Do you remember the pimple-inducing move? Or my wisdom teeth pull out? There was also the question of remaining in this country, remember that? There was this glitch in our plan, this dinner party mishap, and the first time my invincible man got sick…(OK, I kind of enjoyed that one. Whatever.) And not to be forgotten, my unforgivable while totally understandable deed. Which I so, SO regret… (Um hmm, I regret it, and no I will not make eye contact! Walk away.)
Why am I forcing these not-so-distant memories on you? Well, in a word, to explain how badly we needed this vacation! Oh wait, that was eight words. Well in a word: vacation. And our vacation destination? Baños. It was not a mistake.
We had been warned by many people that if we did not have solid reservations, we could wind up sleeping on the street. But here’s a tip: Go during the week! Not only will there be loads of availability, but in some cases you can even negotiate the price. We spent our first night at La Petite Auberge. (16 de Diciembre and Montalvo – $12 per person/per night) And it just so happens to have a lovely French restaurant called Le Petit Restaurant. Obviously we needed to check that out.
With the savory ham crêpe, tomates à la provençale, asparagus salad and complimentary aji spread with warm bread, we were off to a good start!
We couldn’t wait to try out the natural thermal baths Baños is so famous for. After getting settled in at La Petite Auberge, we grabbed our swimsuits and headed over to Piscinas de la Virgen. A nighttime soak in natural hot springs, muy relajante.
We were excited to check out the Stray Dog Pub, offering locally brewed beers at a bargain. I came for the Stray Dog Stout, but the pulled pork sandwich I ordered with it blew my mind.
Our second day was a real treat. We knew we wanted to spend one night in a hotel where we could feel fancy and the Monte Selva Hotel certainly helped us achieve that! (Halflants and Montalvo – $76 per room/per night)
We took full advantage of the spa facilities and outdoor pools and loved our hillside cabin with its gorgeous view.
For dinner, we were excited to try the Swiss Bistro, featuring cuisine from the European Alps. (Martinez and Alfaro) From the complimentary amuse-bouche to the fondue, steak with potatoes gratin, and gorgeous chocolate mousse desserts, we were very happy customers. Plus our waiter spoke French with us, German with the table next to us, English to the table in the next room, and Swedish to his boss. We were duly impressed.
The next morning we relaxed at the hotel and soaked in the outdoor hot tub for as long as we could.
When we finally had to head out, we walked around the town, checking out an artisan market and stopping for a latte and dessert at the famed Cafe Hood. (Montufar and Rocafuerte)
Then it was time to check into our third sleep spot. We settled pretty easily on the newly renovated Mariane Hostel, after seeing the clean modern rooms tucked in behind a quiet path.
The theme of our trip seemed to be turning into good eats and relaxation. Just what the doctor ordered. We did, however, want to do at least one outdoorsy thing, and I kept seeing ads for horseback riding tours to the volcano. OK so even before we got there I had highlighted the horseback riding tours in our travel book. I couldn’t help myself! It’s one of those things that I’ve always wanted to do with my husband. I have great memories from when I was younger, gently whizzing over the field atop a mystic horse feeling like I was living a scene from The Man From Snowy River.
Of course in reality I was probably only ever on a horse a handful of times and afraid for my life. But it’s always seemed like such a romantic thing to do, so we went for it.
From the moment we mounted our beasts and I was told my horse always goes in front, I heard the voice of Will Arnett: “I’ve made a huge mistake.”
I was absolutely terrified. The saddle hurt like I was being punished for a terrible crime, we were not riding together beach side and my hair was not flowing behind me in the wind. This was no simple guided tour on a bored horse over flat terrain. I should have known it would be more, shall we say, rustic than my childhood rides, but the rugged nature of the ride took me entirely by surprise. As did the fact that my husband had apparently taken equestrian lessons when he was younger (?) and was galloping along smoothly with the ease and confidence of, well, the actual Man From Snowy River.
Our tour guide was tons of fun. He explained quite concisely what the gorge we passed to our left was all about. “Cuando el volcán poum poum, lava por aqui!”
“I’ve made a huge mistake.”
ordeal breath-taking tour, I was happy to freshen up in our room and get ready for our dinner at the hotel’s restaurant, Café Mariane. Delicious French Mediterranean fare served just a few steps from our room.
The meal was excellent and we slept like babies. How great is it to finish your dinner and only have to take a few steps to get to your bed?
For breakfast, we headed over to Plantas y Blanco for fresh fruit double pancakes and a variety of fresh fruit juices. (Martínez and 12 de Noviembre) We especially enjoyed the locally made cane syrup.
On the bus headed back to Quito, we looked back over our trip to Baños and we just knew we would be back one day. I have made some mistakes in my time, but Baños was not one of them.