Friday, October 19, 2012

Ecuador: Quito City

This was the last day of our vacation so we spent it doing a tour of Old Town Quito as well as the equatorial line - that is - Latitude 0. That was interesting but more about that later.

We started our last day with breakfast but instead of the courtyard, we had it in the restaurant on the premises that I think was once a jail of sorts. Anyway, it's quite lovely with beautiful brick archways.

Breakfast can be quite nice when you are in a beautiful space - even if it's the same breakfast 19 days in a row (except for the one breakfast in Aguas Calientes when we had cheese).

We booked a tour with a company just one block over from the hotel; there were 4 of us - 2 Floridians and the 2 of us. Nelson who is one of the owners of the company was our guide. We started out by visiting some of the churches in Old Town which is the old part of Quito. Many people do not live in this area but commute to work so in the evenings, the streets are pretty deserted. The architecture of the churches is astonishing. Even if you are not into historical buildings, you gain an appreciation for the beauty and talent of engineers, architects, sculptors, painters and planners.

The whole city of Quito was declared a UNESCO heritage city because of the history and incredibly beautiful buildings and from the pictures, you can see why. Many building have the "Juliet" balconies which are large windows framed at the bottom with an enclosed railing - in these cases - made of ornate wrought iron. Some of the designs are quite detailed and intricate while others are simple. The details on some of the carvings on churches and other historical buildings makes you appreciate how some of the buildings took over 100 years to complete. The insides of the buildings are even more stunning but we couldn't take pictures in some of them because church services were being conducted while we were walking through.
Then we headed out of town to the Equator line. Apparently someone had calculated the line using some kind of mathematical calculations and the spot was marked as the point at the centre of the earth but several years ago with more recent and precise technology, it was proven that the initial point was about 250 metres off from the centre. So a new centre was determined. That's the one we went to. There were two clocks - sort of sun dials and as you can see clearly from the second picture, it was almost 2pm when we were looking at it (I checked my watch and it was 1:55pm).

Then we had our picture taken side by side but with me in one hemisphere and Robin in the other. Then it was Robin's turn the straddle the line with a foot in each hemisphere. Pretty funny actually.

We had a chance to watch some little science experiments and then the guide asked us to do one - stand with your eyes closed and hands extended and try to walk on the red line without falling over. The centrifugal force from each hemisphere pulls you in that direction so it is almost impossible to walk the line.
That was a fun part of the day. We stopped in a little cafe on the site and had empanada verde - mini ones made with plantains and stuffed with cheese. Those were really yummy!!
Then it was off to the airport for our flight to Lima at 6:35pm, then leaving Lima for Toronto at 1:40am then from Toronto to Winnipeg at 2:50pm on Saturday.

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