Quito City Tour
We slept surprisingly well. A few of us woke up in the early hours but then had another doze which is a prety good result given the local time difference. First thing today is a leisurely breakfast with juices, cereals, fresh fruits, breads and pastries, cheese and cold meats, and hot dishes cooked to order. We are sitting in the beautiful covered courtyard of the Patio Andaluz Hotel in Quito and we definitely feel as though we are on holiday!
Our local guides, Fernando and Enriquez join us and we set up our personal radios. Everyone has a small radio receiver and ear piece and the guides have a transmitter and microphone. It makes for far higher quality commentary on excursions and tours, and should be especially useful this morning as we´re taking a walking tour of Quito´s Colonial City Centre. Enriquez doesn´t quite get the hang of the microphone on/off switch when we first set up so we continue to hear ALL his commentary including his incoming phone calls and conversations!
We set off. The main square is just two blocks from our hotel. The original Archbishop´s Palace forms one side of the square. Opposite is the cathedral. A modern town hall is on one side and the Presidential Palace completes the picture. We decide to visit the President´s men. Well, at least two of them. There are two guards protecting one of the entrances so we get permission to go and see them. They are dressed in bright blue and red uniforms and are looking fierce. They are clearly not allowed to talk or smile. One or two of us stand by their side for photos. They still do not smile. Don´t blame them really. While we view the Palace through the main gates some very smart looking Naval Officers turn up. They also have some photos taken. Apparently they are visiting the Presidential Palace today on official business. When they get home and review their photos they will discover Richard jumping and waving madly in the background! Having escaped arrest, our next stop is the Metropolitan Cultural Centre which is located on the site of an old university. Today there is a new exhibition on the ground floor courtyard. Colourful and finely cut out paper stencils and some rather dubious looking skulls of all sizes (some brightly painted) which are depicting the "day of the dead". We move on swiftly. The centre has a couple of nice balconies with views of the main square and beyond and we can clearly see a snow topped volcano this morning!
Next stop is La Compania de Jesus Church. Inside everything is covered in gold leaf so it is quite spectacular! Our final visit is to San Francisco Square, originally an old market place. Here we visit the San Francisco Church. There is a service taking place so we are discreet and quiet. Our radio headsets come into their own!
After a free afternoon we have dinner planned at one of Ecuador´s most renowned restaurants, the Theatrum. It is located above the foyer of the National Theatre in Quito, and only 10 minutes walk from our hotel. We have arranged a bus just in case of rain. It doesn´t rain but Richard persuades a few guests to take a ride as it would be a shame not to use the bus!. The rest of us walk down hill to the theatre square. The dinner menu features a typical shrimp "ceviche" served with dry corn and fried banana chips. Beef Tenderloin to follow and Exotic Ecuadorian Fruits is our dessert: Guanabana, Babaco, Guayaba, Naranjilla and Chirimoya. We provide a "photo card" featuring the five fruits. The dinner is complimented by a nice Sauvignon Blanc and a delicious Malbec. Richard gets his "normal" complimentary gin and tonic courtesy of the restaurant management. There is a long story behind this gin and tonic gesture (and we won´t bore you with it) but suffice to say the tour manager should get an occasional small perk! Dawn would probably disagree.