Quito is alive. If you don’t wake up, the city will sure enough wake you up with honking horns, sirens and blasting music. People never seem to stop walking and cars never seem to stop rushing around. Today, there were clear, blue skies, even though the forecast for the entire week predicted rain and thunderstorms. Who would complain about that though, right? This gave my friend and me a lovely first day to explore some of what this capital city of more than 1 million people has to offer.
We climbed a large metal ball in one of the four parks located in the city and found a great place to eat almuerzo (lunch). For $2 US we got really delicious juice, tasty soup and the main meal, which consisted of white rice, fried chicken and a mix of vegetables, along with a gelatin dessert. This was so much food for $2 that we thought we had accidentally ordered both dishes that were being offered today and couldn’t even finish our meals.
After that we visited the Basilica del Voto Nacional, the largest neo-Gothic basilica in the Americas. For $2 US ($1 for Ecuadorians), you are able to explore all levels of this cathedral, that technically is still in construction.
Apparently a local legend states that the world would end if the construction of the basilica were to be completed. Maybe that’s why they haven’t finished building it?
While climbing each level, differently designed windows provide glimpses of the church’s sides, decorated with arcs and grotesques (gargoyles) in the forms of Ecuadorian animals.
You can stop on each floor and look around. On one there is a gift shop and on another there is a cafe with inexpensive meals and treats. In the beginning, you get to see the vast sanctuary filled with benches and decorated with stained glass windows. There were some Ecuadorians cleaning and restoring some of the intricate architectural beauty on this floor.
Walk through the gift shop to get to the wooden plank. This is your bridge to a really beautiful panoramic view of the city. With each hesitant step, you’ll hear creaking, leaving you to pray that an earthquake does not occur. At the end of the long plank there is a steep staircase that climbs to a 360 degree view of mountains and colorful homes. If you are even more brave, there are two more sets of steep stairs that take you to a room at the very top, allowing you miles and miles of visibility in all directions. The hardest part is the climb down because of the angle at which the stairs were constructed.
One more trip across the wooden plank will get you back over to the clock tower side of the cathedral. To see the clocks and bells you have to climb many more stair cases: steep, vertical and spiral. At the top, however, you are welcomed with spectacular views through symbolic cut-outs that make you feel like it is all worth more than two dollars.