Yesterday when we woke up, we’d had small lie in and were feeling a lot less exhausted from our flights the day before. We were picked up at 9am by our tour guide and a minibus, ready to start our city tour of Quito. It started with a drive out of the city and up the surrounding hills which are actually volcanoes! We drove up the non active volcano closest to the city and stopped at a view point with a huge aluminium statue of the Virgin Mary right in the middle. This Virgin Mary is special as she has wings and is standing on top of a snake, representing evil, on top of the world. We walked around the view point seeing views of the whole vastly spreading city, before getting back into the bus and heading into the city.
Our next stop was a cathedral with intricate design on the outside. Each side of the cathedral had different animals engraved into the walls and statues of the animals hanging off the top section. There was a Galapagos side, with animals from the Galapagos such as tortoises and birds and there was an amazon side with alligators. The cathedral inside was absolutely beautiful, with amazing stain glass windows and huge paintings.
Then we visited the main plaza, something which made the city of Quito a lot more attractive in my eyes. It was filled with people sitting on park benches, reading newspapers, having their shoes shined and just relaxing in the outdoor sunshine.
Right on the edge of the plaza is the presidential palace, a beautiful white building with a grand entrance guarded by two guards in uniform. The presidential palace itself was also beautiful inside, although we only saw a bit of it through the gated entrance, as a lot of it’s interior decoration was either bought or given as a gift from the palace of Versailles.
Our next stop was an education centre in the most beautiful building of all. It used to be the university and home of the Jesuits, where they lived, studied and prayed (as it’s connected to a church) however when they Jesuits became quite powerful, the Spanish government at the time didn’t like it and banished the Jesuits, making their beautiful building into a prison (probably the nicest prison in the world). It was soon transformed back into a university before becoming what it is right now, a cultural and education centre.
We then visited the connecting church which is probably the most ridiculous and insane thing I’ve ever seen. The whole of the interior church was covered from head to toe in gold, the floors, the walls, the ceiling, you name it. It was absolutely beautiful and I can see now how the Catholics take such pride in their churches, but it was an insane amount of gold, everywhere.
Unfortunately I wasn’t allowed to take pictures inside…
We then walked through La Ronda, a street with a huge walkway and open space leading up to it, as when the volcano erupted in 1999, the lava wiped out this section of the city, and it’s never been re built on. It did, however, give us a beautiful view of the surrounding mountains and volcanoes. We walked down the open space and then into La Ronda, which is a very old street full of little artisinale shops (handcrafts) and games all down the road. We played a game where you have to throw coins into a golden toads mouth and another where you have to spin round five times then throw hoops onto bottles. We met a man who hand carves and makes spinning tops, and makes a living out of it, and soon we were at the end of the street. We walked to our last location which was another open plaza, this time with a band on a stage setting up and doing some sound checks, and a beautiful church over looking it all. As we entered the church, we realised a wedding was happening. We sat and watched for a bit, feeling very sorry for the poor couple who we’re getting married with the annoying sounds of trumpets and drums doing a sound check, and a man that kept shouting Hola down the mic every two minutes.
We then parted with our tour guide and headed back to the hotel to get jumpers, as it had gone colder, and then to a restaurant for lunch. We wee enjoying our meal when suddenly the lights flickered, a clock that was no where to be seen started chiming very loudly, the lights went out and a masked figure dressed from head to toe in purple gowns entered the restaurant with two smoking plates in his hands!!! He set them down in front of some people, the lights went on, the music started and everyone resumed their meal as normal! When it came to desert time, we’d been advised to share the ice cream and so ordered three to share and waited for our good. Suddenly the lights flickered, the chimes started, the lights went out, and the hooded figure arrived again with three smoking plates filled with ice cream! Apparently that’s how they serve it there, it was the carbon dioxide smoking when reacted with the water in the bowl beneath the ice cream bowl and it kept the desert freezing cold and made the whole experience so hilarious, slightly embarrassing and very special.
After a wonder around the plaza, daddy got his shoes shined by a young boy, completed filthy with all the ink from his busy shoe shining day. We took in the bizarre Quito city and tried to make sense of it all – a city that basically still lives as if it were 50 years ago. With shoe shiners on the street, material shops as people make their own clothes, shops filled with sewing machines, laundrettes and pharmacies with queues coming out of the door.
At about 4ish we went back to the hotel for a relax, which with our family means a couple of intense and long games of scrabble, before getting changed and heading back into the city a couple if hours later. We had dinner on the third floor of the archbishops plaza, in an Ecuadorean restaurant with a live (absolutely amazing) saxophonist. Dinner was delicious and we were back at the hotel by half 9, ready to pack and have an early night for our early start this morning.