This morning I accidentally got up at dawn (again), so I had a leisurely breakfast of mystery fruit and coffee and still had plenty of time to stroll around Quito's old town before I needed to meet my guide, Maria, at 9am. The internet was right- folks here are adorably tiny, especially the the two main demographics out at 6am: 1. Children heading to school wearing their business-chic school uniforms and 2. Pocket-sized elderly that I can only assume were heading to an early-bird empanada special.
Side note: Maria is amazing. I called her at 1am last night because I couldn't find my passport and she told me exactly where I had stashed it in an exhausted haze at the airport. I do stupid things when I'm tired and she's still nice to me.
Once I met up with Maria, we visited a chocolate shop down the road to learn about Ecuadorian chocolate and do some sampling for second breakfast. In addition to some truffles and quinoa-coated bonbons (so good!), I tried a piece of 100% chocolate that was so insanely smooth and rich without a hint of bitterness. In short, I've been ruined for all other chocolate.
The rest of the day we visited some of Quito's old colonial churches, ate a snack called "caca perro" from a street vendor, and visited the Virgen de Quito on El Panecillo hill. Here's some Quito things that resonated with me because I'm weird:
- Unfortunately La Compañía Church doesn't allow photos inside, but take me at my word when I say it's the most wonderfully gaudy place I've ever seen. Catholic iconography and ornate carvings covered with gold leaf on every inch... it's blindingly gorgeous. My favorite detail though is that the builders went through great lengths to ensure that the church was balanced and symmetrical, but when it came to building the spiral staircase to access the organ, simply building a second wooden staircase to balance the first was too much to ask. So instead they just painted a mirror image of the staircase on the opposite wall. Problem solved?
On Good Friday, hundreds of Catholic penitents parade through the streets of Quito cloaked in what looks like purple KKK robes. I'm not making this up. While we were eating lunch at Cafe Plaza Grande, the table next to use ordered the helado de paila, a sorbet-like desert, and it was delivered by a waiter wearing one of these purple Klan robes and ringing a bell with dry ice. Magical!
It rained a good portion of the day, but I was able to get some photos when it cleared up...