Christmas, 2015: Ecuador, part 3 – Baños – and NYE in NYC!

This is the last installment of my Christmas blog posts, with a grand finale in New York City!

Our original plan after the Amazon was to go back to Quito, but the night before leaving we asked for recommendations and our guide told us to go visit Baños (the place, not the bathroom – yes, we were confused too, because baños was pretty much the only Spanish word I knew). He said that the place was called Baños because it’s beside a volcano which causes hot springs, and the hot springs there are pretty famous. 
We didn’t end up going to a spa to enjoy the hot springs. I know, pity.
We drove from Coca to Baños, managed to not get lost, enjoyed the view during the drive (Ecuador is incredible!) and stopped from time to time to eat meals and also buy all the exotic fruit people were selling on the sides of the roads.
This is the view we had at the remote place we stopped at for lunch. This
is also pretty much the constant view on the road – green, hilly, incredible.

We got these weird grape-like fruits that Hera couldn’t
stop eating! They were really good and sweet but
the skin was rough and Hera said the skin hurt her tongue…
We didn’t do anything that night because we got to Baños pretty late and we spent some time trying to find a hotel (we didn’t have a reservation since it was so last minute, and for a while we were wondering if we were going to have to sleep in the truck).
The next day we explored the area. Our first stop was La Casa del Arbol, which was essentially a treehouse near the top of one of the mountains around Baños. Apparently, we were supposed to be able to see all of Baños from the treehouse, but it was unfortunately very foggy. We did end up going on a giant swing, which was very exhilarating and also a bit terrifying.
This is the view from one of the tree houses! We couldn’t see the city but
the greenery was very pretty.
Me on the big swing suspended in mid air! You can see the
fog in the back that hindered our view.
Aaaand Hera’s turn! (Actually, she went first.) She looks
so tiny!

For lunch, we ended up going to a nearby hotel’s cafe. The food was ridiculously overpriced even for American standards (let alone Ecuadorian standards) but the view was incredible. By this time the fog had cleared up, so the sun was shining and we could see the entire city in the valley below.

Ugh how can a place be so pretty??
We went and hiked a waterfall nearby after lunch and managed to somehow attract more bug bites (apparently Hera and I are very tasty, much to our chagrin).
More prettiness.

For the rest of the afternoon we ended up walking around the town and bought some candy and some fruit, as well as two bags of coffee beans (one for us, one for my friends). We noticed something interesting during our roaming – when we were buying fruit, one of the women at the stall was taking out the trash. Not five minutes later, the garbage truck had come and picked it up, and the woman was hauling the trash can back into the stall. This doesn’t sound really notable, but we had noticed prior that all of the areas we had gone to – even the really poor areas in the Amazon – were really clean. That type of timing and on schedule-ness is pretty much nonexistent in America (yes, I’m thinking of you and your piled up garbage bags, New York City). I remember just feeling really impressed by it.

The next day, we spent the morning driving back to Quito because we were taking a red-eye flight that night to New York. After we had found a place to eat lunch and a park to eat our fruit, we decided to walk across Quito back to the chocolate shop that we had found the first day. Yes, the chocolate was that good.
The last picture I got of Quito – everything is so colorful!

Our first day in New York was the 30th, and we spent it napping and recovering from our red eyes. For New Year’s Eve, however, we went out to Times Square in the early afternoon to catch the 1pm show of Aladdin, on Broadway!

The show was incredible. Obviously I didn’t get any pictures, but all of the costumery and practical effects were dazzling – the sheer amount of swarovski crystals on a single costume! – and the singing and dancing was obviously really amazing. I got really emotional when Aladdin starting to sing “Proud of Your Boy” because it was a song that had been written for the original Disney movie, but had been cut after they decided to kill off Aladdin’s mother. Aladdin’s mother stayed dead for the Broadway adaptation, but they brought back the song, and I’m pretty sure I about died in the theatre out of excitement.
By the time we got out of the show, Times Square was already being closed up for the Ball Drop (this was at about 3:30-4), and people were already beginning to swarm in. We pretty much had to fight our way out, and I was amazed that people were willing to stand outside in the cold for more than 8 hours just to watch the ball drop in real life.
We decided to stop by the Empire State Building before getting our NYE dinner, and the view was – well, the view was New York City, at night, with a very bright spot near Times Square. We could see the tiny people just swarmed there and waiting to watch the ball drop, but we couldn’t see the actual ball because the pesky skyscrapers were in the way. I did, however, get to drool over the Chrysler building multiple times. 
The view from Empire State!
Dinner was quite tasty (I got a very nice Bacon tapas which was crunchy and slathered in spicy barbeque sauce – what more could a girl want?), and when we got back to the hotel, Hera wanted to stay up to ring in the New Year. Hera and I ended up watching Chopped (Hera loves food and she wants to be a chef when she grows up!) while my parents both fell asleep, and then we caught the last of the countdown. 
All in all, Ecuador was an amazing experience – I want to go back, especially now that it’s really cold in Boston again – and the whole trip was a great way to end 2015 and kick off 2016.
How did you spend your new year? Let me know!
Read about part one of this trip here.
Read about part two of this trip here.

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