Quito

Sorry to have been out of touch but after the stressful issues getting to Mexico, I have been relaxing and just realized I failed to blog about our last week in Cuenca and our short four days in Quito.

Our last week in Cuenca was relaxing with several delicious home cooked dinners with our friends Janet & Christian as well as a couple of cheap meals out. Additionally, we had breakfast with my former coworker Joyce’s brother in law who has retired (quite happily) to Cuenca. We joined him (and two of his fellow expat buddies) at a restaurant favored by Americans for a southern breakfast…Mike even had biscuits and gravy! The high altitude issues related to difficulty in breathing at almost any exertion never went away unfortunately. So before we would consider s permanent move here (or Quito) we would want to do a long stay.

The flight to Quito was uneventful other than the aborted landing as was (other than being long) the ride into the city. Quito is HUGE. The picture at the top was taken atop the hill above the historic centro and is showing only one direction. A similar view is seen from two of the other three. That is snow on the Andes at the right corner.

Our hotel was lovely and in a pretty good location. It was between the centro and the new parts of town in a flat area. It was also a couple of blocks from Quito’s party central which we didn’t explore except for food. In the same area there was a HopOnHopOff bus stop which worked great since after the hills of Lisbon and Porto we didn’t want to tackle the hilly centro given our altitude issues.

We enjoyed the HoHo bus (especially after we saw that unlike the area near are Hotel that Quito’s historic district was Lisbonlike!

We rode the bus until we got to the Church of Compania de Jesus. OMG. Never seen so much gold leaf and gold paint!

While waiting for the next bus, we walked through the big city square which had the cathedral as well as the Presidential Palace facing it. There was a huge loud demonstration of some sort taking place. Appeared to be about wages. Not sure if the guards in horses were related but they were heading that way as we headed back to the bus.

We then started up, up, up to the highest hill in Quito where the indigenous people originally settled. Atop this hill now is an aluminum version of an angel found in the cathedral. This was erected relatively recently with much protest from many…I guess every city must have its Eiffel Tower. The view from the hilltop was amazing (that’s one at the top of this post). It let us see just how big the city was…buildings seem to fill every nook and cranny.

After our thirty minute stop on the top, we drove back through the historic part and then into the very modern section before we jumped off back where we started.

Unlike Cuenca, there weren’t as many almuerzas (cheap lunches) but there were lots of options more like what one finds in the US. While we normally like eating the food of the locals, frankly chicken rice and beans while tasty isn’t all that special and after five months we enjoyed having some fast food Peruvian chicken from a chain that we used to frequent in Houston and a bbq stuffed baked potatoe at another place. But our favorite food was at a Cuban restaurant(until recently Cubans didn’t need a visa to leave Cuba to come to Ecuador so there are lots of Cuban expats in Quito) across the street from our hotel. In addition to the best mojitos, we loved their plantain and ropa viejo appetizer. Of course Mike’s piccadillo and my garlic skirt steak with beans and rice were tasty too.

We also had a great meal of salads and tasty potato soup with avocado one evening at another restaurant. The soup was similar to one Mike’s mother makes-not thick, broth with diced potatoes. Only difference was Lois adds lots and lots of pepper ( and doesn’t have a side of avocado) and might not have quite as much butter!

Our overall impression of Quito (based on our very short stay) was favorable-seemed like there was less poverty and more middle class folks than in Cuenca. We had the same altitude issues there so before it could become a permanent locale we agree we would need to spend several months to see if our breathing ever acclimated.

Advertisements

San Miguel de Allende!

Arrived and now in our lovely casita. The view of old San Miguel de Allende from the huge rooftop deck is incredible.

We made one comfort and snack stop during the 4hour drive from Mexico City. Had delicious barbacoa tacos, tasty tasty lamb cooked between cactus leaves then chopped and served on handmade tortillas.

Off to forage for food and then back to finally get some shuteye.

El Salvador!

Made it to San Salvador and are now sitting in the very crowded gate area waiting to board our flight to Mexico City.

