Samantha Brown: Passport to Latin America - Quito, Ecuador   View more episodes

Aired at 12:00 PM on Tuesday, Feb 23, 2010 (2/23/2010)      View all transcripts from this day


00:00:00Vo: try our new handmade pansottis.
00:00:02Pyramid ravioli with chicken in a portobello alfredo sauce.
00:00:05Or with grilled sausage in tomato alfredo.
00:00:07Starting at $10.95.
00:00:08At olive garden.
00:02:26So I'm walking down a streetcalled la ronda, and this used to be the bohemian district of quito.
00:02:31This is where all the artists and writers lived.
00:02:34Area's great -- there are some cafés here, some shops that you definitely want to check out.
00:02:39I am here, however, to have what is known as the best empanadas here in this city, but the restaurant doesn't have a name, so I've just been given a number.
00:02:47And they all look like private homes to me, " oh, 7-- that's it, yeah.
00:02:52That's two numbers, so I guess we should just go in.
00:03:03Hola. buenos dias.
00:03:06Es empanadas aquí?
00:03:08Sí? gracias.
00:03:14[ Speaking spanish ] buenos dias. una empanada, por favor?
00:03:19Es uno momento, yeah?
00:03:21So, of course, the language here is spanish.
00:03:24Not a lot of english spoken, so you will need to get, you know, a phrase book or have a few phrases that you know.
00:03:29I'm a big advocate of trying to speak the language.
00:03:33I botch it all the time, but I have never been met with anything other than a deep patience and appreciation.
00:03:40So go ahead. try.
00:03:42 [ chuckles ] empanada grande, sí?
00:03:46[ Chuckling ] OH, MY GOSH.
00:03:49Jugo del guanábana.
00:03:51Gracias. juice of the guanábana.
00:03:53I'm not sure what that is. gracias.
00:03:55Buen provecho.
00:03:56What could this be filled with? this is huge.
00:04:01[ Chuckles ] uh, I think it's filled with nothing.
00:04:06I'm just gonna use my hands.
00:04:09Looks like cheeses in there.
00:04:12[ Chuckles ] that is fantastic.
00:04:16I've never had an empanada quite like this.
00:04:23Because of its architecture, quito, ecuador has a real time-stands-still look to it.
00:04:28Now, a few years ago, believe it or not, this was not a pleasant place to be.
00:04:32Even the locals didn't want to come here.
00:04:34Walking around though, all I'm experiencing is a beautiful city that is extremely pleasant to be in.
00:04:42I met up with ramon andrede, a very knowledgeable local guide who gave me a tour of old town.
00:04:48So this is san francisco square.
00:04:49Andrede: Yeah, the full name of the city is san francisco de quito, so saint francis was their foundation patron, really.
00:04:55So this became the most popular icon, really, of the city.
00:04:59And the monastery is right behind you.
00:05:00And the monastery, which is the largest of the americas.
00:05:03I think what strikes me most about quito is not just its beauty but its size.
00:05:07I mean, this is very large.
00:05:08Exactly. it's formed by 320 blocks.
00:05:10 I've been walking and walking.
00:05:14You got to walk a lot around here because there's a lot to see, of course.
00:05:18So it's pretty safe here.
00:05:20Oh, yes. absolutely.
00:05:21And the last years, the city has changed a lot now.
00:05:23The city provides a lot of security and so forth, so it's good walking around exploring, day or even night.
00:05:30 it's perfectly fine, yes.
00:05:32Are you ready for an ice cream?
00:05:35Hola. hola.
00:05:37Que sabores tiene?
00:05:39They have guanábana, which is similar to the custard apple.
00:05:43It's a tropical fruit. yes.
00:05:44And probably that red one is raspberry, i think.
00:05:47This is actually homemade ice cream, I think, right?
00:05:51Brown: So all the children know this man's face?
00:05:53Oh, yeah.
00:05:54This looks good.
00:05:56Gracias, manuel.
00:05:58Cuanto? dos dollars.
00:06:00Dos -- dos dollars, and this is an interesting point here.
00:06:03They use the american dollar here.
00:06:06Yeah, that's all the currency we use, so you don't have a problem with changing or calculating.
00:06:11Everything is quoted in dollars.
00:06:13The dollar is the only currency we have right now.
00:06:16Ecuador has a great mix of people.
00:06:19It's mainly mestizo or people of mixed spanish and indigenous heritage.
00:06:23And then there are the andean peoples, unmistakable with their felt hats and peacock feathers.
00:06:33Brown: So I can tell we're now at the heart of everything.
00:06:37Yes. this is the actual heart of town.
00:06:39The independence square or so-called plaza grande, the big square.
00:06:43The big plaza.
00:06:43" your independence was gained here?
00:06:47In fact, quito was the first city to declare independence from spain and all the americas back in 1809.
