After a pleasant breakfast overlooking the hotel’s garden, complete with resident bunny, we met Daniel for our half-day tour of Quito. He took us to the Old City, and after ascertaining that we were comfortable walking even at Quito’s altitude of 9,000 feet, he parked his truck and led us through the narrow, thronged streets. Quito’s Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage site, so far unravaged by earthquake. We visited the magnificent Basilica del Voto Nacional and crept along the catwalk high above the vaults, although we didn’t manage the narrow ladder to the highest tower. My favorite was La Compania de Jesus, covered almost every inch in gold—seven tons of it, according to our guide. Under the graceful, metallic gaze of the statue of La Virgen de Quito which stands on a hilltop overlooking the Old Town, we enjoyed the Plaza San Francisco, where we were interviewed by nervous high school students practicing their English.
Daniel recommended Mama Clarinda’s on Via Reina Victoria for lunch. I had the local specialty, guinea pig; unfortunately it came deep-fried and very salty, so it tasted just like anything else deep-fried and salty. We then made our way to a market recommended by Daniel, where we squeezed through narrow corridors between stacks of beautiful, handmade goods. We succumbed to colorful, soft Ecuadorean blankets and hand-painted picture frames in bright blues and reds. We ended our day with a pleasant dinner at La Rabida, and prepared for our trip to the Galapagos early the next day. My journal of that trip is posted separately.