Quito, the second highest capital in the world, a relatively small and sprawling city clinging around a mountainous landscape that seems just too aggressive to host a major city. We arrive fresh thanks to the awesome Ecuadorian busses and we’re off to have a poke around the city. On first looks, we have to say that we’re loving Quito already. First impressions are filled with cool colonial architecture, beautiful squares, decent food and a coffee that was totally drinkable. And we’re not being facetious here, coffee in South America is a bit of a minefield.
Our first stop is into the basilica, the largest neo-gothic church in the world, one of the tourist tick-a-boxes that one must do in Quito. We slug it up the slope, nothing here is flat and of course the biggest church is right on a hill, this aggressive landscape a true feature of character for Quito. We arrive with a little huff and puff and holy crap this thing is a monster. The first thoughts to come to mind is that this is exactly the imposing, sinister looking church that hosts hollywood chase scenes and vampire cults, it’s pretty impressive to say the least. The building is quite cool to start with, what’s more interesting is that we can climb up into it and; cue sparked interest.
We fork over a whopping $2 and begin our climb up the tight winding staircase no doubt not intended for public use, we’re already feeling like we have an uncommon access to a type of building that is so often more secretive and conservative than accessible. As we get up to the balcony for a picture perfect view over Quito it becomes obvious that we can not only climb up into it, we have a fairly open access to climb throughout this whole thing, this is amazing. Walking a boardwalk in the skeletal ceiling above the main arches we’re truly in the bones of this beast, it’s a bit eerie and chilling to say the least. And on and on we go, scaling tight access ladders to scamper to the highest perches overlooking not only the city but the scales of the metal roof more akin to a fantasy dragon than a place of worship. The scenes and sights are just awesome, this climb is not for those uncomfortable with heights, even we have a wide eyed look downwards. We eventually make it behind the huge clock face in the tower and even above that, the sense of privilege to be able to access all these places is astounding, what an amazing first up stop to our visit here.
Quite buoyed by the instant appeal of Quito we decide to have a bit of a night out. With both of us taking turns being ill so far tis trip the socialising and drinking has been at an appalling minimum, this is a tragedy that simply must not continue. We’ve been in the historical centre of town today, soaking up the picturesque streets and vistas but now it’s time to head just a tad further north into La Mariscal, the more modern, trendy area of Quito. A beer is called for so we stop into a German microbrewery, of course. The first thing that hits us here is that although this part of town is more for bars, clubs and tourists it’s not at all cheesy, in fact this area is really on the pulse in terms of being cool. Hipster bars boast a retro feel with street art on the walls, live music, newspaper clipping wallpaper and super trendy atmosphere, avoiding the trappings of superficial shiny crap. There’s not really that many tourists about either, this is Ecuador through the eyes of a trendy Melbourne laneway bar, and they do it with style and panache, Quito just keeps on delivering.
Time for food arrives and it’s time to spoil ourselves, we decide to have a nice dinner out. With a nice bottle of wine, Ecuadorian fine dining that includes pigs feet and delicious sea bass we’re in heaven. We sit in a big dining hall entertained by a 3 piece band, guitar, harp and drum. This is a great backdrop and the star of the show is the guitarists whistling, this is something truly out of this world. This guy is making sounds that would put some songbirds to shame, it’s impossible to truly describe, it has us stunned.
With extremely contented smiles we venture back to the bars. On the way we’d spotted what looked like a gay bar and veritably bursting with curiosity we just have to go in for a beer. After being asked for ID at the door we take our giggles inside to have a look around. There’s a funny thing with gay bars, they seem to transcend culture, it doesn’t matter where you are in the world, what culture you’re in they generally all feel a little bit the same. We find ourselves dancing to a cheesy remix of Lana Del Ray being touched up by all and sundry, yes, they’re all a little bit the same.
We finish the night with one last gin and a couple of rums in yet another cool bar. Yes we’ve got a skinfull and Quito has delivered a cracker of a first day. It remains a hugely positive sign of any city that having a good day is not a lot of work. We found great things to do, beautiful sights, good food and bars without breaking a sweat. Some places seem to require a high level of local knowledge but Quito seems to just simply be a cool place to be, a fantastic surprise for these big city cynics. Bravo Quito!