Our gate at landing was literally at the opposite end of the 48 mile long building from where we are now.

And there is security at each gate and I am now in the toe nail clipper watch list…and we are gonna have to buy some new ones. 😢

Traveling is Glamourous?

Quito International Airport. 2:05 am 18 July 2018

Phew. I really didn’t thing we were going to make it out of Quito. Rather than retype I am going to just cut and paste below the Twitter direct message I sent to United when they wanted to know why we were upset.

Suffice it to say that Avianca and United have communication problems and we had to deal with entirely too much stress. But we are all checked in at 2:35 AM for our 5:05 flight. Presuming everything goes as scheduled we should be in Mexico City around noon and in San Miguel de Allende by 4 pm. Hopefully we can catch some sleep on the planes or in the car as we both had only an hour or so.

Pray for us!

We are upset because:

1. Our six month old award booking was changed by your partner Avianca without our knowledge and without any explanation.

2. We have spent 5 hours and 24 minutes on the phone since Saturday evening. Each time we were given the same assurances and promises.

3. This morning I requested that our booking be transferred to Copa flights as I was able to see award availability.  The UA agent said this could not be gone. This small effort on UA’s part to do the right thing would have gone a long way to alleviate our stress and frustration as we faced the possibility of being stranded at Quito airport.

4. We had plans to sightsee today but due to the time spent on the phone we instead spent it inside our hotel.

We would appreciate having 1/4 of the points used for these tickets deposited into our two accounts. Given the efforts we made to proactively address what was clearly a communication problem between you and your partner, we believe it only fair.

Below is a summary of the issue and our attempts to resolve it. Do not hesitate to let me know if we can provide any additional information.

Clay

Background

We are traveling on UA award tickets on Avianca for the last two legs of our trip (first legs on Copa were fine).  My record number in your system is GK1XR0.  My husband’s is a separate number but same itinerary.  His last name is Burton. I don’t have his number and he is asleep. Since it’s 11:38 pm and the alarm is ringing at 1:00 am to head to the airport I hope you can find it yourself.

On Saturday while checking to confirm the flight time on AV’s app, we discovered they had changed our itinerary.  Original was UIO>BOG>MEX.  New was UIO>SAL>MEX. (During subsequent phone calls no true explanation of what drove the itinerary change has been offered.  At one point it was stated original flights have been canceled but as of this moment both original flights are showing an on-time departure.)

We then called AV to adjust seat assignments after being unable to do so on the app and after 21 minutes on the phone learned that while we had confirmed reservations that because of the itinerary change that the flights would have to be reticketed by UA.  but it doesn’t appear they notified UA of the change since as of this moment you are still showing our original itinerary when I pull it up to n the UA app.

We then called UA and the agent attempted to resolve but eventually conferenced in Avianca. At the end of our 1 hour and 15 minute call, Avianca informed both UA and us that we were all confirmed and sent an email as promised.

We tried to check in this morning with Avianca using their app and their website. In both cases got an error message saying “ticket issues”. So we called Avianca and after 40 minutes with them was again told I would have to speak to UA. After spending 2 hours and six minutes on the phone with UA (and Avianca after your rep conference them in) it appeared (again) that the issue was resolved when your agent “released” the tickets to AV.  We were told that the new tickets would be “issued” automatically in 2-4 hours and we would receive notification that this had occurred by email.The UA agent said she would be monitoring our reservations and would call us back to confirm all was resolved. (That has not happened)

At 4:30 pm today when nothing had been received, we spent 19 minutes on the phone with AV who said we should just go to the airport to check in.  While this answer only increased our frustration, we resigned ourselves to it.

We then called UA one more time in attempt to develop a backup plan should we be unable to board the aircraft. While attempting to be helpful, in the end the agent said that after discussions with the UA support staff, he was “sure” we would be able to check in at the airport.  This call lasted 43 minutes.

Sometime after 9pm we recieved an email from Avianca with the new ticket numbers and are now checked in.