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Last full day in Quito

Quito


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Today in total I visited two churches, three museums, a Republica del Cacao shop, two bookshops with English sections, and a tiny little traditional restaurant underneath the cathedral where I had some very tasty seco de chivo for lunch.

The museums I went to were the Museo San Francisco, right next to the monastery of the same name (beautiful courtyards, religious art, portraits of European rulers from the 17th and 18th centuries, and up some stairs to a choir stall looking out over the beautiful interior of the monastery, where a service was taking place); Casa del Alabado, a small museum full of fascinating and dramatically well-lit pre-Columbian artifacts; and the City Museum, set on the grounds of a former hospital. It had an exhibition about the old hospital as well as more general ones about the history of the city.

Museo San Francisco:

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Casa del Alabado - pre-Columbian exhibits from the Valdivia, La Tolita, Jama-Coaque, Napo and Chorrera cultures, plus a view of the street outside:

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City Museum:

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One of the churches was Iglesia San Agustin. Due to a mistake on my map that showed it a block further away from the Plaza Grande trolebus stop than it actually is, it wasn't until I got there that I realised I had been there once before, with my sister Emma on Good Friday. The interior of this church is so beautiful and interesting I stayed for quite a while to look round it again and savour the atmosphere. Unfortunately no photography was allowed, so I couldn't get any pictures of the interior. I did get one of the street outside, though:

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On the way there I also took these pictures of Plaza Grande:

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Iglesia de la Merced, the other church (and the view from its steps):

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The museums and churches were all in the Old Town. I went back to the hostel for a little bit after that and then went for a wander around the New. The Republica del Cacao shop I visited because I really wanted to get myself one of their t-shirts - I had intended to get one at Guayaquil Airport on my departure date from Ecuador, but then I thought it might be cheaper to get one from a place outside the airport instead. As it happened the prices were about the same, but they only had unisex sizes rather than fitted ones for women, so I didn't buy one after all. Although I had a nice browse in the bookshops I didn't buy anything from them either.

For dinner I went back to an old favourite, the Italian restaurant Cosa Nostra. I went for something a bit different this time and had some lovely bolognese gnocchi for a main and a teacup of amazing coffee ice cream for pudding.

Posted by 3Traveller 14:23 Archived in Ecuador Tagged art museum hostel monastery quito ecuador explorations unesco_world_heritage_site ecuadorian_cuisine plaza_grande plaza_san_francisco san_francisco_monastery pre_columbian_artifacts colonial_church Comments (0)

Loja: cultural capital of southern Ecuador

Catamayo and Loja


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First stop on my final tour round Ecuador before I leave the country at the end of the month.

I touched down at 6.50 am after an uneventful TAME flight from Guayaquil. The airport that serves Loja is actually in the village/town of Catamayo, some 30km away; there were no buses running from there into the city so I had to share a taxi instead. Four of us paid $5 each.

There was a very fine drizzle falling when I arrived at Plaza de la Independencia in the city centre. Occasionally the sun came out briefly, causing a rainbow to appear. Plaza de la Independencia is surrounded by historic painted colonial buildings hanging over the pavements.

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After a look-around there I wandered down the road to Plaza Central, popping into the Church of Santo Domingo on the way. An early morning service was going on though so I didn't stop to take any photos. Once I got to Plaza Central I went into the Cathedral briefly, but again I didn't take any pictures. There was a service going on there as well. I made a mental note to come back to both churches again later, once I had found a hotel and dumped my rucksack.

Next stop was a sorely-needed breakfast at a café. I tried a tamale Lojana, made of steamed corn like a humita but with shredded chicken, onion and a special reddish sauce in the middle. I think I will come back and have the same again tomorrow morning, because it was delicious. I had a humita and a cup of coffee as well.

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After that I decided to try my luck with a budget hotel recommended by my guidebook - Hotel Metropolitano. I had no problems getting a single room; the hotel seemed almost empty in fact - I seem to have it almost to myself. The first thing I did was have an hour-long doze; I really needed this as I'd had hardly any sleep the night before.

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The first place I went after that was the Museo de la Música, which I found on my second attempt. The first place I tried had the words Museo and Música in the title but turned out to be part of the University of Loja and did not seem to have any public musical exhibits... I wandered up some stairs which overlooked a courtyard, and looked at a selection of paintings. I looked into a room that looked open but there was a dance class going on inside it. I think it was the Arts department. Although I wasn't stopped from walking around, I got the unmistakeable feeling that I shouldn't be there, so I left and went two doors down to where the actual museum turned out to be.

