When I hear about Quito from abroad, I associate it with magnificent historic churches and buildings from the Spanish colonial era. None of this has been apparent up until today. Our group was fortunate enough to have a city tour with our program director, who grew up in Quito.
We started at Iglesia Santo Domingo, one of the oldest and most famous churches. Construction started in the 1500s and finished in the 1600s. Mass was in session when we entered. This made me feel like I was being disrespectful as a tourist taking photos and viewing it as a museum during mass, without participating in the mass. Sometime I will need to actually attend a mass in one of the old churches.
Afterwards we went to another church. The architecture looked very much like what one would expect in Europe. It was beautiful and very well preserved for its age. The next church had a large rally outside it and many vendors selling food or other items. The vendors know where the good place is to find tourists!
We walked around a bit more and stopped in La Plaza de La Indepencia (independence square), where the Spanish established law and later independence was won. Right here is where the presidential palace is, an important branch of the Catholic Church is, and other government offices. It was designed to allow for a central area to exert political and religious power. There was a failed attempt in 1809 at independence, which was followed by a successful attempt in 1822.
We got to visit the presidential palace, since it is open as a museum. It was a great opportunity since I have never been in a national capital before. A tour guide led us through the different parts of the building. We got to see the banquet room, a room that the president uses/has used and the actual room where the cabinet meets. A great deal of art was present throughout.
All of the walking caused us to work up quite an appetite. We ate lunch at a nice restaurant called Fruteria Monserrate. The had a large menu of different items, some of which are Ecuadorian and some of which are international. I had spaghetti and ice cream, which were both quite good.
Our second to last stop was a very intricate church called La Iglesia de La Compania, which was definitely the most impressive church, full of gold plating. Afterwards we went to the Basilica, a giant newer church dedicated by Pope John Paul II, built in the gothic style, Our main purpose here was to climb to the top of the tower for the view, which had to be the best view of Quito I have had so far!
All of the touring made for a long day, but it was definitely worth seeing the amazing sights of Quito.