Monday, May 16, 2005


Our family decided to visit our oldest kid who was on his Junior Year Abroad in Ecuador in Dec. 2004. The planning started much earlier to book relatively low cost flights.

I should back up and let you know that my wife and I had traveled a fair amount before we got married in 1980 and we told each other that having a family wouldn't slow us down, we would travel with babies and kids just as much as we did prior to getting married....... Well, about 24 years later we took our first real trip - with our kids - to Ecuador. We really shouldn't have waited so long.

We decided in June 2004 that we were going to take the financial plunge and pack up everyone for a 2 week trip to Ecuador at Christmas time.

Ben, our oldest lived with a family in Quito Ecuador for the 2004 - 2005 school year while he attended the University of San Francisco de Quito in Quito Ecuador. Ben got along really well with his family, going on trips and to "futbol" games etc.

Andrew, Ben and Colleen at
Universidad de San Francisco de Quito

Photo of Ben, Andrew and Colleen Connor Barrie, Dec 2004, Universidad de San Francisco de Quito, Quito Ecuador. Our first day in Ecuador.

Ben met us at the airport after an uneventful flight from Detroit, via Miami. The Miami airport was an intresting preview of what was to come, most of the people working there spoke Spanish and the announcements were in both English and Spanish. Ben met us and helped us get a taxi to our hostel. It was the first time we had seen Ben in months and he looked great, more interestingly he spoke Spanish very well, probably in part due to his close relationship with his Ecuadorian family.

We had reservations at a great backpacker's hostel, The Secret Garden which has a really nice website The reservations were misplaced when we arrived, it was about 10:00 pm and we just wanted to unpack our bags. Well the staff at the Secret Garden cheerfully found us rooms and when we verified our reservations for a suite of rooms the next morning, they made sure everything was perfect.

We had decided to make reservations at The Secret Garden based on their website and recommendations from other weblogs. We had considered staying at a hotel, but the cost would have been prohibitive for a family of five for two weeks. Choosing The Secret Garden in such a blind fashion had some risks, but it turned out to be a great decision. The hostle has a roof top restaurant which serves a great breakfast of eggs, rolls, home made jams and really good local coffee. The dinners are even better, made with many organic ingredients and the prices are very good. They also serve beer, wine and a few simple mixed drinks. The roof top has a beautiful view of the old part of Quito, making it a great place to sit and write notes in your journal.

I had traveled a bit about 25 - 30 years ago, staying in hostels in Europe and Central America, many of my best experiences started with people I meet up with at hostels. Well, 30 years later the people we met were just as interesting. My wife Karen and I were the "old people" at the hostel and Colleen at 14 was the youngest, but we felt part of the great experience everyone was having.

If you travel to Quito, I do recommend The Secret Garden.

Roof Top Seating for Dinner

Before we left the States we decided that we all would take some Spanish lessons while in Quito. Karen had taken a fair amount of Spanish and French in College and I had some Spanish too. Colleen and Andrew both had some intro classes in High School. We signed up for classes at The Secret Garden where we had classes - Karen and I worked with Narda and Colleen and Andrew worked with Thomas. This worked out really well because Ben didn't want to be our travel guide for the 2 weeks we were there. Many days we went on day trips with our teachers and they showed us around and helped with the Spanish. Karen quickly picked up the language while I learned enough to keep out of trouble (most of the time).

This is a blow up of a small
photo of Narda, she is a really
good Spanish teacher.