Our primary reason for going to Ecuador was to visit the
Galapagos Islands, but you can't get there without spending some time in either
Quito or Guayaquil. We were glad we decided on the former. Although
situated about 12 miles south of the equator, Quito has a moderate climate owing
to its 6,000 foot elevation. We arrived about 11:00 P.M. and the
temperature was 40 degrees. Quito is in a valley surrounded by snow-capped
volcanoes which are quite beautiful. The city is divided in half:
Old Quito is a World Heritage site featuring narrow winding streets and
preserved colonial buildings, and New Quito looks like any other large
South American city with featureless buildings and lots of traffic. New
Quito does contain one not-to-be-missed venue, the Central Bank Museum, which
houses the best collection of pre-Columbian art and artifacts in the
world. Unfortunately, photography is not allowed. The Ecuadorian
people are very friendly, the official currency is the US dollar, and things are
generally pretty cheap.
Saturday market in the old city.
San Francisco church - oldest in the Americas.
The principal government building in Ecuador.
This square is the hub of Old Quito.
For a lark, we took the public bus to the
Monument at the Center of the World. This 45 minute ride cost 40 cents and
was a real experience. Musicians and vendors jump on the bus and ride for one stop
selling everything from cookbooks to Chiclets. The monument commemorates
a French expedition which came to Ecuador in the 18th century to mark latitude 0-0-0. The
yellow line on the pavement marks the equator.
The monument is convenient to Quito, but the
spot where the French actually made their measurements is located about 30 miles
outside of town. There is a marker there (shown below) but is not too
impressive. Kissing from one hemisphere to the other is obligatory.
This is the market center for the indigenous
craftsmen. It is located about two hours outside of Quito. In
addition to the market, we visited some villages observing some craftsmen
weaving and others making Christmas decorations from bread. We also found
an internet cafe.