When entering a new place, a new town, a new city: it’s impossible not to carry in some expectations. We read in guidebooks and hear from other travellers an array of influencing information. So what does that mean when the bus stops? Of course it means that we embark on a game of ‘shape up or we’ll ship out’, often a game played involuntarily by unwitting contestants. As we enter Quito we are still metaphorically scrubbing ourselves of the remaining stench of Bogota. Ok that’s a little unfair but Bogota did nothing but reinforce a prejudice we have built over many years that cities are best left to people that aren’t us.
At this stage it’s very exciting to declare that Quito not only lives up to the guidebook blah blah, it’s taken a chink out of the anti-metropolitan armour we so unashamedly wear. I guess this is the bit where I wax on about the romance, beauty and culture that Quito offers? I want to, I really do, any excuse for a bit of linguistic masturbation, but I’ll refrain. What’s more than more is that unspoken breakdown of scepticism, the scraping of the barnacles from the hull of our ideals.
For us it’s a groundbreaker, it’s an old chook with plenty of new tricks and it’s not shy to show them. It’s in this respect that Quito is so particularly exciting. Capital cities are meant to represent the people of their nation, and Quito has that little element that has been lingering just around the corner for us this whole time in Ecuador. An elusive trend filling our time here has been the extremely understated way in which Ecuador has a touch on the pulse of style while proudly brandishing its history and culture to the fore. Whereas many cultures seem to struggle blending the old and the new, an ugly bridge connecting two beautiful shores, Quito embodies all that is so elegant about how Ecuador seems to tackle the bumpy road of modernisation. The ugly bridge made beautiful.
With a great short hike on the high hills that enclose the space that Ecuador spills out of, we get a grand picture of this very big town that is really a small town gotten large. Where so many places, not just cities, become a different beast as they grow, Quito is Quito, proudly cuddling its warm culture while sending its bolder side out to flourish. This is no more evident than in La Mariscal, the ‘New Town’ as it were. Here a hive of bars and clubs astutely bypasses the too-common forest of polished chrome and pine veneer to embrace a stylish, trendy balance of hipster, suave and swagger more in the sights of the likes of New York, London and indeed Sydney. With seemingly effortless ease, Quito astutely nails what many other cities awkwardly struggle to capture.
When it comes to not only embodying it’s populous but leading it, Quito is a leader of some renown. Quito seems to embrace the economic surge that is gripping this continent while elegantly rejecting the tacky western pre-packaged baggage that often accompanies such an influx of money. It’s visiting the supermarket it could never afford and leaves with a trolley empty of over marketed packets of marginal nutritional value.
Yes Quito, whatever you’re doing, keep doing it. Here’s to you remaining the champion of your people, the people that make you a champion.