Our last days in Cotopaxi and Quito

Trip Start Mar 05, 2012
Trip End Mar 26, 2012

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Sunday, March 25, 2012

Saturday, March 24 – It was very difficult to leave Cotopaxi National Park. We were tempted to stay there one more night. But, we have a rule: the last night of a trip has to be in the same city from which the flight home departs. Just yesterday, the rumor in Cotopaxi was that the entire city of Quito was shut down due to strikes by the indigenous groups over oil exploitation in the Amazon – no one was getting in or out of the city. Thus, we were not sure whether we would be able to get to Quito, let alone catch our flight back home to Florida. I actually found the situation comforting: democracy is alive and well in Latin America. That kind of protest would never be tolerated in the USA. So, this situation just added more spice to our trip. Of course, the protests ended peacefully, and the roads to the capital city were re-opened. At 15:30, we began the journey back to Quito.

We arrived in Quito around 18:00 and thoroughly enjoyed our last night in Ecuador. We took a 1/2 hour horse-drawn carriage ride through the heart of the historic district – for $12. (Ecuador uses the US dollar as its currency.) Then, we walked through one beautiful plaza after another while watching people, listening to music, and sampling the food at different cafés. Old Town has been beautifully restored and is safe. The police are organized and everywhere. The government recognizes the value of tourism and proudly displays this city in all its glory. Walking around, it is easy to see why it has been declared a UNESCO world heritage site. Late in the evening, I enjoyed the night view of the city from the terrace at our hostel.

Sunday, March 25 – Walking around Old Town is an experience not to be missed, especially on a Sunday. If you only go to Quito for one day, make it a Sunday. The streets are closed to cars and opened for pedestrians and bicycles. Every plaza has a historic church, beautiful buildings, cobblestones, and hundreds of people. There are jugglers, artists, musicians, and children chasing pigeons. We attended a church service at La Compania, the oldest and most beautiful church in Quito. This alter, walls and ceiling of this church are lined with over 7 tons of gold leaf. It is stunningly beautiful. Ecuador is a predominantly a Catholic country with magnificent churches. Visiting the churches was a special experience. While walking down the street, we bumped into some fellow travelers we met in Cotopaxi (small world). Later, we toured the Presidential Palace (equivalent to our White House). We finished the day with a tour of Basílica del Voto Nacional, which is the largest neo-Gothic basilica in the Americas. We took an elevator to the top and walked on the catwalk above the roof of the church. From there, were climbed some very steep ladders to get to an observation deck the tower. The view of Quito was amazing.

After spending the day in Old Town, it was finally time to come home. We gathered our luggage, hired a cab, gave the driver a tip, and he took us on a tour of Mariscal and New Town, where all the hip people hang out. We stopped at plaza Foch and other places to purchase coffee for my lovely Lisa. (She loves her coffee, and I was told not to return home without coffee from Ecuador.) Finally, we said goodbye to our new friend (the taxi driver) and boarded a plane back home. I have travelled to many countries in four continents. This trip was among the best. I highly recommend Ecuador as a vacation or business destination.
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