We had the great fortune of sharing a week (2/25-3/3) of Drew and Sara’s luna de miel with them in Quito, Ecuador. This was the best possible way for us to spend the last week of our great Peru-Ecuador trip. While we were together, they celebrated their six month anniversary. It was so lovely to see Drew and Sara enjoying each other’s company and their travels together.
This posting will describe some impressions of our time together in Quito – for us the end of two months in South America; for them the start of the second month of their year-long honeymoon.
When we travel, we sometimes play the game ”could I live here?” We’re certainly not thinking of leaving San Francisco, but it’s fun to idly speculate on what life would be like in city X, or rural area Y. Well, Quito is the one locale from this trip (which included Lima, Arequipa, and Cusco in Peru, and Guayaquil and Cuenca in Ecuador) where we said, “We could live here.” It’s a huge, beautiful and vibrant place, set amidst volcanoes, at an elevation of 9350 feet. The Spanish colonial historic center is a UNESCO-designated world heritage site, but unlike Cusco’s historic center – also beautiful and a world heritage site, it does not seem to exist just to cater to international tourists.
On our arrival evening, we had a lovely dinner together on an outdoor terrace at the Mosaico restaurant that overlooks the historic district.
As we started back on a deserted street (all of the streets are empty after 8 pm), we were picked up by two very friendly and talkative Tourist Police officers, who insisted on walking us back to our apartment. While they told us not only about the many ways that tourists can be robbed in Quito, we never felt at any risk.
We stayed in a quirky Airbnb apartment at the north end of the historic district, from which we could also access some interesting sections of the newer city on foot or via a jam-packed BRT corridor or double articulated bus, as well as enjoy some down time together.
Our apartment was located just down the street from the Basílica de Voto Nacional, one of the largest in South America.
We bought tickets to ascend to the Basílica’s towers. What we didn’t know is that the ticket gave us access not only to three towers with fabulous views of the city, but also to a rickety catwalk over the vaulted ceiling of the cathedral, hair-raising and precarious ladders, and vertigo-inducing platforms. We’ve never seen a cathedral from these perspectives before.
Thanks to Sara’s online sleuthing skills, we enjoyed a couple of great craft breweries in the historic center (Santa Rosa Brewery; Bandido Brewery – with a band playing covers of an eclectic mix of 1980’s tunes – Dylan, Stones, Bob Marley, etc.) for two dinners and a delicious lunch in the garden of the De La Llama restaurant.
We really enjoyed exploring the city from Drew and Sara’s perspectives as urban planners. We rode the TelefériQo up to a viewing point at an elevation of 13,000’.
When not shrouded in clouds and fog, the views were stunning. We saw several mountain bikers drop onto dirt trails for a wild ride to the bottom. Before we descended, Drew led us on a short excursion to a fire lookout tower with the best views of all.
Quito has many great museums. We visited both the Centro Cultura Metropolitano and part of the Museo de la Ciudad. The Museo de la Ciudad had a great exhibit on mercados (food markets), addressing one of Sara’s special interests. The Centro Cultura had a great exhibit called “Dinámicas Urbanas” about the evolution of the modern Quito cityscape that especially grabbed the dynamic planeadores (oops, planificadores) in our quartet.
We also visited the museum of Ecuador’s most famous painter, Oswaldo Guayasamín. His main productive career was just after Picasso’s, and there are clear similarities in their stylistic trajectories. Before his death, Guayasamín donated his gorgeous art-filled home to Quito, along with a large number of his paintings.
Drew and Sara were put off by Guayasamín’s outsized ego, as expressed in a film about him and his many quotations scattered about the museum. But is there a world-renowned artist who doesn’t have a big ego?
We also enjoyed exploring the many parks and plazas in Quito.
And one evening, we attended a free performance of the Quito Sinfonia Band at the ornate Teatro Sucre. The concert featured three pieces composed for the marimba. It was fun, but don’t expect marimba music to become a regular part of the symphonic repertoire anytime soon.
Fun fact – Wendy and Sara share the same October 9thbirthday (as Wendy and her mother also did). October 9 marks the independence of Guayaquil in 1820 and is a national holiday throughout Ecuador.
On our last full day in Quito, we rode the BRT an hour north to Quito’s primary soccer stadium, strangely called the Casa Blanca for reasons that weren’t entirely obvious. (Still, it was nice to see a White House that isn’t tainted by its current occupant.) We watched Quito’s main team, La Liga, trounce the team from Guayaquil. The quality of play by La Liga was very good – crisp passes, well designed plays, great shooting – and the celebrations by the fans really fun to see (see video below).
There are some great restaurants in Quito, including La Purísima, where we enjoyed a delicious dinner after the fútbol game.
We said our goodbyes fairly early the next day as Drew and Sara boarded the BRT for the ride to the southern part of Quito to catch a bus to Latacunga, and onward to their next stop in Chugchilán in the central highlands. We had tears in our eyes thinking about the many adventures that lay ahead for them, how much they mean to us, and when we might see them next. As we said to each other sometime while we were together, “We’ll always have Quito!”