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Pageantry, history and an engagement ring hunt

Quito


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We went into the Old Town first thing after breakfast, looked round the San Francisco Monastery and then revisited Tianguez Fairtrade shop (I showed Dave round the shop a few days ago so he could see all the corridors set within the former catacombs of the monastery, along with the fabulous range of handicrafts) to do a bit of shopping. We had a drink or two at the café as well - I had guanábana juice and a Cola Light and Dave had a hot chocolate and a Coke.

Plaza San Francisco;

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San Francisco Monastery exterior;

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San Francisco Monastery interior;

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Tianguez Fairtrade shop

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Then we headed back to Plaza Grande to watch the Changing of the Presidential Guard! This takes place every Monday at 11 am. There was barely a cloud in the sky all day so I got a little bit sunburnt. We saw the President, Rafael Correa, standing on a balcony, and ceremonial guards variously marching, riding on horses or sitting beneath the balcony playing in the band.

Plaza Grande;

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The changing of the Presidential Guard;

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After that finished, we walked to a narrow street called La Ronda which is lined with beautiful restored 17th century buildings, some of which have colourful flowers in pots on balconies. Several of the buildings have a plaque commemorating an artist, musician or poet who lived there in the past.

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On the way to La Ronda we popped inside the cultural arts centre in Plaza Grande...

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...and crossed a plaza on the edge of the Old Town which had great views of the Virgen de Quito, a statue of an angel which stands of a hill overlooking Quito.

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We had an almuerzo, a set lunch, in a restaurant in La Ronda and then got the Trolebus back to the hostel from Plaza Santo Domingo.

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After a short rest we did some photo editing and then went out round the corner from the hostel to three handicraft and jewellery shops, in order to look for a silver engagement ring, but we had no luck. None of them had very many rings on offer and what rings they did have were all too wide or were colours I'm not keen on. I still had another option up my sleeve, though, in the Old Town. I made a mental note to go there either on Wednesday or Thursday.

For dinner we went to an Argentinian/American steakhouse in the Mariscal Sucre area - delicious, just as I hoped. Dave got excited when he saw that T-bone steak was on the menu - apparently this is banned in the USA because of the way the meat is on the bone.

Posted by 3Traveller 14:36 Archived in Ecuador Tagged dave quito andes ecuador procession explorations changing_of_the_guard unesco_world_heritage_site ecuadorian_cuisine plaza_grande plaza_san_francisco fair_trade_shop plaza_santo_domingo san_francisco_monastery Comments (0)

Good Friday Processions, Quito

José Joaquín de Olmedo International Airport (Guayaquil) and Quito


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While I was working in Guayaquil, Emma, Kate, Mark and Andrew left Cuenca for Baños on Tuesday, spent a full day there and got a bus to Quito yesterday. I spent last night at José Joaquín de Olmedo International Airport in Guayaquil because my flight to Quito was at 6 am and I thought it would be much easier just to get a taxi from work when it closed on Thursday night than it would be to try and find a safe taxi at 3 am on Friday morning from Alborada.

The flight was uneventful but I did get some good photos of the mountains and a snowcapped volcano near Quito - probably Cotopaxi Volcano.

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The hour-long taxi journey from the new airport to the hostel was also uneventful. I was joining the others at the same hostel where Mum and I stayed in February; I arrived at about 08.30.

The main aim of the day was to go into Quito Old Town to view the world-famous Good Friday procession, which we thought started at midday. We got the Trolebus and duly arrived at Plaza San Francisco, where the procession would begin, nice and early at around 9:30. There were more people than normal around even at that point, including lots of police, and there was a Catholic radio station playing on loudspeakers.

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We were wondering where to stand to get the best view, then noticed that on the raised ground along one side of the square, directly in front of San Francisco church and monastery, people were sitting on the wall with their backs to the main square. This made us think that the procession would probably go along there, so we made a beeline up the steps and found a good position next to the wall. It was wonderfully sunny at that point and there was a really good atmosphere, full of anticipation and preparation.

