Excuse the misquote. I would have said Days of Wine and Roses, but this post covers just one afternoon, and we skipped the wine and had delicious naranjilla juice with our meal instead. We’re going to have to check out some Latino markets in hopes of finding these fruits and juices when we return to the US.
First, the roses.
After leaving Cotopaxi (post here), Lincoln drove us to Verdillano, a rose farm operated by Roses & Roses. The farm is not open to the general public, but because we had plans for an early dinner at the hacienda that owns Verdillano, Lincoln had permission to take us through. What a fascinating place this turned out to be. (See map above for location of both the hacienda-turned-hosteria and the farm.)
As I noted in a previous post, Ecuador is the #1 exporter of roses around the world. The quality of the light, the ash-laden soil, the temperate climate with fairly constant temperatures year-round, and the altitude all combine to make this equatorial country ideal for the growing of beautiful flowers.
Our first stop was one of the many greenhouses where row-after-row was filled with different varieties of roses, some of which were covered with little baggies to protect them from the scorching effects of the bright sun.
Inside the greenhouse; note the red baggies that protect the rose buds from scorching.
Just three of the thousands upon thousands of rose buds in the greenhouse.
Next, we wandered over to the warehouse where the harvested roses are processed. We had no idea what it took to prepare roses for shipment worldwide; very interesting. Along the way, Lincoln shared tidbits of trivia. For example, did you know that Russians prefer really long-stemmed roses — as in stems that are 2-3 feet (70-90 cm) long?
The process is best seen in a video, but I’m also posting below it a few photos for those who are on limited-data packages and don’t want to view the 2½-minute clip.
Enjoy the process at the Verdillano rose farm.
And for those who prefer … the photo essay.
Harvested roses are brought into the warehouse using this pulley system.
Inside the warehouse there are a variety of stations; it's a hub-bub of activity in here.
First step is to rank the roses for variety, color, and quality;
if it’s not on the rack, it doesn’t get shipped.
The ranked roses are then hand packed inside corrugated paper to protect the buds.
The stems are chopped down to an even length at this machine.
A cellophane wrap displaying the name of the customer is placed over the finished product.
The ready-to-ship bouquets and boxes are stored in the cold room.
If they’re not shipped within 3 days, they are sold to florists in Ecuador.
By the time we finished our tour, we were truly famished. No wonder; it was well after 3:00p. We headed without delay to Hacienda La Ciénega, described by the Miami Herald as “the Tara of the Southern Sierra.” Built in the 17th century, it is one of Ecuador’s oldest colonial haciendas. Today it is operated as a hosteria (inn) by the descendants of the Marquis of Maenza.
Collage of images scanned from the brochure of the hosteria.
The property has played host to a wide-variety of celebrities from Charles Marie de la Condamine, a French scientist who participated in the 1736-44 Geodesic Mission that determined the true shape of the earth; to Alexander von Humboldt, the German geographer/naturalist who studied Cotopaxi’s volcanic activity in 1802, and who is best known for proposing the theory that the lands bordering the Atlantic were once joined; to many of the former presidents of Ecuador. Today this magnificent hacienda played host to us and delighted our senses.
Hacienda La Ciénega was converted to a hosteria in 1982.
The grounds called to the photographer in us, but we had something else on our minds — food! Although our timing was off and it was an odd hour between lunch and dinner, the staff graciously invited us into the empty dining room. Lincoln had planned this as a private meal for Mui and me, but enjoying his company, it seemed natural to invite him to join us.
View of the courtyard from our table in the empty dining room.
Mui ordered the ceviche de camarones (shrimp ceviche) served with fried plantain
strips to start out (bottom right), and continued on with the filet migñon (top right);
he deemed both delicious. I ordered the beef stroganoff (top left) and was equally
pleased. Lincoln said that his grilled chicken filet (top center) was done to
perfection. For dessert, we all split an order of ice-cream filled profiteroles;
good, but we much prefer the custard-filled version of this puff-pastry dish.
Our tummies sated, we wandered around the grounds for a while, exploring the public rooms as well as the special features of the property, such as the bullfighting arena and the chapel. That we seemingly had the place to ourselves was simply wonderful. If there were any hotel guests around, they were nowhere to be seen, and the staff was very unobtrusive.
The inner courtyard is a peaceful oasis with a lovely fountain as its focal point.
The Chapel of Our Lady of the Rosary is a charming feature of the hacienda
and a popular setting for weddings.
Scenes from the interior of the chapel. Note the woven-reed ceiling in the photo on the left.
Left to right: Ceiling detail from the entry; one of the few paintings hanging inside the chapel;
detail showing the woven-reed ceiling and the star shaped chandelier in the nave.
Before we left, at Mui's request, we were given a tour of one of their guest rooms. Of course, they showed us the Alexander Von Humboldt suite, their most expensive room at $190/night, but one can stay at this hosteria for as little as $67/single.
The Alexander Von Humboldt Suite offers old world charm to guests.
Our time at the hacienda was the perfect conclusion to our day; it was relaxing and we enjoyed the old world ambiance. The return drive to Quito was uneventful, and unlike yesterday, we did not have to deal with traffic jams. We met up with the Marriott driver at the meeting point, bid Lincoln a fond farewell, and headed back to the hotel. Yes, we would definitely recommend Lincoln to anyone interested in his services. (Contact info: email@example.com.)
Entering the lobby of the Marriott, we stopped by the desk where the Celebrity host had set up camp. We were greeted with washcloths to wipe away the grime of the day, and a welcome drink that consisted of tree tomato juice. A few questions, a few answers, and eventually we headed up to our room with the itinerary for the next two days clutched in our hands.
Tomorrow the next part of our adventure officially begins with familiar, as well as unfamiliar, sites on a Celebrity-sponsored city tour.