1 May 2012
My first full day in Quito turned out to be a public holiday – which meant in the New Town – everything was shut (indeed the lady at my hotel – before I changed to the Swissotel) had said to avoid walking the streets with no people around.
So once I changed hotels, I decided to head to the Old Town for the afternoon. The taxi couldn’t take me the whole way as there was a large demonstration in the main square – not much was filling me with confidence in the city, and on the taxi ride in, I have never seen so many police – some in riot gear, others with dogs – incredible. With a number of road blocks, I got out at the Basilica – which I had been told was one church to see – due to the views from the top. So as I could see the protest closer to the town, I decided to avoid it and see the church.
The Basilica del Voto Nacional (or of National View) is a stunning building. Whilst you can’t go into the church itself – you are guided to the staircase and at each level there is a different view (one of which is the inside of the church).
You can climb both the towers on one side, and on the other, the clock tower.
The steps are steep, and tiny. To the top of each tower, they are close to ladders (in one instance it really is a ladder), and whilst I thought I had gotten used to altitude in Peru – the last week back at sea level meant that again, the altitude hit me – I had to take a rest at each level to catch my breath (and of course take photos).
The views over the city were also amazing – Quito is surrounded by volcanoes and the views from the Basilica give a great perspective of this, along with looking down towards the main square and part of the Old Town.
After a long walk back down the steps I decided to see what was going on and walked further into the Old Town. There was a large, but very peaceful demonstration – almost a party – in the main plaza and lots of people milling about for May Day. I decided not to hang around too long (nor risk taking my camera out), but went for lunch/ desert at a Fruiteria (as recommended in Lonely Planet).
Fresh fruit salad topped with raspberry sauce and cream was pretty good (the majority was yummy tropical fruit – pineapple, melon and strawberries – I left the apple).
So still lots of the Old Town to explore, will be interesting to see what it is like on a normal weekday!