♦ Quito is for the BIRDS, with the hummingbirds: colibres, the undisputed super-stars of the area. The urban area of Quito is dominated by two species in particular: the Sparkling Violetear and the Black-tailed Trainbearer. Reserves close to Quito, including Mindo, Yanacocha and Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserves, are where you’ll find more than a dozen hummingbird species. And today’s quiz question: What is the city’s “official” bird? The Black-breasted Puffleg.
♦ BANANA REPUBLIC, a worthy name for Ecuador, which has been the leading exporter of bananas in the world for 60 years and counting. No farm-product is more globalized, and certainly bananas have become the ultimate non-local food worldwide. At the same time, no agricultural commodity is associated more closely with large U.S. corporations, particularly the United Fruit Company (now known as Chiquita Brands International). However, Ecuador’s sustained export leadership was not achieved at the expense of turning itself into a corporate satrapy, for local entrepreneurs have successfully managed to steer their own course. Thankfully, all bananas are not exported, and fittingly in the trendy Mariscal district, you’ll find the Fried Bananas restaurant, whose Ecuadorian menu options include a closely-guarded recipe for fried banana shrimp and of course for dessert: the fried bananas!