Tomorrow is my last day in Quito (v. early saturday flight) and I wanted to share some of my favorite sights before I left and got absorbed in New York/family lovefests. This week has been a lot better, health-wise and attitude wise. My friend Jenna came into Quito last friday and we had a great touristy day together and I even felt well enough over the weekend to do some solo exploring, complete with a restaurant meal.
If you go to Quito,
don’t miss: El Capillo del Hombre y Museo Guayasamin.
Osvaldo Guayasamin, who died in 1999, is a hugely important artist for Ecuador, and for latin america. The theme of all of his work is oppression, focused particularly on the oppression of Latin Americans, first at the hands of the Spanish then at the hands of their own dictators. He went through three periods, first one based on a journey, where he toured Latin America and painted what he saw, then one of rage and finally one of tenderness, near the end of his life. His aesthetic is super influential and he has murals in many government buildings and even in the Madrid airport. The museum is in the hills of Quito so there are great views!
El Capillo del Hombre translates to the chapel of man and it’s this very powerful museum he designed. The center dome is based on the silver mines of Potosi, in Bolivia, and shows people crawling towards a skylight, towards “Luz y libertad,” light and freedom. Touring the chapel is intense, and the art depicts lots of pain inflicted on mankind by mankind. The museum is right next to his house and studio, which is full of religious art, even though he was agnostic and you get a great tour of each. Definitely worth visiting, especially if you’re a Latin America geek.
Fun fact: Guayasamin was definitely a communist/socialist and they didn’t mention that at all on the tour or in the house. Chavez and Castro came to inaugurate the museum in 2002 and there are pictures of Guayasamin with Castro, Mao, the whole gang. I wonder if this omission is for American tourists and who decided on it. Always remember: History’s an argument.
In the old town:
Every tourist will visit the old town, which is gorgeous and colonial and fun. I visited the Casa Sucre, a great museum in a restored colonial house and Museo de la Ciudad, in a former hospital, that traces the city’s history. Both are fun but don’t have much in English if that’s a dealbreaker. I also walked around La Ronda, a shopping street that winds around the old town. There are cute artisan workshops, restaurants that I’m sure charge way too much, and at night, live music. It’s very cleaned up but on sunday it wasn’t crowded and was a nice walk.
I also loved Qmanda, a former bus terminal converted into an urban park/rec center/museum. It’s newer than my guide book and I stumbled upon it this weekend. It’s such a cool public project featuring an aerobics studio, programs for kids, older people, self defense classes, a free gym, an exhibit on bilingual schools (holla!), a terrace with amazing views, places to play board games and an adjacent park. It just opened this year and is a great spot to spend an afternoon!
In la Mariscal:
I don’t love this neighborhood but it’s full of backpackers and the rifraff they attract. That does mean lots of dining options, though!
I’ve enjoyed: Achiote for ecuadorian food, Cosa Nostra has yummy italian, offers half portions of the pastas and two locations, Kallari is a coffee and chocolate cooperative that’s quite tasty. El Maple is good vegetarian with slow service, the chickpea stew is so good. Don’t eat at the mexican restaurant near Plaza Foch, that’s where I got sick.
Not sure if this is technically in La Mariscal, but I love the baked goods and atmosphere at Skull Donuts! Great wifi and really friendly owners.
In my neighborhood, Benalcazar:
Cyril is a great chocolate shop and bakery that I go to almost every morning. A lot of their products are named after songs/musicians which is weird but fun. They run out of seats during peak hours.
Jurgen is a great bakery/cafe with such good bread omg.
QuiCentro is a huge mall with great views from the food court. It has a Dunkin donuts and a crepes and waffles which are both yummy.
La Parque Carolina is good for long walks.
Remember to allow for altitude adjustment (this lack of oxygen is real) and be careful about eating raw veggies! I’ve been eating lots of bread and desserts instead because that’s obviously safer and healthier. (But actually, after this summer, I don’t want to eat carbs ever again).
Thanks for the adventures Quito, you are more than just a stopover to the Galapagos. Seriously, this city is spotless, easy to get around via taxi and really working hard to be a better spot to visit. I’m impressed.