I’m picking up where Cassidy left off from our day yesterday, during which we continued our quest to view Quito from all vantage points. After the Teleferico we drove to El Panecillo – a hill on the south side of Quito, crowned by a huge statue of the Virgen de Quito.
Again, amazing views – this time, looking down over old town Quito.
From there our driver took as into el Centro Historico – the colonial heart of Quito. We actually weren’t sure we were going to be able to get there, as we had heard many of the roads around the main plazas (where the Presidential Palace is located) were blocked as a precaution to prohibit the protesters from getting access.
There are currently large protests going on outside the city, led by some the indigenous groups around Quito, particularly to the north. These groups have been quite politically active in recent years, and they are currently frustrated with the current right-wing government for reasons including higher gas prices and a perception of deteriorating security conditions. Their form of protesting includes blocking the main arteries in and out of Quito, which is of course problematic for tourists, but more importantly for the economy in general.
In any case, we made it to Plaza San Francisco, where we started our self-guided walking tour of downtown. There were almost no tourists to be seen, and very few locals as well – but the Policia Nacional was EVERYWHERE. We had a hard time finding a place to eat lunch, as many places were closed due to the situation. We ended up eating in a very local joint that was filled to the brim with off-duty policemen — it was actually quite comical. I wish you could see it better in the picture below; there must have been at least 30 policemen…and us four.
After lunch we walked to Plaza Santo Domingo, and then on to the Iglesia de la Compania de Jesus, the most famous baroque cathedral in Ecuador. It was truly stunning inside – entirely covered in gold leaf.
After Paul picked us up we stopped for some delicious maracuya ice cream, and then went to visit the Basilica, a truly spectacular Gothic Cathedral that is reminiscent of Notre Dame, though actually built fairly recently (started construction in 1890). Both the inside and the outside were quite impressive.
After a bit of shopping and some down time at the apartment, we finished off the day with our last view of Quito – this time from the East looking West, sitting on the terrace of Cafe Mosaico at sunset. WOW. Watching the sky darken and the city lights come on bit by bit, including many of the old cathedrals lighting up was such a special experience — highly recommend and hope to come back!!