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From our raised position we had a good view over the square, and on and to the side of the raised area we could see preparations apace; some big wooden crosses propped up in a couple of places, men holding brass band instruments and penitents wearing their costumes of mainly purple robes and purple pointy masks.

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At around 10:30 am we, and everyone else on the raised area, started to be moved by police, which disappointed us because we wouldn't get as good a view from the ground. I think it was because part of the procession was going to emerge from the front of the church. Anyway, we descended into the main part of the square and found a position by a road on the opposite of the square, where lots of people seemed to be congregating. Then we started to see bits of a procession going along one of the other sides of the square, and realised that the procession had started an hour earlier than expected and wasn't going along our road after all!

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The crowd was thick by the edge of the relevant road, but some of us managed to squeeze through to the front (or near the front) and get a few photos. The procession mainly seemed to consist of the penitents (some of whom held crucifixes, pictures of Jesus or Mary etc.), men dressed up as Jesus carrying along the big wooden crosses I'd spotted earlier, and brass band musicians playing a couple of tunes I didn't recognise.

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Kate says that at one point and a couple of times later in the day she saw a couple of the penitents flagellate with ropes tied round their waists, though only lightly by the looks of it so it wasn't harsh to watch; I saw chains dragging from some of the penitents' ankles.

The day then went downhill for a bit because Mark had his wallet stolen. He'd had it in his pocket rather than in a bag. The police didn't speak English but he managed to find a tourist security place nearby so went there. Meanwhile Kate and I found Emma and, when walking along, found Mark at the security place. Kate and I didn't know where Andrew was in the crowds but Emma said that he'd said to meet up at the Trolebus stop if we got split up. With that in mind, Kate and I then took Emma to an internet cafe with phone booths to cancel the stolen cards while Mark stayed at the security place to sort stuff out there. The procession had reached where we were so the crowds were quite hard to fight through...

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...but luckily we found the internet café not far away. I hung around outside Emma's phone booth while she made calls and meanwhile Kate fought her way through the crowds to the Trolebus stop to see whether Andrew was there, but he wasn't so she came back again. Once all the cards were cancelled we went back to the bus stop and waited for quite a while to see if Andrew would turn up, but he didn't so in the end Kate got the bus back to the hostel to check whether he'd gone back there. Luckily she found him nearby the hostel so they came back into Quito Old Town and met up with us there.

Things then improved further, because while Kate was gone Emma and I had lunch, a special Ecuadorean Holy Week soup called 'fanesca'. Once Kate and Andrew got back they had some too but at a a different place. It was lovely - among other things it contained twelve different grains/pulses to symbolise the twelve apostles, half a boiled egg, dried cod, some little hard-baked bread things, a miniature empanada, milk, plantain and vegetable stock. Emma and I didn't get any accompaniments with ours, but the others did; plates of molo mash (potato mixed with milk, cream and possibly garlic and onions, served on lettuce leaves and with half a boiled egg and some spring onion sliced lengthways on top), and a dulce de higo each (a whole fresh fig cooked until lightly candied in a spiced brown cane sugar syrup and served with the syrup and a slice of queso fresco (white softish cheese). Figs are a traditional Lenten food and eggs, fish and cheese are fasting foods, so it was all appropriate for eating on Good Friday.

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After lunch, after walking up a street through which a shrine was moving with lots of people walking alongside or watching from the roadsides...

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...we all went back to Plaza San Francisco to visit Tianguez, an amazing handicrafts shop that I visited with Mum in February. The shop extends into catacombs under the monastery and contains all sorts of handicrafts, pottery, woven items, etc., as well as Ecuadorean coffee and other things. Some of the catacomb passages have interesting information about the traditions and meanings of the items made by particular tribes.

