Ecuador

The Charm of a Big City

I think we all had a certain apprehension about visiting Quito—thinking it would be just another large Latin American city like those we have visited in the past. Instead, we were all pleasantly surprised with how much we enjoyed Quito.

Yes, Quito is a large, bustling city with crazy traffic and very crowded Troles (train) as Andie described in her earlier blog (El Luchador). The population for Quito is described as 1.8 million, but it sure looks and feels much larger. There was something about Quito that felt very safe and comfortable and it grabbed us.

Was it the old colonial charm? Quito is the cultural heart of Spanish America and was the first city designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1978. Quito is the capital of Ecuador and was founded in the 16th century on the ruins of an Inca city. Despite various earthquakes and nearby volcanoes, the city has one of the best-preserved and least altered historic centres in Latin America. Both the old and the new parts of town seem to flow together to form a harmonious ensemble where nature and people are brought together. We truly enjoyed walking the hilly, cobblestone streets with the various churches, museums, hotels and shops. The old town is dominated by the Baroque school of Quito with a fusion of indigenous and European art. (The criteria for a World Heritage Site can be seen at: http://whc.unesco.org/en/criteria/.)

Was it the setting? Quito is representative of the population concentration of Ecuador in the Andean Highlands. At 2850 meters (9,350’), it is tucked in a long, narrow valley, with the twin peaks of Volcán Pichincha dominating the views when they are not obscured by clouds. The land upon which Quito is built is uneven and is traversed by two deep ravines (quebradas), one of which the city has arched over to preserve the alignment of the streets, the drainage of which escapes through a cleft in the ridge northward to the plain of Tumbaco. Nielsen had a heyday photographing Quito with its ever-changing light, moving clouds, and the colorful paint on the buildings.

Was it the food? We were fortunate to discover several interesting places to eat, most of which were in colonial Quito. When we asked Nielsen, Maren and Andersen what they liked about Quito, they all responded the food. The food we found was eclectic—various types of food that had an Ecuadorian flair. One restaurant, for example, Café Dios No Meure, was operated by an ex-pat from the U.S., which featured New Orleans and Cajun food with an Ecuadorian twist. Another place we went several times was La Cuchara de San Marcos, which fashioned itself as healthy Ecuadorian food. The flavors were all great and the walks home in the rain were memorable.

Posted by David Guy

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