Ecuador 2011: Day 2
Dateline Quito: This morning we got up and shared a leisurely breakfast before taking a tour around Quito, Ecuador’s capitol city. We visited the equatorial monument and outdoor museum, an enormous basilica, the Independence square (which is surrounded by the president’s housing complex, the primary government business buildings, and more famous churches), and finally a gigantic statue of the Virgin Mary which watches over the city from atop a high hill.
On the equator lies El Museo De Sitio Intiñan “Camino del Sol”, an outdoor museum dedicated to culture and information about the equator. Much of the content is somewhat kitschy and at times contrived demonstrations of things like the Coriolis effect with a few interesting factoids mixed in. As well as demonstrations of Coriolis with a movable wash basin, there were some “street magic”-esque demonstrations of force and balance that in the end seemed a little silly, and a platform where visitors attempted to balance raw eggs on the heads of nails fixed into the concrete (apparently on the equator is the only place where this feat can be accomplished due to the forces imposed on the egg everywhere else).
Guinea pigs have a special place in Ecuadorian culture: they are a delicacy!
The Basilica del Voto Nacional is a huge basilica located on Calle Venezuela in Quito. As we arrived it was starting to rain, and within minutes it was pouring down so we all had to jog for the front doors. After climbing the spiral stairs to the upper level of the church we had an expansive view down into the sanctuary from above.
Up another set of stairs, and we were above the sanctuary and actually able to cross a catwalk atop the sanctuary ceiling to a steep set of metal stairs (more like a ladder, really) which ended in an outside landing at the base of a tower extending above the chancel. Around a walkway and up two more steep, wet, and slippery sets of stairs/rungs and we found ourselves in an open-air landing high atop the chancel, with 360-degree views of the entire city and across the nave roof to the two massive clock towers above the narthex.
After visiting the basilica we headed further into the city, stopping near Plaza de la Independencia, the “Independence Square” which contains the president’s residence, the Metropolitan cathedral, and several other important palaces. We stopped in a local business mall and ate lunch, mine consisting of some delicious shrimp empenadas, papas fritas (fries), and a local specialty, squash soup.
We walked through downtown, visiting the president’s palace and also experienced the crush of people while attempting to enter one of the large cathedrals which was holding mass for palm sunday. Finally, we headed up a nearby hill where a massive monument stands overlooking the city.
The Virgen de El Panecillo is a 45 meter tall madonna figure standing atop the hill (“El Panecillo") overlooking Quito. This gigantic figure actually contains a 3-level museum and is surrounded by a platform which affords great views of the city and surrounding area.
Following the conclusion of our city tour, we headed for dinner and a relatively early turn-in because we had to be up early for our flight to the Galapagos. Next stop, San Cristobal island!