Monday, March 25, 2019

Old Town Quito

Another warm, sunny morning in Quito. I learned not to trust the weather reports which say it should be 10 degrees and raining.

John is having a few issues with altitude; mostly shortness of breath especially with exertion. Hopefully he will acclimatize over the next day or two. I feel it a bit as well but not as bad as John. Apparently men are more inclined to altitude sickness than women.

We began the day with a 4 hour walking tour that started at the Secret Garden Hostel which is the sister to our hostel, Carpedm. The hostels are a block apart. 

All ages stay in the hostels. These ones are much nicer than the usual hostel.

Quito’s old town is a much deserved UNESCO world heritage. The boundaries of the old town are marked by four old Spanish churches, one at each corner.

We started the tour by walking up and up and up a steep hill to the Basilica Del Vito Nacional. I was breathless. The Basilica is actually outside of the old town.

This gorgeous, gothic cathedral has gargoyles carved in the forms of animals of the Galapagos and Amazon Rain forest. Andreas, our guide showed us the doors which represented the native people being converted to Christianity. 

Many people go up to the tower, walk across a wooden walkway and climb a ladder to the top for a great view. They strongly suggest you don’t do this if you are not in good shape or have a fear of heights. Needless to say, I won’t be doing it.

We continued walking up (gasp, gasp, gasp) to an old convent.

Finally we walked down to the Plaza Grande (aka Plaza de la Independencia). This Square was teaming with life; locals lined the benches to watch and dance to a huge brass band that played on the steps of the Metropolitan Cathedral.

Andreas took us into a colonial building that now houses shops and artisans. We tried natural ice cream in local flavours, home made empanadas and local candies. Inexpensive and delicious.

We crossed the square to the old university. So gorgeous. From the rooftop we had beautiful views of the city.

Since it was Monday, all the museums were closed.

We made our way past a few beautiful churches which we will check out later on our own.

We walked to the edge of the old town  where we visited the Conjunto Monumental San Francisco. This is the church that has the prototype of the winged Virgin Mary which overlooks the city.

Continuing the tour, we were taken around the spice market and then to a street where we tried some South American snack candies and nuts.

Next we had a chocolate tour. Chocolate (cocoa) originally came from the Amazon. Up until the early 1900s, chocolate was Ecuador’s largest export. On this stop we tried ten different types of chocolate. I never thought I would find something as enjoyable as wine tasting, but this was it. Yum.

Walking back, we passed again through the main square....two hours later the band was still playing!

We finished off the tour at a traditional Mercato which sold groceries and great traditional eats. Mostly locals were eating here. I had a delicious shrimp and conch ceviche which came with a bowl of popcorn mixed with fried corn $8.50. John had a plate with eggs, potato, salad, avocado etc for $2.50. We washed our meals down with fresh blackberry and a local fruit juice $1.50. I am loving the food here.

Our tour ended back at the Secret Garden Hostel. After booking tomorrow’s Cotopaxi tour, John and I went up to the rooftop bar for a drink.

It was sunny when we ordered our drinks but shortly after 3pm the clouds rolled in and it started to pour. Thunder, lightening and large balls of hail ensued. It was amazing how quickly the temperature dropped. We just sat back and enjoyed the show.


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