|Saturday, March 11, 2017: We awoke to a beautifully sunny day in Quito.
|Quito is situated in a valley with hills/mountains on both sides. Here's the view to the right/east, ...
|... and the view to the left/west.
|We slept in until 7:45 and then bolted down to the restaurant for breakfast. The buffet offered typical American options plus Ecuadorian hot specialties and local fruits like the passion fruit, mango, and dragonfruit shown here.
|In order to have a table to ourselves, we opted to sit outside.
|It was a little chilly, but it was beautiful out and the nearby trees contained hummingbirds to amuse us.
|At 9:15, everyone gathered in the lobby to head out for the day's tour.
|We were loaded onto three buses with two guides and a security guard on each. Here are Juan (the security guard), plus Esteban and Diana C.
|At 9:30, we were off to see Quito. Here's one of many bust sculptures scattered around town along the boulevards.
|We passed this arched entry way into El Ejido Park. Note the animated walking man.
|Here's a city view, ...
|... and here's a neighborhood view.
|Quito is pretty densely packed into the space available to it. Since it is surrounded on all sides by mountains, the city climbs up the sides in the distance.
|The Tunel de San Juan is the first of three tunnels we traveled through.
|We passed quite a few of these ramps that led to overpass bridges.
|The Tunel de San Roque was up next.
|Here's a local market on a busy Saturday morning.
|We got a nice view of the city as we climbed one of the hills.
|At the top of that hill, we saw the Virgen de Panecillo, made in 1975 of 7,000 pieces of aluminum.
|We disembarked the bus and got this photo of the old town below us.
|The statue stands 30 meters high on an 11-meter base.
|We paid a couple of dollars to go up into the sculpture.
|The second level is decorated with stained glass.
|The third level contains photos depicting the construction of the statue.
|The top level is the base of the statue, and you can look all the way up.
|Outside is a narrow observation deck, ...
|... where we observed our buses down below, ...
|... and the statue directly above us.
|This is a cistern for the Spanish Army that used to camp on this hill.
|We headed back through the three tunnels, including the third one shown here, Tunel de San Diego.
|We headed toward the old town, ...
|... then got out and walked to the Plaza de San Francisco, ...
|... where the Church and Monastery of San Francisco is located.
|We went into the convent and museum to visit.
|Diana gave us a brief tour of the convent grounds before heading into the choir balcony of the church.
|We were not allowed to take pictures inside the church, but were allowed to take pictures of this poster which shows the interior quite accurately, minus the grandeur of the place. This church was covered with gold leaf and was very shiny.
|Back out on the courtyard, artwork was being restored in the open air.
|This painting shows the lineage of the Franciscan church, with about 200 unique faces painted on this huge canvas.
|Debbie gives some perspective to the size of this painting. Seriously. Huge painting.
|Next, we took a bathroom break in this open air set of restrooms with a communal sink for men and women.
|As we waited for our tourmates to rejoin us, we stopped to admire these captive tropical birds.
|The door handles on the convent entrance were really unusual.
|Once outside, the vendors descended on us. Diana told us that the scarves would cost $5 for 2 so we wouldn't have to haggle. It's hard to beat that price so most of us picked up a couple.
|Here's a view of the church front from the lower level of the plaza, ...
|... and here's a view of another church's domes.
|The Virgen de Panecillo watched over us from the hill.
|We walked down Calle de Algodon to our next destination.
|Each street has two names: the official name (Av Jose de Sucre) and the original Spanish name (Calle de Algodon).
|We arrived at the Street of the Seven Crosses, ...
|... where the Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús is located.
|We entered the gate, ...
|... and got some photos of the busy streets around us.
|The ornate building across the street was titled Banco Central de Ecuador.
|We had a 30-minute tour inside, but pictures of the interior were not allowed. It was another incredibly ornate Catholic church featuring lots of real gold leaf.
|Next we walked down Calle García Moreno (the official name for the Street of Seven Crosses), toward the Plaza de la Independencia.
|Inside the Centro Cultural Metropolitano was a map of the Old Town of Quito from long ago.
|This cool wood sculpture off to the side caught our eye.
|We reached Palacio de Carondelet, the presidential palace of Ecuador.
|Displays hung from the ceiling in honor of International Women's Day. This one had a photo of Ecuador's very handsome presidente, Rafael Correa.
|Ceremonial guards stand watch outside the palace.
|The palace faces Independence Square, also known as Plaza Grande, in the heart of old Quito.
|Looking to the right side of the plaza, this is the Catedral Metropolitana de Quito.
|Here's the view looking back at the front of the Palacio de Carondelet.
|This is the monument to the heroes of independence, dated August 10, 1809.
|The Ecuadorian flag flies nearby.
|Toward the mountains, heavy clouds obscured the tops but we had moments of sun where we were.
|This is a view of the Basilica del Voto Nacional.
|Here is Calle Mejia, no doubt named after Debbie's Mejia cousins.
|At 12:30, we arrived at Theatrum Restaurant and Bar.
|As the first group to arrive, we grabbed a table by the buffet where we were joined by Frank and Debbie, a couple from Ontario. Hereafter in this story, Debbie will be referred to as Other Debbie to avoid confusion.
