Hacienda Rumiloma in Quito

(by Danny)

One really fun thing about having a blog is it gives you an opportunity to connect with passionate business owners who are out there doing amazing things and to help promote one of their life’s passions. Such is the case with our visit over a month ago to Hacienda Rumiloma, which is situated above 10,000 feet deep in one of the canyons of the Pichincha Volcano of the Andes, overlooking Quito.

In this case, it’s hard for me to decide whether I should write about the fabulous accommodations, or about the 3 hour breakfast conversation we had with the owner, Amber Freier. To be honest, you never quite know when you reach out to a business owner just how thrilled you’re going to be with their product or service afterwards, nor do you know if you’re going to hit it off with the owner in a way that helps you have an authentic passion for promoting what they are doing in their little corner of the world. It didn’t take long after arriving at the hotel and meeting Amber to put both worries to rest.

Within seconds of meeting Amber, it was easy to see we had a lot in common. Perhaps the most surprising thing, though, was that we both went to the same college. Go figure! That’s about the last thing you expect to hear when traveling and touring abroad.

It was also clear that she resonates well with the message of this blog. She could easily write a guest post or 5 if she was so inclined, and you’d all love to hear every ounce of it. She’s gone through many of the ups and downs that life tends to send everyone’s way. Some of her ups have been pretty high with great personal success and living all over the world, and some of the downs have been pretty low, with losing much of what she’d gained, having the hotel room portion of the Hacienda burn down a short time after it was completed and having to start all over again (without insurance). She seems to have done it with a calm and attitude and grace that anyone would admire and seek to embody for themselves.

She’s also no stranger to great love! She met her mountain-climbing husband when doing some charity work, and they fell instantly in love.

It is from her husband that she gets her motto for hospitality. As a professional mountain guide, he feels that his job allows him to be “a bridge between people’s dreams.” She feels the same way about the hotel they run together, and it truly shows.

She isn’t just vested in the dreams of her customers either…she and her husband have gathered almost all their staff from the local neighborhood a few minutes down the canyon road and trained them in all the ways 5-star hotel and restaurant service. They believe in empowering all the people around them.

I wish I could recount everything about that conversation….it was one of those you just didn’t want to end. This is someone who is truly dedicated to doing some good in the world. She’s a great example that you don’t need to have a big platform to do it. Nor do you need to have a certain kind of job that you’d normally think goes along with making a difference. To borrow a phrase I heard in church a year or two ago, they make a difference by “standing where they are, and lifting.”

Some details about the hotel…

The Rooms –

Rooms at the hotel are more like mini homes. Even though the rooms are stacked all close by each other in a single building, the design is done in such a way that you feel as though you are entering your own isolated cabin with complete privacy. Rooms have beautiful wood burning stoves that will keep you warm all night in addition to the hot water bottles they tuck in your bed. You will be greeted with an array of fresh roses (one of the biggest Ecuadorian exports) and a wide selection of fresh and delicious local fruits.

There are a lot of fun details in the rooms…it just might be one of the most beautiful hand painted toilets you’ll ever have the privilege of sitting on. The beautiful artisan toilet (can you believe those words even go together!?!) is complimented by the massive mosaic tiled tub/shower which has some of the best water pressure we’ve had in Ecuador, or anywhere else for that matter. There are skylights and windows galore, which helps you drink deeply from the natural beauty of your surroundings.

Styling –

Although it is called Hacienda Rumiloma, I’d say the styling of the hotel is a mix between the rich hacienda heritage you find in South America and what you might find in a Tuscan Villa. The mix in styles was a deliberate choice by the owner because locals often want to stay somewhere that feels more exotic and foreign. Amber used to work at Sotheby’s and has used her design background to bring together every last detail.

The Restaurant –

Mara and I arrived pretty late after a bus and taxi ride from Cotacachi. We were worried we might have to just feast off of the fresh fruit basket in our room, but were delighted the restaurant was still open. We had no idea what we were getting in for. The food here is truly delicious. One thing that Ecuador is known for is ceviche, and this was one of the best we’ve had. I think I may have convinced Amber to share the recipe with us so we can post it on the blog. It comes from her Ecuadorian mother-in-law’s recipe, as does much of the other recipes as her mom is one of the head chefs.

But by sharing that, I need to clarify. This isn’t just down-home Ecuadorian cooking. My mom is a pretty good cook and I always felt pretty spoiled growing up, but I must say I have a little bit of food envy going on for Amber’s husband Oswaldo…because I didn’t think anybody’s mom could cook like that. No wonder they had the confidence to open both a fine hotel and restaurant with mostly family help in the beginning. We ordered some of the house specialties, and were not disappointed.

Things that make this place special –

The hotel is divided up into two buildings. One building has the guest rooms and the other has the dining facilities on the main floor, a full Irish pub downstairs (did I mention Amber lived in Ireland for some time), and the Library/Lounge on the top floor. I believe the top floor used to be a master suite of sorts, but they converted it into a common area for guests, and boy are we glad they did. We ate both of our breakfasts (which by-the-way were AMAZING!) up there while gazing at the city of Quito far below. They had a daybed/couch up there next to one of the big windows that Mara sat in for half a day working….and if she was like me when I got super comfortable on their accommodations, she might have even taken a nap.

The hotel also has a few resident peacocks and some llamas that can’t seem to help themselves from gazing down that beautiful canyon. One friendly llama seemed to be on the pay of the hotel as he was the first to greet us in the entryway of the hotel.

And if you decide to take a walk around the 100 acre property, you might just be as lucky as I was when you find yourself a new best friend. I can’t remember if he wandered up to the hotel all on his own, or if someone dropped him off. But the owners took a liking to him and he’s now a permanent and friendly fixture at the hotel. His name is Coffee.

