Does anyone else feel like Quito is having a moment?
When I booked my trip to Ecuador a few months ago, I thought I was so cool, so daring, so adventurous. Going where only the brave had been before me. Now, Quito is the featured destination in New York Times’ popular column 36 Hours. I like to think that I opened some of those doors.
Legally, I can’t say that I spent a lot of time in Quito. My travel companions and I used it as base to fly into Ecuador. From there we went on trips to the Amazon and Otavalo, returning for (yes) about 36 hours at the end of our trip, which was just enough time for me to run to the hostel bathroom eleventy kajilion times in order to throw up the shoulda-known-better frappacino I slurped down in a small restaurant in Otavalo (having to endure the “something-is-wrong” feeling for the two-hour bus ride back to Quito), and to explore a bit of the Old Town. Beat that, New York Times. (Just kidding, obviously. Their 36 hours in Quito were way more well-spent than mine. Probably.)
Let me state for the record that trying to explore a city that boasts an altitude of 2850m (that’s 9350 feet in American: twice the altitude of Denver, for context) after you’ve just purged your body of every nutrient it has consumed in the past year makes you a travel CHAMPION. I think I passed out walking up the hill to the Teleferico (a cable car which would have taken us to 4050m), but came-to just in time to suckle some Gatorade and get hailed on during a flash storm, rendering it impossible to ride the cable car, thus nullifying the whole uphill effort.
Retreating back to Old Town, we stopped for lunch at Hasta La Vuelta Senor, a restaurant on the third floor of one of the buildings in the central plaza. Translated as “Until When, Mister,” the restaurant is named after Father Almeida, who used to climb out his window and over a cross and statue of Jesus, who’d ask, somewhat exasperated at being stepped on so much (and probably in disgust of the not-so-virtuous Father, who was in pursuit of, basically, a booty call) “Until When, Dude!?” I could have asked the same thing of my stomach. UNTIL WHEN, dear stomach of mine?
It took until seeing his own coffin to amend Father Almeida’s ways. It took until coca tea for my stomach to get back in the game. Coca tea: South American savior. Seriously. Better than Gatorade.
That’s when I finally saw Quito:
These visuals were a stark contrast to the experience we just had in the Amazon Rainforest. Old Town Quito is full of churches and colonial charm. Ecuador may be a small country, but it certainly is diverse.
Interesting note: we ended our day eating at La Boca del Lobo near Plaza Foch, which the NYT also recommends. (But we saw it first.) I can attest that the chandeliers are in fact funky, but the coolest part about this place is its menu, because it’s bound like a storybook and each meal gets its own page and picture! Yum….
While Quito, we stayed at the Chicago Hostel Inn, located around the corner from backpacker hotspot Secret Garden. It is quiet and clean, and, in fact, the perfect hostel in which to be sick! But, in all seriousness, Chicago Hostel Inn couldn’t be more perfect. Among its best features: a $2 roofdeck breakfast and a friendly dog!
Have you been to Quito? Do you plan to?