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It was very small and was about famous Ecuadorian musicians from the 19th century to the 1960s. Within the courtyard one of the rooms had a lot of strings players inside practising a piece, so maybe that museum was connected to the University as well.

The next stop was the wonderful Museo de Historia y Culturas Lojanas, which contained a selection of fascinating black and white photos of the pilgrimage of La Virgen del Cisne (the Virgin of the Swan) which has taken place every year for over four centuries, the figure of the Virgin being carried from the village of El Cisne to Loja on foot. It happens in August so I will miss the boat on that one. I took a photo of two of the pictures and then paid the price for it when a security guard came over, told me I coudn't take photos and then followed me around the rest of the museum to make sure I didn't take any more. Oh well.

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I came across an empty but open auditorium with a woman having a piano lesson on a grand piano, and then a room full of information about and work of Lojana literary and musical figures. There were also two rooms showing off the traditional dress of Saraguro, a proudly indigenous town quite near to Loja; rooms of colonial religious art, which included a painting each of the Virgen del Cisne, the Virgen de Guápulo and the Virgen de la Merced; a room containing information about quinine bark and the Peruvian Jesuit who introduced it from South America to Europe in the 17th century as a treatment for malaria; an archaeological section containing pottery, photos of petroglyphs and some other things; and an exhibition of colourful contemporary paintings titled ´Los Colores de lo Absurdo´.

After that I had a late lunch at a grilled chicken restaurant, bought a chocolate bun to have later, walked along the oldest street in Loja looking at the colourful colonial buildings and then stopped in an internet café for a couple of hours.

The oldest street in Loja, Calle Lourdes:

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In the evening I went back to the church of Santo Domingo. The interior was beautiful; I looked around for a bit after buying and lighting a candle for Dad.

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I took some of the exterior too, along with the plaza:

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Then I carried on to a restaurant by the river where I had another humita and tamale before going back to the hotel for an early night.

Posted by 3Traveller 10:46 Archived in Ecuador Tagged art hotel airport museum cathedral dad andes ecuador ecuadorian_cuisine loja traditional_customs colonial_church Comments (0)

Guayaquil: Urban regeneration and green lizards

Guayaquil


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Having visited the 'main' Malecón (waterfront; Malecón 2000) on many occasions in the last year and a bit, I thought it about time I went to Malecón del Salado, the other, less well-known one which is on the other side of the city centre.

To get there I walked down the main street of Urdesa, crossed two different branches of the same river (the second time over a zigzag bridge) and then followed a path next to the river, down Parque Lineal del Estero Salado.

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The zigzag bridge, the park, and both Malecóns in their current form are all some results of the massive urban regeneration which has taken place in Guayaquil over the last ten to fifteen years. There were sculptures, monuments, benches, neatly planted trees and bushes.

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I especially liked the benches laid out in a semicircle with a kind of trellis above it which was covered in greenery and yellow flowers. I also especially enjoyed the sight of the green lizards which stood around on the grass and in the flowerbeds.

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I had to cross the river again to get to the Malecón del Salado.

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I walked up and down, followed a path which took me over another branch of the river and then realised I had entered the grounds of the University of Guayaquil without realising it. The place looked surprisingly crowded for a Sunday! After looking round for a bit I left the way I'd come and walked back down the Malecón, followed another path past an interesting fish sculpture and then retraced my steps to the Plaza de Mariscos, a food court with a focus on seafood.

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Maybe because it was mid-afternoon by now, I was almost the only customer there. I had some tasty seafood rice which came with a large crab claw sticking out of the top, plus the usual avocado, plantain and raw tomato. How I wish I liked avocadoes and bananas! They are two of the main exports of Ecuador, are extremely cheap here and are supposed to be particularly delicious.

After finishing my meal I walked out of the Malecón and along Avenida 9 de Octubre, the main street of Guayaquil. If I had continued to the end, it would have taken me to the main Malecón, but I was tiring by now and stopped at Parque Centenario before turning back.

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Posted by 3Traveller 06:28 Archived in Ecuador Tagged bridges art lizards ecuador guayaquil explorations parque_centenario ecuadorian_cuisine avenida_9_de_octubre malecón_del_salado Comments (0)

The Chapel of Man, then engagement ring success!