Following this we were all tired so we walked to Plaza Santo Domingo to get the Trolebus back to the hostel.While walking through Plaza San Francisco Kate pointed out that the shrine had ended up in the open doorway of the monastery, and various nuns and monks were standing around on the raised area in front.

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In the evening we had dinner at KFC (only the second time I've been there in Ecuador) and checked our emails.

Posted by 3Traveller 08:34 Archived in Ecuador Tagged mountains airport sisters quito andes ecuador procession unesco_world_heritage_site ecuadorian_cuisine plaza_san_francisco fair_trade_shop plaza_santo_domingo traditional_customs easter_celebrations Comments (0)

UNESCO World Heritage Site: City of Quito

Quito


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We were up bright and early and sat down for our free breakfast as soon as it was available, at 07.30. It was nice and sunny, but we could see clouds moving over Pichincha Volcano in the distance. It looked like we would only get a couple of hours of sunshine before it became overcast. Breakfast was big and lovely; it was a sit-down meal, not a buffet. In succession we were each brought a small plate of fruit (a slice each of papaya, pineapple and apple, with half a banana sliced lengthways), a small glass of drinking yoghurt, a glass of strawberry juice, coffee, a basket to share between us containing two croissants and two slices of bread, two slices of ham and some eggs (Mum had hers scrambled, I had mine fried). We both felt very full, but nicely fortified for the morning ahead.

As soon as we finished breakfast we set off. The trolebus was very crowded, due to rush hour, but we made sure to keep an eye on our pockets and bags. I felt so excited when the sight of the architecture we passed told us that we were now within the Old Town! This excitement intensified even further once we stepped out of the bus, walked along a street to our right and entered Plaza Grande, the main square. Finally I was standing in the middle of Quito's Old Town - fulfilling a dream I had held for many, many years.

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The first thing we saw was a white, cloister-like walkway, with arches along the side, that leads across one side of the plaza. At the pillar by each arch there was a shoe-shiner at work. We saw an open gateway that lead into a very quiet courtyard - it turned out to be a former Archbishop's palace.

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The buildings didn't seem to be open to visitors so we just sat in the courtyard for a bit before going out again into Plaza Grande. As we walked into the courtyard we had noticed a strange bonelike pattern set within the cobblestones; they looked a lot like human vertebrae. On our way out we looked more closely and saw that they were in fact real bones!

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After that we wandered around Plaza Grande for a while. There was a protest going on in front of the Government Palace, with chanting and flag-waving but nothing more vigorous.

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Mum had to sit down for a while because she was feeling the altitude a bit, but I took a few photos. Then we walked along a raised path that runs alongside the cathedral. This gave us a good view of the plaza but meant we were raised up out of the hubbub.

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Just beyond one corner of Plaza Grande was our next destination - the church of La Compañía de Jesús.

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This very old Jesuit church has a stunningly beautiful and eye-catching interior of gold. We spotted indigenous plants painted amongst the carvings on the pillars, as well as one or two indigenous face carvings. The inside of the domes were beautifully painted, too.

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If I could I would have taken loads of photos, but unfortunately I was told that photos weren't allowed. I still managed to take a couple on the sly, having hidden out of view behind a pillar, but I didn't have time to take any close-ups of anything. After looking round the church itself we went into a little room with a display of big heavy bells dated from 1926 and then into a little museum with a temporary display about the history of the Jesuits in Ecuador.

We had entered the church as soon as it opened at 09.30, and we were glad we had, because as we left we saw tour buses outside with groups milling around taking pictures of the church exterior. They were clearly just about to go in, so it looked like we had timed our visit perfectly.

After this Mum felt in need of a drink and a sit down, so we went into a covered courtyard that had a notice outside it saying there was a traditional café inside. The café had its shutters down but there was a large wool and sewing shop close by that Mum wanted a look round. I left her in there while I looked around for a suitable café. When I came back she was pondering buying some balls of alpaca wool, but she decided not to get any in the end. We sat down at a nearby café and had a glass bottle of orangeade (only 50 centavos each).

