Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Puerto Lopez, Carnival Style

After spending a couple of days in Guayaquil, we headed to Puerto Lopez, a low-key beach and fishing village.  This was Dave's and my second time visiting PL, so we thought we knew what we were getting into.  Little did we know that everything changes when it is Carnival.  The village was packed with Carnival revelers, there was no free space on the beach, and thumping techno could be heard from every corner twenty-four hours a day.  It was a great people watching opportunity, even though we had to dodge flying water balloons a couple of times.

The first day we arrived in Puerto Lopez, we were able to tour the beach and hit some of the artisan stands that line the main strip.  We ate dinner at a cute restaurant that served the typical Ecuadorian cuisine and then walked back through the strip to our very clean and cute hostel.  Thank goodness we had booked a place that was off of the main road, you could still hear traces of the techno beat but not as if it was right next door.

The second day of our PL vacation was spent at Isla de la Plata (see following post), which lasted all day.  We arrived back at the beach to see that even more people had arrived and had set up camp during the day.  Carnival rides, that looked a bit sketchy, had been set up at the end of the beach and people had constructed make-shift tents that were crammed next to each other down the entire strip.  A couple of band shells had been erected while we were gone, and dance floors had been marked off.  Kids were running around with silly string cans, water guns, and water balloons.  It was an adventure just to get back to our hostel in one piece.  

After we had cleaned up, we took the Bentz' to an off-the-beaten-path restaurant.  The small, intimate, authentic Italian restaurant is on the outskirts of the village.  We had to cross many muddy and deserted roads.  I'm sure Tosha and Brandon were wondering where we could possibly be going so far from the main part of town.  They were not disappointed when we arrived at Bellitalia.  This place is an oasis in the middle of the dirty and muddy streets.  You really do feel transported when you walk through the gate.  The restaurant is all outdoors, but it is set back from the street and is in the midst of a beautiful garden.  The tables are placed in gazebos and the lighting is mostly provided by lanterns and candlelight.  The owners are originally from Italy and prepare the dishes themselves as they are ordered.  It is a bit of a wait for the food, but definitely worth it.  We had a wonderful and relaxing dinner, complete with great food and great conversation.
Though Puerto Lopez is not your typical resort beach town, it has a charm and peace that Dave and I really enjoy.  We were happy that the Bentz' also recognized the village's charms and they seemed to have a great time as well!