Saturday, September 28, 2013

Amazing City!! Quito, Ecuador

On Wednesday, after a quick $5 taxi ride from Cotacachi to Otavalo's bus terminal, we were on our way to the BIG city, Quito. It boasts around 2.9 million people and is the 2nd largest city in Ecuador. Guayaquil being the largest. The amazing thing is how large a land mass the city covers. It's 30 km long. It also has a huge Old Historical colonial town, which is where we are staying. 

A view of Quito coming in from the north.

We arrived safe and sound with NO bus stories at all. A $10 cab ride to our hotel, Hostal Ecuador, from way north and we were deposited on the street in a magnificent part of the historic district. I truly felt that we had boarded a bus and had been driven to Europe!  Unfortunately, our room didn't quite make us feel so fortunate. It was, again, right off the reception area, no window, and very cramped. Oh well....

After dropping off our bags, we couldn't wait to get outside and explore!  And that we did!!  We learned quickly to cross the streets anytime you could run fast enough to get over between the cars. We learned that this town is NOT flat!  This city sits at 9,000'. Great conditioning for our upcoming trip to Machu Pichu next week!!

The view from our room and hotel looking up hill at El Panecillo.

A view up our street (Venezuela) toward the National Basilica.

We walked over, around, up, down, and sideways! The first cathedral that we came upon and entered was San Francisco. OMG, the GOLD everywhere!! It's the oldest church in Quito built in 1537. A little old man with very good English approached us as we entered the massive doors and proceeded to give us a tour. We knew we were being hustled but just didn't have the heart to disengage.  

A tomb at the entry hall.

Part of the original wall and tomb.

Original tile from 1537!

One of the domes.

Front of the church.

After a beautiful tour and us in complete awe, he managed to extract $5 from us "for the church". So we didn't feel so bad that Mike had snuck a few inside pictures that he wasn't supposed to do. :)

We found many churches and historical buildings along the route that we meandered. As we had made arrangements to have dinner with a new Facebook friend that evening, we just kept walking until it was time to meet at the designated restaurant. Turns out that part of town doesn't have many restaurants and it's not so easy to just find one and have an evening cocktail. (We now know where they are!)

Entry door to La Compania cathedral.

Front of La Compania.

Plaza Grande

We met up with Davis Rorer and had a fabulous meal and great conversation at Portal de Benalcazar. From there we then followed him to Plaza Grande, where we were led into a historic building that we had passed several hours earlier and lo and behold, there were many restaurant/bars. Another nightcap and we bid our adieu's. 

Front entrance to Portal de Benalcazar.

Plaza Grande at night.

The next morning, we awoke to many loud voices from other patrons of the Hostal. A very rude awakening for us "old folks". So I decided to get up have a cup of tea and surf my iPad out in the lobby where there was an actual sofa. Yes, I'm now having tea because they only serve instant NescafĂ©. That's actually very common here but I've managed to avoid it. Bleck!  

Hostal courtyard.
Hostal Entry and "my" couch.

While reading, I met a lovely couple from Australia who proceed to tell us about their lovely apartment suite upstairs. Turns out they wouldn't accept our room and were given a huge 2 story apartment that would sleep 5. Anyway, they offered to show it to me because they were going to be checking out to head to the Galapogas the next day. Maybe WE could get that room/suite!!  And, YES we did!!

After getting that all arranged, Mike and I headed out to do more discovery via the city Tour Bus. Fabulous!!  Before boarding, we toured another incredible cathedral, La Compania. Stunning, as well, with tons of gold. Again, Mike snuck some pictures. 


The first stop from where we got on the bus (it's a hop on, hop off bus), was at el Panecillo, which is a huge angel statue at the top of this hill overlooking Old Town. It is a commemoration of the first water system. Stunning views and our Hostal is right at the bottom of this hill, so we see this everyday looking down upon us. 

Way too many steps to climb to the top!

The Angel.

View of the city.

Us, again!

Exhibit with stained glass inside the base of the statute.

Looking up from the viewing terrace.

There are 12 stops on this route and after passing through many of the areas we had walked to the day before, we chose not to get off until we reached the Teleferico, which is a cable car that takes you up to the top of Pichincha Volcanoe at 4,100 meters or 13,400'! You talk about a view!!

On and off spot at the base.


More views as we climbed.

Catching the double decker tour bus again at the bottom of the hill, we rode through many newer parts of the city including the financial district, around the huge Parque de Carolina, through the entertainment district, and back into Old town. Don't know what all the buildings are, so just enjoy the pictures of this dynamic city!

Nap time in the park!

Our next get off was at the Basilica del Voto Nacional. This church rivals anything we've seen in Europe. Except it's been under construction for 100 years and will probably never be completed and some  areas aren't even maintained anymore.  It's HUGE and beautiful! Sorry for all of the pictures but this Basilica is HUGE and no way to capture it all without so many.  Just enjoy or skip.


By that time, we were again pretty tired so decided to walk back to our Hostal since it was mostly down hill from there. Of course, we still did get off the beaten path but finally made it back. That's a long walk!!  

One thing Mike and I have noticed is that we have definitely lost pounds and inch's!!  Mike's already had to have a couple of new holes poked into his new belt!  My pants are just falling off since I don't wear a belt. Yeah, us!!

