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Musings from Quito

View of Quito from my hotel

View of Quito from my hotel

From Bogotá I travelled to a country I’ve wanted to visit, Ecuador, specifically Quito. Having travelled for a month through Peru as a backpacker in 2003 I was expecting Quito to be like Lima but was pleasantly surprised to find that it has a lot more charm than Lima and a very modern CBD. My first mission in Quito was to stand on the equator so I set of for Mitad del Mondo which is the site of the French Geodesic Mission. Here an 18th-century expedition measured the roundness of the Earth and the length of a degree of latitude at the Equator. The mission was one of the first of its kind carried out under modern scientific principles, and the first major international scientific expedition.

The entrance to Mitad del Mondo is lined by busts of the scientists who participated in the mission

The entrance to Mitad del Mondo is lined by busts of the scientists who participated in the mission

A whole centre like a small village is dedicated to the site and contains a few museums, a planetarium, many many touristic shops, cafes and bars and of course a large monument marking the equator.

The site on the equator where the French geodesic mission measured the roundness of the Earth and the length of a degree of latitude at the Equator.

The site on the equator where the French geodesic mission measured the roundness of the Earth and the length of a degree of latitude at the Equator.

Cute old building and truck at Mitad del Mondo

Cute old building and truck at Mitad del Mondo

I chose a restaurant on the ‘village’ plaza because it had a lovely verandah that opened on the the plaza but primarily because it served llapingachos which are a dish that I have loved ever since an Ecuadorian friend of my parents made them for us.

Llapingachos are delicious!

Llapingachos are delicious!

As a geologist I was delighted to gaze at the many road cuttings in Quito because it’s the only place that I’ve been to that is built on volcanic ash and pyroclastic deposits. It must be stupendous when one of the 4 large, active local volcanoes spews ash over the city!

Volcanic ash deposits make up the geology of Quito

Volcanic ash deposits make up the geology of Quito

My driver was charming and chatted away to me in Spanish, pointing out important features of the landscape, such as the ash quarries that have been closed for 4 years because of damage caused by a strong earthquake, and the public housing project that will provide 1,000 low cost houses for people of low Soci0-Economic standing. He also proudly told me about the upcoming Fiestas de Quito which is a weeklong period from the end of November to the 6th of December celebrating the foundation of Quito. During this period, bullfighting at the Plaza de Toros, flamenco dancing, opera and theater shows are presented including many international acts.

Low cost housing under construction

Low cost housing under construction

In the evening I explored the charming old town of Quito which has the best-preserved, least altered historic centre in Latin America and one of the first two cities that were UNESCO listed, along with Krakow (another charming city), in 1978.

Exclusive hotel for diplomats

Exclusive hotel for diplomats

Lovely Quito

Lovely Quito

The Basílica del Voto Nacional is stupendously enormous and lovely, being the largest neo-Gothic basilica in the Americas. Interestingly where gargoyles would normally stand this Basilica instead has native Ecuadorian animals such as armadillos, iguana, and Galapagos tortoises.

Jungle animal gargoyles on the basilica that is otherwise identical to Notre Dame

Animal gargoyles on the basilica

I had a delicious dinner at a very fine restaurant that is located in the old building on the plaza that used to be the Bishop’s office and at the back of the building in the place of the monastery is now a hotel. I had dishes such as prawn ceviche, fish ceviche, emapanaditas and a lovely sea bass with saffron dish.

Entrance to the monastery and bishop's office, now restaurant and hotel

Entrance to the monastery and bishop’s office, now restaurant and hotel

Lovely restaurant in what was the Bishop's office. Note the 18th century book on the low table that contains lovely illuminations

Lovely restaurant in what was the Bishop’s office. Note the 18th century book on the low table that contains lovely illuminations

The people of Ecuador are very similar to look at to the people of Peru, but unlike Peru I was never pestered by exhausted looking impoverished people. Like in Bogotá I fell into easy conversation with a few people kind enough to persevere with my slow Spanish and limited vocabulary. Generally the people seemed more reserved than those of Bogotá. The brand new international airport is wonderful, the roads to the airport and Mitad del Mondo are in good condition. Quito is a lovely city and I look forward to returning if I am so lucky.

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2 comments on “Musings from Quito

  1. Pingback: Why is it important a good corporate advice? | morenodidonatolawfirm

  2. Pingback: Postcard 1 from the Arab world – A female solo traveller | strivetoengage

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This entry was posted on November 29, 2013 by in South America and tagged , , , .
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