My apologies to my readers for taking so long to wrap up this blog series, but I’ve been very occupied with other activities the past few weeks. However, this final post picks up where the last one left off.
DAY 5: My second Airbnb was in the apartment home of a single, Ecuadorian lady named Gloria. I was sleeping in her spare bedroom and we shared a bathroom. This was actually a great cultural experience for me. Gloria’s place was very cute and clean, and she lived on the edge of a very trendy area of Quito called “La Foch,” but her building was a bit older and didn’t quite have all the creature comforts we N. Americans are used to (like no hot water in the sinks and in the shower, it was an electric “suicide” water heater). Gloria didn’t really speak English, so it was great in that it forced me to have to use my Spanish skills. She spoke slowly and was very patient, so we got along fine.
The first day she was kind enough to walk me around the area and escort me to the above ground metro, to help me get on the train to head back into the historic area. I actually missed my stop, but got off at the next one and was familiar enough with the area from my map and time there with Maria and her family, that I had no trouble walking back to the main plaza. Once there, I had breakfast at one of the small restaurants and then tracked down the information for the two story hop-on and off bus tour of the area. Since I had limited time and had already seen some of what was on it with my friends the previous day, I only got off at certain stops.
It was a beautiful weather day and the first place I visited was the Basilica. Constructed between 1892-1909, it is know as the largest neo-Gothic style basilica in the Americas. The “gargoyles” are actually native Ecuadorian animals like armadillos, iguana and tortoises. It is quite a grand structure (note – click on any picture in each section to open up a larger slide show of all of them):
After touring the basilica, I hopped back on the next bus and rode past several stops, taking in some familiar areas:
Eventually I got off again at the famous Parque La Carolina, which is a huge 165 acre park in the center of the Quito business district. I walked from one end to the other, through the meandering paths and past the various recreational areas, making my way to the far end to visit Quito’s Botanical Garden. I only had about 30 minutes to enjoy a walk through before my next bus, but marveled at the many varieties of plants contained in this beautiful oasis in the heart of the city:
Afterwards, I got back on the bus to head to my last stop, that was near the area of my Airbnb. I wandered through the artesian market area, buying a few last minute souvenirs. These vendors sell many of the same items that can be found in the Otavalo markets, and I actually bargained for one item I’d tried to buy in Otavalo and received a much better price here. I then headed to the main Plaza Foch and had dinner in a restaurant on the square, before walking back to my Airbnb to arrive before dark.
DAY 6: The following day, I packed my bags and prepared for my last touring day. My flight back to Manta was leaving at 7:00 p.m. and there was one more thing I really wanted to see and only one way to do it. My friend Maria had helped me arrange for a hired driver, who picked me up and drove me to the outskirts of Quito to “La Mitad del Mundo” – the Middle of the World. There is a lot of controversy over whether this is truly the “X marks the spot” place. In all honesty, according to GPS the answer is no, it is a bit off. But right or wrong, a lot of previous expeditions chose this spot and eventually a monument and subsequent exhibits and museums were built. I thoroughly enjoyed my 4 hours there, going through all the exhibits and reading about the history of the various explorations, as well as the many indigenous tribes of Ecuador. It is truly a place worth visiting:
There were lots of cool interactive exhibits and information inside the monument itself, but also around the grounds were other museums and exhibits, including a planetarium, a train car with explanations of the importance of the railroad in the history of Ecuador, and an exhibit of the cities of Quito and Cuenca in miniature.
But my favorite other exhibit was the Chocolate Museum! This area told all about the history of the cacao production in Ecuador (and claims that we are the oldest users of it!) and also demonstrated the process of how cacao is grown, harvested and prepped through the various stages to eventually become what so many of us love to eat. And the best part was, at the end, I got my choice of how I wanted to sample it. I chose the form of cupcake, and it was the best chocolate cupcake I’ve ever had!
My patient driver waited the whole time I toured the area, then drove me to the airport in perfect timing to check in, grab a quick bite to go and board my plane for the short return flight to Manta. My friend Edwin‘s dad picked me up in Manta and drove me the remaining hour to Puerto Cayo, where I was welcomed home by my pet sitter, Marie and Charcoal. I dropped my suitcase in the living room and didn’t bother to haul it upstairs for a few days – and Charcoal hardly left it the whole time!
So there you have it friends – the wrap up of my six day visit to Quito. Can you believe I could pack so much into such a short time? Well, stay tuned for my next blog when I tell you what (and who) has kept me so occupied that it took me so long to finish this one. My Dallas bee hibernating/Ecuador summer vacation adventures aren’t over yet! 😉