Quito Rising

Posted by nancymueller
Posted on August 25, 2011
16 Comments
Tagged in , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

“Do you speak Spanish?” asks the unsmiling custom agent.  “Well, no, not really, just a few words,” I say.

“So what’s wrong with Spanish?”

Uh-oh.

“Nothing, nothing at all. I love Spanish! But . . . ” I begin to offer a host of excuses before I catch the twinkle in his eye.

“Enjoy your stay in Ecuador.”

Ecuador . . . Land of the iguanas and blue-footed boobies, lost worlds of the Incas and conquistadors, lure of the Amazon and the Andes . . . Adventure . . . and teasing custom agents.

My week-long small-ship cruise of the Galapagos Islands aboard the M/V Evolution awaits. But I’ve arrived three days early to explore Quito, the nation’s capital, and to acclimate myself to the change in altitude. Surrounded by the heaven-hugging Andes, the city of almost 14,000,000 residents, rests at an elevation of about 9,400 feet (2900 meters) at the foot of the Rucu Pichincha Volcano – a spectacular setting with spellbinding views in all directions.

Maybe it’s the Catholic in me, but I take comfort in the winged statue of the Virgin of the Americas keeping watch over the city from nearby Panecillo Hill.

I meet up with my tour guide and driver, Giovanna and Manolo, at Mercure Hotel Almeda. From here we head to historic Old Town. Under sunny skies and a mild 70-ish degrees, we walk the narrow cobblestone streets, admiring the beautiful colonial architecture along the way.

Our journey ends at the Plaza del la Independencia (the Plaza Grande), after photo ops at the Palacio del Gobierno (Presidential Palace), Palacio Arzobispal (Archbishop’s Palace) and the white-washed Catedral Metropolitana.

I’m already learning that many Ecuadorian sites commonly use both Spanish and English names which seems like a relatively painless way to pick up the local language – and let’s face it: I need all the help I can get.

My head is spinning from – okay, maybe the altitude, maybe the eight flights it took to get here – but also from sensory overload. I look skyward at every turn – to the Andes, the buildings that dot the hillsides, and the ornate architectural details of Quito’s multitude of churches.

Each church is magnificent in its own way, from the Monasterio de San Francisco to the Basilica del Voto Nacional (Basilica of the National Vow) , but La Compania de Jesus gives new meaning to the word “dazzling” in its over-the-top gold-leaf altars, ceiling, walls and pretty much everywhere else I rest my eyes. Giovanna explains that the Spanish also painted the sun, a powerful Inca symbol, on the entrance door and ceiling in an effort to woo the indigenous people to enter.

In the afternoon, we make our way to La Mitad del Mundo (The Center of the World), a half-hour drive north of Quito, to see where the Equator divides the earth into the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.  The site is a popular tourist attraction, with restaurants, museums, and gift shops, but it’s the chance to straddle both hemispheres at once that’s the big draw –

Latitude: O° – O’ – O”.

Up Next: Otavalo Market and Hacienda Cusin

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16 responses to “Quito Rising”

  1. Awsome pictures Nancy. Ecuador sounds absolutely wonderful! I am a ‘home body’ but it’s great I could visit through you. Thanks for sharing about this beautiful country.

    • Nancy Mueller says:

      Many thanks, Elizabeth! You never know . . . One of these days you just might find yourself in Ecuador :-)

  2. Samantha Stacia says:

    You have the greatest pics and descriptions! I find its almost like being with you there! How fun this is and the food one below makes me want to try all of that!
    Thanks for sharing this!
    Samantha Stacia

  3. Julie Farrar says:

    Still haven’t gotten to the Southern hemisphere. This makes me want to go even more.

    • Nancy Mueller says:

      The good news is, it’s not too late, Julie! I loved my stay in Ecuador, and I’m willing to bet you would, too ~

  4. You’ve convinced me: I need to go to Ecuador!
    Thanks, Nancy.

    • Nancy Mueller says:

      You’re welcome, Marcia! Yes, you do need to go to Ecuador! I think you would really appreciate the cuisine and the culture ~

  5. Teresa says:

    I found your blog through She Writes and boy am I glad I did! Looks like a fabulous trip. Thanks for sharing the sites.

    • Nancy Mueller says:

      I’m glad you’re enjoying my blog, Teresa! It was a fabulous trip to Ecuador. More posts to follow . . .

  6. Heidi says:

    I haven’t travelled to South America, but I hope to at some point. I enjoyed your article – beautiful photos.

    Heidi

    • Nancy Mueller says:

      Thanks, Heidi! I highly recommend a visit. I’ve just touched the tip of the iceberg in my travels in South America, and hope to visit again soon ~

  7. I love Quito and Ecuador. It’s nice to see others enjoying this wonderful country. Thanks for bringing back such wonderful memories.

    • Nancy Mueller says:

      Thanks, Lisa! I know you and your family spent in Ecuador at the end of your world travels. What a lovely place to wrap up your journey!

  8. Wendy Liscia says:

    Hi Nancy, looks like you had a great time. It seems like years ago you were asking about the best tools for a travel journalist to take, but I know it was only a couple of months. Can’t wait to hear about the Galapagos!

    • Nancy Mueller says:

      It does seem like years ago, doesn’t it, Wendy? Thanks for stopping by. FYI ~ I ended up taking just my journal and camera which worked out perfectly! The Galapagos is coming right up after one more post on a my visit to a hacienda. Stay tuned . . .

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