I have been meaning to come to Ecuador for years, literally. However, I always wanted to wait until I had a good week or so to come and see both the country’s main two cities and the mystical Galapagos Islands, plus it is the only country in the Americas that I hadn’t been to. Well that time has finally come as I made plans two days ago to come down here and I have spent the last day and a half exploring the awesome little capital city of Quito. Quito, like many other South American capitals is a food lovers, or at least meat lovers dream and has one of the more interesting and certainly clean old towns in Latin America. It also has that amazing feeling of life that is so prevalent in many Latin American cities and the feeling of undying Nationalism even in the throws of an unpopular government. It also boasts the Mitad del Mundo or the center of the world as the geographic equator lies only about 25km from Quito itself. My brief but rewarding time in Quito will stick with me and I highly recommend checking this city out.
The first thing I think of when I think of South America is meat and food. It is simply the best. If you’ve never eaten at a parrilla in Buenos Aires at 1am or had churrascuria in Rio until you couldn’t move or had unreal empanads in Bogota, you are missing out. However, I have also come to realize that almost every country except for possibly Bolivia has amazing food and Ecuador is no dofferent. The meat and seafood dishes are divine and I made sure to sample all the national dishes and look forward to doing the same in Guayaquil later in the week.
I started out after a late arriving flight and checking into the Sheraton Hotel here in Quito, by heading straight to Plaza Foch on the recommendation of an American guy I met in the customs line. Azuca Beach is the place to be for drinks but more importantly for tapas style food for mind blowingly cheap prices. The barbeque pineapple and cerdo (pork) is awesome along with the macho nachos with avocado cubes and the shrimp and sea bass on corn tortillas with amazing sauces. Additionally, Quito is known for their mojitos and I have to say the mojito mulato is as good as it gets and when you’re down here, check this awesome second floor eatery out-you won’t be disappointed.
Today I woke and headed straight across the street to Parrilla de Homero for some of my favorite kind of meat, lomo. This tender piece of meat, famous here in South America is awesome and served to perfection. This little hole in the wall restaurant was packed with locals which is how you know its good! If you stay at the Sheraton or anywhere near the stadium, give it a try.
However, the top restaurant in Quito is Sur. It is a steakhouse that honestly looks like it could be in New York or Los Angeles with the chic decor and stunningly good food. The only differences are of course the prices which are very affordable. The filet wrapped in bacon was particularly good and the wine is cheap and straight from Chile and Argentina.
Aside from gastronomy, Quito is literally the center of the world with the Mitad del Mundo about 25km from the city. You can get there by city bus which will take about an hour and a half and about 25 cents or by taxi which takes about 30 minutes and costs about $12 each way if you ask the cabbie to wait which you should because there are very few cabs there. The fee to enter is about $2 and there is a trapezoidal monument thing that is supposed to represent where north meets south and you can take some fun pictures straddling the equator and the hemispheres. However, it is apparently not the actual geographic equator as GPS readings showed it to be about 200 meters from where it was first established. But you get the point and it’s still a fun and interesting place to be and you really only need about an hour or so there before you’ve seen enough gift shops, etc. and want to head back to town. The only good thing about the gift shops are they will give you a souvenir passport stamp which pretty cool.
After walking around the charming old town and taking in an awesome view from the Virgin Mary staue which literally overlooks the whole city (below), I headed to the happy gringo travel agency to book my Galapagos tour. Needless to say, I wasn’t a very happy gringo after dealing with them trying to shake me down and left without booking anything. However, I am more than happy because there will be more options once I arrive at the Galapagos early tomorrow morning. Anway, I am off to bed now and really looking forward to the Galapagos Islands tomorrow for the next 4 days.