Hello all, sorry for the delay in posting. I am regretting sending my laptop home!
I have now been in Quito for just over three weeks and even though I’ve seen lots of things I feel that I have barely scratched the surface.
Quito has recently been proclaimed as the Leading Destination in South America 2013, and there is certainly a lot going for it. At 2,800 metres above sea level, it is one of the highest capital cities in the world and it was declared the first UNESCO World Heritage City in 1978.
Every street you turn down has something going on, whether it be street vendors, people playing football, or a woman walking around with her baby strapped to her back, selling bananas (Ecuador has a lot of different types of bananas, the family I live with tried to list them and got to about seven but swear there are more). I’ve even had people come up to me with baskets full of puppies they’re trying to sell. The city has a lot of dogs, and they all love barking in the middle of the night.
What really characterises the city is the mountains. You can be walking down a typical city street, turn a corner and- wow! Hello mountains. The mountains are beautiful, but it also means lots and lots of hills to walk up. For my first week I huffed and puffed my way everywhere because of the altitude, and as of yet I have not dared to tackle some of the steeper looking streets. One place I really want to go is the Panecillo, Quito’s guardian angel, which is very high up. Everything looks innocently flat on the map, oh how wrong I was when I thought it would be an easy walk! But it doesn’t matter because the mountains are stunning. I have never been in a city with such a beautiful setting.
As for exploring, on my first day I took a walk around part of the historic old town, which is the best-conserved colonial centre on the continent. It is very impressive and very beautiful, I want to go back one weekend and explore properly. My time exploring Quito has been a bit limited as I work in an office Monday-Friday. I have seen the historic centre, the area called the Mariscal Foch, some of the larger parks and the area in which I live. As a single girl I am constantly being warned off wandering around at night, which is a shame. However I can see Cotopaxi, one of the highest active volcanoes in the world, from my window, which is definitely a plus!
Other than the mountains, the smell of food that rises from everywhere has so far been one of the most overwhelming impressions of the city for me, partly because I love food and partly because there are so many places to get it. The other day I walked down a street where a family had opened a door into their dining room and were dishing out food to people passing by. I can get a set lunch for as little as $2.50, although I have started branching out, as there are only so many plates of soup, rice and beans I can take in one week. But they never seem to run out of new ways to serve bananas!
The people here are very friendly, too. My host family is very nice and the mother, Marta, is always chatting to me. People have talked to me in restaurants and cafés, and the other day I chatted to someone almost all the way home from the bus stop in the centre. They always want to know where I’m from and are usually happy to hear I’m here for an extended period of time. Of course there are some creepy men, but that I will deal with that subject another time.
So, these are some of my first impressions, sorry they’re so brief. I’m looking forward to getting to know this amazing city more over the next month or so. Will update soon.