Why a Vacation in Manta

When we last visited Manta and on earlier trips we stayed at the Oro Verde Hotel and really fell in love with the area. So when we made the decision to take an extended vacation to Manta we wanted a place on the beach but in the Murcielago area.  We found a wonderful Realtor Elena of MantaHome – she showed us this lovely apartment on the 5th floor of a small building and we were hooked.  We moved in on the 15th of January and have been exploring old haunts as well as finding new places to visit.

One of our favorite walks takes us to the malecon where you can enjoy a great lunch or dinner, walk on the beach at all times of the day or night (this area has a police substation and constant police patrols for your peace of mind).  The malecon has kiosks where you can buy many items including clay figurines, books in Spanish, hand-made earrings, clothes, hats and even get a refreshing agua de coco as well as our favorite coffee Cafe de Pacoche from local family Eunice Jacome and her son Diego. This is where we discovered this exceptional coffee.

When Joe and I have traveled in the past and stayed in hotels, we end up longing for a bit more, so having a fully furnished apartment works so much better for us. I do love a fancy hotel but after just a few days the routine of leaving the room for breakfast, lunch and dinner along with allowing the staff cleaning time starts to get on my nerves.  Here if we decide not to leave the condo at all we can do that easily.  Being in a bigger city allows for easy access to taxis. more options for dining and much more entertainment available. It’s just a nice change of pace from the small town for a bit.IMG_2571This is the view from our balcony.

Our 1st Christmas in San Clemente

Today a group of expats gathered at the home of Mary and Lou Defrain for a lovely Christmas feast hosted by Mary and John McDonald and Mary and Lou Defrain.  What a special affair it was.

When I spoke to my brother John and sister Linda in Pennsylvania this morning they had gotten a light coating of snow but it was bright and beautiful looking out onto my brother John’s patio, what did we ever do before SKYPE and an IPad.  Here we had the sun shining, the breeze was blowing off the ocean and the temperature was in the  80’s. Just perfect for an outdoor gathering.

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Upon our arrival Lou offered to make us a drink and then we would be on our own for the next. He had a beautiful bar set up with a great looking rum punch that looked to pack a heck of a punch, red and white wines, a selection of liquors and mixers of your choice. Out on the deck we found a huge trashcan filled with ice and beer…an ice cold Pilsener, that hit the spot for Joe and I.

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A beautiful platter of sliced salami and several different cheeses with crackers was set out to whet our appetites.

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Then we were invited into the house to find the entire counter filled with delectable treats. After a beautiful blessing over the food given by John McDonald we found a veritable feast including beautiful roasted turkey along side smoked tenderloin of pork. Let the feasting begin as you followed the counter to the end you found a variety of salads, my favorites were the broccoli and the linguine, well maybe you will need to fit in the cole-slaw and the quinoa OH I just can’t make up my mind, they were all fantastic.

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After most of us needed to unbutton that top button on our pants, well maybe that was just me, desserts were set out. Again, they looked fabulous and I did try a few, like the fruit kabobs, oh my, and the lemon squares…we sure do have some wonderful chefs here in San Clemente. This also was a very difficult decision because everything looked so wonderful and well I couldn’t fit too much more at that point.

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The conversations covered a multitude of topics and all seemed entertained just visiting with this eclectic group of people.

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It was a wonderful afternoon visiting with friends, meeting new friends and just having a great time.

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It is very difficult especially this time of year to be so far away from family, I want to take this opportunity to thank Mary and Lou and Mary and John for making all of us Expats feel like we were with family. Thank you for opening up your home and your hearts to give all the Expat community in San Clemente and San Jacinto a very Merry Christmas indeed. And Jackie – great picnic table!

Joe’s Exercise Program for Retired Expats Everywhere

We have become very fond of Pilsener, the local beer of Ecuador. This is not an extremely potent beer it is 4.2% alcohol but it is very refreshing on these hot days especially if stored in the freezer for 3o minutes before you pop the top. And of course it should be served in mugs that have been stored on the door of said freezer for several days to get the temperature of the glass and beer just perfect. And even better you should be seated under the trees on your property to truly enjoy this beer moment!

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Todays topic is purchasing Pilsener by the case in San Clemente. First hail the huge delivery truck, give him your empty case and hand him $9 for 12 – 22 oz bottles. He will, in turn, give you .05 cents back and grin like a fool. The next time you hear the truck approaching and your case is empty hail it again, tell the guy who was grinning like a fool the last time that you want two cases. He will take your empty case, leave you two full and charge you $24 for the filled bottles (this includes the deposit for the second 12 bottles and container). Next time we need beer I will give him two empty cases and he will charge me $17.90 that is a real deal for us and of course we do not need to haul this back from the store. About seventy-five cents for 22 ounces of pure pleasure……….

Joe has decided that this is part of his exercise program.  Moving the cases from the front porch into the kitchen and then packing the refrigerator.  I agree this is a very good Expat Exercise Regime!

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Dinner at Hotel Palmazul

It was a perfect evening one Friday to try out the restaurant at the Hotel Palmazul a few blocks from our house. Joe and I were given a bit of a tour while we were visiting a few months back but did not have the time to try out their restaurant.

You can eat on their pool deck or in the 2nd floor restaurant that overlooks the pool and ocean.

