Day 2 - Sun May 20, 2007 – Quito – Bob: 128, Kathy: 120

Our hotel room isn’t great; it’s pretty basic but the bed is small: my feet touch the foot board and my head almost touches the headboard simultaneously. In other words, made for small Indian people, not large Americans. The hotel rooms are not heated and it gets cold at night, so it took me a long time to get warm huddled under the covers last night.

This day, like all days on vacation, was very busy from sun up to sun down.

We woke up early; habit from getting up for work at 6:00am. We tried to get back to sleep, but eventually Kathy was stirring and we were moving. I woke up with a slight headache and since I didn’t have any caffeine, my brain was filled with a nearly impenetrable thick, dark fog. We showered, packed up our things and we went down to breakfast almost as they opened at 7:30am.

We had trouble communicating with our server. She gave us two choices: eggs or a burrito. I tried to tell her one of each but somehow she got confused and we both ended up eating eggs.

As we ate, we talked with a very young couple who reminded me of when I was young and just starting to travel. I asked them why they picked Ecuador and they said no particular reason; it just sounded fun. I would have thought they’d have higher priorities at that young age (I did), but whatever. They were young and adventurous, just like Kathy and I were back when we took our first trip to Europe in 1989.

After breakfast, we talked to our hotel management again. This time there was a manager and another guy who both spoke English. She said that their “questionable reservation” never checked in so the lovely room was ours to keep for another night. Joy: another night on that bed.

After taking a few photos of the hotel lobby,

we went outside and began our adventure. Our first order of business was to take a taxi back to the airport. Tomorrow we’re supposed to fly to the city of Cuenca on Tame (pronounced Tom-May) airlines, but since the ticket counter was closed when our plane came in yesterday, we had no way to know if we had plane tickets or not.

The people at Tame were very helpful and soon we had plane tickets and paid for them with no problem.

The next order of business was to take a taxi to a different hotel. We needed a hotel room for when we return to Quito before our Galapagos portion and another room for when we return from Galapagos. Part of our research last night was to find a hotel that seemed good for that purpose and we found a couple of good ones near the area we wanted to stay. Someone told Kathy our first choice wasn’t very good, so we decided on our second choice: Fuente de Piedra II.

The taxi dropped us off at the new hotel and we made our reservations for the other days. This time we wanted no FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) regarding our rooms.

From the hotel we walked toward the bank museum that we heard was very good. It was only 9:00am and the museum wasn’t supposed to open until 10:00am, so we took our time and walked causally. The air at this altitude is pretty thin, so it doesn’t take much to get us winded here.

On our way to the museum, we came across a handicraft market. To kill some time, we stopped and did some shopping. Kathy bought an alpaca wool jacket that was very cheap and very cute.

I was looking for the same thing I do every trip: a symbol of the nation's concept of God. In Greece, we bought Christian icons. In Turkey, we bought a plate with writings from the Koran. In India, we bought a statue of Ganesha. In Thailand, we bought a statue of a Buddha. But what should I get from Ecuador? I decided it was still too early in the trip. Besides, I didn't want to carry a heavy statue around for the next two weeks. Plus, we're going to be in Quito again when we return from the Galapagos, so I can always come back.

We got to the museum at 9:30am and walked inside. They told us they had opened an hour earlier than normal and there was a special celebration going on so admission to the museum was free. Photos were not allowed, so they made us put our backpack and camera bag into a locker and gave us the key.

We joined a free English-speaking guide and he proceeded to walk us and another couple (from Israel) around the museum, showing us all the highlights. This museum was fantastic. There were so many artifacts that the guide spend until almost noon talking about them on every floor. This tour was very thorough and I was both impressed and exhausted at the end. By the time we left the building, we were both tired of seeing museums. “Museumed Out.”

We walked down the street where we looked for something to eat. We rejected MacDonald’s. We rejected KFC. Finally, we found a small bakery attached to a fancy hotel that also had meals. We ordered a half-chicken and potatoes, and it was very cheap. This was a lot of food for both of us and it cost us less than seven dollars combined.

As we ate, we talked to another couple. They were from Seattle and they were doing the same trip we were, but condensed into a much shorter time. This was also their first day and they had just come from the Basilica, which they highly recommended. We recommended the museum to them, of course.

After lunch, we walked across the street to a park where artists and artisans were selling their goods.

Perhaps they do that every Sunday, I don't know. There was some very good artwork there, but without a good way to get it home, we didn’t dare buy anything. It was still fun, though.

There was a monument in the park that looked like the Arc de Triumphe in Paris.

We walked down the street toward the old part of town where there are more than fifty churches. Apparently when the Spaniards conquered the natives, they destroyed all their pagan temples and replaced them all with churches; that’s why there are so many.

The Basilica was absolutely fabulous.

Stained glass,

high vaulted ceilings,

and some very interesting gargoyles.

Apparently they fashioned their gargoyles after native animals like birds, aardvarks and even tortoises. For two dollars, we took an elevator up two floors inside the church, which saved us about 150 steps, and we found ourselves basically at a catwalk on top the church.

As I climbed across the catwalk and out onto the lowest roof, thunder clapped. Kathy asked, “Is it really such a good idea to be climbing on a metal roof at one of the highest points in Quito in a thunderstorm?” Undaunted, I said “Ah, no problemo” and kept moving.

From there we continued climbing higher and higher and even higher,

until we reached the top. The higher we climbed, the steeper the steps got. Soon we were on ladders and when we reached the top, it was astounding. Breathtaking. There was a very good view of the surrounding city and the two big clock towers.

There was a small group of young French-speaking tourists from Canada who climbed up there with us and we got them to take out picture.

We climbed down and explored another area, which eventually led us into the clock towers.

We went most of the way up, but we eventually stopped because we were tired, it was raining out and the small metal ladders were getting slippery with the rain. Also, there were occasional claps of very loud thunder and that made Kathy very nervous. Still, it was very cool.

When we got back to the bottom, we proceeded to walk to another church called La Compania. This church was fantastic for another reason: There was a tremendous amount of gold leaf on every one of the many altars there. It was really shiny and beautiful. Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take photos. However, I bought some postcards so I could still remember the place.

From there, we walked up the street to yet another church. This one was good too, but it was older and more dilapidated. I could liken it to the Miami airport, but it was still very beautiful inside. Almost the entire ceiling was covered up by scaffolding where people were working on restoration. By the time we got out of there, we were both tired of seeing churches.

We took another taxi up the hill to the giant Virgen de Quito statue.

We asked our taxi to wait for us fifteen minutes while we took photos.

We walked around the area and saw a magnificent view of the valley and the town.

Then we went back to the taxi and asked him to take us to a seafood restaurant.

We ate a nice dinner,

then walked back to our hotel from there.

Now we’re ready to crash. The biggest problem is that we have to get up very early tomorrow–5:00am–in order to catch our flight to Cuenca tomorrow. So I guess I’ll stop writing here.