A ten hour bus ride, winding through the foothills and the Andes themselves will get you to twelve thousand feet before you descend into the more than forty mile long valley of the city of Quito. Leaving coastal Manabi Provence with the air-conditioning humming, you find out that climate is more about altitude than latitude. As you crest the Andes the air-conditioning is no longer humming, sweaters and jackets have covered up the short sleeves and the windows have a layer of condensation bordering on frost, totally obscuring the view. Here you are less than one degree (sixty miles) south of the equator experiencing winter weather… nighttime temperatures in the forties… not a big deal for you folks living in northern latitudes but a real shock to our tropical blood.
One’s first impression is shock and awe! This is a huge city and the Andes are most impressive mountains. Having lived between the Wasatch and Oquirrh Mountains and driven over the Rockies numerous times, I am here to tell you these are big, big Mountains. The city stretching forty miles down the valley has a population just under 2.7 million people, with many, many more in the metropolitan area. As we wend our way through the afternoon traffic we are impressed with the varied architecture, hustle and bustle, and cosmopolitan feel of the cityscape. That evening we sat in a lovely, modern restaurant with an altitude high enough to allow us to watch the city lights come on at all of the famous landmarks, civic, and religious, competing with the changing evening sky surrounding the Andes. A gift of nature combined with the impressive works of three or more civilizations, past and present.
The nice thing about our visit to the big city is that we know someone living there. Nancy’s consuegra has lived there for more than thirty years. I think it is so nice that the Spanish language has a pleasant name for a pair of mother-in-laws. Nancy and Consuelo are consuegras, lovely! To me the term mother-in-law sounds like someone should get arrested… but consuegra! Que elegante!
Needless to say, our two elegant ladies had a lot to catch up on regarding children and grandchildren. My pleasure and privilege to escort them about the city. We spent some quality time at Independence Square and toured the Presidential Palace, quite a beautiful place with many art treasures, period furniture and sublime architecture. Like all heads of State, the Presidents of Ecuador have received beautiful and unusual gifts of art from all over the world, which are beautifully displayed in the Presidential Palace for the citizens and we tourists to enjoy.
The fact that it was raining in no way deterred our enjoyment of the day. We savored hot coffee at San Francisco Square, in the front of the catacombs of the old church, purchased a hat for myself and fleece jacket for Nancy, now both better prepared for our future trek into Peru. As you can see, the inhabitants of the city, have wonderful meeting places and take full advantage of them.
While in Quito we also visited the Guayasamin home, workshop and chapel. The property is part of a residential neighborhood and sits up in the foothills with a panoramic view of the valley. The chapel was unfinished at the time of Oswaldo Guayasamin’s death, his sons, however, did a lovely job of wrapping up the job without altering padre’s intent. Guayasamin’s art speaks eloquently to the subjugation of men and women of all colors throughout the world by the white man. He was recognized as a humanitarian by the United Nations.