Next we walked on to Plaza San Francisco. This is also very picturesque because the monastery is the main building and behind it looms Pichincha Volcano. The clouds had come over by now unfortunately, but it didn't rain. Mum sat down on some steps while I walked round the plaza and got some cash out from a Banco Pichincha ATM.

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Once I got back we walked over to a café called 'Tianguez' that has a wonderful Fair Trade shop attached to it that sells genuine handicrafts from all over Ecuador. We had a great time exploring - at the back the rooms turned into an orange-painted narrow corridor that had clearly been part of the monastery's crypt or catacomb. On one wall of the corridor there was painted written information about the different indigenous tribes of Ecuador and their beliefs and mythology; on the opposite wall were examples of their different crafts (masks, pottery figures, bowls, etc.). It was really interesting and I definitely recommend you visit it too. I didn't buy anything but Mum got an alpaca jumper and a packet of 'Yumbo' coffee.

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After using the café's facilities we sat down and looked at the menu, but they didn't have much of a selection, so we moved on. We wandered the streets for a while. Mum really wanted some fruit, so we stopped at a street booth and I got us an apple each and a pound of grapes. Then once we remembered they needed washing in bottled water, I got a bottle of water as well. We carried on back to Plaza Grande and while Mum sat down on a stone bench and started on the fruit, I got up to see what food was on offer in the vicinity. The first place I found, a tiny café under the side of the cathedral, sold pork sandwiches and empanadas and a variety of other snacks, both savoury and sweet, so we both went in and sat down. I ordered us a pork sandwich each and a black coffee (I asked for 'café con leche' for Mum, but they didn't have any milk) and a meringue to share. The sandwiches turned out to be rolls with quite a lot of cold pork in them as well as some raw tomato and purple-stained onion. The whole tasty lot came to only $5.10.

Next we walked to Plaza Santo Domingo, where the Trolebus stop was that we needed to use. There was a parade of teenage schoolchildren in the square marching around, some banging massive drums and others holding metal portable glockenspiels (like the ones I saw at the Independence of Guayaquil processions in October) or nothing at all. Not sure what the occasion was! Before they got properly into their stride, however, our Trolebus arrived to take us back up into the New Town.

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Once we got back to the Travellers Inn we had a bit of a lie down before going out again, this time to a particular handicrafts shop down the road called 'Galería Ecuador Gourmet'. The first thing we did on arrival was have a hot drink - Mum was desperate for a coffee and I had a hot chocolate for the first time in Ecuador.

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Then we had a really good look round the shop, which had two floors. It was brilliant! Some things were quite expensive, but others were much more reasonable. I bought myself a t-shirt and Mum got a few things for people at home. She also bought me a lovely white rather indigenous-looking shirt as part of my birthday present. We also tried some of the chocolate samples that were left out in little bowls. In one of the rooms upstairs I saw giant balls of alpaca wool (large rubber balls really, wrapped in wool) so I had to get a picture of Mum next to them!

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It was around 7 pm by the time we got back and we were quite peckish, so we had a small pepperoni and a medium 'mixed' pizza at the guesthouse instead of going out again for food. Unfortunately they had clearly come straight from the freezer and then cooked so that the top was a little dried out and the bottom not cooked enough, but they were very cheap and we were hungry so we ate them. Then we played cards for a while. First we played 10-card rummy and then whist where you start with 9 cards each and work down. Last of all, before we went to bed, Mum taught/ reminded me of how to play several different versions of Patience.

Posted by 3Traveller 07:31 Archived in Ecuador Tagged museum hostel mum quito andes ecuador procession explorations unesco_world_heritage_site ecuadorian_cuisine plaza_grande plaza_san_francisco fair_trade_shop plaza_santo_domingo traditional_customs colonial_church Comments (0)

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