It’s not often a marketing slogan rings true, but ‘toca el cielo’ or ‘touch the sky’ seems the perfect fit for Quito, a city ringed by volcanoes, some of them still active.
After spending the first week wondering why I just wasn’t clicking with Ecuador, Quito went a long way to turning it around. The thing that really made the trip special was returning to the rainforest for four days, but I’ll get to that.
From the quirky family hotel right off the Plaza de San Francisco to the view from the top of Volcan Pichincha, something felt right about Quito. It didn’t feel like the place I’d read about where you need to watch your back. Maybe I’m just used to having eyes in the back of my head from visits to Brazilian cities, maybe we were lucky.
The old city was full of theatres, museums and cafes. A handful of shops dedicated only to selling piñatas lined one street. You don’t see it so much in the UK now, but it reminds me of when you used to go to one particular area or street that specialised in music or bike shops.
Our trip to Quito was split in two by our visit to the rainforest. When we first arrived on a Monday it was quiet. Returning on a Saturday for a couple of days couldn’t have been more different. Street food stalls and local bands took over half the plaza in front of Quito’s oldest church, celebrating the UN International Day of the Refugee. Women walked by with mounds of icecream on steel platters, slowly melting in the sun. Humitas (corn mashed and steamed in its leaves) didn’t really taste of much to me, but the toasted corn was a perfect bar snack.
On our last day in Quito we took the Teleferiqo up into the skies, heading up to 4200m in just a few minutes. The view was outstanding, with volcanoes in every direction and the city hemmed into the narrow valley below.