We started out on the pool deck with a cocktail of Club beer but, as soon as the sun set, the wind off the water was a bit too much for us.

Next time I would take a sweater or light jacket because it was a beautiful spot and would have been perfect for a wonderful evening out. We moved upstairs to a table right off the patio area allowing us to view the water from behind huge glass sliding panels.

After a second cocktail, I ordered the three pepper steak described as lomo on the menu which is written both in Spanish and English. It was three thin slices of beef cooked medium with a pepper sauce. Served with what looked to be mashed squash but had a bland flavor.

The dish was served with the long beans popular here. The steak was difficult to cut and even more difficult to chew. If it was lomo it was not very good lomo. I would not order this dish again and was very disappointed because I think this was over $14 which is a huge price for a meal in San Clemente. Joe had ordered a cheeseburger served with a mound of french fries and he loved it and would order this again. His only negative comment was that the roll was kind of chewy around the edges. We ordered coffee and one dessert to share. The coffee was fresh, strong and good. The dessert was not a traditional tiramasu recipe –  it was more just whipped cream in a martini glass, nothing exceptional.

Total bill was $37.21 which included the 12% IVA as well as a 10% service fee. I was disappointed in the food, but the service was excellent and the atmosphere was most enjoyable. We will try it again but probably order a fish dish to see how the chef handles a local item. And, anyplace where you can have a drink and watch a blood red sun dip into the blue Pacific through swaying coconut palms is fine by us.

Ramblings – San Jacinto and San Clemente

We had a very peaceful time in both of these towns. The Hotel San Jacinto was the perfect spot for a quiet week of relaxation.  The hotel, staff, management and food was all good for the daily charge of about $30 for an oceanfront room for two which included breakfast. If I had a negative comment it’s that the pool was not crystal clear some days but besides that everything else was clean and the staff was very attentive. Fresh sheets and towels every day with a good bathroom sanitizing and all floors swept and washed. The grounds were swept, washed down or otherwise put in order as well each day.

Almuerzo (lunch) some days was fried shrimp or calamari. Normally what we have found is almuerzo consists of a fried fish platter so to have shrimp or calamari was a special treat for the cost of almuerzo. For $3 you get a full bowl of shrimp soup with several actual shrimp, a glass of juice or soda, and a plateful of food consisting of a small salad, patacones, rice and either fish, shrimp, calamari or similar. Beer extra. Hard to beat. Did I mention we were sitting at the beach. You know, the ocean for goodness’ sake. Yeah baby.

This is the vichy (soup) that is always a peanut broth. This is a favorite from Manabi. For me,  anything with peanut sauce is out of this world. Several places offered Vichy with camarón instead of fish, all were excellent.

Above are the fried shrimp from one of our lunches at the hotel.

The charrasco platter served by Hotel San Jacinto was perfect, especially while sipping a cold Pilsener and watching the sunset.

After a week in San Jacinto we moved up the coast to San Clemente to the Casa Real.  This hotel also allowed us to continue the peaceful feeling. It’s very small and does not have a full-time staff so cleanliness of the rooms suffered. I removed our own trash, replaced towels – it reminded me of a beach hut so I decided to be in the moment and not to worry about the cleanliness of the room and just enjoy! This hotel has no restaurant but they did have a common kitchen with refrigerator, stove and microwave so you can cook for yourself. Perfect for making a cup of coffee in the morning but we ate our meals out most days, as the location is only 2 blocks to the main street and steps to the beach.

Below is one of two restaurants right on the water in San Clemente. The food was very good although they did not offer an almuerzo (set lunch for cheap). Joe and I had to suffer and order off the great menu. Joe had the beef plate and I had the sautéed fish, both excellent choices. Cost $4 – 5 per meal I think. Big beer (22 oz) is usually $1.25 – $1.50 at the restaurants and bars.

Some flowers on the side of the road!

Anyone that knows me knows that I dislike beer. One afternoon our landlady invited us for ceviche on her porch. She doesn’t speak much English and I could not stop her before she opened a bottle of Club beer for me.  I drank it down and actually found it to be refreshing and an excellent pairing with ceviche. Voila! New Nancy. While on our trip I enjoyed many a shared bottle of Pilsener with Joe.

Natural Supplement Store

There is a great store in Playas to buy your natural supplements and vitamins.  It is located on Paquisha across from the Chino Ferretería (hardware store).

A lovely family owns this store. I bring my list of items. If it’s in stock I buy it. If not she orders it and within a few days I get a call saying my order is in.

They added a juice and batido bar so while you are looking around for your supplements you can have a papaya juice or maybe even my favorite, avocado. She also sells Avon. What a great little store!

There are several carts around town where street vendors mix up supplement drinks for you to order.  This could be for energy, problems with your kidneys or maybe you just drank to much the night before. The mercado has several push cards with bottles of all different types of elixirs for all your physical problems. There are lines of both men and women waiting to get their specific potion. What a great country!

Cuba Libre anyone?

Up until about a month ago Joe and I only bought Abuelo Rum but we have seen this San Miguel Rum both the silver and the gold all over. So we decided to give it a try. Well our first test is Joe drinking it warm straight – if his stomach can handle that we are good to go.  This is our second bottle and it has been a very pleasing experience. It tastes darn good, smooth with no bite – and the price is out of sight at a little under $5 a bottle.