Quito, Ecuador


Quito is many things – the highest official capital city in the world as Ecuador’s capital, one of two cities (along with Krakow) whose historic central districts were named as the first UNESCO World Heritage sites back in 1978, home to over 2.6 million people, rich in history and culture….
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The city rests in a high, narrow valley on the slopes of the active volcano, Pichincha. As we ride from Cayambe I can see houses and other buildings spread out across the valley below us and creeping up the other side. Then high up on the other side of the river valley I catch glimpses of highrises between the peaks of the ridges. That is the heart of Quito, perched way up there and looking down on me. We ride through construction and a few tunnels winding our way through these steep valleys and up to the other side. It’s really hard to get a good look at the city from any one vantage point because it seems to be wedged in this narrow high valley. In fact the city is something like 15 or more miles long and no more than a mile wide except where it seems to spill out over the rim onto the slopes of the ridges above or below.
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We settle into a hostel and wander through the old part of the city on a sunny day, starting in Plaza Grande.
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The Presidential Palace is here along with City Hall, the Cathedral and the Centro Cultural Metropolitano.
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We walk down Calle Garcia Moreno to see La Compania de Jesus, an incredibly extravagant church that reportedly took 163 years to build and 7 tons of gold to decorate.
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This street is known as the Street of Seven Crosses for the number of churches found here, making it the religious center of the city.
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We can see the Panecillo from here, the small hill at this southern end of the city, which is topped with a 40-foot high statue of the Virgin of Quito.
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The Basilica del Voto Nacional, or La Sagrada Corazon de Jesus, is at the other end of the old town. It’s giant towers and dome can be seen from all over. The Basilica is enormous and reminds me of Notre Dame in Paris, but is much lovelier in its own ways.
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You can climb the towers and even cross a wooden boardwalk over the roof of the main church to the dome and climb it’s tower for a spectacular view. There have been earthquakes every week or two in Quito, so as I cross, I’m worried that there aren’t any while I’m up here.
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I love that the gargoyles/grotesques were made in the shape of animals and birds of Ecuador – monkeys, jaguars, Galapagos tortoises, Iguanas and more.
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