We by-passed Quito on our motorcycle trip in 2010/11, flying by it on the "Quito 500," a busy and fast-moving highway that afforded us a few glimpses of the sprawling urban complex of 2.6 million people.
On Monday, the 30th, we settled into our lovely apartment on the north end of Quito. We almost lose track of each other in the three bedroom, 2 1/2 bath, three level dwelling. Quito is in a long, deep Andean valley oriented roughly north/south. From our hillside perch, we look west across the valley and see the sparkling lights at night; in the morning, we check the peaks above the city to get an idea of what the weather will be. It is often foggy at night and then burns off during the day. When we go out, we usually walk downhill and then take a taxi back up to the apartment.
Diana, a recent graduate of Brigham Young University, is our contact here. She manages several properties for her parents in Quito and else where. On Tuesday, she was our personal guide to old town Quito, a Unesco World Heritage site. Quito sits about 9350' above sea level, so the first thing we did was to punish our lungs a bit more by taking a 20 minute ride on the TeleferiQo to get a bird's eye view of the city at 13500'! Unfortunately, we lost sight of the city about half way up the mountain as we entered the clouds. We walked around on the viewing paths a bit, then headed back down to see the old town.
We visited Plaza Grande and Plaza San Francisco before gaping in awe at the interior of La Compania de Jesus. I think nearly every square inch of the interior is gilded. No picture taking is allowed inside, but I did get one of some of the ornate stone work on the outside.
La Compania de Jesus
After a delicious lunch at Vista Hermosa (the rooftop had a great view of the old town), we drove to Basilico del Voto Nacional. It is built in the Gothic style, which, to be honest, looked a little out of place among the predominately Spanish style architecture. Most Gothic cathedrals have many gargoyles decorating the exterior, but here they are replaced with iguanas and tortoises!
No Gargoyles Here
For a couple of bucks, you can climb the twin clock towers or the spire over the nave. To get to the spire, we had to walk along wooden plank bridge above the nave, but below the roof of the cathedral--a new experience.
It was a nice, relaxing visit to the old town and a beginning to our stay in Quito.