Monday, April 18: Walk around Quito

We got up early Monday morning and got out our copy of Walking Quito Ecuador by Rita Bornemisza. We decided to walk the “Route of the National Basilica” (Page 79) because it began close to our hostel. After spending half an hour hunting for the Palace of Conventions, the first building along the route, we realized that this book should have been labelled as fiction rather than as non-fiction.

However, we did find the second building on the route, the Bethlehem Church just East of Alameda Park. This church began as a shrine in 1612 and has been enlarged and modified over the years. It was built to pay tribute to the soldiers who had fought in the area. The altar is done in Baroque style. On one side there is a sitting image of Our Lord of the Remedies.

Bethlehem Church
Bethlehem Church
Main altar, Bethlehem Church
Main altar, Bethlehem Church
Our Lord of the Remedies
Our Lord of the Remedies

The location of the Astronomical Observatory in Almeda Park and the Corner of the Virgin Mary were interchanged on the map but we were able to sort out the problem because we were familiar with the park. At this point we were frustrated and decided to head to our corner restaurant across from the park for breakfast. We each had two fried eggs. In addition I had a cafe leche (coffee and hot milk) while Nan had a large glass of freshly squeezed orange juice. I also had a large croissant with a slice of mild cheese. The total bill was $2.80. While we were having breakfast a large group of protestors marched down Av. Gran Columbia.

The Corner of the Virgin Mary
The Corner of the Virgin Mary
Our corner restaurant
Our corner restaurant
Demonstration on Av. Gran Columbia
Demonstration on Av. Gran Columbia

After breakfast we walked up Av. Gran Columbia to the San Blas neighborhood. We walked past the Registro Civil where you have to go to get your official Ecuadorian identification card (the cedula). The San Blas church has a relatively simple exterior but a rather more elaborate main altar.

Registro Civil
Registro Civil
San Blas Church
San Blas Church
San Blas Main Altar
San Blas Main Altar

Just up Caldas Street is the Belmonte Bull Ring. It was the first bull ring constructed in the 20th century (1920). There was a special entrance for VIP guests as well as the main entrance for ordinary citizens. The ring is used for circus performances, boxing matches and other events as well as bull fights.

VIP Entrance to Bull Ring
VIP Entrance to Bull Ring
Main entrance to the bull ring
Main entrance to the bull ring
Interior of the bull ring
Interior of the bull ring

Walking back from the bull ring we walked through an area where numerous native vendors were selling produce. In this area there were several very nicely restored Colonial buildings. On the plaza where Av. Gran Columbia splits into Av. Pichincha and Av. Guayaquil there is a monument to Brother Michael. His real name was Francisco Febres Cordero. He was a well-known educator and grammarian who was canonized in October, 1984 for his self-denial and humility.

Native produce vendor
Native produce vendor
Restored Collonial building
Restored Collonial building
Monument to Brother Michael
Monument to Brother Michael

We then walked up Guayaquil Street. The restored, Colonial building on the corner is called the Quarter of Cheese because its triangular shape is similar to that of a piece of cheese that could be purchased with a “cale” (a coin worth two and a half cents of a Sucre, the former currency used in Ecuador). As we walked up[ the street we passed a man who makes his living selling shoe laces. As we climbed the hill we came to the Basilica of the National Vote.

Quarter of Cheese
Quarter of Cheese
Shoelace vendor
Shoelace vendor
Basilica of the National Vote
Basilica of the National Vote


Planning for the Basilica was begun in 1873 when President Gabriel Garcia Moreno and a bishop consecrated Ecuador to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. His statue stands on Garcia Moreno Plaza in front of the Basilica.

Since we had visited the Basilica before and photographed the main sanctuary, I was particularly interested in getting some photos of the older part behind the main altar. Here is what this area looks like.

Older sanctuary
Older sanctuary
Detail of main altar
Detail of main altar
Vaulted ceiling
Vaulted ceiling

As we walked from the Basilica towards the Grand Plaza and the presidential Palace we passed a furniture store with a very elaborate bedroom suite. We also passed a laundry with a sign that just begged to be photographed!

Carved bedroom suite
Carved bedroom suite
Priceless Engrish sign.
Priceless Engrish sign.

When we reached the Grand Plaza it seemed that we had just missed a ceremony. But it was just shortly after 10:00 am and the Changing of the Guard ceremony wasn’t scheduled to happen until 11:00 am. Well, when we asked around, we found out that there had been a special ceremony at 10:00 am honoring the President of Peru who was visiting Ecuador. Although we had missed the ceremony, the Peruvian honor guard was still in the square. As we waited for the Changing of the Guard ceremony to begin, this assistant to President was scurrying around trying to ensure that everything was perfect for the ceremony – the spectators were back on the grass and not on the edge of the pavement, etc. At 11:00 am the Presidential party emerged onto the balcony and the ceremony began.

