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Herbs for infusions at Casa Gangotena, Quito Ecuador. Coen Wubbels photo.
 The Plaza San Francisco in Quito, Ecuador. Coen Wubbels photos. The Plaza San Francisco in Quito, Ecuador. Coen Wubbels photos.

Bathing in Luxury at the Casa Gangotena in Quito, Ecuador

I am looking out over the Mediterranean dotted with a couple of sailing boats. Low rolling hills line the horizon. The image is framed by Corinthian columns covered in flowering vines. I feel as if I'm on vacation in Greece, Italy, or Spain. Does that make sense, with my being 9,350 feet above sea level, in Quito, Ecuador's capital? Not really.

Bathing in Luxury

I enjoy this view from my spotless white bath in a marbled bathroom that is part of a comfortable and spacious room decorated in a blend of classic and modern. I am literally bathing in luxury in the three-story Casa Gangotena Boutique Hotel, which Trip Advisor's Traveler Awards 2014 nominated "The Best Hotel in Ecuador and South America".

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After an extensive renovation of the more than 100-year-old, neo-colonial mansion, Casa Gangotena opened its doors in 2011. The hotel has preserved as many of the original architectonic features and decorative elements as possible, the wall-to-wall fresco painting across the bathroom and bedroom of the scene described above being one of them.

Casa Gangotena bedroom.Casa Gangotena bedroom.
Among the others are two paintings at the reception and several mirrors in the hotel. They perfectly fit in with the modern design hotel with touches of Art Nouveau and neo-classical architecture.

Next to the tub that I am soaking in, my partner Coen is taking a shower which has the force of a waterfall after we found the bathtub a tad too small for two persons. He is shampooing his hair – 'mmm, smells good', he comments – without turning off the tap.

One of Casa Gangotena's luxurious bathrooms.One of Casa Gangotena's luxurious bathrooms.What's the big deal here? Aren't we just taking a bath/shower? Well, for travelers who have lived in an antique Land Cruiser for the past eleven years and whose outdoor showers consist of five liters of cold water from a shower bag – for the two of them – bathing in warm, no hot, water with foamy bubbles and not having to turn off the tap while soaping up is sheer luxury.

A slight feeling of guilt of bathing in such opulence is soothed by the thought that the hotel's water is heated by solar panels and all soaps and shampoos (as well as the hotel's cleaning products) are biodegradable.

Downtown Quito

We cherish a moment of relaxation after an intensive day. We had chosen a perfect day to drive to downtown Quito, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1978, which despite its alluring colonial buildings, plazas and churches suffers just as much from traffic jams as any other major city in the world. But it is Sunday and the
roads were practically empty. When parking our Land Cruiser in front of Casa Gangotena we learned that the hotel has an underground parking lot, but not for 2.70-meter-high vehicles.

The hotel and gardens.The hotel and gardens."No worry," Diego, the porter, said. "We'll find a solution while you get settled in." Jane, the receptionist, took care of the paperwork and while taking us to our room showed us the glass-roofed lounge and patio garden where we would later have our 'Quiteño coffee'; she enthusiastically shared background information on the boutique hotel, which until some ten years ago was owned by an influential family called Gangotena.

From our room we took some of the Ecuadorian fruits with us, such as tomate de arbol, granadilla and uvilla, that were waiting on a tray with a handwritten welcome note, and then walked up the spiral marble stairway to Casa Gangotena's panoramic terrace on the third floor.

In easy chairs underneath a parasol we ate our fruits, and took in the view of the adjacent immense, cobbled San Francisco Square that is lined with majestic churches and colonial buildings.

As we left the hotel I wondered why so many travelers prefer staying The view of beautiful Quito from the hotel's terrace. The view of beautiful Quito from the hotel's terrace. in the northern section of Mariscal. Casa Gangotena lies smack in the middle of Quito's most scenic quarters.

The old town is characterized by charming plazas and pedestrian streets, making it easy to go for a stroll and visit Quito's most beautiful churches (Iglesia de la Merced and Iglesia y Convento de San Francisco), interesting museums, and watch scenes from daily life.

