Travel

A Day Trip to Mindo, Ecuador

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Mindo is a place that I’ve been dreaming about for a long time now. It seemed like I was the only one who had never visited. So when I encouraged my parents to fly first into Quito to do a little exploring, I could not leave Mindo off the list of stops to make with them before heading south to Cuenca.  The only question was would we stay over night or make it a day trip?

I had promised my parents a laid back trip, a fun visit with their favorite daughter including lots of hanging out on patios and sipping vino, good food, and botanical garden like settings.  I also said that I would do the planning and all they had to do was get here soooo, the pressure was on.  And since I had never really mentioned to my parents bug bites or sticky weather with no air conditioning, I just decided on the easy route which was a day trip from Quito.  I was wrong.  Turns out mom and dad fall pretty high on the adventure tolerance scale (guess I had to get it from someone).  They loved the rustic, paradisaic setting and didn’t want to leave – no one did!  But that’s ok.  Now we know better for next time!

One thing I was dying to show my family was where chocolate comes from and our visit to Mindo made that wish come true.  Ever since my first visit to a cacao reservation I’ve simply been enamored by the process of turning such an intriguing fruit into my favorite indulgence.  So upon arriving to the town of Mindo we went straight to El Quetzal de Mindoa lodge/restaurant that also offers “bean to bar” chocolate tours.  Mindo is a couple hours from Quito, plus we had made a couple of stops on the way at Pululahua and the Mitad del Mundo so by the time we got there all we could think about was food!  Good thing the menu at El Quetzal had lots of wonderful choices!  The best thing about their unique menu is that it showcases their inventions made from cacao, many of which you can purchase in their store later.  Plus the food is yummy!

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After eating lunch, we were off to the chocolate tour where we got to see and taste cacao in it’s raw form, learn about the process of turning cacao into chocolate and later into a bar, and then the grand finale…a really extensive chocolate tasting which was my favorite part!  Scratch that.  I think my favorite part was buying all the treats to take home.  Or maybe it was all my favorite part because it was just a really nice experience and a good time was had by all!

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On the chocolate tour there are also added benefits like the experience of popping a fresh coffee bean out of it’s shell into your mouth.

Before heading back to Quito we wanted to check one more thing out.  There is a small lodge with a humming bird garden where you can observe humming birds by the hundreds.  The lodge is located right on the map of mindo that you receive in any of the tourguide offices.  If you are only in Mindo for the day, your time will be well spent on the observation deck of this lodge, it is nothing short of brilliant!

For more fun foodie experiences in and around Quito, Ecuador, check out my last blog Eating All Around Quito, Ecuador.  And for even more ideas follow me on Pinterest where I regularly post new things to do and experience in this gorgeous land on the Equator!

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Eating All Around Quito, Ecuador

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Three weeks ago my parents came to visit us here in Ecuador!  To say that I was excited for their visit would be a huge understatement.  It had been 2 years since I’ve seen them in person, 2 years!!  The last time we saw each other is when Marcelo and I made our first trip together to the U.S.  That vacation was not so much of a vacation as it was a whirlwind.  The majority of my friends and family were meeting Marcelo for the first time so the trip was constant activity, running from place to place, trying to see and spend time with everyone.  It was great but I can’t say that Marcelo and I actually got to spend very much quality time with my parents.  This time was going to be totally different.  This trip was going to give us an opportunity to gel as a family.  And that we did.

I had a theme in mind for their vacation.  It was food and flowers – two things my family just cannot get enough of and two things that Ecuador offers in abundance.  But I was also searching for new experiences for myself so we decided to begin our trip in Quito, a city which seems to have something for everyone.

Marcelo and I got the food-party started well before my parents even touched down at a place called Frida Tacos.  This mexican style taquería is in an artsy area of Quito called La Floresta which is chock-full of little independent restaurants and shops waiting for exploration.  Frida Tacos has a clean, modern yet festive and artistic feel which I really enjoyed.  The menu offers mainly (of course) authentic mexican tacos but includes sides like guac and chips and stuffed poblano peppers.  They also have vegetarian options and a self-serve salsa bar with four choices ranging in spiciness.  But my favorite part of our visit was a perfectly crafted artisan ginger ale made by someone who I can only assume to be a genius!  That bottle of soda far exceded my expectations after our long drive from Cuenca to Quito.

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The next day, Friday, we still had some time to kill before heading to the airport so we started the morning off at Cafe Rio Intag, an adorably decorated coffee shop that features a strong organic brew from Ecuador’s Intag Valley.  With our to-go coffees in hand and basking in the blue skies and warm sunshine we headed to el Mercado de la Floresta (located on la Galavis and Isabel La Católica), a delighful weekly farmers market which comes around every Thursday and Friday only.  There we found the usual fruits and veggies, plus stands with flowers, cured meats, artisan cheeses and other snacks available for tasting.  We picked up some roses to welcome my parents as well as homemade prosciutto and a couple of nice cheeses to offer as a post-flight snack.

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Since we had stlll yet to have breakfast we decided on a fave of Marcelo, encebollado, a yuca, tomato and albore tuna fish soup commonly eaten as a type of brunch here in EC.  Marcelo had spotted a place with an intriguing name, Señor Encebollado.  With a name like that it was worth trying their take on this classic dish.  We were not disappointed; we scarfed it right down.  As much as we were loving being out and about, it was finally time to go pick up the parents.

On Saturday “relaxation” was the word of the day.  It’s never a good idea to push visitors their first day in Ecuador, especially if they’re not used to the altitude.  I thought that a sweet little cafe called Botánica Café Jardín, also in La Floresta, would be the perfect place to just stop and take it all in and I was not wrong.  Surrounded by brightly painted murals and a plethora of potted plants on the patio we were quickly inspired into vacation mode.  Gourmet salads, sandwiches, soups, juices, smoothies, pour over coffee and some pretty luscious desserts are on the menu so we bascially had a grand ol’ time with all that!  A table favorite was definitely the cheesecake in a jar topped with dulce de higo (fig preserve).

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We ended Saturday in one of Quito’s vallyes, Cumbayá.  There we took a stroll down a couple kilometers of the Ruta Chaquiñan.  It’s meant for bikes but walkers are welcome and it’s a great intro to life in EC with wonderful views and peeks into everyday life.  At 2 kilometers there is a beautiful botanical reserve.  Surrounding the central park of Cumbayá are SO many restaurant options and I wanted to try them all!  There is even a food truck patio!  But at the end of a small debate we ended up at St. Andrew’s Scottish Gastropub where Marcelo was delighted by his first ever fish and chips and my dad was delighted be the long list of national and imported beers.

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By Sunday we had a little more adventure planned.  At my dad’s request we were headed up even higher for some beautiful mountain views on the city of Quito’s very own teleférico (cable car).  But first gotta tank up.  Sunday is kind of difficult in Ecuador because a lot of restaurants are closed but we knew where we could find a reliable breakfast, at a Plaza Foch institution, The Magic Bean where the coffee is always steaming, pancakes are always fluffy, the juice is always fresh and the food is always plentiful.  We enjoyed typical American style breakfasts.

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After our little teleférico adventure we felt the need to pamper ourselves so we headed off to Cyril Boutique, not far from Parque La Carolina.  There we were met with very difficult decisions!  We had our choice of decadent pastries, croissants and artisan bread.  So we went for a little bit of everything and shared around.

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We ended Sunday early in order to rest up for the next adventure, a day trip to Mindo!  It would be my first time visiting the famous ecoregion of Ecuador.  Check out my next post to read all about it!  And for even more ideas for what to do in and around Quito follow me on Pinterest where I regularly pin lots of fun ideas!