We were really hungry because we hadn't eaten since breakfast, so off we went down below us to the oldest street in the city called La Ronda. A truly quaint cobble stone street lined with artisan shops and restaurants. As it was early for latins, not everything was open. We ended up eating at a very traditional place with delightful owners. That street really starts to come alive later but we turned in fairly early. 

The walkway down across from our hostal.

La Ronda during the day.

Further down hill.

Empanada de Viento (Wind)

And even further down.

Friday was spent moving into our new digs in the morning. Then we headed out to do some museums. First we went to Casa de Sucre. This is a very old home that Mariscal (Marshall) Sucre lived in while he was helping liberate Ecuador from the Spaniards. No inside pictures allowed.

Again, walking down and down and over and down some more, we never did find the next museum!!  And, the whole time I'm thinking we've got to climb back up all those streets!! What goes down, MUST come up. So instead, we headed slightly up and around until we arrived at the Theatre Square where it was most definitely time to stop at a sidewalk cafe for a drink. 

Theatre and Square

Patio café where we had drinks.

We were then ready to tackle the climb. After exploring several "old world European" type malls, we found ourselves back at Plaza Grande where President Correa's palace is.  Touring it was on our "to do" list so we headed over there and found ourselves in the midst of many government officials who had just adjourned from a meeting at the palace.

The line to get in to the FREE tour was very short, an unexpected surprise. So quickly we found ourselves going through the security check point and scanners for our tour.  WOW! This is a beautiful place in a simplistic way. Enjoy our pictures of what we saw.
Video of Plaza Grande from Palace Terrace:

One of two courtyards.

Second courtyard.

Grand staircase up to second floor.

One of three mosaic murals depicting the countries fight for freedom.

 I'm getting another neck ache. All I do is look UP!

Aww, Mike, you shouldn't have!! Huge bouquet of gorgeous red roses greet you at the 2nd level.

Cabinet Room

President's chair.

Original painting of the Blue Footed Booby

The guards at the doors to the President's Office.  He was home but didn't want to talk to me. :(

Cases full of medals.

View of Plaza Grande from the terrace.

Guess who, again?

Reception Room


Gifts given to Ecuador.

From the US by Clinton.

This is what I look like when I get up in the morning! It's beautiful, isn't it?

Another large assembly room with paintings of all the presidents.


Changing of the guard.

Changing of the guard.

The guards at the entrance.
A parting gift from the Palace to commemorate our visit - FREE! Very Nice!!
We then headed back to our new room to enjoy the rest of the afternoon.  I worked on the blog and Mike caught up on his array of topics he follows on his iPad.  Dinner was leftovers from my dinner the night before.

At about 7pm, we headed out with our first stop being the Promenade at the end of our street.  There was a stage set up and all sorts of 70s and 80s music being played so we headed up and joined the crowd to see what was going on.

Flash backs of the Hot Summer Nights events in Bahia!  We arrived just in time for the start of the evening.  The first talent that came out were dancers from Guayaquil doing Tangos, Cha Cha, and then they were back up dancers for a terrific fun singer.  Everyone was decked out in disco attire and singing in English!  Mike and I had a blast dancing and singing along with the crowd!  Looking around, we stood out like sore thumbs with our white and blond hair but everyone was very welcoming to us and enjoyed that we were enjoying!! 

He thought for sure he was John Travolta!! What a dancing attitude!

Tina Turner perhaps??

Since the band wasn't due to start for quite awhile, we decided to head down to La Ronda street. Man, it was transformed from the night before!  This place was crowded and hopping with music, vendors, and people out enjoying themselves on a Friday night.

The beginning street tunnel.


Lots of people!

A street tunnel.

We finally decided to go into this restaurant where we heard Ecuadorian music that was pleasing to our ears.  What we found was that there was an Latin America conference of Herbalife going on.  And, do they know how to party!!  Before you knew it, Mike and I were up and dancing with them having the time of our life!  What a wonderful inviting group of people!!  A memory we won't forget!

After awhile the place got really crowded and you couldn't hear yourself think, so we moved on down the street.  Since we hadn't walked the whole way down before, we decided to do that before making another choice for a stop.  On our way back up the hill, we heard more Ecuadorian music that seemed sweeter and more pleasing to our ears up above us.  So into Paccoa Inti we went.  Wow again!!  A delightful, easy on the eyes kind of place with some beautiful music being played.


We were so enjoying this music and our drinks when a mime came in to entertain during the music.  He was hysterical and talented!!  He balanced different drinks on his head while dancing. And, he danced with almost every woman in the place, including me.  Enjoy the videos!!  Video of me dancing:

Mike's beer!

Mike's beer.

Still Mike's beer!

Yup, that's me!

At 11:30pm, the musicians packed up and another wonderful guitarist/singer took their place.  We enjoyed his singing but decided at midnight we needed to head home and see what sleeping in our new bed would be like.  The sleeping was very successful and we're enjoying our large apartment.

Our plans for today are to relax here for awhile and get some business done that needs to be taken care of before we head off to Peru on Tuesday.  This afternoon we plan on taking the Trolley up town to the Mariscal District of restaurants/bars/artisans.

So our journey continues in fine fashion!!