family visits to the city, all for very, very little that I have been able to offer him in return.
Everybody should know someone like Justin, I’ve often said. And now, I feel almost like I know two people like him. This is because our landlord/guide in the great city of Quito gave us very Justin-like treatment during our visit there. It should be said that a few days of association cannot really compare to more than 20 years of friendship (and also we paid Ecuadoran Justin for our room and the rides he provided to us, which actual Justin does not encourage us to do).
But still it was extremely beneficial to us to have such a great host, and we found ourselves very comfortable handing many of our decisions over to a qualified urban guide. This part of the trip reminded me very much of our Justin-led trip to NYC.
The “outer ring” of Quito as seen from Ivan’s car on the way from the airport.
I should say that our guide wasn’t actually called Ecuadoran Justin; he’s called Ivan, and if you ever meet him he’ll try to convince you that he learned English over the Internet. In actuality, he spent a good portion of his teens and 20s living in the greater New York Metropolitan area (roaming the same streets Justin does!) before returning to his native Ecuador and starting a family. So he’s got an accent that, while it’s more Jersey than Justin’s (Justin hardly ever says “youse”), evoked our past trips to the concrete jungle. Also, he drives a tiny little car, like Justin used to, all the better for zipping in and out of traffic. Ivan and Justin both got married (to other people, not each other) within the past few years and now have families. So many similarities.
Lanie practices ten stories about the city.
In Quito, it’s good to have some inside knowledge. Especially if you’re only going to be there for a few days. It’s not New York City, by any means, but it’s definitely big enough that you could just wander around for days without proper directions. Ivan was great at showing us our new neighborhood, in the high-end North Side of the city. Before even bringing us to our building — “the best building in Quito,” he told us — he drove us through several of the surrounding streets to show us shops and restaurants of note — Just like Justin did for us in Flushing Meadows. The apartment itself was extremely well appointed — Ivan even had Netflix up and running for us (we were at the most exciting part of National Treasure 2 when the earthquake hit on our second-to-last night in Quito).
He told us where to get taxis and how much we should pay to get to the various places we wanted to go. He even offered to take us to places out of the city (including the airport) for less than taxis would charge. And he provided multiple nuggets of wisdom that we probably would not have gotten from taxi drivers or your average apartment renter:
— When he took us to the Mitad del Mundo, he brought us right to the “unofficial” attraction, which is both more geographically accurate and less expensive than the big park run by the government. We all felt the unofficial Mitad del Mundo site was much more interesting than the big monument and I bet most people just get dropped off at the big one. Ivan told us how to walk to the main attraction once we got done with the first one.
— He told us about the main boulevard that shuts down and is dedicated to bike traffic on Sunday mornings, and that bikes are available for rent at kiosks along the way. It’s true that our attempt to take advantage of this nearly ended in disaster — Lanie was attempting to ride a bike that was too big for her and caused a man to wipe out and possibly damage his bike — it was still an idea that appealed to us greatly.
Sunday morning the park: papaya and several dozen people doing Zumba in the background
— He suggested we spend time in the park across the street from our building, Parque de Carolina. This turned out to be a great idea. The park had loads of stuff to explore and was filled with people on the weekend we were there.
— He confirmed, after we emailed him, that it was actually an earthquake making our building — the best building in Quito — sway back and forth, and suggested that it might not be a bad idea to walk outside and stand around in the park for a while until we got the feeling that the earthquake was actually over. It took about an hour and a half before we felt that way. We should also say that well before the earthquake, as he was showing us the building, he told us that it could withstand a 9 in the richter scale. The earthquake that affected us was not nearly that strong, and it was centered several hundred miles away from Quito.
Reenactment of us fleeing the building after the earthquake.
— He introduced us to Mote con Chicharron, which sounds really cool and tastes pretty good, too. This was after we asked him where we should go for lunch that wasn’t too expensive and was what a local person would eat. He brought us to this hole-in-the-wall place and even ordered for us. It was very tasty and unlike anything we’d ever eaten before. Mote con Chicharron consists of several types of corn (mote) on plate with lots of pieces of crispy fried pork (chicharron), as well as a lot of very large lima beans. Most of us liked it considerably.
— He bought a new washer/drier (both functions, one machine) and had it installed the day before we got there so we could do laundry for the first time in two weeks.
— He gave us a very good rating on the online booking system we used to get in touch with him.
— He was willing to pick us up from the airport and bring us back (our return flight to Boston left at 9 am and he had to pick us up at 6).
So there you have it. Anyone who is considering a trip to an exotic place but doesn’t know exactly where should consider Quito. And anyone who is considering a visit to Quito should definitely get in touch with our friend Ecuadoran Justin, aka Ivan. Contact us and we’ll tell you how to get in touch with him.