Life in Quito
Omar and I spent a full seven days in Quito, which provided us with an opportunity to survey the city in more detail than any other city we visited along the way. This post is a collection of photos I took during our stay and my impressions of the city.
Unlike some of the other cities we have visited, our arrival was somewhat anticlimactic. As we approached the city we couldn’t see many lights, which gave us the impression that the metropolitan area was small. Additionally, there were almost no pedestrians on the streets at 9:00 PM. That was very unusual, since every other Latin American city we had visited seemed to be full of life at that time of the night with scores of people filling sidewalks.
The Airbnb we rented in Quito turned out to be an excellent choice for our stay. It was a really nice two bedroom apartment located on the eighth floor of a ten story building. Since the building was only a year old, everything in the apartment appeared to be brand new. The apartment also had great views of the city.
After we got settled in James, our Airbnb host, offered to drive us to a nice restaurant a few miles away. The views from the restaurant were spectacular and gave us a better view of the city. We learned from James that the city is in a narrow valley that is almost 30 miles long.
While in Quito I wanted to accomplish two things. One was to enroll in a Spanish course to improve my language skills, and the other was to learn enough about Quito to determine if I might want to live there one day.
My first goal was easy to accomplish. Just five blocks from our apartment building was the Simon Bolivar Spanish School. The Monday after we arrived, I enrolled in a four hour per day four day course at the school. My teacher, Cecillia, tried her best to cram as much Spanish into my head as the time would allow. I learned a lot from her, but also discovered that becoming fluent in Spanish would be a far more challenging task than I had expected. It seems like the more Spanish I learn, I discover how much I don't know. Although I am starting to grasp the basics of the language, my vocabulary is so limited that I can’t seem to put more than a sentences or two together before I run out of words to express myself. Hopefully, I will get better as our journey continues.
While in Quito we walked around the city quite a bit and certainly developed a better impression of it than the first evening when we arrived. Quito is a vibrant city with two large universities within walking distance of our apartment building. We also discovered two excellent restaurants that we enjoyed. One was a Lebanese restaurant and the other one was a vegan restaurant named Flor. We got acquainted with the owner of Flor and returned there two more times for dinner. Since Omar is a vegan and I am a vegetarian it can be challenging to find a restaurant that accommodates our preferences in Latin America. Flor was perfect.
One afternoon, we walked to the hill overlooking the city where the Statue of the Virgin of El Panecillo was located. To get there we had to go through the old colonial section of Quito. This part of Quito was nothing short of spectacular. Beautiful streets lined with centuries old well maintained buildings. At the center of this area was a beautiful park filled with people and surrounded by government buildings and churches. Walking around the park and photographing the sights, it suddenly dawned on me that Omar and I were probably the only Americans in the colonial district. In fact, we have not encountered many Americans during our journeys in Latin American.
When we reached our destination, the Statue of the Virgin of El Panecillo, we were presented with an awesome view of Quito and the valley it is in. From that vantage point we were able to get a good view of just how big the city really was. It stretches for miles primarily up and down the valley.
On another afternoon, we got our motorcycles out and rode to “Mitad del Mundo”. I think the name translates to something like “Half of the World”, which is appropriate since the equator passes through this site. At this location, Ecuador constructed an excellent monument and several education displays including a planetarium. When standing on the line where the equator passes, I couldn’t help thinking how far we have come and how far we have yet to go before we reach the southernmost tip of South America.
After completing my final Spanish class, walking the streets of Quito one last time and having another delicious meal of Flor (the vegan restaurant), I left Quito with the feeling that I could live there one day. That certainly was not the first impressions I had of Quito the night we arrived. But the longer I stayed there, the better I liked it.
Photo with owner of Flor.