We watched the shoeshine boys at Plaza Grande, and from some women from neighboring villages, dressed in traditional clothes we bought a portion of treinta y uno (thirty-one), an intriguing name based on the traditional 31 pieces of stomach and other intestines that make up this snack. In fact, to learn more about Quito's daily life, we had planned the Metropolitan Tour's Live Quito Like a Local Walking Tour for the following day.

More Pampering

Around five we returned to the hotel, in time for the Quiteño coffee which is pretty similar to the typical English high tea, and which is served daily between four and six pm in the lounge. When Victor, the waiter, asked us whether we wanted coffee or tea we got into a discussion about flavors of Ecuadorian high-quality coffee and teas.

The hotel kitchen's herb garden.The hotel kitchen's herb garden."We have fresh herbs for infusions and if you like I'll show them to you," he suggested and off we were to the patio garden, smelling and tasting mint, hierba luisa, cedrón, and thyme. We settled for the mint, which was served with an array of homemade canapés, pastries and petit fours all based on Ecuadorian ingredients, such as turnovers made of green plantains and shrimp.

After having eaten our complimentary fruits upon arrival, snacked downtown, and enjoyed this elaborate high tea, our stomachs were so heavy that we skipped dinner. While Marco, the porter on duty, escorted Coen in the Land Cruiser to a suitable parking lot, I slid into a warm tub filled with bubbles and closed my eyes.

I feel the fatigue draining away. My eyes feel heavy and the image of the Mediterranean starts to fade. It is time to hit the bed.The patio garden.

A king-sized bed that is, with pillows in three sizes. Big enough to lose one another, I muse. The size of the bed is about that of the entire interior of our vehicle in which we have camped for eleven years. And since I have never lost Coen in our car, I figure that I won't in the king-sized bed either.

Further information

- Website Casa Gangotena
- Website Metropolitan Touring for the walking tour Live Quito Like a Local.

Karin-Marijke Vis and Coen Wubbels

Karin-Marijke Vis
and her partner Coen Wubbels, photographer, have been overlanding in Asia and South America since 2003. They have been assigned the Overlanders of the Year Award 2013. Their work has been published in 4WD/car monthlies and in travel magazines. Follow them on and instagram/photocoen

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Nomadic Matt's new book is called Travel the World on $50 a day.

Travel the World on $50 a Day

Nomadic Matt Shares His Travel Wisdom

Matt Kepnes shows how you can travel the world for $50 a day 

Matt Knepes is one of the hardest working travel writers and publishers I know.  He spends hours and hours compiling really good travel deals, ideas and special fares for his weekly newsletter. He replies to hundreds of his readers one by one, and his website is at the top of the list for the Top 50 Travel blogs consistently.  Try as I might, I can't fault him for his work ethic and though many of us in the business are envious, none of us can ever call Matt a slacker. Travel the World on $50 a Day has already been selling well, and it's no wonder. It's a useful book written by a guy who has inspired many to take the plunge like he did.

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This new revised and updated edition of his book provides some tips on how you can save on accommodations, flights, meals,  and activities and mostly, it's a book designed to help get travelers out into the world. As you'll see below, traveling in a state of mind, one that Kepnes has embraced for all of the years he's circled the world.

Excerpt from the book: Getting Over Your Fears

The most difficult part about traveling the world isn’t the logistics of the trip—it’s fi nding the motivation to go. It takes a lot of courageto leave your life and journey into the unknown. It’s the step that most people never get past. For me, it took a trip to Th ailand to get me to make the leap. For others, it’s a lot more diffi cult. Instead of the nudge I required, some people require a full-on shove.

While most of this book will talk about the practical, financial side of travel, the fi rst thing I wanted to tell you is that you don’t need to be afraid of traveling the world. It’s only natural to second-guess yourself when making a big life change.

And this is a big change. One of the most common emails I receive asks me whether or not someone should travel the world. Do they quit their job and go for i
Are they in the right stage of life? Will everything be OK if they leave? Will they get a job when they return? Th ese emails are peppered with nervous excitement over travel’s endless possibilities, but there is also always one underlying tone to the emails: “Matt, I want to go, but I’m also afraid. I need someone to tell me it will be all right.”