Quito


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Update from October 2019: Another name for Abya Yala Museum is Museo Amazonico. Still open according to Google Maps. The wonderful jewellery workshop is also still there - also known as 'ARIU Art Jewelry Studio'

The first place we visited this morning was Abya Yala Museum, a small but very interesting museum with lots of artifacts from the Amazon as well as a few archaeological ones from other areas of Ecuador. Highlights included two examples of shrunken heads, various stuffed wildlife (a sloth, an armadillo, a condor and smaller birds), a massive dugout canoe, musical instruments, blowpipes, spears and some photos of Ingapirca, the only major Inca site in Ecuador. Unfortunately we weren't allowed to take any pictures.

When we came out of there a guy was practising parkour in front of the museum. We caught a taxi from there to our next destination, La Capilla del Hombre, or 'The Chapel of Man'. This monument and art museum was a creation of Ecuador's most famous artist, Guayasamín, as a tribute to humankind, the suffering of Latin America's indigenous poor and the eternal hope for a more positive future.

It lies in the very suitably named residential district of Bellavista ('beautiful view').

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On the way there we passed through Guápulo district, very hilly and historic. It was beautiful - I'll make sure to come back here for a look-around when I return to Quito next month.

First of all we walked round the outside of the monument, taking photos of it as well as the view and of a statue from the Honduran Mayan site of Copan which was donated to the Chapel of Man by the government of Honduras.

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Then we went inside it to look at Guayasamín's art. We were given a free tour by a guide, just for the two of us; in the process of doing so our guide gave us such a fine example of Spanglish I wished I could have taken a recording of it to play to my students and see if they could spot where the mistakes were. The tour began with a drawing representing workers at the silver mines of Potosí (in Bolivia) in Spanish colonial times. Before the guide told us this I had guessed it might be about the Potosí mines in historical times, so I was pleased when it turned out I was correct. Then Dave noticed a large mural and said it reminded him of Picasso - a few minutes later we got to that painting and our guide told us that it was indeed about the Spanish Civil War and was influenced by Picasso´s Guernica. The art was interesting and very symbolic. Once our tour had finished, we each bought a fridge magnet of our favourite artwork.

After leaving the monument we walked up some stairs to an on-site café, where we had a humita each and shared a quimbolito.

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Then we caught a taxi back to our hostel for a rest before heading out on a very important mission... choosing my engagement ring!

To do so we went straight to an extremely well-recommended jewellery shop called Ari's Gallery in the Old Town, right on the edge of Plaza San Francisco.

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Every piece of jewellery in it is hand made; the owner makes them with the help of five assistants. Most of the jewellery is silver but some are gold and some made from Spondylus shell. The ring I chose is made of silver and patterned with two pelicans and two hummingbirds - no precious stone. I asked if the silver came from Ecuador and it turns out that it comes from close to Chordeleg, a village near to Cuenca that is famous for its jewellery. I'd heard of Chordeleg before. Ari Gallery's owner gets his silver (and I assume his gold as well) from the same source local to Chordeleg as the Chordeleg jewellers do.

When we first arrived the owner's wife showed us round, but then the owner himself arrived. I originally thought that they didn't have any the right size for me, because there was only one of each type displayed (and apparently they don't have any in storage - they only ever have one of each type in existence in the shop) and every ring I was interested in was either too small or too big. They were also a bit too wide for my liking. However, then it turned out that they could tailor-make one for me, so I went for that option! He tried different dummy rings on me to find my size and then I picked the pattern and asked for it to be a bit narrower than the ones on display. They had a book of patterns and it said that the pelican means 'new life and long life' and the hummingbird is a general symbol of 'nature'. I love both hummingbirds and pelicans so I think I would have chosen them even without their given meanings, but I do think these meanings were very appropriate nonetheless.

The owner told us that he could deliver the ring to our hostel tomorrow afternoon for free, so we went for that option.

For dinner we went back to the Argentinian grillhouse we'd visited a couple of days before. This time Dave chose the mixed grill, which arrived piled up and still sizzling on a portable grill. He really liked most of it but unsurprisingly left the intestines! We shared some 'Italian potatoes' (fried potatoes with melted cheese, sour cream and mushrooms) as a starter and for the main I had a steak.

