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Falling in love with Quito

Updated: 3 days ago

There’s a gentle glamour about historic Quito.  I am staying in an ancient family home on San Francisco plaza – and this is the rooftop view once the sun goes down.  Everything I can see was built after the Incas burned the city to the ground in 1534, when they were conquered by the Spanish.   But the look and feel of Quito has been shaped by the Italians too.  La Compania church, the one in the photo above, has a grey baroque façade and an interior which is bathed in gold leaf from top to toe. 

La Compania was where Pope Francis used to preach in days gone by and they treasure some saintly bones and relics which he sent from Rome.

The earlier church of San Francisco, built in the 16th century, was reshaped with diminutive twin towers, after an earthquake destroyed the original bell towers.

It’s a working monastery and has gathered a library of 40,000 handwritten and illustrated manuscripts - many from the 16th century. Amongst the art, I was amused by St Anthony, who is the patron saint of finding the right boyfriend / girlfriend. When he preached in church, no-one showed up. At the sea shore, though, all the fish came to hear what he had to say!

The last room in the museum had the story of the Virgin Mary painted on a series of alabaster “canvases” - I've never seen paintings on marble before: I gather it's very difficult to do ....

San Francisco is at the heart of the catholic community – which is now strong again – and it's the place people choose for graduations and anniversary photos – like the policemen in the early morning photo here. 

Later in the day I saw another policeman, who made me smile.  It was a remodelled baby Jesus statue – on the top shelf below - which you could also have as a farmer or doctor if you preferred. 😊  The restorer had one of the tiny little workshops along the cobbled streets and seemed swamped by the workload to provide every family with their own statues of Jesus and the Virgin Mary, and to keep them in good shape.

By contrast, the wonderful statues in the Museo Casa Del Alabado dated back to 4,000 BC. Some had tattoos, and there were ancient birdmen … and a sweet collection that looked surprising like a little war-hammer brigade!  The fish was also an ocarina whistle – if you play the video  you can hear what it sounded like!

The virgin of el Panecillo is a much more controversial statue.  The city of Quito is 40km long and usually only a couple of km wide, as it snakes along the valley between the hills and volcanoes.  The way the statue is positioned means that the Virgin is always looking to the prosperous north of Quito and has her back to the poorer, southern part of the city ☹

Other great discoveries today included amazing food.  French toast for breakfast; empanadas light as air with corn-flour pastry and then foamy cheese with a green salad for lunch; meringuey icecreams sold on the street and a fantastic chocolate house called “Chez Tiff” where I learned how chocolate is made and how Ecuador produces 50% of the worlds great estate-specific chocolate …..  I’ll be bringing some home – especially for my brother, whose childhood nickname was Tiffer or Tiff 😊

In the market, where healers deal in fresh herbs and potions, Rosita offered me “dragons blood” to speed up the recovery of my broken arm!

Walking round today was fabulous – so easy to find your feet – and although it is the rainy season – the weather is warm.  It’s a climate that’s perfect for flowers – which are everywhere.  I didn’t know that Ecuador is the second biggest exporter of roses in the world – after the Netherlands!

Rather lovely to find that - along with oil - things as delicious as flowers and chocolate are key to the Ecuadorian economy.

Thank you Jo for introducing me to the joy of walking tours to connect with a new place, like Quito 😊

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Chris Abbott
Chris Abbott
May 08

still unstoppable...!!!!

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