In my meetings with strangers, they pepper me with questions about my trip. People are curious about my travels, experience, and how I got started doing this. Th ey dream of traveling the world. “It must be such the adventure,” they tell me, “I wish I could do it.” And when I ask them what stops them, they come up with a book full of
excuses as to why they can’t:

Matt Kepnes, aka, Nomadic Matt.Matt Kepnes, aka, Nomadic Matt.I can’t aff ord my trip.
I have too many responsibilities at home.
I won’t be able to make friends on the road.
I don’t want to be alone.
I have too many bills to pay.
I’m not sure I could do it.
I’m simply too scared.

With all that fear and doubt, it’s easier for someone to stay home in his or her comfort zone than to break out and travel the world. As
the saying goes, “People go with the devil they know over the devil they don’t.” Home is our safe zone. We know it. We understand it. We may not always like it, but we get it. In the end, held back by their own fears, most people stay home, dreaming of that “one perfect day” they will finally travel.
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But you know what? That day never comes. It will never be perfect.

Getting Over Your Fears

Tomorrow, you’ll still have bills.
Tomorrow, you still won’t have just the right amount of money.
Tomorrow, there will still be someone’s wedding to attend or a birthday party to go to.
Tomorrow, you will still second-guess yourself.
Tomorrow, you’ll fi nd another excuse as to why you can’t go.
Tomorrow, people you know will still feed the seeds of doubt in your head.
Tomorrow will come and you’ll say, “Today isn’t the right day. Let’s go tomorrow.”

Dropping everything to travel takes a lot of courage, and while many people claim “real world responsibilities” are the reason for not traveling, I think fear of the unknown is really what holds people back.

If you bought this book, you are probably already on the right track. Taking a long-term trip is already on your mind. Maybe you are already committed or still on the fence about it. But no matter what side of the coin you fall on, know that even the most experienced travelers had doubts when they began. I want to reassure you that you are doing the right thing.

Right here. Right now.

"You Aren’t the First Person to Travel Abroad" One of the things that comforted me when I began traveling was knowing that lots of other people traveled the world before me and ended up just fi ne. While long-term travel might not be popular in the United States, it is a rite of passage for a lot of people around the world.

People as young as high school graduates head overseas in droves for long-term trips. As you read this paragraph right now, millions of people are trekking around the world and discovering foreign lands. And if millions of eighteen-year-olds on a round-the-world trip came home in one piece, I realized there was no reason I wouldn’t either.

There’s nothing I can’t do that anyone else can do. And the same goes for you. You won’t be the first person to leave home and explore the jungles of Asia. There is a well-worn travel trail around the world where you’ll be able to find support and comfort from other travelers. Columbus had a reason to be afraid. He had no idea where he was going and he was the first person to go that way. He blazed a trail. You’re going on a trail that has already been blazed. That realization helped take away some of my fear because I knew there would be other travelers on the road to comfort me.

You Are Just as Capable as Everyone Else

I’m smart, I’m capable, and I have common sense. If other people could travel the world, why couldn’t I? I realized there was no reason I wouldn’t be capable of making my way around the world. I’m just as good as everyone else. And so are you. Early in my travels, I managed to turn up in Bangkok without knowing one person and live and thrive there for close to a year. I made friends, I found a girlfriend, had an apartment, and I even learned Thai.

It was sink or swim, and I swam. I recently navigated my way through Ukraine, a country where few people speak English and even fewer signs are in the Roman alphabet, as they use the Cyrillic script there.

Then there are little things like fi guring out a local subway, using a map to navigate unknown streets, and making yourself understood without learning the local language. I once went “choo choo” to a taxi driver to make it understood I needed to go to the train station. It worked. Nobody steps out into the world knowing it all. They pick it up along the way. Don’t doubt yourself. You get by in your regular life just fi ne. The same will be true when you travel.

Buy Travel the World on $50 a day on Amazon

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