Peruvian honor guard
Peruvian honor guard
Hard-working Presidential assistant
Hard-working Presidential assistant
Presidential party on the balcony
Presidential party on the balcony

Since we had seen the ceremony last Monday and focused on the Presidential party and the action directly in front of the Palace, I decided to focus on the action around the monument in the center of the Grand Plaza.

There was a group of aborigines who were watching the ceremony with great interest. The Presidential Guard in their traditional uniforms and carrying lances parched into the area around the monument. They were followed by a troop of drummers and buglers. A small contingent of guards mounted on horses entered and assumed positions around the monument.

Aboriginals watching intently
Aboriginals watching intently
Presidential guard troops march in
Presidential guard troops march in
Drum and bugle corps
Drum and bugle corps
Mounted troops enter
Mounted troops enter
Mounts positioned around the monument
Mounts positioned around the monument
Drum and bugle corps salutes the President
Drum and bugle corps salutes the President
Guard troops transfer command
Guard troops transfer command
Salute during national anthem
Salute during national anthem
Ceremony over-troops leave
Ceremony over-troops leave

After the ceremony was over we looked around the Grand Plaza. The doors to the Archbishop’s Palace were open so I was able to get a photo of the inner doors and the inner courtyard.

Inner doors of Archbishop's palace
Inner doors of Archbishop’s palace
Courtyard of Archbishop's palace
Courtyard of Archbishop’s palace

As we walked around the plaza area we found several shops with amazing assortments of wool for knitting, buttons and fasteners, trim, etc. They were a wonderful source of materials but when Nan checked the prices, she found that the prices were considerably higher than they were back home. We also passed an interesting kitchen store that supplied commercial kitchens. I was temped to get the juicer but we had no more space in our luggage.

Many colors and types of wool
Many colors and types of wool
Huge selection of trims
Huge selection of trims
Kitchen appliances
Kitchen appliances

As we walked away from the Grand Plaza we passed this beautifully restored Colonial-style building. We passed an aboriginal couple as they were typing the infant on the mother’s back. Further West along Av. Garcia Morino we came to the Queen’s Arch. It was built in 1726 to provide protection for devotees who were kneeling to pray at a small altar at the Royal Hospital of Mercy and Charity.

Building with elaborate facade
Building with elaborate facade
Native family
Native family
Queen's Arch
Queen’s Arch

Just West of the Queen’s Arch is the Monasterio de el Carmen Alto. This monastery was started in 1647. Looking back through the Queen’s Arch we see the white dome of the Quito Cathedral adjacent to the Grand Plaza.

Monastary church
Monastary church
Monastary entrance
Monastary entrance
Looking back through the Queen's Arch
Looking back through the Queen’s Arch

Madonna statue on El Panecillo
The 200 meter high hill known as El Panecillo marks the Western edge of Colonial Quito. In 1976, the Spanish artist Agustín de la Herrán Matorras was commissioned by the religious order of the Oblates to build a 45-meter-tall aluminum monument of a Madonna which was assembled on a high pedestal on the top of Panecillo. The virgin stands on top of a globe and is stepping on a snake, which is a classic madonna iconography. Less traditional are the wings. Locals claim that she is the only one in the world with wings like an angel.

The streets of Quito have many small shops. Some types of shops, like the hardware store shown below, are scattered throughout the city. Other times many of the shops in an area specialize in particular types of products. For example, there is an area of the city where the shops specialize in textiles while another area specializes in ceramic tile. The two shops below specialize in elaborate costumes for religious ceremonies such as first catechism, confirmation, etc.

A small hardware store
A small hardware store
Regalia for Religious ceremonies
Regalia for Religious ceremonies
Another religious regalia shop
Another religious regalia shop

Tents and a portable stage were set up in Santo Domingo square when we arrived. We asked around and found out that this was a multi-cultural festival celebrating the various native groups, their foods and handicrafts. In front of the stage a group of children performed one of their traditional dances while the next group was getting ready.

Santo Domingo square and church
Santo Domingo square and church
One group performs a dance
One group performs a dance
The next group gets ready
The next group gets ready

In the tents the various groups were showing off their various agricultural products, handicrafts and traditional foods.

Displaying agricultural products
Displaying agricultural products
Different types of corn
Different types of corn
Native foods
Native foods

Since it was rather late in the afternoon we headed for home to do some last minute packing for the trip home.

We had supper at our nearby Chifa (Chinese restaurant). Nan had her favorite stir fried vegetables with shrimp, chicken and beef over noodles. I had the quarter of a chicken with fried rice, salad and fries. Both meals came with soft drinks. As usual, the total bill was $7.00.

Local chifa (Chinese restaurant)
Local chifa (Chinese restaurant)
Nan's stir fry
Nan’s stir fry
Gerry's chicken plate
Gerry’s chicken plate