|We went to the buffet to load up our plates.
|Options included two types of ceviche, plantains, rice, large kernel corn in a cheese casserole, empanadas, plus potatoes, chicken, and fish, served with water and juices.
|Debbie stuck to a beige plate but Tom opted for more colorful veggies.
|The dessert table was right behind us and offered Ecuadorian cookies, rice pudding, cheese, fruit, and two flavors of sorbet, including guanabana, which is now Debbie's new favorite flavor.
|The restroom hallway contained this mind-bending mirrored shelf.
|Outside, a show was being performed on Plaza del Teatro.
|This large poster for upcoming performances of Spring Awakening was hanging on the building that housed the restaurant.
|By 1:45, we were back on the bus to head to our next destination.
|Here are some sights, both natural ...
|... and man-made.
|Forty five minutes of driving brought us to Museo Intiñan, ...
|... a cultural museum lying on the equator.
|Welcome! (Note: Despite the sign, this is not where the equator is. Wait for it.)
|Each group was passed off to a museum guide. Our guide, Cesar, showed us the process of head shrinking.
|The pictures tell the story.
|The story starts out a little rough, but it ends with a lovely necklace made of a human head.
|Here's an actual shrunken human head for your enjoyment.
|This is a replica of a tribal hut of the Wuaorani tribe in the Eastern part of Ecuador.
|Next, we visited the chocolate hut. As everyone knows, "Sin cacao no hay chocolate."
|Here's a fake cacao tree.
|Cesar passed around some chocolate for us to sample, then cut open ...
|... a cacao pod for us to see.
|Outside, there was a replica ancient grave. A single grave was used for the head of the family and his wives.
|This section of the grounds featured totems from all around the world, including Easter Island, Asia, Alaska, the Mayans, etc.
|Finally, it was time to start having some equator fun. First, we photographed Orchy on the line.
|We checked out a sundial and a compass.
|We got our photo taken, of course. In this picture, Tom is in the southern hemisphere and Debbie is in the northern hemisphere.
|Next, we learned some science. Cesar demonstrated how winds cycle counterclockwise in the northern hemisphere and clockwise in the southern.
|This sign contained an explanation of the coriolis force, which describes the deflection of objects on a rotating plane when viewed from a stationary location such as the equator.
|Then science devolved slightly into party tricks. We saw a demonstration of the water draining out of a sink on the equator, ...
|... and again several feet away.
|Cesar balanced an egg on the head of a nail which is supposed to be easier to do at the equator.
|Conversely, walking along the equator with your eyes closed is supposed to be more difficult.
|Cesar did a couple of other tricks with Tom and fellow passenger Peter.
|Here's Cesar pushing down Tom's arms on the equator much more easily than he did moments earlier off the equator.
|We got another Orchy-at-the-equator photo.
|We visited another tribal hut circa 1875, ...
|... and then a different one.
|It was nearly 4:00 and time for some refreshments, so Tom went to the snack bar and got ...
|... a neon-yellow-green bottle of delicious Inca Kola. We love this stuff! We bought an extra bottle as a special treat for the next morning too.
|As we waited to leave, we watched this golden-bellied grosbeak get some dinner.
|There were some llamas near the entrance to the grounds.
|These chandelier cactus plants were in full bloom.
|It started to rain after we boarded the bus, after having been dry all day.
|We were back at the hotel before 5:00 and had an hour of precious downtime before we needed to leave for dinner.
|When we returned to the lobby, we headed to the Celebrity desk to get our passports stamped with a souvenir equator stamp. This is where it occurred to us that our passports were getting prematurely full again and that we will need to get new ones well before they expire in 2021.
|It was getting dark when we left the hotel.
|We never had a chance to eat at the McDonald's right next door to the hotel, but don't cry for us because we were always very well fed.
|Case in point: La Gloria Restaurant.
|It's dinner time!
|Our dinner companions were Wes and Mary Anne from California, and Dave and Margaret from Canada. Our group filled the majority of the restaurant.
|For an appetizer we had our pick of a mozzarella and tomato plate or a dish titled, "Our version of Ecuadorian Ceviche." It was sea bass lightly floured and pan fried, with heart of palm and corn. It wasn't what we would call ceviche, but it was very good and it taught us that we like hearts of palm.
|For dinner, Debbie selected the grilled chicken breast with quinoa and mushroom sauce.
|Tom had the dramatically-presented veal shank and potatoes.
|We each received a sampler of mini desserts, including red fruit sabayon and blackberry sorbet, lemon pie, and creme brûlée. As we departed, the restaurant staff lined the entry and applauded us.
|Here is the very cool Urban Plaza Tower. It's a terrible picture but it is worth your time to Google it.
|When we returned to the hotel, it was nearly 8:30 and we were beat. A nice pair of chocolates and card were waiting on the bed for us.
We had to get our luggage turned in between 8:30 and 10:00 for travel the next day, keeping only our carry-on luggage with us. So we changed into our clothes for the next day, stood in line with our luggage, got plastic tie locks put on our luggage, and headed to bed.
Copyright © Deborah Schilling/Thomas Bundy