I´ve written before about how a well-made cup of coffee can feel like the biggest treat for a weary traveller. But it´s becoming increasingly clear that the cafes we choose signify something more; as we find ourselves once again in the most middle class coffee shop we can find, it appears that we´re also pressing pause on the trip itself.
That´s not to suggest that we´re not having a wonderful time. But with each new country there are new challenges to face, be it different words or local phrases not found in any dictionary, vast cities that stretch as far as the eye can see (and the fast and ever-flowing river of traffic that come with them) or just a different sense of how safe the neighbourhood you´re in really is. Each morning we prepare ourselves for these adventures with the requisite caffiene, and often seek somewhere that most resembles home to ease ourselves into the day. As a result, we find ourselves in cafes and restaurants full of tourists, not locals, and there´s an inevitable tug on our conscience that we´re not doing things the ´right´ way.
We´ve learnt to seek out our morning pit-stops by recognising tell-tales signs: parasols or wrought-iron balconies, old and important looking buildings nearby, preferably a courtyard or plaza with young and trendy business folk bustling across it. Galleti ticked all the boxes: a coffee museum and shop based in the old bowels of an ancient church, its cafe and tea emporium upstairs with window seats that allowed us to look over Plaza Grande below. Once discovered, it became our regular for the five days we were to spend in Quito, offering as it did beautiful coffees made with Ecuadorian beans, kind staff, great music and a host of decadent cakes served in door-stop proportions.
As expected, we sat among more travellers than Ecuadorians, but, while it was decidely upmarket, it did in fact reflect the cosmopolitan feel of the historic centre of the city. For this is something else we´ve discovered: in our pursuit of an ´authentic´ Latin American experience, it´s easy to forget that many cities have a very middle class and modern element to them. Certainly people of Mexico City, Bogota, Quito and others would challenge the dirt-road-and-a-donkey stereotype of Latin America (though, sprawling as the cities are, there is always a stark contrast between the rich and poor, as with anywhere you go). And, should we need to, we can assuage our guilt thus: once we´re fully caffienated and duly prepared, we can set off to explore our surroundings in much finer detail.