A Travellerspoint blog

On Our Way and the City of Quito

Friday & Saturday

sunny 23 °C

Special Note: Due to issues with the ship’s satellite system we were off the grid for our first week. Once back on the mainland we continued to experience technical issues. The most significant issue was the instability of the Wi Fi service at our hotels. The blog has to be assembled live on line so we need rock solid internet especially when uploading pictures which can take 5-10 minutes on the slower connections. If the connection is lost even for a few seconds we have to start the process for that entry all over again. Also once we hit Peru our schedule became very demanding as we were usually on the road by 8:00 am and going well into the evenings so very little time even write the blog let alone time to fiddle with the internet connections so we concentrated on our note and picture taking. Please pardon us if you are reading this a week or so late.

Friday - On Our Way

Because we were due to leave very early in the morning, Sue and Roy suggested that we all stay at the Marriott next to the airport. For $99 all included we could stay overnight very close to the airport, use the Marriott’s underground parking for the two weeks we are away and take their shuttle to and from the airport. It sounds like a neat way to start our trip and is less expensive than cab fare. Turned out to be a good call as it snowed a fair amount Thursday night and was snowing lightly when we departed the hotel at 5:45 am Friday morning for the 10 minute ride to at the airport. Traffic of course was a mess but since our hotel was so close it had no impact on us.

We were at the airport by 6:00 am and smoothly navigated the various check-in and security line ups and by 7:30 am had boarded our Copa Airlines Airbus for the 5 hour flight to Panama City where we would have a 2 hour stopover before getting our 3 hour connector flight to Quito, the capital city of Ecuador.

Copa aircraft at Toronto’s Pearson airport

We arrived in Quito to be greeted by the Celebrity Cruise lines staff. There were 10 of us all arriving at roughly the same time so Celebrity had a representative at the arrival gate and a bus waiting for us all. We were driven about 45 minutes further up into the mountains into the old capital city of Quito to the local Marriott Hotel where we were greeted with warm wet towels and fruit drinks along with information on our day tomorrow.

When we reached our room our luggage had already been dropped off – but we then discovered something very strange. The two combination locks on Hazel’s bag had both been removed and one lock on David’s bag was missing. Closer inspection revealed that an underwater watch had been stolen from Dave but nothing from Hazel (no jewelry was packed) AND there was an extra toothbrush in a black case in Hazel’s luggage! We suspect that while we were waiting for our connector plane in Panama, someone had the time to search our luggage and help themselves to some of our stuff. Normally we would not pack valuables in our checked luggage but in an effort to reduce the weight of our carryon bags we foolishly packed a couple of items. Interestingly there was also a fairly expensive Olympus underwater digital camera in the same bag and it was not touched probably because it looks like any cheap digital camera.

Ecuador is considered the rose capital of the world and they are evidently very proud of this because we saw roses everywhere – in the airport and all around the hotel.

Floral arrangements in the lobby of the Marriott Hotel in Quito

Floral arrangements in the lobby of the Marriott Hotel in Quito

Floral arrangements in the lobby of the Marriott Hotel in Quito

There was even one on our bed when we arrived at the Marriott

Saturday - Quito, Ecudor

After a good night’s sleep and a buffet breakfast we boarded 4 large coaches for a tour of the city of Quito.

Quito has one of the largest, least-altered and best-preserved historic centers in the Americas. Quito is the capital of Ecuador and at an elevation of 9,350 ft. is the highest capital city in the world. It is located on the eastern slopes of Pichincha, an active stratovolcano in the Andes Mountains and is the only capital in the world to be directly menaced by an active volcano. The latest eruption was on October 5, 1999 when with just a few puffs of smoke a huge amount of ash was deposited on the city. Our guide told us it was a very difficult time for the population and the entire city closed down for more than 2 weeks. Other nearby volcanos also occasionally deposit ash on the city. The Quito city limits extend to within 1 km of the equator making it the closest capital city to the equator. With a population of 2.2 million Quito is very densely populated. It is wedged between the mountains and a series of deep crevasses giving it its long narrow shape.

