I’ve been in Quito about 3 hours and have already made some new amigos. But these aren’t other travelers…oh now, I’m making friends with the locals and some very important ones at that—a priest and two policia!
I landed in Ecuador’s capitol city, Quito, this afternoon. Things are already starting to feel more “Andean” here and less tropical than Costa Rica. For one thing, Quito sits high in an Andean valley at about 9400 feet above sea level. Also the old town part of the city is a Unesco World Cultural Heritage Site and is chock full of original Spanish colonial architecture.
Because I’m booked on a Galapagos Islands boat tour through a local travel agency, Galla Terra, I had the luxury of being picked up at the small airport by a driver with my name on a placard. I literally disembarked the plane, went through customs, and retrieved my pack in less than fifteen minutes. Andrea, the cute brunette Ecuadorian travel agent, brought me to my quaint, old world hotel in the heart of Old Quito. I liked it here already. The old town felt very European with pastel stucco buildings and narrow cobblestone streets. I checked into my hotel which is housed in a centuries old mansion with a charming courtyard complete with fountain in the middle. I dropped my bags and headed out to explore the city.
The old town feels like ‘any city Europe.’ There are bustling historic plazas rimmed with churches and museums. I walked up the steps to La Merced, a ‘newer’ church in the city, built in 1742. But it appeared that the church was closed for a special event. I poked my head in and asked if it was ‘abierto?’ An older man in a white robe smiled at me, opened the door and beckoned me inside. Hmmm. It’s got to be safe—it’s a church, right?
He only spoke Spanish, but we spent the next 45 minutes chatting. Apparently, there was some ‘industry’ party happening inside the church’s beautiful courtyard. My new Catholic friend showed me around the whole place. We passed workers preparing the tables and chairs for the party, stacking the champagne flutes, and readying the stage for some live music. My friend was jolly and sweet and had an infectious laugh that rasped out of his throat every few minutes.
He introduced me to folks as we passed as if we were old friends. Wow. I felt so special…like I was producing again and getting some kind of behind the scenes tour. I had no idea why he was showing me around, but it was fun. I eventually discovered he just thought I was ‘muy bonita’ and I realized I was the only one around who looks the way I do—blue eyes and light hair. I was a novelty. Eventually, I said I must go and as I headed out he introduced me to Father Escobar who echoed my new friend’s sentiments. This was kinda fun! He walked me to the door and bid me adieu (well actually ‘adios’) as I strode across the square with a new spring in my step and confidence in my head.
I reached the Plaza de San Francisco and saw a couple of the many policia that I’d noticed all throughout the city, nearly on every corner. I spent the next half hour chatting with these guys about the city, where it’s safe, what other towns I should visit, etc. Washington and Jose were really nice guys and fun to chat with. Not only do I love meeting locals, I get to really practice my Spanish at the same time.
Tomorrow off to see some boobies (Blue-Footed Boobies! Get your mind out of the gutter!) in the Galapagos Islands.