Quito Qontinued – Banco Central and Basilica

Over the next two days of our trip to Quito, we saw much more than I imagined we would. On Day 2 we stuck to destinations we could walk to, but they were much more spread out along the edges and even outside of Old Town.

Since our first destination was almost at the edge of New Town (aka La Mariscal) and very close to our hotel – Museo Banco Central – Dad and Ann decided to meet us there in the morning. Elliott and I were early, and I couldn’t resist the park next door to the museum. Quito has some great green spaces and great parks, just like Cuenca; but since Quito is so much bigger, you can imagine how the parks and green spaces scale. All was good until a ferocious, wooden see-saw took a bite out of Elliott’s pants. Actually, it was still good after that for everyone except Elliott and his poor injured pocket.

We weren’t allowed to take photos at Museo Banco Central, which is a shame because it is a main attraction in the city and a fabulous museum. It has amazing collection of Pre-Columbian ceramics and gold artifacts and goes through the entire history of Ecuador’s settlement. My favorite section was where the museum did a wonderful job illustrating Ecuador’s history using dioramas. As a bonus, all the exhibits were explained in Spanish and English! (Sometimes I love to use museum exhibits to work on learning Spanish, but since this takes me about 10x longer than reading in English, and we had visitors with us, I was grateful.)

In the same complex as Banco Central, there is a museum called Museo de Artes Visuales e Instrumentos Musicales (Visual Arts and Musical Instruments). I knew this would be perfect for Elliott! As expected it housed all kinds of musical instruments which we enjoyed checking out. I especially liked the drum made from a turtle shell, assuming the turtle had died of natural reasons, of course, and no longer needed his shell.

What we didn’t know was that this museum also housed a cultural section about all the different types of native people who have lived in Ecuador. To add to it, a guide offered us a free tour in English. We were happy to hear what he had to say, and we learned a lot about the different areas of Ecuador, the people who started out in each, their customs, holidays, and dress. It just made us want to travel around Ecuador a lot more to check out all these different festivities!

Next up was a walk to Parque Itchimbia, recommended to us by some Quito locals the day before. We stopped on the way to look at some cool street art, and then for lunch from a local vendor, where we had empanadas and a new food item for us, humitas. An humita is a corn bread-like cake steamed in corn husks. We probably should have tried one of these before now, but better late than never! We loved it.

The park required climbing many, many stairs – I think it was at least as high as the hill in Cuenca we climb every day to get to our house! Dad decided to meet us at the Basilica, but Ann trudged all the way up to the park with us for some great views of Quito.

Our last tourist stop for the day was the Basilica del Voto Nacional, the tallest church in Ecuador. It was started in 1892, has a neo-Gothic style with lots of spires and flying buttresses, and is still unfinished! I think its coolest features are its animal gargoyles and two 115 meter towers. Elliott and I had been inside once before, on our brief one day stop in Quito last year. But for some insane reason, we didn’t climb the bell towers! No matter, it made for a great activity this time. This was seriously cool. We climbed up and up and up, then outside, up scary ladders, past the clock machinery. Elliott and I were loving it so much, once we had climbed up one tower, we climbed back down and then up the other tower! Climbing the bell towers is my top recommended activity for Quito, as long as you are in good physical condition.

Before calling it a day we stopped for some food at Café Dios No Muere (God Does Not Die, in case you were wondering). Despite its cool name we actually chose it based on the fact that the chef is from Louisiana and so the menu offers New Orleans type food, including po’ boys. The faucet in their bathroom was out of order, so we all got to take turns going behind the bar to wash our hands. As I walked back there and realized that this 4×20 foot space was the entire kitchen they had to cook in, I was ultra-impressed. You’ll have to forgive the fact that once we actually sat down to eat, and the hunger and I-miss-home factors set in, we all ordered hamburgers. They were delicious and now we’ll just have to use the po’ boys as our reason for needing to go back!

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