Our first stop of the morning was at the Quito Basilica. Our guide explained that a church is overseen by a priest, a basilica by a bishop and a cathedral by a cardinal. This massive basilica has been under construction for over 200 years and still is not finished.

Quito basilica

After time for pictures outside the basilica we boarded the busses again and headed off through some of the older sections of the city dating back to the early 1700s where we were able to continue our walking tour. Interestingly we were cautioned to stay together as a group and were accompanied not only by our guide but also an armed security guard – petty crime such as pick pocketing is apparently a problem in the crowded areas.

We walked to the central square of Quito which in typical South American style for the era is bordered by the Presidential Palace, the local Cathedral, the local government administration building and the local cultural center or in more modern times a commercial shopping area. You’ll see this pattern repeated over and over in old South American cities and it is still preserved in many.

Central square from the Presidential Palace

Presidential Palace. The current President doesn’t live but does work there. The large veranda outside the palace has sections of iron work which came from the Bastille in Paris.

Quito Cathedral

Cultural Centre with the worst restoration job ever.

Statue to commemorate independence from the Spanish, If the top figure looks familiar that is because this statue was created by the same person who created the Statue of Liberty

Honour Guard outside palace

We boarded the busses again and visited 2 very ornate churches – one built by the Jesuits and one built by the Franciscans just a block away. Apparently there was a lot of competition between the two factions in their early years with each one trying to recruit local followers and often denigrating the other.

The Franciscan church had an incredible amount of gold decoration on the inside and we weren’t permitted to take pictures. Dave managed to get one snapped quickly before they stopped him.

Inside of church - check out all the gold leaf covering. It is obscene how much gold there is in this place

We then went to the Monasterio de San Francisco – a monastery built by the Franciscan monks which has sections open to the public but others which are not because it is currently an active monastery.

Monastery courtyard

This monastery has a small statue of Mary, the mother of Jesus which was carved by a man who was directed what to carve by a monk who was able to read the scriptures. The scriptures indicated that she ascended to heaven so the carver gave her wings. This is the only statue of Mary with wings. It is fairly small and very ornate and, of course, we were not permitted to take pictures. However, there is a very large copy of the statue on one of the hills in Quito.

Statue of Mary

We again boarded our bus to the theater district where we had a lovely Ecuadorian lunch.

After lunch we once more boarded the coaches for a short trip to the northern suburbs of Quito to see the Equatorial line and visit a museum there. They have turned this imaginary geographic line into an interesting tourist attraction with a large monument and an actual yellow line marking the center line of the earth with the latitude notation of 0.0.0. We were very happy to be in a city with the high elevation as it kept the mid-day temperatures very reasonable (24C) considering we were at the equator. A few folks suffered from headaches from the altitude but the four of us noticed very little effects except for being a little short of breath on some of the steeper climbs.

Huge Monument Marking the Equator - Note the observation deck on the top

Line Marking the Equator

Sue and Roy

Hazel and David

After returning from the tour we had dinner at a local gourmet restaurant called the Gloria and then returned to our hotel to pack our bags and put them outside our room. Celebrity staff would transport them to the airport and expedite them through agricultural control and ensure that they were on the plane and transported to the ship. Next time we would see our bags would be in our cabin on the ship.

It has been a busy first day and tomorrow looks to be even busier.

Posted by DavidandHazel 10:39 Archived in Ecuador

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great coverage of Quito...too bad about your watch Dave! The roses are gorgeous and a welcome sight right now with everything here covered in many centimetres of the white stuff.

Did either of you sample the guinea pig??

by joanne corkum

Looks like you had a great tour. Nice pics of Quito. Always wanted to visit the city as I heard much about it from Maurize Landazuri.

by joni

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