Ecuador travel blog by Mark Berman -
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Quito, especially the Old City is a treasure trove of historical sites, colonial buildings and vibrant streets. I have never seen so many churches in
one place. The city has some lovely parks and fun recreational activities. If you are a keen photographer you will have an absolute ball capturing the
city of Quitos many delights. I had passed through Quito a few times before but had never stayed here to check the place out, this time I did and I
am amazed at how much I saw in the 3 days I spent here this time. I stayed in a hostel near the Old City which had a balcony with good views at
Quito Walking Tour
It was a beautiful sunny day the morning I arrived. I headed out by foot towards the historical center of Ecuador's capital Quito, straight
to Plaza de la Independencia. I always start exploring new places from the central plaza. On my way here I passed the theatre, The Teatro Nacional
Sucre, its a big white building with columns and archways and gold designs at the top. Here is the theatres website
. The church of San Agustin was also
nearby which was built in the late 1500's by Spanish architect Francisco Becerra (1545-1605). I now came to the plaza, an attractive area and bustling
with activity. On one side of the plaza is the Cathedral with its green domes, on another is the Presidential Palace and there is a palace on one other
side also. Nearby is El Sagrario church
, an amazing building made from volcanic gray stone, it took 160yrs to construct and was completed in 1765.
Towards El Panecillo Hill
I walked in
the direction south of the historical center towards El Panecillo hill, but I stopped at the big yellow archway that leads up the stairs to the top.
Absolutely do not continue through this archway up the hill by foot, it is very dangerous. Go by taxi to see La Virgen de Quito monument.
Churches Around the Streets
at a shop that was cooking and selling all kinds of sugary peanuts. I got some chocolate covered ones, yum! By now I was just wandering the streets
and going in any direction that looked interesting. Next I came to another church, a monastery, Monasterio de el Carmen Alto. All the churches have a
plaque with its name on it which is good, it is hard not to come across a church every block or 2. Church Carmen Alto has 2 bell-towers and 4 stone
columns surrounding a big wooden door. A little while later I found a plaza and a church called Iglesia del Monasterio Santa Clara, a huge line of
people stood outside waiting to get in. Ice-cream is popular on the Quito streets, ladies carry around tubs with cones sitting on top, it is hard not
to buy one at some stage during the day. The cobblestoned Plaza de San Francisco was where I found myself next and yes a church on one side, Capilla
de Cantuna, it was a good place to sit down for a rest and watch the locals hanging out and kids playing and feeding pigeons. Soon after I found more
churches, Iglesia Alianza 'El Tejar' and La Merced and a statue of Spanish conquistador Sebastian de Belalcazar
. Street after street of colonial houses and
buildings in pastel colors with balconies, lamps and flower pots on all sides.
Basilica del Voto Nacional
I was now walking up a road in the north / east away from Panecillo Hill
towards the great Basilica del Voto Nacional church which can be seen from different parts of the Old City. I took a few photos from outside, the
building is huge and very spectacular. Being the end of the afternoon I decided I would come back in the morning and buy a ticket to have a look
through. The ticket cost $2, the Basilica is 150m long, 35m wide, 35m high in the central ship and 15m in the votive chapels. The towers are 78m high,
73m in the dome and 16m by 45m on the base of the towers. Outside is a statue of Dr. Gabriel Garcia Moreno
(1821-1875), twice President of Ecuador. Inside
I went! It's basically a huge playground where you can climb up ladders into the towers and into the clock room to see the mechanics that turn the hands.
There are many bright colorful stained glass windows and a wooden pipe organ but the best thing are the views of Quito once you climb to the top of the
Parque La Alameda (Park)
It was time now to visit some of the parks in the city. Firstly across the road from where I was staying was Parque La Alameda with its grand
monument to Simon Bolivar called Carta A Simon Bolivar (Letter to Simon Bolivar). The park has nice grass areas and trees for shade, great place to sit
down and enjoy a sandwich. Parque La Alameda has monuments to Carlos Maria de la Condamine, Antonio de Ulloa, Pedro V Maldonado, Luis Godin, Pedro Bouguer
and Jorge Juan. Most people in the park hang out by the little man-made lake where you can hire a little pedal powered boat or a dinghy with oars and
cruise around on the water. Food stalls cooking up hot bbq food were busy taking orders - kebabs of meat or chicken with potatoes. In the middle of the
park is an observatory open on clear nights for star and planet gazing. Near the lake on the parks northern side is a big stone spiral that you can walk
up for views. Across the road is church, Capilla de El Belen. I continued heading north past a big stone college Colegio 24 de Mayo to Plaza Republica
de la India where there is a monument to Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948).
Parque El Ejido (The Biggest Park)
Now I went to Parque El Ejido, Quitos biggest park.
The park was full of people enjoying the day playing soccer, having lunch and being entertained by street entertainers. A monument to Jose Maria
(1893-1979) President of Ecuador 5 times, greeted me. There is a monument also to German explorer and writer Alexander von Humboldt
(1769-1859). This really is a beautiful park, so many trees, big tubs of mango, papaya and banana fruit salads, kebabs on a stick, a few fairground type
games and everybody having a wonderful time. There is a big kids playground and bikes and buggys for them to ride around on at the northern end. Along the
street at the stone archway are many art and painting stands and a whole bunch of monuments to famous men, Dr. Aurelio Villagomez, Dr. Angel Polibio
Chavez, Dr. Luis Felipe Borja, Juan Isaac Lovato Vargas, General Julio Andrade, Don Ricardo Jaramillo, Sandor Petofi, Fedor Mijailovich Dostoievsky,
Juan Montalvo, Benjamin Carrion, Oscar Vargas Romero, Cesar Vallejo, Jorge Carrera Andrade and Jose Enrique Rodo, they are everywhere. This brought me
to the end of my 2nd day in Quito and I headed back to base for the night.
The New City
I set my last day in Quito to have a look around the New City. I took a walk
down the main street Mariscal Amazonas, also known as Av. Rio Amazonas. It's modern. I visited Plaza Borja Yerovi, church Parroquia de Santa Teresita and
Parque Nautico 'La Carolina' where I took another ride on a pedal powered boat around the man-made waterways. Quitos botanical gardens are also located
in the park, Jardin Botanico de Quito, $3.50 adults, $1.75 kids. I walked past the military college Colegio Militar Eloy Alfaro, you can't go in but you
can see some things from the footpath - several cannons, statues and monuments. Quitos new city has many airline and tour companies selling Galapagos
tours and flights to all over the world. I saw along the way statues of lawyer Jaime Hurtado Gonzalez, President Eloy Alfaro, politician Vicente Rocafuerte,
President Gabriel Garcia Moreno and political figure Jose Maria Velasco Ibarra.
Nearly Got Robbed
I have to say that at some
point as I walked between Parque La Carolina and the Military College I nearly got robbed of my camera. 2 young men approached, one from behind and one
in front, they asked me for $1 for which I replyed I didn't have any money (I had spent it all). I think if had put my hand in my pocket to get money out
they would then have gone for my camera that was around my neck while my hands were not free. I kept my arms ready for any problems and looked them in
the eye and stood strong until they finally went away. To me the New City felt less safe than the Old City which had a good police presence. Be aware
of your surroundings at all times and keep your eyes open.
Bus 5hrs 30mins to Tena
Overall I had a great experience and saw a lot in
Quito, next time I pass through I will see more. That night I made my way to Terminal Urbano Quitumbe for a 5hr 30mins bus ride south / east to Tena
, Ecuadors jungle region.