24 Hours in Quito…

We’re high. Really frickin’ high. Currently we’re at 2800 metres above sea level so walking about Quito today has left Farzana and I wheezing like a couple of old grandmas. Not attractive. But I will say that so far, we EcuADORE this city (sorry, had to). Here’s what we did today.

First we woke up in our super gorgeous hotel, the Casa Gangotena, located in the Centro Historico. It’s probably one of the loveliest hotels I’ve ever stayed in with views over the mountains from the corner of Plaza San Francisco. In spite of my embarrassing inability to speak one word of the Spanish language, the staff are all beyond friendly and accomodating. We’ve got one of eight plush suites that makes us do things like this:

After brekky we went out with the chef, the wonderful Andrés Dávila on a guided gastro tour, which meant a walk around the local market trying all sorts of native fruit and vegetables (something no other hotel in Quito does by the way) which were delicious. And the ladies were all so nice…

But not as nice as the fact that we were accompanied by a bodyguard and two police officers. Here’s Juan Kevin Costner checking up on Farzana from behind:

Having returned unharmed thanks to our protection squad and bags full of heavy weapons/vegetables we had a scrumptious lunch back at Casa Gangotena, the highlight being this tuna steak with pumpkin seed sauce and several types of potatoes grown in the highlands. Mmmmmm.

After lunch, we decided to brave even higher altitudes with a trip to meet a virgin. The impressive 45-metre-tall aluminum monument of Madonna (minus the cone bra and freakishly veiny arms) bears down over Quito on a hill on the top of Panecillo.

The views from up there would have taken our breath away even if weren’t still wheezing like asthmatic OAPs. In fact, we were so overcome with emotion for the virgin and the wonderful scenic beauty of our first Ecuadorian encounters, we said a few prayers and thanks.

Then we got inside the virgin (oh stop it) and saw that it was actually a lovely church  made of seven thousand pieces of aluminium. As well as many stained glass windows and plastic chairs around a lectern, Jesus was inside, smiling out from a lot of glass cases. In one case he was shown taking part in the Last Supper, which I thought was very nice…

And then I realised, Jesus was eating a CHEESEBURGER.

So we left and went to try on some hats.

I was going to buy a Panama hat (which are made here, not in Panama they’ll have you know) but I got sidetracked and ended up buying a sun hat, which will come in handy in the Galapagos but not so much in two week’s time when I get to Buenos Aires and it’s winter, but never mind.

Oh, but before that we had to get another bodyguard to accompany us to the ATM,… just in case. Which was cool. After that, we checked out the Plaza de la Independencia (Plaza Grande), the historic public square in the heart of the old city, which was even prettier as the sun began to set.

We didn’t have Juan Kevin Costner with us at this point though, so we headed back before it got dark and booked our tour to the centre of the earth. Not the core… I don’t think… just that line that wraps around the middle of the planet that makes the loo flush the wrong way round. So tomorrow will be fun too.

Loving Quito so far and we’ve only seen about three per cent of it. Just hope tomorrow is easier to breathe, or our bodyguards might be performing CPR on the equator instead of just walking with us to buy oranges.

There’s more silliness in my travel memoir Latinalicious – The South America Diaries