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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)

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)

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)

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)

Easter Sunday in Quito

Quito


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Emma, Mark and I had to head off to the airport at lunchtime today, I back to Guayaquil and Emma & Mark back to London via Amsterdam, so we decided to just wander around Quito Old Town in the morning and see whether there was anything particularly Easter-related going on.

After having breakfast and opening Easter things from home, we hopped on the Trolebus and got off at Plaza Grande, before heading to the Cathedral. Before going in Emma, Kate and I chose a candle (blue because it was Dad's favourite colour), I bought it and we then lit it inside for him.

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While we were inside an Easter service started, somewhat startlingly with the first couple of lines of the tune to 'Joy to the World' - perhaps in Ecuador it's the tune to an Easter hymn? A little later on the cantor and congregation sang a hymn that we all recognised, despite it being in Latin American Spanish: 'When All the Saints Come Marching In'. It felt a little odd hearing a normally familiar hymn in a foreign language! Shortly before we left they started singing another hymn that was clearly Eastery because it mainly consisted of alleluias, though going by the tune and the proportion of alleluias to other words it wasn't 'Jesus Christ is Risen Today'.

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On the pavement on the road to one side of the cathedral there were some artists working on paintings (in oils I think) with completed works for sale. It was interesting seeing them at work. Emma and I both bought a small painting from one of the artists. We then wandered up to Plaza San Francisco to see whether anything much was going on there. There wasn't really, but we did stop at Tianguez café and some of us had drinks. Kate and I had big glasses of thick, delicious, freshly squeezed guanabana juice.

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After this we wandered round a bit more.

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We went into a centre with a museum in it and, I think, the Ecuadorean national archives, but all we could find was a gift shop and a smallish gallery of religious art, so we didn't stay long. Then we made our way to the right Trolebus stop to get back to the hostel; as we passed through Plaza Grande we stopped to watch some traditional dances that were being performed.

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After getting off the Trolebus at the other end, we nipped into a branch of 'Oki Doki' convenience store for me, Emma and Mark to stock up on snacks for our flights. Then a quick stop back at the hostel to finish packing, check emails and have a lovely unexpected Google Hangouts video chat with Mum, before Emma, Mark and I left for the airport. It was sad saying goodbye both at the hostel and the airport. Their flight left before mine did. Kate and Andrew were staying in Quito for the night and flying back to the UK the next day.

Posted by 3Traveller 10:57 Archived in Ecuador Tagged art airport cathedral sisters dad mum quito andes ecuador explorations unesco_world_heritage_site ecuadorian_cuisine plaza_grande plaza_san_francisco traditional_customs easter_celebrations Comments (0)

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