15 April 2010

Quito - Day 1

Quito is a city that evokes love or hate in most travelers. Many friends warned me that I wouldn't like it here, while a few others said it was one of their favorite cities in South America. So far I have enjoyed many of the continent's biggest cities, much to my surprise, but we've always stayed with a friend. In Quito, we are staying in a hostel in a quiet neighborhood near the New Town. And while I can't say that I'm in love with the city, we have  had two days of the best urban adventures yet. Tune into the next blog for our second day.

Our First Day - The Old City (Ciudad Viejo)
I have lost track of how many "old towns" and colonial cities that we have visited. Each city has a historic district and that is usually the only area worth visiting. Quito's historic center is quite large, on hilly terrain, and easily navigated with the many tall church towers. It's also horribly clogged with traffic, which makes walking tours less appealing.

There are three places that are the most memorable:

Basilica del Voto Nacional
This gothic monstrosity sits atop of a hill overlooking the old town. The three soaring towers elicit awe from all points in Quito. We each paid $2 to climb the two front bell towers, above and across the church roof, and into the rear tower. This was by far and away my most exhilarating church experience ever.

Too big to fit into my camera lens, even from a block away.

View of the inside of the church . . .

. . . and on the ceiling above it, which we walked along the apex on wooden planks

The scary climb up. I don't think this church has insurance or a risk analyst.

A six-table vegetarian restaurant that has no sign over the front door and no menus. You sit down and are quickly served a set meal of soup, brown rice, beans, fake meat, fresh juice and dessert. This set us back $1.60 each. The soup was delicious, though we weren't sure what veggies where in it. The main meal was fairly standard. The dessert was fig served in honey. It was delish.

Adding popcorn to my soup. I've never heard of this before, but it's such an easy, cheap and fast way to add flavor and texture, instead of unhealthy crutons.

La Compania de Jesus
A very odd church, not just for the 7 tons of gold that was used to gild the walls, but also because of the graphic "art" adorning said walls. The entry was $1, which in unusual in that most churches don't charge and if they do, then we don't go.





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