As a person living in the oppression of the incessant Texas heat, I appreciate every opportunity I get to travel to places devoid of this loathsome quality. Anywhere from the coasts of northern California, to the beautiful Colorado mountains, to the rolling hills of North Carolina in the spring, I am always up for the chance to leave the heat and go on an adventure. But despite the beauty of all of these places, they simply pale in comparison to the majesty and climate of Quito, Ecuador.
When you think of traveling to the equator, you might likely consider it to be a place of unbearable heat. After all, it’s the center of the earth – the place closest to the sun. Those were the lessons I was taught when I was in grade school. Not until I had the opportunity to visit Quito, did I form another opinion.
Through some family friends, I received an invitation to Ecuador, and jumped at the chance. With my family, I began my journey at D/FW Airport, stopped over in Miami, then arrived in Quito four hours later. Upon my arrival , I was immediately surrounded by the coolness of the Andes Mountains. Unlike an evening in the Texas summer, stepping off the plane in Quito was quite pleasant. A year-round average daily high of 67°F, with a low of a pleasant 50°F was certainly a wonderful respite from the extremes of Texas. This was a far cry from what I was expecting. How delightful to wear a jacket in July!
A one-dollar cab ride from the airport put me in a variety of residences and businesses. During my visit, I stayed at the Hotel Reina Isabel (www.hotelreinaisabel.com). The establishment was reasonably priced for the quality of the services offered. It almost felt like home, except for a few interesting Ecuadorian cultural protocols.
Day two involved tons of sightseeing. Quito is rich in religious heritage and, therefore, has many beautiful cathedrals. The Basilica de la Voto has, by far, the most striking exterior. Sculpted in a dazzling neo-Gothic style and sporting stunning stained glass, the twin clock towers peer down at tourists and locals alike. The interior and exterior are fully accessible, and visitors are even encouraged to take a stroll along the edges of the roof! Two other churches that I visited were most noted for their interiors. Completely gilded in gold, the Iglesia y Monasterio de San Francisco and the Iglesia de La CompaÃ±Ãa de JesÃºs are true testaments to religious architecture. The latter structure alone contains more than seven tons of gold leaf!
Who could travel so close to the equator and not take advantage of visiting La Mitad del Mundo (“the middle of the world”)? For an exciting day trip, one can take a bus outside of the capital city and enjoy a monument built at the center of the earth. The accompanying museum offers interesting insight into the life of the natives of the land, and the scalable monument itself is memorable. Make sure to get a picture with the sign designating the equator!
The following days involved visits to Vulqano Park (www.vulqanopark.com) which offered gondola rides to the mountaintop overlooking Quito, and the Stadium La Casa Blanca, a soccer field, which is home to six major “football” tournaments a year. We were also able to visit three shopping malls larger than any I had ever seen. I thoroughly enjoyed my vacation to the center of the earth, and with plenty of attractions for the entire family, I hope to make a return visit as soon as possible.
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