Our trip to Ecuador made me want to start this blog. It was planned fairly spontaneously and the plan was to improvise as we travel through the country, so it gave rise to lots of opportunities worth blogging about!
Day 1 was a big shock to the system. As soon as we landed, we realized that English is not spoken very widely. We had to quickly start thinking and talking only in Spanish. Learn a little Spanish– this will be my advice for people planning to go to Ecuador. It will change your experience completely.
Flights into Ecuador from the US all land late, around midnight. The drive from the airport to the city is almost an hour. By the time we completed immigration and took a taxi to Quito it was almost 3 am. People fear being cheated by taxis, but all our rides were safe.
In the morning after breakfast we headed to the Equator! Mitad del Mundo is about an hour from Quito by local buses. It’s a bit touristy but definitely worth a visit. You get to see the north-south divide and experience strange phenomenon like balancing eggs on a pin and watching the flow of water reversing itself. Rest of the “amusement park” is just about OK. The museum in the tower is quite interesting and gives a nice overview of the different regions of Ecuador and it’s native folk.
That evening we decided to take the gondola (or Telefirico) to one of the attractions in Quito, their local mountain, Pichincha. The views from the top are spectacular but be prepared for rarefied air because you were at the height of 14,000 feet. It was also our chance to meet up with college friends Enrique and Cynthia who are Quito locals.The walk was refreshing even with the rarefied air and catching up with friends is always great fun.
Since it was around Christmas time, there was a Christmas fair/market at the top of El Panecillo. Convinced it would be a quintessential Quito experience, and since the traffic leading up to the top was horrible, we decided to walk all the way up. While it is quite a climb to the top, the market and the view were definitely worth it.
We tried interesting local treats, including banana stuffed with cheese and chocolate, and had our first taste of Canelazo, which immediately became our favorite drink in the country and we drank it at every opportunity we got, over the next few days!
Day 2 was about exploring Old Quito, again with Enique and Cynthia, who, once they decided we were alright to spend time with, volunteered to show us around. We’ve said it before and will do so again, seeing a new city with a local completely changes the experience and is absolutely recommended!
Enrique took us to his art studio/workshop/music venue: Casa del Art, before we started the tour around town. They have some very interesting art pieces! Unfortunately they didn’t have a concert planned, but there’s hopefully a next time..
We began with Iglesia de San Francisco, a a 16th-century Roman Catholic complex in old Quito, which houses the city’s beloved Virgin of Quito. While imposing from the outside, it was gorgeous inside!
Lunch was Equadorian fare in the picturesque Vista Hermosa, overlooking the beautiful city.
We ended our tour of the Old town in La Ronda neighborhood- it used to be infamous back in the day, though now it has been cleaned up and has lots of chique cafes and bars.
Having spent all day in Old Quito made us curious to see what the new part of the city was like. So we ended the day in Plaza Foch, the center of La Mariscal, the subsection of New Town, with a dense concentration of clubs, bars, restaurants, Internet cafes, and backpacker hotels – the area is informally referred to as Gringolandia because of its popularity with tourists. Our local guides had left us by now- this was too touristy even for them!
As advertised, it was full of tourists and could very well be a main street in any American town, so after the mandatory photo, we headed back, to rest our tired feet and prepare for our next destination in Ecuador- Baños!