The final stop of our flying visit through Ecuador was its capital, Quito. As this was Helen’s third visit, I left her at the hostel for my first bit of exploring. I joined the Free Walking Tour, lead by Ovi, to get an idea of the city, visiting the market and several of the major landmarks. As with all FWTs, it provided a great way to get a feel for the city and plenty of ideas for where to visit. After the tour, I re-met Helen and we went up to the statue overlooking the city. Somehow, we ran out of money at this point and only one of us could afford to go up to the balcony by her feet (which cost a whole one dollar!), I went as Helen had been before. The view from here really put the city into perspective, it’s vast urban landscape suddenly revealed from the height; from our hostel in the centre of the old town, the valley hides the city’s other, newer districts.
The following day, we visited the Presidential Palace. The encumbant Rafael Correa decided that the palace should be for all the people, opening it up for people to visit on free guided tours, and meaning he is the first president not to live there (although Ovi suggests that the last part might have something more to do with the number of presidents who have been assassinated in and around the palace). Although the palace wasn’t the most awe inspiring building I’ve been to, it was still impressive, especially as it’s still functional. There was an exhibition by a local artist throughout the residence and glass cabinets containing state gifts from countries around the world. We went into the cabinet room, and we couldn’t enter one room as there was a function going on (someone important’s birthday apparently).
After our tour finished, we headed to the Basílica del Voto Nacional, perched on a hill overlooking the old town. Although the knave wasn’t open, we could climb the church’s towers. On the way up, we crossed over a balcony that looked towards the altar and gave us a stunning, up close view of the stained-glass, something Helen was very happy about, before we carried on up. After several flights of stairs, we came to a wooden planked path that crossed over the top of the roof the chuch, followed by a series of very steep metal ladders, which lead to the tower of the church and alternative (more adventurous) view of the city.
With our eight days drawing to an end, we decided to have one night out in Quito, the highlight of which was a restaurant/bar along the bohemian street, La Ronda. It was a spot for locals and it was great to see their different attitude to keeping up public appearances: people would often get up to dance with their friends and at one point there was a teenager happily dancing with his grandmother, something that is less likely to be seen back home.