00:06:56Ramon led me through one of quito's many beautiful hidden courtyards, because, he told me, he wanted to explode a myth.
00:07:03Okay, so this is the panama hat, which has a funny name, really, because it's not originally from panama.
00:07:11They're actually made in ecuador, and ecuador is the homeland of these straw hats.
00:07:15Ecuador makes the panama hat.
00:07:18So why do they call it the panama hat then?
00:07:19Because the first time they were known abroad, they were given to the workers of the panama canal, so that association you see.
00:07:25But they are originally from ecuador.
00:07:27That's the only place where these hats are made.
00:07:29That must be so frustrating for a country.
00:07:31This could be your defining export, and it's named after another country.
00:07:37It's frustrating indeed to see the women, the artistry, the materials for these hats all coming from ecuador and panama getting all the credit.
00:07:46I simply could not let this charade go on any longer.
00:07:49 this is the ecuador hat.
00:07:53There you go.
00:07:54 [ laughs ] after a bit more looking and shopping at some of the stunning crafts, ramon and I headed back to the plaza grande.
00:08:06Well, I know what I wanted to ask you.
00:08:09So we're in quito -- of course, you know, the elevation -- very high.
00:08:11We need to drink lots and lots of water to acclimate.
00:08:14Where are the really nice public bathrooms?
00:08:16There are quite a few around here.
00:08:18Right behind me, here at the archbishop's palace first courtyard, you have very nice restrooms over there that you can use.
00:08:24Archbishop's palace, the best public restrooms.
00:08:26You heard it here. I'll be back in five minutes.
00:08:28Sure. I'll wait for you.
00:08:31Next, I go for a driveacross raging torrents and risk life and limbto visit a cloud forest.
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00:12:02Brown: In quito, ecuador,there's old town, and then there's new town.
00:12:07Pretty simple, right?
00:12:08I'm staying at a hotel in the mariscal neighborhood of new town.
00:12:11So quito being a capital city has a wide range of hotels from luxury to business to well-known chains.
00:12:19Now, I'm staying what has to be in the most unique hotel here in quito, café cultura.
00:12:25Now that translates to "coffee culture," and that actually appropriately describes the feel of this place.
00:12:31Because if you look around, you'll see that the look and the feel is very much like your favorite neighborhood café, the one that is so welcoming and so comfortable, you never want to leave.
00:12:43And luckily here, you don't have to.
00:12:44 each one is completely unique.
00:12:48And you know, if you go to their website, you can click on each room number, and up will pop a picture of that room plus a description of the amenities and the unique characteristics.
00:12:57So it's a great way to choose exactly the room you want to stay in.
00:13:01And what I enjoy most about this hotel IS THE FACT THAT THERE ARE NO TVs.
00:13:05So all the guests, we come down here to the library at the end of our day and, you know, we check up on our e-mails.
00:13:11We sit around the fire and read a book, or you know, we talk to each other.
00:13:14So it's a real "getting to know one another" experience in a hotel that you don't normally get to have.
00:13:24Rooms at café cultura range from $80 to $110 a night, and the surrounding gardens are every bit as attractive as the inside.
00:13:35I'm heading a couple of hours out of quito for an adventure in a very special place called mindo.
00:13:38Ac ecuador has one of the most vaed landscapes in the world, and because it's such a small country, it's very easy to take day trips, especially from quito, into completely different environments -- into different hemispheres, even.
00:13:58Within an hour of my drive, I'm already someplace beautiful and exotic.
00:14:01Where I'm heading, it's all about unplugging, but I wasn't counting on this.
00:14:09Bien venida.
00:14:24[ Laughs ] this is crazy.
00:14:27This is called a tarabita or taravita, which I'm hoping in spanish doesn't translate " actually, it just means, you know, a long wire with no middle suspension.
00:14:40Wow. look at this view.
00:14:41[ Laughing ] THAT IS INCREDIBLE.
00:14:43So now we are about two hours outside of quito, and as you can see, a complete change of scenery.
00:14:49We're in a place called mindo, and this is a very popular weekend destination with the locals here.
00:14:55We're here during the week, so it's much more quiet.
00:14:58People come up here to hike, to -- tubing.
00:15:02You know, there's a feisty river below us, a lot of bird-watching, and just what we're doing right now, which is earth-watching -- just absolutely glorious.
00:15:16Have you ever been in a cloud forest?
00:15:19Well, you're about to now.
00:15:37So one of the reasons why I came to mindo was to visit a cloud forest.
00:15:42This is tom. he's sort of my guide.
00:15:45Am I there yet?
00:15:46You're in the cloud forest, yes.
00:15:48We are actually in a cloud forest.
00:15:50You can stay at the el monte sustainable lodge in its pristine riverside cabins, a one-night stay with two days of activities, a guide, entrance fees, and all meals is $86 per person.
