It's Hard to Breathe in the Second Highest Capital City of Quito
Day 1: Morning | Explore Old Town's Plaza Grande, Iglesia de la Compañía & Plaza San Francisco
After waking up disoriented due to traveling for two solid days from Salento, I began the morning with breakfast at Mogens Pod Hostel. Before running out, I grabbed a city map marking suggested routes on foot and hopped on the trolley downtown.
Just a few stops away is Old Town. At the center is Plaza Grande. The square was bustling with all kinds of people - tourists, students, performers and locals.
Just around the corner is Iglesia de la Compañía. My hostel-mate and I decided to take a look inside the church.
Iglesia de la Compañía had a $5 entrance fee but didn't allow photos to be taken. Imagine gold covered everything, from floor to ceiling. It all sparkled GOLD. Personally, I could have skipped the visit inside. I tend to find the exterior of churches much more interesting than the guts.
Moving on, we began to explore the streets. One of my favorite things to see as I travel are doors - doors to homes, doors to churches, any doors really - especially anywhere with history. Old cities have such beautifully carved wooden doors, often times with gorgeous metal details. I can only imagine the amount of time and energy put into each piece.
Capilla de Cantuña sits facing Plaza San Francisco. The entire plaza was littered with pigeons, hundreds of them. Nuns wandered about, peeking inside the Chapel, almost as if they were lost. The Chapel houses an art collection and offers tours but we decided to keep it moving.
Day 1: Afternoon | Catch Views at El Panecillo, Visit Basílica de Voto Nacional & Stroll Down Calle de la Ronda
For just a few dollars you can hail a taxi up to the highest point in the city and marvel at views of the entire cityscape. It was later explained to me the weather in Quito is very humid and temperamental due to it's location between the sea and Amazon, along with the high altitude. I had heard horror stories from other travelers that the altitude in Quito is so intense you can expect to be stuck in bed for a day or two alleviating nausea. Luckily, my time in Colombia helped me assimilate to the altitude and I didn't have any problems.
The view from the top is stunning. Seeing Quito from above, the line between the new and old city is so clear. The new city is completely white and the old, shades of grey.
El Panecillo stands at the highest point and overlooks the city. It's a monument of Madonna made with 7,000 pieces of aluminum at an elevation of 3,016 meters. She is visible from all of Quito below.
And because the city is so high you're able to watch clouds roll in over the mountains. They tend to hover over Quito and stick between the mountains swirling in the air. It's an amazing thing to see. It felt like I was in a dream.
The Baslica de Voto Nacional lies right where the colors of old town (Centro Histórico) and new town shift. And that's the next stop.
Just along the line between the new and old city is a gorgeous Basílica in Centro Histórico. We weren't able to do much more than peak inside, arriving at closing, but the sheer size of the Basílica is overwhelming. It sits on the side of a busy street so it's pretty tough to get a photo as cars zoom by.
As we walked around the back of the Basílica there were three huge doors serving as exits. They were beautifully carved and framed with enormous archways.
After poking around outside the Basílica we began exploring the streets again. On the way, I bumped into a man selling these beautiful crabs. The vendor was surprised I had never seen them before.
One of the walking tours in Old Town suggested la Calle de la Ronda where local artisans and craft makers sell their handmade goods. Inside Zabala Artes, a man was busy carving wooden tops. I couldn't resist and picked one up for my little niece and nephew.
There was another cute shop selling organic products made of honey and a little chocolate boutique with teas and nuts. I bought some nuts I had never seen before called Inca peanuts. They're some kind of super food and taste delicious. I also picked up some products made of honey.
New fruit! On our way back toward the hostel I found a shop selling fruit alongside the street. They taste like a cherry grape cranberry but mostly cranberry and they have pits inside.
And with that it was back to the hostel to rest up. What a beautiful city!
Quito, Ecuador @ Mogens Pod Hostel
Mogens Pod Hostel is a real special place. The owners are amazing - they woke up early and stayed up late to accommodate my travel schedule. The facilities are wonderful. Everything is new and clean. You get your own bunk and locker below. While I was there, they were having an issue with plumbing so bathrooms were closed at times but the water was nice and hot.
Breakfast was delicious but a bit pricey. The owners were more than happy to prepare meals even before the kitchen opened. The location is perfect - a little way off from the crazy nightlife but still central. Employees should know more about local activities/tours and possibly offer them from the hostel. I ended up visiting a local tour agency to schedule day tours.