Sunday, December 23, 2012

Quito, Ecuador

We were finally able to check a box off the life list: getting to see toilet water flush backwards! Our first destination south of the equator was the capital city of Ecuador, Quito. We stayed in a hostel in Old Town surrounded by grand churches dating back to the 16th century. We awoke each morning to a lively market out our window with vendors selling flowers, fruits, bakery and breakfast.

Since Quito is located in a valley in the Andes Mountains the layout is rather unique. The city is only a couple of miles wide but stretches north and south over 30 miles. Mountain peaks as high as 15,000 feet tower over the buildings making the city of 2.6 million people look small. The streets are narrow and steep but that doesn't stop the indigenous women from setting up make-shift markets on the sidewalks to sell fruit and handmade crafts. You know those cities you always see pictures of in travel magazines where all of the colorful houses are crammed together on a hillside? Quito is one of those cities.

Nerd alert: we took a double decker bus tour to some of the city's highlights including a modern art museum, botanical gardens, a number of churches and a part of the city aptly named Gringoland.

The Basilica is breathtaking both inside and out. Construction of the neogothic style cathedral began in the late 19th century and is still not fully complete (although this is by design as legend has it the end of the world will come when the last brick is placed).

Quito exceeded our expectations and we were pleasantly surprised by the bustling capital of Ecuador.

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