00:16:04What is a cloud forest?
00:16:06A cloud forest is this narrow band of tropical forest that's on the side of the mountains here in the andes, and it occurs in other places in the world.
00:16:13And it's characterized by lots of rain and fogs that come in and hit the sides of the mountains.
00:16:20So it's around 4,000 feet up to about 5,000 or 6,000 feet.
00:16:23This forest is the zone on the side of the andes mountains where cloud forests occur.
00:16:28Samantha, let me show you this.
00:16:30This is a really cool tree here.
00:16:34This is called sangre del drago.
00:16:35 it means "blood of the " and it's one of the preferred medicinal plants here in the cloud forest.
00:16:41You can tell by how many times it's been cut.
00:16:44You cut it to do what?
00:16:44 I'll show you.
00:16:50Oh, my goodness.
00:16:51If you want to get a little bit of that on your finger.
00:16:53It looks exactly like blood, doesn't it?
00:16:56That does. that's incredible.
00:16:58And what is this used for?
00:16:59It's an excellent, excellent cure or remedy for sore throats.
00:17:03If you cut yourself and you put it on, it's an antiseptic.
00:17:06A lot of the guys that work for us are young teenagers, and they have pimple problems, so it's actually a very good cure for pimples.
00:17:13So we can also take a little bit of this, and because cavities are caused by bacteria, you can get a little bit on your finger and you can brush your teeth with it.
00:17:21Get out.
00:17:22It doesn't exactly taste great.
00:17:25 [ laughs ] but it makes your teeth feel really clean.
00:17:31Is it a problem that my mouth's gone numb?
00:17:33No, no. it's the cleansing effect.
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00:19:54Brown: We're back for somenightlife in quito, ecuador.
00:19:58 this is where you come out?
00:20:02Yeah, this is plaza foch, the hottest spot in quito right now.
00:20:06It feels that way. absolutely.
00:20:09And you know there's eating, there's dancing, drinking.
00:20:13Everyone's outside.
00:20:14Plaza foch is always busy.
00:20:1700 , if not later or earlier.
00:20:25Sophie and janine took me to their favorite place, the wolf's mouth.
00:20:30So is this where you'll find the most handsome ecuadorian men?
00:20:34The very guapos.
00:20:36Well, after three of these, we'll find them.
00:20:39[ Laughing ] AFTER THREE OF THESE.
00:20:41And they get more handsome as you have more of these.
00:20:44That's the beauty maker.
00:20:45This is the beauty-maker drink. I like that.
00:20:48So this is a typical ecuadorian drink I'm having right now.
00:20:51Yes. they're called canelazos.
00:20:54Canelazo, exactly.
00:20:55And it's basically made out of sugarcane alcohol with narahiya.
00:21:00Narahiya is -- it looks like an orange, but it's not an orange.
00:21:04You mix it with lots of sugar and cinnamon sticks.
00:21:07Now is there a cheer that we do?
00:21:09Okay. we do it like we do in ecuador.
00:21:12Okay, it's arriba, abajo, al centro, adentra.
00:21:18[ Laughs ] [ singing in spanish ] Brown: In quito, one thing you should really be ready to do is dance.
00:21:29A night always ends in dancing, and the dance of choice here is salsa.
00:21:52Quito, at just over 9,000 feet above sea level, is a skyscraping city with no skyscrapers.
00:21:59Instead its ambling spanish colonial architecture allows you to wander and be charmed by its gracefully preserved streets.
00:22:06But this city surroundedby immense natural beauty that beckons you to be a part of mother nature'swondrous architecture.
00:22:14In a country of extremenatural diversity, one thing remains constant,though -- the people.
00:22:20Ecuadoriansare filled with pride, and have such a passionfor their country that they can't helpbut to literally and figurativelysweep you off your feet and make youa part of the dance.
00:22:30--Captions by VITA -& Captions paid for bythe travel channel, l.l.c.
00:22:38--Captions by VITA -& Captions paid for bythe travel channel, l.l.c.
00:22:47Brown: I know what you're thinking.
00:22:55...When actually, I've just traveled above sea level -- 9,000 feet above sea level to one of latin america's most visited volcanoes.
00:23:05Actually, I'm in the central american country of costa rica.
00:23:10It's extremely popular with vacationers.
00:23:13The four-hour flight from miami whisks you away to one of its two dramatic coastlines.
00:23:18It also boasts one of the most biodiverse landscapes in the world.
00:23:23A natural beauty that can be at once showstoppingly grand or enchantingly intimate.
00:23:29And even though you can easily envelope yourself in costa rica's natural world, you won't want to miss the dance, food, and company of its people.
