Ecuador Day 2 – Quito Walking Tour

On my first full day in country, I decided it would be cool to do a walking tour of Quito. It wasn’t until the afternoon, so I had plenty of time to enjoy a leisurely morning. Around 9am, I went downstairs to check my email using the hotel computer and I met a nice 20 something named Adam, from Perth, Australia.

Adam was about to start a 55 day tour of South America and had the morning free, while he waited to meet up with his tour group. So, we both decided to grab some coffee and walk around a bit.

San Francisco Monastary
The San Francisco Monestary

Enjoying a Break on the Steps of San Francisco Monastary
On the steps of the San Francisco Monastary

San Francisco Square
San Francisco Square

Commercial District Workers Protest
On our walk, we ended up in a square where there was a demonstration by a united group of workers who were on strike from their jobs in the commercial district.

Eventually, we had to get back to the hotel. I needed a nap, still worn out from travel the day before and the lack of sleep the night before. My tour started at 2pm, so there was plenty of time to recharge.

Right on time, the tour guide, Luis, showed up. He actually went to University of Oregon, and studied Industrial Engineering and Tourism, so his English was awesome. He informed me, in the first 5 minutes of our walk, that he actually speaks 5 languages; Spanish, English, French, Portuguese, and German!

We started the walking tour at the monument of Simon Bolivar. Then, we walked to the LaRonda neighborhood.

Virgin of Quito and Flowers
On the way to LaRonda, we had a great view of the Quito Virgin!

This neighborhood was where the wealthy conquistadors lived, back in the day. Sometime in the 1960s-1970s, the area fell into disrepair and there was high rates of crimes and drug use. It became run down and was full of prostitution. But, then, in the 1990s, the mayor took control of the area and slowly started to change it around. Now, LaRonda is a tourist Mecca with little shops and restaurants.

As we were walking around LaRonda, Luis told me a fascinating legend about a veiled woman, La Dame, who haunts the area of LaRonda.

A long time ago, there was an enticing vixen, who roamed the streets wearing a mysterious veil covering her face. Because she was dressed so finely, men would oggle her as she passed by. She never responded, but walked with grace. She wore all black so many people in the neighborhood thought that she was a widow. One day, a group of young men were oggling her and she stopped and turned around slowly. The young men were stunned, as she acknowledged their presence. One of the guys who was the most cocky shouted out, “Lift up your veil and show us your face!”. So she did and the men, all but one who lived to tell the tale, had instant heart attacks and died! It turns out La Dame was Death itself and her face was a skull!

After Luis told me that story, a shiver crept up my spine and I was happy I wasn’t walking around there alone. I could just imagine La Dame making her way down the cobbled, damp streets with the gas lights flickering…creepy!

Quito's Famous Citizen
Sculpture outside Modern Art Museum in Quito.

Near Quito's Museum of Modern Art
Enjoying the walking tour, even in the rain!

Our next stop was the Modern Art Museum; we didn’t go into the Museum, but we admired the architecture.

After that, we went to the Church of San Francisco. There were some renovations going on in the inside, but it was still amazing. The woodwork, combined with the paintings and murals was impressive.

The use of wood and earth tones stood in direct contrast with the Jesuit Church, which was over the top in opulence, dripping with gold and perfect symmetry.

After the tour of the churches, we walked to the President’s Palace. There was a huge line, so we decided to skip it and go for coffee and empanadas! I tried white corn and cheese ones, they were delicious. From the cafe, which was on a rooftop, we had an amazing view of Quito.

In some ways, it’s similar to Cusco, but in other ways it’s very different. Cusco is a couple thousand feet higher, so it’s drier in climate. The old town of Cusco is on the side of a mountain, so some of the streets are very steep and you get out of breath easily. But, Quito felt relatively flat, so it was a bit easier as a walker to see everything. Cusco felt exposed and had a great view, but Quito was nestled in between huge mountains in a valley.

After the walking tour, I headed back to the hotel. I was about to head out for dinner when I ran into Adam again. He had met up with his tour guide and crew. He invited me to join them for dinner, so that was great! We went to a traditional restaurant in LaRonda (Boy was I happy to be walking down those streets with a crew of strapping young Aussies…after hearing that ghost story!). I ordered a Morrocho drink, chicken tamal and potato soup. Excellent!

The next day, Tilden was arriving. I was really excited to see him and start climbing mountains!

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