Thursday, February 25, 2010

Ring the Bell

February 25, 2010 Yesterday we entered a new world. We had looked forward to this day for over 20 years – ever since we met our friends, César and Yolanda, in the USA. We arrived early in the morning for the first time in Ecuador. The heat and humidity were already apparent as we viewed the lush green strip of land along the Guayas River from the cruise ship deck. Outside the port entrance, we met César Jr. who escorted us on a 2 hour sight-seeing tour of Guayaquil. We loved the new Malecón area of the city with its beautiful parks, recreation and shopping areas in spite of the fact that for a short time we walked in a tropical shower. César Jr. explained that people get used to the heat - only the first 20 years are the worst!
At 12:30PM we drove to César and Yolanda’s home. We were greeted by a servant who opened the gate surrounding their home, and soon Yolanda stood in the doorway to welcome us. The one story and well kept exterior belied the elegant interior of the home. The rooms were filled with beautiful paintings, lovely furnishings and a crystal chandelier. Our host, César, sat behind a leather bar in the corner and greeted us warmly. And then to our surprise, he picked up a 5 inch brass bell sitting near him and rang it loudly. What was he doing? Is this what Ecuadorians do to welcome visitors to their home, like ringing in the New Year? The question was soon answered as two servants appeared – one with a tray of hors d’oeuvres, the other with champagne that was quickly poured. Next was, of course, pre-lunch cocktail time – with vodka tonics served after another ringing of the bell.
We left the intimate bar area and walked to the lovely dining room already set with fresh flowers, beautiful china and crystal. We sat down and the bell was rung, sparkling wine was poured to accompany the shrimp cocktail served in martini glasses; the bell was rung, plates were removed; wonderful fish soup with Chilean sea bass was presented; the bell was rung, Argentine red wine was poured; and an array of sliced pork, avocados, corn, tomatoes, heart of palm, asparagus, dill pickles, yellow rice with peas & carrots all artistically presented were served. The bell was rung, plates were removed; slices of pecan pie were served followed by coffee and cognac.
With sadness we left our amazing and generous friends. We will miss them. . . and their magic bell!