00:23:41♪♪ Gotta take a chance7 ♪♪ where everythingis wild and free7 ♪♪ the world is wideand I am flying high7 ♪♪ 'cause you're with me7 ♪♪
00:23:53♪♪ let's take a ride7 ♪♪ come on, let's go7 we are going to start our journey through the central valley of costa rica here, in its most bustling city -- san josé.
00:24:09Now, people are always talking about just how beautiful costa rica is, and that's why san josé comes as such a shock because, to put it quite bluntly, it's not.
00:24:21[ Laughs ] it's a developing city.
00:24:23It has all the typical problems that a developing city has, and that's why most visitors just bypass it entirely.
00:24:30However, I just read something about san josé that makes me think, "beautiful or not, " what did I find out?
00:24:41That san josé is ranked the 2nd friendliest city in a worldwide study called "simple acts " oh, ho, ho. hola.
00:24:52Una, por favor.
00:24:53One thing I love about all of central america is that it is the land of the churro.
00:24:58Ah, gracias.
00:24:59These little fried-dough sticks stuffed with caramel -- and do you know that when you watch "the simpsons" in spanish, " " gracias.
00:25:14Costa rica's central valley is in the heart of the country, bordered by three large towns -- san josé, heredia, and alajuela.
00:25:24San josé is the capital.
00:25:26[ Indistinct conversations ] I will soon be heading out of the city into the countryside, and I want something for my trip, so I headed to the central market.
00:25:40 you say, "hello" and people say, "hello" back.
00:25:43That doesn't happen in new york city.
00:25:44They look at you like they're going to beat you up.
00:25:47[ Laughs ] hola.
00:25:50¿¿CÓmo estás?
00:25:53So, the dollar is really strong in costa rica.
00:25:57The central market is a great place to pick up all the costa rican souvenirs because they're so inexpensive, and once you go to the touristy areas of costa rica, they're going to get a lot more expensive, so now's the time to pick up the visors and the backpacks and the tiny little purses.
00:26:21CÓmo estás?
00:26:22Puro vida.
00:26:24Puro vida.
00:26:24Puro vida is what the locals say as a greeting -- a goodbye or for feeling good, " uh, I like -- me gusta -- some frutas.
00:26:36Um, but, uh, no seis on the fruit.
00:26:39Oh, my country? where am I from?
00:26:41I'm from de estados unidos.
00:26:43Estados unidos.
00:26:44Si, ciudad nuevo york.
00:26:45La grand manzana.
00:26:47[ Laughs ] he just said, "la grand manzana," " I love it. si.
00:26:53So, may I try that mamon? mamon. si.
00:26:56Si, puedo?
00:26:57Si, caro.
00:26:59Caro que puede.
00:27:01Very good.
00:27:02[ Gasps ] look at this.
00:27:03Oh, my god.
00:27:04Wow. it's like the flesh of a cantaloupe.
00:27:12Oh, that is wonderful.
00:27:14Very good.
00:27:15Oh, very good.
00:27:16Te gusta.
00:27:17Oh, my goodness. what is that?
00:27:19Que es esta?
00:27:22May I se muy bueno.
00:27:24My goodness.
00:27:25This looks like the biggest fava bean I've ever seen.
00:27:29Es fruta?
00:27:29Fruta. muy buena.
00:27:31My goodness, just eat?
00:27:32It is.
00:27:33It's kind of fuzzy.
00:27:35Si, it's good?
00:27:36Good. buena.
00:27:42And it tastes fuzzy, too. it's muy es extrano.
00:27:46It's a little strange.
00:27:48I'm going to take the mamon and the granadia.
00:27:53No, no, no, no.
00:27:54No big fava bean for me, thanks.
00:27:58And en quanto por para todos?
00:28:01How much for all?
00:28:029 -- 900.
00:28:05So, the currency here is the colon, and there are 500 colones to a dollar.
00:28:10So, you're saying 900? so, uh-huh.
00:28:14Que tiene su cambio. mucho gracias.
00:28:18Mucho gusto.
00:28:19Now, I'm driving to the city of heredia " I took three years of spanish in high school, but I found that latin american spanish can be very different from, well, spain-spanish.
00:28:32In fact, if you travel here, make sure you have a latin-american phrase book as opposed to just a spanish one.
00:28:38Intercultura offers a four-hour immersion course, perfect if you plan to be here for a few weeks and you really want to be a part of things.
00:28:48Hola. buenas tardes. ¿¿cómo estás?
00:28:51Hola. muy bien.
00:28:53¿¿CÓmo es tu el día ayer?
00:28:56Samantha, ¿¿cómo es tu día ayer?
00:29:01¿¿Tu día ayer?
00:29:04The day after yesterday?
00:29:06¿¿Ustedes, cómo es tu día ayer?
00:29:10Oh, estudia. ¿¿estudia?
00:29:13[ Laughs ] [ laughs ] I feel like I'm in 10th grade again.