Centro Historico Quito Day 2

Centro Historico, Quito, Ecuador

We plan to spend most of the day in the Centro Historico – one of the largest, least-altered, and best-preserved historic centers in the Americas.  Before this, however, we need to visit the Happy Gringo travel agency in La Mariscal (the main entertainment area in Quito) to retrieve the tickets for our upcoming cruise around the Galapagos Islands.  The guide books warn tourists that La Mariscal attracts plenty of petty scam artists and muggers – so beware.  Christi and I proceed cautiously – the gringos are a little nervous!  As we amble along, we quickly become targets for maniacal motorists – all of whom appear to be auditioning for the latest Fast and Furious movie.  We soon realize it isn’t the muggers you have to worry about, it’s the drivers.

Having safely retrieved our tickets, we gringos (now very happy, incidentally) head on over to the Centro Historico.  Our first destination is the baroque-style La Compania de Jesus church.  The exterior abounds with finely carved stone motifs, but this pales in comparison with an interior that is decorated with over 7 tons of 23-carat gold.  The church is breathtakingly beautiful.  And beneath the dazzling gold filigree altar lie the remains of Saint Maryann, the patron saint of Ecuador, who sacrificed herself for the salvation of Quito.  Waiting outside the church are two adorable shoe-shine girls.  I don’t need my boots cleaned, but I happily give them a buck each for a photo.

Next we visit the monastery and museum of San Francisco, which is Quito’s largest colonial structure.  Sadly, the place is undergoing a massive restoration project, although a quick peek into the museum reveals some rather disturbing and gruesome sculptures of Jesus wearing a Crown of Thorns and oozing copious amounts of blood.

Speaking of food, we end the day on a rare pedestrianized street, La Ronda, which is lined with artesian shops (candles, baskets, artwork) and restaurants.  With much head-scratching and hair-pulling we order dinner in a small bistro.  Our mouths drop open, though, when the meal arrives.  Apparently, we ordered fried guinea pig, a local delicacy.  There’s not much meat on a whole guinea pig, let alone the half portion we receive (which includes the tail, upper jaw, one ear and one eye).  The nose and ear are quite tasty as noses and ears go, but neither of us fancies the sad, imploring eye.

Blog post by Roderick Phillips, author of Weary Heart – a gut-wrenching tale of love and test tubes. 

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