The slightest effort makes us huff and puff in the 9,350 feet altitude of Quito, Ecuador’s second largest city. Quito also ranks as the second highest capital city on earth.
Our stomachs feel great, so out we walk to La Ronda street in Old Town searching for a taste of real Ecuadorian culture.
La Ronda street is right around the corner from our lodging, the “Casa Alquimia” which is a 400-year-old renovated habitation and feels like living in a museum of artifacts. The owners cook homemade breakfast and “real damn coffee” like back at the Surf Shack in Canoa.
In the 1700’s La Ronda street housed artists, writers and politicians. Then the area transformed to house prostitutes and drug abusers, until the most recent renovation that presents a lively scene of labyrinths leading to unique restaurants and bars.
Viola! You can’t get more Ecuadorian than dining on a dish of Cuy, which translates to Guinea pig from the Andes.
Deep fried or spit-roasted, these creatures are much larger than those in North America and were the main source of meat for the population before the introduction of cattle.
No, they don’t taste like chicken, but you can pick up a live one at local markets, or like us, order it cooked at a restaurant. Just start gnawing away using your hands as if eating wings at a local pub.
As greasy as a duck, cuy contains more protein than beef, pork, and yes, chicken. By the way, Cuy feed mostly on dry grass and are strict vegetarians. Shamans cleanse humans of bad spirits with cuy, by passing a live one all around their aura. After bad spirits fill the creature, humans avoid eating it and use it for animal feed.
If you’re still reading this, come along on a two-dollar taxi ride up Panecillo hill in the heart of the city for a visit to the Winged Virgin of Quito. We heed the advice to not walk up here, due to the increase of crime in recent years. Mother Mary looks out over Quito and keeps all under the protection of her wings.
Cathedrals decorate Quito and provide a chance to light candles for the welfare of our families, friends, and ourselves.
By sheer luck we stumble upon the Changing of the Guard at Plaza Grande.
Crowds gather each Monday for a wave from El Presidente and to witness decorated soldiers change shifts. Marching bands, soldiers, and local traditional dancers pay homage to the Battle of Pinchincha in 1812, when Ecuador gained independence from the Spanish colonists.
Definitely time for some beer and delicious Uruguay style shrimp.
In Marilynn’s opinion, no trip to Quito would be complete without a visit to Museo Guayasamin and The Capilla del Hombre. (Guayasamin museum and Chapel of Man) The world-famous artist, collector, and humanitarian, Guayasamin, lived in the home next to the gallery. He passed away prior to completion of the Chapel, which contains the most complete display of his works.
His moving paintings from what he calls the “The Age of Anger” portrays the suffering of victims of war, violence, and oppression.
His works from the “Age of Tenderness” inspired by his Mother’s love, show a much different side of the artist.
How about some locro de papa soup? (Potato, local cheese, milk spiced with annatto from the achiote tree garnished with cilantro and avocado) So consumed with the rooftop view, we devoured lunch and forgot to take a photo of it.
Quito is high. If you’re going to get high, why not get higher? Off we go to a country retreat, hidden way up in the Andes. Stay tuned. But first one last taste of Quito, a local craft brew and our Ecuadorian favorite, with another view.
Thank you, Abundant Universe.