A September 2005 trip
to Quito by Philly_Girl
Quote: Not many people visit Ecuador, and most seem to fly right out to the Galapagos Islands, spending little time on the mainland. We spent a few days in Quito and were completely taken with the warm and friendly people, delicious foods, and beautiful countryside.
End of February Carnaval starts 2nd week of February and lasts through the end of the month.
April Holy Week or Semana Santa Semana Santa, Starts at the end of Lent
May 24 Battle of Pichincha
July 24 Birthday of Simon Bolivar is not one of the most important dates of the year but it´s celebrated in all of Ecuador.
July 25 Founding of Santiago de Guayaquil
First two weeks of September The Fiesta del Yamor in Otavalo
October 12 Dia de la Raza to celebrate hispanic races of the world, celebrated in most of Central and South America.
November 1 and 2 Dia de los Difuntos (Day of the Dead)
November 7 Mama Negra in Latacunga is one of the biggest parties in Ecuador.
December 6 The Independance Day of San Francisco de Quito.
Hotel | "Grand Hotel Mercure Alameda Quito"
We appreciated the free Internet service and extensive breakfast buffet (included in the hotel room price). The food was delicious.
The rooms were extremely clean and comfortable. Our room had a sitting room with a dining table, refrigerator and couch, and a large TV and large and comfortable king-sized bed, which was turned down at night with chocolates.
We used the safe in the room, as we had been warned to do so, but we did not feel unsafe for a minute in this hotel.
It can be quite noisy on the weekends, as the Ecuadorians definitely know how to enjoy life. We were on the 9th floor, and the noise came up to our level. But I don't think any hotel in the area would have been quieter, and it didn't bother my husband at all.
The staff were first-rate, courteous, and brought new meaning to the words "customer service". When my husband was ill from the altitude, they sent up some mate de coca tea, which really helped him. All in all, it's a wonderful and comfortable place to stay. You won't go wrong here!
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on October 26, 2005
Grand Hotel Mercure Quito
Roca 653 y Avenue Amazonas
+593 (2) 2994000
El Nispero website (Note: this website seems to be down right now, but it's on their "menu" they handed me, so you could try it again later. Frommers also recommends this place and lists the same website, so who knows...) But I can tell you about the fantastic food. We were part of a group that dined here. At 8 p.m. the restaurant was empty, but only because it was too early. Most Ecuadorians don't eat until 10 or later. The restaurant was tastefully decorated, very chic and warm. Candles were lit everywhere which made it even cozier.
We started with appetizers, we both had Chicken and Palmito Soup, absolutely delicious! For an entree we had Pork Medallions in Figs and Mint Sauce. Our companions had the Chicken and Walnut rolls in rosemary sauce which they said was superb.
And for dessert, I selected the Eclaire filled with Naranjilla Ice Cream and covered in chocolate sauce and nuts. My husband had tulips filled with Guanabana Ice Cream Strawberries and Blackberry Sauce.
This meal was as good as any 4-star restaurant in the United States that we've been to, and the service was even better. We were sorry to eat our last meal in Ecuador but really thought we went out on a good note.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 26, 2005
Valladolid N24-438 y Cordero
Attraction | "Visiting the Otavalo Market"
Our driver and tour guide picked us up at 8:30am, and we set off for the market in the Imbabura province. Having a tour guide along really made a difference in my mind, because he told us about the cities we passed along the way, about Ecuador’s economy and a little bit of history. This made the trip more than just a shopping trip.
We raced through the streets of Quito, and Byron made frequent use of his horn. We headed down out of the city toward Otavalo, at only 7,700 feet we thought we would get some relief from our altitude sickness. (We did! Bonus!) Unfortunately, on our way to the market, we were stopped for about 45 minutes because a bicycle tour (Tour de Ecuador) was racing through the valley and traffic had been halted. Note all the people standing outside buses, it was quite interesting, and soon, men, women, and children were walking up and down the stopped buses and cars to sell bottled water and cloths, etc. After the delay we set off for Otavalo, stopping by a wayside station to use the bathroom (the most beautiful bathroom I had ever seen, nestled into the side of a mountain and looking out over the valley. (.25 cents, a bargain! TP included.) From there we went to a village where a woman showed us how she and her family weave the cloths and tapestries they sell. We bought an incredible tapestry for $12. Finally, we made it to Otavalo. We were immediately impressed by the vast quantity of goods available. Block after block! We walked all the way down one side and started back the other, and began to pick up a few items. Santiago, our guide, helped us bargain, and we were very satisfied with all of our purchases. From there, we went to a Hacienda, where we had a delicious traditional lunch. By this point, we were tired, and so it felt good to sit in the car and rest for a little while as we headed back to Quito. First though, we stopped by an Equatorial Monument, not the official one, but good enough for us. We also stopped by a village where women make bread figurines--pretty, but not overly exciting. As we ascended back up to Quito, my husband’s headache returned. He went straight to bed, and I had a chance to reflect on our wonderful day and to attempt to pack all the gifts we bought in Otavalo into our luggage!
But back to Quito itself. Certainly, this is not a city like Paris or New York; it’s a quieter city, without the hustle and bustle of a Western city. With nearly 2 million people, however, it’s not a small town either. As you drive through the congested streets (roads mostly run north and south), you will see armed guards standing outside of some stores. You will also see pigs hanging in meat shops, as the owners cure them to prepare a special dish. However, this is a major city, and has an extensive shopping area, hotels, and public transportation system. Only 20% of the residents have cars, so the buses can get crowded.
In terms of personal safety, our guides suggested not to walk alone at night and if we went to Old Town to watch our belongings carefully. I never felt personally at risk at any time. In fact, I am more on guard when I’m in NYC. But it is always a good idea to be alert when you’re traveling. In terms of weather, despite being at the equator, it was quite cool during our trip in late September, early October. We wore sunscreen of course, but also had on long pants and jackets. It was probably in the mid-60s during the day, down to the 50s at night. Many of the native Ecuadorians were bundled up in sweaters, hats, and jackets. The nights were foggy; at least, that’s what we thought until we realized that fog was probably just clouds!
We loved our hotel, the Hotel Mecure Alameda. It was really elegant inside (see journal entry) and we felt very safe. We had three balconies in our rooms, and we opened up the doors to bring in the cool mountain air at night. We could lean out the balcony and see people going into bars and listen to the music and the singing into the wee hours of the morning. If I hadn’t been so tired and feeling slightly sick from the altitude, I would have gone down to join them. They sounded like they were having a great time. I was surprised to hear dogs barking ferociously at night. Later we learned that building managers place dogs on the roofs of buildings to prevent robberies, though we never fully understood the logic behind that.
One other note on the altitude: try to avoid greasy foods, and be sure to drink tons of bottled water. This will help. We took Diamox (prescription), and it wasn’t particularly effective for either of us. But I wouldn’t go to that altitude without it, just in case. Also, it evidently helps to eat sweet things, so if you feel a headache, eat something sweet, drink a lot of water, and hopefully it will go away after a few days.
You can buy weavings and traditional crafts in Quito, though they are more expensive than in the surrounding villages. (And you’d miss the fun of going to Otavalo.) You can find pretty much all you need in Quito, though, so if you forget your shampoo, you can buy something (though it may not be the exact brand.)
We were sorry to miss Old Town due to time constraints, which was established as a World Heritage site in 1978. It is definitely on our list for the next trip to Quito and Ecuador, as is Cuenca to the South. We plan to return to this beautiful country, just as soon as we can.