Trip Start Oct 16, 2007
Trip End May 09, 2008

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Monday, March 3, 2008

We arrived in Quito late Monday night, but Frank didn't have our hotel address or number!  Luckily at the airport info desk, we were able to get a taxi voucher straight to our hotel - there is a fixed rate to get from the airport to town.  What a great feeling to leave the airport and not worry about haggling or getting ripped off from the start!

Our hotel was the Marriott in the 'New City' part of Quito, a really nice place to get settled in.  And extra nice because it was 'free' again, thanks for Frank's Marriott points.  The Marriott was really close to the neighborhood La Mariscal, which is the heart of Quito's nightlife.  There are a lot of restaurants, cafes and bars all around.  What was also convenient about being close to La Mariscal is that there were a lot of travel agencies all in walking distance to each other.  So we spent our first day in Quito walking around to different travel agencies to sop for our Galapagos tour.   We also had to take it easy since Quito is at 2850m above sea level, so we got tired quite quickly!   We went to about 7 agencies, before deciding to go with a tour from Sunshine Travel on the Galapagos Voyager.  This boat's itinerary included both Española and Genovesa islands, which sounded awesome!   The only small problem was that they charged an additional 6.3% if we paid with credit card.  So we spent the next few days in Quito withdrawing our daily cash limit on ATM cards, walking around with the cash under our clothes and making frequent cash deposits to Sunshine Travel.  One taxi driver told us to be very careful around La Mariscal as there are a lot of pickpockets, and to not let anybody get closer than 1m to us.  However, the streets around La Mariscal seemed relatively safe to us. There was a lot of pedestrian traffic, and quite a lot of policemen patrolling the streets.  We heard that the mayor of Quito actually stepped up security in the city recently and the crime rate has gotten much lower.

On Wednesday we had to call a doctor as Frank had some weird red spots on his back, and they seemed to be spreading!  The Marriott called the doctor and he said that Frank had impetigo?!?!  Some type of skin staff infection he got 3-7 days ago!   Yuck!   We were trying to figure out where in the Dominican Republic he got it from, and figured it was either from wearing a diving vest or, more likely, a massage place we went to in Cabarete.  So Frank's on antibiotics now for a few days to get his cooties cleared up. 

On Thursday we did a full day tour with Greyline Tours, arranged by the Marriott.  We were picked up at 8am and headed to the Centro Histórico, or Old City.  The Old City is the second UNESCO World Heritage site, after Krakow.  It is Quito's colonial district, with a ton of churches, colonial buildings and plazas.   The most impressive church was the Iglesia de la Compania, which has 70 tons of gold inside!  We wish we could've posted a photo but not pictures are allowed.  Our guide Salome was incredible.  She seemed to know every single detail about the Old City, and her English was equally impressive.

Next, we drove for 45 minutes north to reach the ecuator line. The Mitad del Mundo Equatarial Line Monument is a site declared in the 1700s by French explorers as the equator line.  However our tour guide also took us to the Museo Ini-Ñan, a quirky museum located at the 'real' equator line several hundred meters away, as determined by modern military GPS.  At the museum, they showed us some interesting experiments, such as draining a sink of water at the equator line, 4 feet north, and 4 feet south of the equator line.  You can actually see the water draining clockwise south of the equator line, counter-clockwise north of the equator line, and no rotation exactly on the equator line.   Here a short video on YouTube.  They also let us balance a raw egg on a nail pin right at the equator as it's supposed to be easier as the forces cancel themselves out.  Couple other interesting things they had in the museum was an old traditional house, around 130 years old, constructed out of pumice stone, bamboo, animal droppings, typical of the buildings that indigenous people live in.  The materials make the buildings very flexible and resistant to earthquakes.   They also explained how to make a shrunken head - methods used by some of the indigenous people, and we saw an actual shrunken head!   It was pretty small, the size of a fist.

One night we checked out a Cuban restaurant, La Bodeguita de Cuba, and stuck around for live Cuban music.  It was a small place, maybe 30 people could fit inside quite cozy.   It was very lively inside with the small dance floor packed with locals dancing.  The club also passed out plastic soda bottles filled partially with sand, and everyone was shaking the bottles to the beat of the music.  Frank wasn't too keen on dancing so I asked a local to dance.  Little did I know that it was his birthday and he wanted to dance several more songs.  The band played "Happy Birthday" and everyone was singing and dancing.  His friends also took a birthday photo of us, I had a great time! 
Our last day in Quito was spent doing some last minute errands before our Galapagos trip.  Everyone we've met in Quito is incredibly friendly and nice.  Also their Spanish is a lot slower and clearer than it was in the Dominican Republic, makes it easier to practice Spanish!
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007chiro on

Follow up to Quito
Hi Guys, It was nioce to read your post. My daughter and I (age 19) are flying in in early June and are going on a amazon trip and then have quite a bit of free tinme to take spanish lessons or whatever. Please keep this up to date as to the good, the bad, and the ugly and hopefully Frank no longer looks like one of the Lizards from the Impetigo. FYI.. I hope they explained to you that Impetigo is contageous. No sex, no fun HA Ha

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