Sunday, December 16, 2012

We Were KLM’ed

Leaving on a 6:30 am flight is never fun, but when you know the end of the day will bring you to Ecuador, it seems more than worthwhile. KLM was an exceptional experience starting from Budapest. I had giving the check-in person a card with our frequent flier numbers, but forgot to get it back from her. When we were boarding, she found me and held it out for me.

BUD to AMS is only 2 hours, but we only had 1 ½ hours between flights, which was barely enough. We have to walk a mile to the next gate, go through security all over again and by this time our flight was boarding.

The flight was direct from Amsterdam to Quito, 12 hours of flying time. KLM had excellent service. I have never seen so many flight attendants who continually smiled like they did. We had a surprise passenger behind me. One of the men was flying with his Bichon Frise dog in a soft dog carrier. He had a real doggie bag. Although I had not requested special meals, each one was healthy and nutritious as long as I stayed away from the desserts.

Our arrival in Quito was well structured. As soon as we deplaned, the Customs booths were immediately in the area. There was an electronic calling system, so we worked our way through quickly. The luggage carousels were immediately after Customs, making it all very contained and simple to get everything accomplished. The glitch was the luggage. We only had two carry-on bags and one small almost empty duffel bag that we had checked. In AMS, they asked that we check all of our bags since the plane was full. They promised we would get our entire luggage collection upon arriving. It was close to an hour before they were proven not to be liars. We were not alone. There were still a number of passengers that were waiting for their things when we left.

We were warned about a few things upon arrival. The altitude may do us in, so acclimate slowly. When we were in Peru, going to Cuzco they gave us cacao tea upon arrival to soothe the complications of altitude sickness. Quito is at an elevation of 9,350 feet (2,800 meters above sea level); it is the highest capital city in the world housing the administrative, legislative and judicial functions.

The other caution was to take an authorized taxi only, which we did. It was $12 to our hotel. Our hotel is an old Jesuit parish house that has been completely remodeled with 22 rooms. As lovely as it is, it is strange to see religious icons in the lobby. Our initial room was on the top floor, but with the jet lag and altitude adjustment, we knew we would not make it up and down those fifty steps to often, so we asked for another room. We are now on the first floor, which is a bit noisy, but perfectly fine otherwise.

After settling in, we asked the clerk about a place to eat close by. He gave us the name of a restaurant, but has not been as friendly since the room change request. After getting directions, I asked if it was safe to walk there and back. After a quick guffaw, he responded with “It is at this time of night.” This prompted me to ask, “At what time of night is it not safe?” The answer is by 9:30 pm, you should be asking the business that you are in to call you a taxi. Great! It was already 7:30 pm. Supposedly this restaurant was only 4 blocks away. Two blocks would get us to the wide avenue and from there a left turn and 2 more blocks would take us to dinner.  After four blocks, we passed a number of closed places; it was Sunday in a Catholic country.  However, 6 blocks did not turn up the designated restaurant. Neither did 7 or 8 blocks. Asking the private duty guards on the street gave us shrugs to “I have never heard of this restaurant” to “You have gone in the wrong direction. It is that way.”

We never found it, but eventually settled for something close by. It was a fish restaurant where we had to buzz to get in after being checked out through a prohibition type door. We both ended up having soup as the entrées started at close to $20. As it was, our bill for 2 soups and 2 cups of herbal tea was $26, for a meal I did not even enjoy.

It is 9:45 and we are knocked out. Breakfast is only served between 7 to 9 am.

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