Getting to know Quito
Understandably, the body clock wakes us up early (local time) this morrning. Some folk wake initially at 2am, some at 3am, and some enjoy a longer sleep. That's quite normal, but fortunately everyone follows Richard's advice to stay in bed for as long as possible, which helps to acclimatise to the time difference. Breakfast at the Patio Andaluz Hotel is buffet style. There is a wide choice of dishes - both hot and cold. We'll not go hungry. Around 9.15am we get together in the hotel lobby. Our guide, Santiago, meets us and we distribute the personal radios and ear pieces ready for our walking tour. First stop is the Independence Plaza or main square. This is just 150 metres from our hotel. Santiago introduces the history of Quito and points out the main buildings, incuding the Cathedral and Presidential Palace. The personal radios work well and then there's some interference - which Richard feels may have something to do with the security and police radios in use nearby. We move on, discreetly!
We visit the University buildings which now form a cultural and performance centre, and we enter the Jesuit Church, La Compania de Jesus. This is one of the richest churches in America. The Salmonic columns of the facade are a copy of those by Bernini at the Vatican. Inside, the Baroque decoration is unforgettable. Everything is covered in gold leaf - all 7 tons of it. From here we head to San Francisco Plaza, a lively commercial market in pre-Columbian times. San Francisco Church is situated here and below the church is a souvenir shop supporting local craftsmen and artisans, and a popular cafe. Naturally we lose most guests at this point. One of our guests requests a Coca Tea, a herbal infusion known to help with altitude. Sadly the waiter misinterprets and delivers a diet coke. Oh well, this is part of the fun of exploring abroad!
Despite the weather forecast for rain, it remains fine and pretty clear blue skies. Sun block and hats are definitely required. At 6.45pm we meet up in the hotel lobby. Richard is taking everyone "out to dinner". The venue is the Theatrum Restaurant. One of our favourities, the Theatrum has won numerous awards and is widely recognised as one of the best restaurants in Ecuador. The menu includes beef tenderloin and a dessert of baby Ecuadorian bananas with chocolate sauce! And although we should still be acclimatising to the altitude, Richard is plying guests with some nice wine too. The evening is a great success.