In the third and final instalment of my birthday celebration, we visited another beautiful hacienda with our friends Beverly and Jack. Hacienda San Isidro (www.haciendasanisidro.com) is a short drive from Cotacachi on a windy road through the green countryside dotted with farms and small villages. San Isidro is perched on a hillside with dramatic views of Papa Imbabura on the one side, and Mama Cotacachi on the other. It has its own herd of alpacas and a well-appointed organic garden. As we made our way up the ancient stone steps underneath a 200-year-old magnolia tree, we were greeted by a pair of friendly dogs. They quickly alerted their dog friends that some friendly dog petters had arrived, and by the time we made it to the front door, we had assembled quite a motley crew of affectionate dogs all vying to lick our hands.
Once inside, we were greeted by our very gracious hostess, Graciela Dominquez, who invited us into a comfortable lounge filled with Ecuadorian antiques and artifacts, where we were served a luscious fresh pineapple drink. We had a fun conversation in mixed Spanish and English and we quickly fell in love with this warm, wonderful woman. She then led us into one of the dining rooms where we were delighted with the decor and the views of the countryside and volcanos. Our lunch was a four course set meal — vegetarian for Beverly and Jack, and stuffed turkey as the main course for Joe and I. It was one of the most relaxing and satisfying meals we’ve ever experienced. The setting was superb, our friends – as always – such good company, the food fresh and delicious, and the hostess one of the most welcoming and gracious we’ve ever met. Graciela and Beverly were so much alike that I think they are really long-lost cousins. As we were leaving, Graciela gave me a birthday gift, a set of miniature woven baskets. It was a beautiful day. Just when I thought life couldn’t get any better — it did! Gracias family and friends, old and new. My birthday is over. Perfecto.