Posted by 3Traveller 16:28 Archived in Ecuador Tagged art pelicans museum dave quito andes ecuador hummingbirds explorations unesco_world_heritage_site ecuadorian_cuisine plaza_san_francisco Comments (0)

Gold sun mask and traditional ice cream

Baños and Quito


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Edit from October 2019: The name of the restaurant where we had the traditional ice cream is (I'm pretty sure) Heladería San Agustín. Still going strong it seems, though I don't of course know if they still make their ice cream the traditional way...

Thursday 12/6/14

I knew the journey to Quito today would only take between two and three hours, so there was no need to get to the bus terminal particularly early. We had time for a nice relaxed breakfast (we also made up two jam rolls each for ourselves to have for lunch on the bus), a soft drink and a game or two of pool at the bar before walking leisurely in the sunshine to the terminal.

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Once we arrived at the terminal I had no problems getting tickets for the next bus to Quito. We left on time and arrived at the shiny new Quitumbe bus terminal in Quito on time as well.

We rested and used the internet for a bit on our arrival at the hostel. In the evening we went out for some dinner round the corner at a place recommended by our guidebook, but apart from the cheese humita we shared for a starter, which was delicious, the food wasn't anything special. My glass of guanábana juice was very nice though. After dinner we wandered down the street a bit until we got to Plaza Foch, which is the centre of the Mariscal Sucre district, a.k.a. 'Gringoland'. Today was the first day of the World Cup so the place was packed. Lots of security police around with guns, so there wasn't any trouble that we could see. We only walked around the square a little bit before going back to the hostel to bed.

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Friday 13/6/14

This morning we had breakfast early and took a very crowded Trolebus to Ejido.

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We walked through Ejido Park, in the sunshine, to get to our destination - the National Museum. We passed by sculptures and statues as well as a tree growing at such a right angle part of it had to be propped up.

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Sadly, while we were there an ambulance went past and stopped nearby - there were people crowded round someone who must have had an accident.

There were lots of fascinating exhibits in the museum, which was split into an archaeology room, a Gold Room and upstairs some religious art mostly painted by painters from the Quito School in the Spanish colonial period. My favourite items were the beautiful gold sun mask that is deservedly the flagship exhibit in the Gold Room; a ceremonial copper knife; a silver funeral mask; a mummy of a young girl found in a cave in Canar Province; obsidian arrowheads; bird-shaped ocarinas; a clay mask of a coca-chewer; and replicas of skulls showing the skull-flattening deformity that was practised by one of the pre-Columbian tribes in Ecuador. The Gold Room also contained a lot of information about how the various metal masks and so on were made - interesting to read about how they did this so many centuries ago. Dave especially liked this part. Unfortunately we weren't allowed to take any photos in this part of the museum.

After finishing looking round the archaeology, gold and religious art rooms we went up another level to a room containing a photo exhibition set up by the Turkish Tourism Board. Not quite what you might expect to find in Ecuador, but the photos were fabulous! Obviously they had picked the best possible photos of Turkey, in order to make people want to go there, but still. Turkey was already on the priority list of countries I'd like to visit in the future, and this exhibition did nothing to dampen my enthusiasm!

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After that we got the Trolebus into the Old Town and the first thing we did there was go to a particular restaurant/cafe for lunch. I was keen to try this place because it was founded in the present building in 1858 and still makes its own ice cream in traditional copper bowls. We shared a humita to start, then Dave had seco de chivo, I had shrimp ceviche and for pudding we both had a scoops of lovely coffee and chocolate flavour ice cream. The ice cream came in bright silver-looking cups that looked almost like vases.

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We then went on to Plaza Grande...

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...and Plaza San Francisco for a look round, because I was really keen to show them to Dave.

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Our next destination was the Basilica, which lies up a hill. We looked around inside first...

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...and then I went up to the top of the tower and took some photos of the wonderful views over Quito.

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On our way back down the hill I stopped at a bakery and bought five chocolate buns for us to have on the journey to Otavalo the next morning. We took the trolebus back to the hostel from Plaza Santo Domingo.

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For dinner we walked round the corner to an Italian restaurant for some pizza.

Posted by 3Traveller 16:18 Archived in Ecuador Tagged art basilica turkey museum hostel buses dave quito banos ceviche ecuador unesco_world_heritage_site ecuadorian_cuisine plaza_grande plaza_san_francisco plaza_santo_domingo pre_columbian_artifacts Comments (0)

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