Originally published on 25 August 2015.
Thursday evening, we landed in Quito again, still the world’s highest capitol! I was all excited because it’s a new place to me, it was one of the first ever UNESCO World Heritage sites (tied for first with Krakow, Poland), it is one of the best preserved cities in the world, and Steve picked out a hotel for us that was originally a grand home with two indoor patios, built in the 16th century!
But our excitement was short-lived. For one, the smell of pollution was completely overwhelming. Everything we read about Quito warned us about altitude sickness, but we didn’t have any problem with that. We had problems from breathing in the fumes! I thought maybe once we got away from the airport the air quality would improve. Not so much! But on the bright side, we got to enjoy this view on our flight in:
But I’m getting ahead of myself. You see, when we went to the taxi stand to get a ride to our hotel, the woman at the desk saw the address for our hotel and said, “This is a problem.”
Um… A problem?
She took us over to another woman who could speak more English, and that lady told us there were protests going on in the old section of downtown, so a cab could get us close, about a 20 minute walk away from our hotel, but it could not drop us off at the hotel. Good thing we travel light!
So we got in a cab and drove almost an hour into town. It’s only 23 kilometers (just over 14 miles) from the airport to downtown, but the mountains make the roads curve, which makes the driving distance much greater! The good part about it taking so long was that the crowds had started to disband, so our cab driver was able to get us within 4 blocks of our hotel. Hooray!
So we made it to the Hotel Patio Andaluz! The hotel is truly beautiful and has been meticulously restored! It’s incredible! The staff were friendly and helpful, and everyone was dressed professionally, yet traditionally. And our room had two levels, one for sitting and one for sleeping. We mostly used the one for sleeping!
After walking only 4 blocks in the smog and amongst the (still disbanding) protestors just to get to our beautiful hotel, we didn’t want to leave it to go find supper. Instead, we had a lovely and romantic dinner on one of the indoor patios.
There were several other couples there, including a super cute older couple–the husband was on his e-reader, the wife was enjoying some peace and quiet. Too cute. Steve and I talked about what fun we had in the Galapagos and played the “thankful game”. I said one thing I was thankful for, and he said one thing he was thankful for. We took turns for a while until our food came. I guess we’re that cutesy couple!
The next morning, we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast on the indoor patio, then set out in search of history and adventure! We planned to go on a free guided walking tour at 10:30, and we had a couple of hours to kill before then. We got directions from our hotel’s front desk attendant, checked out, left our luggage with her, and began our day with an uphill walk to the National Basilica!
The altitude got to us a bit, especially on the way up the steps in the towers, but the pollution was what shocked my system the most! You could even see it in the air, not just smell it. Other than that, the views were pretty nice! Except there was this little white debris falling on us and getting in our eyes…
The hostel where we were supposed to meet for the walking tour was apparently not in a good area–good thing it was daytime! You know I’m pretty adventurous and not afraid to be on my own just about anywhere in the world, but so many people warned me about Quito and Ecuador being dangerous, I guess I freaked myself out because I was a little more self-aware and on the lookout than usual! I was glad to have my handsome, strong, take-nothing-off-nobody husband with me! And glad that we would be in a large group for the tour. Turns out we had nothing to worry about anyway!
I won’t bore you with all the details of the tour like I usually do. Honestly, the 3+ hour tour could easily have been an hour, maybe an hour and 15 minutes at the most! There was a lot of waiting time between stops–picture time, buying juice time, buying candy time, bathroom and snack time, etc. But we also learned a lot about the origin of Quito as we know it (Quito means half of the earth, or something to that effect, because the equator runs through it), and Ecuador is also in the best position on Earth to study the sun!
We also learned about the Incas, and then the Spanish who settled here, the uprisings and revolutions (another similarity with Krakow and Poland!), and that there was a president who was killed walking from the church across the street to the president’s palace. Our guide was fun and really seemed to enjoy himself, which made it even more fun for me!
Anyway, when we finished up with the tour, Steve and I meandered back to our hotel to pick up our stuff and figure out the best way to go see the equator and get to the airport while avoiding the upcoming protests at 4:00pm. Fortunately, going back to the hotel also meant our phones would automatically connect to the wi-fi and check our email. Unfortunately, that is where things got a little crazy…