Activities –

Our chief activity consisted in enjoying the views and relaxing. We’d been to Quito before and didn’t feel the need to explore the city as much this time. But I did hear Amber speaking with some honeymooners about all sorts of excursions they could do: hot-springs relaxation, volcano tours and mountain climbing, trips to the nearby “middle of the world”, food or chocolate tours with Quito’s best….pretty much you name it and Amber and her staff know how to make it happen.

Even though the hotel isn’t in the heart of the city, it’s only a $5 cab ride away. Mara and I made it into the city primarily in search of our two favorite items from our first visit: Empanadas and fresh tropical juice at Frutería Monserrate, and a chocolate delight by the name of “Rocas” (it’s like a baseball sized ferrero rocher, but better!) from a Parisian chocolatier/bakery called Cyril.  It would be impossible for us to be in Quito and not seek those two things out.

Thanks to Hacienda Rumiloma for an amazing stay & letting us share your place with everyone!!

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  1. Alyssa August 26, 2014 at 1:39 pm - Reply

    This looks absolutely amazing. The part I loved the most was the dog though! What a sweetheart!

  2. rebecca August 26, 2014 at 5:36 pm - Reply

    Oh dear. This family needs to get there soon!

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful place. Seriously. Going to Ecuador has been on a back, back- burner for a while now… you two have changed that quickly.

  3. Jenn Whiteman August 26, 2014 at 5:53 pm - Reply

    About two years ago my husband asked me if I would like to move to Cuenca, Ecuador. And I told him no way! Then we went to Costa Rica and road tripped around the US… and now reading your blog you give me courage to move to Ecuador! I love that both my husband and I can enjoy reading your blog!

  4. Sarah September 3, 2014 at 2:05 pm - Reply

    Mara and Danny,
    I've been a reader of yours from the beginning and have truly appreciated the truth you both share. I could go on, but you're wonderful!
    Now I come to you with a unique question. Since the beginning of your travel to Ecuador and during your move there I found my self so excited for you and a little jealous of the adventure you guys would be experiencing! Oddly enough my husband just recently traveled to Chile for work and fell in love with the country.. and is trying to find a way for us to move there for a few years after he finishes his master's degree. And now that jealousy has turned to a bit of fear of the unknown and actually committing to it! I have traveled internationally some, but don't currently know Spanish. Plus, visiting some where is different than moving a life there. I'm very happy with our life where we are (great friends, great church, and close to family) but I've always wanted an adventure.. now that I find myself on the cusp of one I almost feel like chickening out. Do you have any advice to embrace the challenges of change in this way? What has helped you transition from life in NY to life in Ecuador?
    Thanks in advance..

    • mara September 4, 2014 at 6:18 am - Reply

      Sarah – oh, what a major experience it is to move abroad. I feel for you. It is not an easy decision, especially when you feel so fondly about your current situation, family, network, etc. But, if you've always wanted an adventure, it seems this would be an AMAZING opportunity. But you are wise to think about embracing the change because I would say it is a major, major adjustment. I would say to zero in hard core on what it is you hope to accomplish or experience by moving there and try to stay committed to those things once you move as it will help you to feel purpose in the whole thing. For example, some of my intentions included exploring some new spiritual experiences, using Ecuador as a home base to explore other parts of South America, doing a cleanse, juicing, and eating healthy organic food, learning a language (this one I have hardly worked on at all – oye), enjoying nature more and hiking/camping, working on paying off our properties in the U.S., gardening, doing some creative projects like taking art classes, weaving, knitting, getting furniture made, etc. Anyway, I have found that as I have made it a priority to follow through with these things, that I have felt there has been a purpose to living here. Otherwise, it would be way too easy to focus on "home" and all the dear connections and comforts that we left behind. It would also be way, WAY too easy to want to run from all the less than desirable things about living here – which are actually many.

      I have made a lot of progress on my list of things but I still have a long way to go on some of them, so it motivates me to stay here bit longer to really make our time here worth it. The thing is, it takes a LOAD of effort (and money and loss) to move to another country and once you do so, much of your time is dedicated to the "red tape" of getting established and settled. So really, the first 6 months are nearly a wash. After that you can get into the swing of things and begin to really focus on your goals. A few years seems like a decent amount of time. Because also on the back end of things, it will prob. take 6 months to plan your move back to the states.

      The other thing that has helped my transition is being able to visit the states. We had that trip to NYC recently which was HEAVEN. And it turns out we just found out we get to go back in December. So…it recently has felt like we have the best of both worlds. Next summer we plan to go for at least a month as well. I know it may not be possible for everyone to make a trip to the states, but for me, it has been worth gold and has helped me to still feel connected.

      Also, for me – setting up a little home has added a lot of comfort. Even though everything around me in this country feels so foreign to me, we now have a home with our own things in it and it feels more and more like a comfortable place that I enjoy being in. I think it has helped a lot to be able to set up a "home." We have done our best to set it up cheaply, as it is temporary. i.e. We had a metal smith make a frame for a table ($60) and we made a table top out of pine wood. Though I should add that I know other expats who could care less about having a home and they may share a room with several other people and pay month to month and live out of one suitcase.

      Also, I think learning the language would help me a ton. Danny is perfectly fluent so I have the luxury of relying on him a lot. But it also keeps me from putting in the time to learn. We have been traveling a TON and it seems we always have something huge going on. But I really, really need to be more diligent about learning the language. I know it would help me to feel more comfortable here.

      hope these ideas help! You've got me thinking I should write a post on this…

      Good luck with everything and do stay in touch. I'd love to hear how things turn out.

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