One of the things I was most looking forward to Ecuador was the food. Sampling the local cuisine is a favorite travel experience of mine, and I know in my time here I am going to eat it all. However, coming in without Ecuadorian food knowledge or a strong hold on the Spanish language has led to a couple of funny situations so far. One standout: during one of my first meals here, I mistook the Ecuadorian classic Aji sauce as a small soup….and had a couple spoonfuls. While I will say it was delicious and I have no regrets, I noticed weird looks from the wait staff and quickly put together that it was not meant to be eaten as soup. However, it is everywhere, and people put it on everything. I’m sure it wont be the last mistake I make.
I want to focus on this week’s blog on the time I spent in Quito’s Old Town, known as the best preserved historic center in the Americas. It does not take long to figure out why it was named the first ever World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The city center is booming with stores, street food and buildings that are hundreds of years old.
I started my tour in the heart of the city, La Independencia Plaza. The plaza is easy to identify from the huge monument in the middle celebrating the country’s independence. This city center was just an empty plot of land until the Spanish built churches around the 16th century. You will notice this trend a lot in Quito, because the Spanish pushed religion on native Ecuadorians when they colonized the country. In the city center alone, you are surrounded by the President’s office (Palicio de Goberino), Archbishop’s palace (which is now a bunch of restaurants), and the Cathedral of Quito (an enormous church filled with history).
If you only get to see one church in old Quito though, you should make it the Iglesia de la Compania De Jesus. It’s a quick walk from the Plaza, and filled with beauty. Photographs are not allowed in of the Church, so just imagine a building where the entire inside seems to be covered in gold. (You could also Google it, so much better than imagination).The construction of the church began in 1605, and did not finish for 160 years. Most of the building is the large chapel room, and you can spend hours just looking at the details here. Half of the building has been restored, and looks a lot newer. The city had to rebuild it after a nearby volcano erupted, because volcanos are an issue here….
Other sites I’d recommend are the Plaza San Francisco, Plaza Santo Domingo and Museo de la Cuidad. In addition to its history, Old Town has excellent shops and restaurants. This is an authentic area, and my Spanish was put to the test. I had one of my best showings after getting coffee and a snack at a café. Both people working there were incredibly nice, and we were actually able to talk for a while in Spanish. They offered some great recommendations of things to do in Ecuador, but neither have been in the country for very long.
Both of them were from Venezuela, and moved around 6 months ago to get out of the country. We talked for awhile about the current crisis in Venezuela, which I had only recently learned about. Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of coverage about it in the states. I would highly recommend learning more about it — for those interested, this podcast does a great job explaining the situation. Once again thanks to John and Sherry for the great coffee and recommendations.
When it came to my big meal for the day, I walked down La Ronda to find a bite. It’s one of the notable nightlife areas in Quito, but it also has plenty of great places to eat during the day. The alley was relatively calm during lunchtime, and I was able to grab a nice plate of Seco de Chivo, a traditional dish where they cook goat in a stew and serve with several sides. I’m not normally one to take pictures of my food, but I’ll make exceptions while I’m here.
One of the best ways to end a day at Old Town is a trip to El Panecillo, Virgen De Quito. It is a statue atop a hill in the middle of the city. After a quick climb to the top of the statue, you can get a panoramic scene of all of Quito. I’ll let the pictures below do the rest of the talking. Thanks for reading. #VidaLaVic