I am writing now after much time. Since I've last updated not too much has happened. Just living life as usual. Mom came in for a visit on the 23rd of Aug. She flew in to Guayaquil, so Leah and I met up and took the bus over to the airport to pick her up. We spent an uneventful morning walking around Guayaquil a little, checking out the Iguana Park, where they have a lot of iguanas running around and they feed them to get the to stay, and the Malecon, which is the boardwalk. Then for a long 4 hour bus ride back to Cajabamba. THere are many more details about the trip, but most of you have read mom's journal on her view so I"m going to put in a small portion that I wrote about our day exploring Old Town in Quito.
Lindsay’s view on a Day on Old Town- Quito, Sept 1
So we started out the day around 8 am leaving the nice old-fashioned hotel Vienna, and planning on grabbing some breakfast and finding a new hotel. Well, at 8 am in Ecuador, nothing is open. So we decided to go sit in a park. However, parks (which in this circumstance is closer to a plaza) here aren’t like they are in the states, you aren’t allowed to sit or even walk in the grass (in real parks you are, but like I said, this one is more like a plaza). So we settled on a bench, maintaining vigilance over the many bags and stuff we already accumulated, and peopled watched for a while. This particular plaza happened to be the plaza outside the President’s palace. That’s right, it’s not a house, they call it a palace (palacio) here. So we sat around here for a while and while I guarded the stuff mom walked around and took photos and read the informational billboards they had put up for the people. We think it was about history and culture of Ecuador, but not sure. Eventually we both got bored so I asked if she wanted to walk over and take a look at the Plaza San Francisco and the church and monastery that are in the plaza. SO we went with all our bags and the camera out, looking like the tourists we were. They are currently doing construction on the front façade of the church, but they have put up a tarp (or something?) that has a picture of what the front looks like over the construction so you can still see it. From across the plaza we noticed a sign for a hostal, so we figured we would check it out. This you can read about in mom’s section and it is a very accurate description. The gentleman running the place was super nice though!!! And I had internet! What more do I need?!
So we settled our stuff into our rooms and headed right back out to see the sights. From here we went into the San Francisco church which was in session with mass. We went next door to the monastery (don’t know if there are still monks there- don’t think so) and saw some interesting art and artifacts, as well as a gorgeous courtyard which I think are referred to as cloisters (not positive). There was also access to the balcony of the church where you can see the choral seats for the monks and 2 huge organs, overlooking the main hall in the church. Well enough there, we left to head to La Compania church; this is a very opulent church which is coat/plated in gold. (And we still had to pay an entrance fee!) Here we got a tour (in English) and a very sweet girl led us around the church and told us all about the church. They had some of the original pews, made out of black cedar just like the confessionals were. There was a fire at some point in the church’s history, started by the candles lit by the people. You could see the differences in the reconstruction, where there was fire damage. On the ceiling there are little cherub faces and one is black, a remainder from the fire, kept to show the effects of fire. You could also see in the floor the blocked over holes in the flooring where they have openings for coffins to be lowered down into the catacombs below. Very cool!! Too bad we couldn’t see down there!! As well, there is a spiral staircase which leads up to the balcony in the back of the church for the organ and choir, and from the front of the church you look back on it and you see two spiral staircases on each side of the main entrance. This however is a trick of the eye, because there is only one staircase, the other is a painting on the wall to look like one. This was an incredibly interesting church, there was also some interesting artwork depicting hell and the seven sins and the other was of the final judgment showing heaven and hell and a bunch of people.
From here we went to a convent called Monastary of Santa Catalina. It’s a tiny place that you wouldn’t take notice of if you were just walking by. We walked in to see if we could get a tour (in English) and the guard (yes they have a security guard) and the tour lady we had were so nice and accommodating. The woman took us up through the parts of the convent they have converted for visitors where we saw a lot of religious art and how it changed through the ages. As we walked through the convent we felt compelled to do so in a quiet manner, but the 400 year old original floors made that quite impossible. They were the noisiest floors you can imagine!! The tour allowed us a peak in at the nuns’ cells where they sleep, and a peak of an actual nun! She was in the courtyard and once she came in we had to shut the curtain because the nuns of this convent spend their time in solitude and aren’t allowed to see outside people. They spend their time (aside from worshiping) making wine, creams, shampoos, and many more things. We received a shot of the wine at the end of the tour; it was very sweet but good. However I do find it odd that nuns are making alcohol. Another remarkable part of this tour was the excursion up to the bell tower. We traipsed up a tight spiral staircase, which was encased in cement, up to the tiny bell tower. They have the bell hooked up to a machine so they don’t hand ring it. It offered beautiful views of the Panecillo (a statue on a hill overlooking the city) and the amazing Basilica on the other side of Old Town. Climbing back down, we had reached the end of the tour and were given a shot of the wine and sent on our way.
The next destination was the President’s palace. They let the general public in at certain times to look around. However there was a bit of a line and it didn’t seem to be moving anywhere, so we opted to go to the Basilica. We hopped a bus which would drop us off right outside the church (it was close enough to walk to the Basilica, but it was all uphill and steeply inclined, so we bussed it) and still had a hill to climb to get to the doors of the church. This church is done in typical gothic catholic style, with the exception of gargoyles. Most churches done in this style have gargoyles or other similar creatures on their walls; this one however boasts turtles, pelicans, iguanas, and other such animals typical of Ecuador. I love this!!! We walked in the main door into the church. This church is a resting place for some of Ecuador’s heroes and important people or parts of people. On our tour of the Monastery of Santa Catalina, they have some relics of Garcia Moreno, the first President/dictator of Ecuador and pictures of his body being found. After this they relocated his heart and stomach to the Basilica to be kept there. There are some other people as well, and in one place you can see a couple marble encased coffins that hold someone. But the cool part about the church is the fact that there a multiple places to climb to the very top the church. First you have to buy tickets ($2/ person) then go in a small door on the opposite side of the church and you can either climb the first of many stairs or take the elevator! Mom was tired of all the walking and climbing, so we decided on the elevator, which took us up to the 3rd level. We got out and walked to the center (the part we were in was under the clocks on the double towered side) where you can walk the plank above the church to the other side which has a steep climb to a spire with a little gazebo-like at the top. It was a Very steep climb up 2 latters, so mom chickened out. But it gave you an amazing view from way above the city! I climbed back down and we headed to the other side where you can choose your clock/bell tower to climb, but only one allowed you to go to the tippy top. So we chose that one and began the ascent. After LOTS of stairs, we made it to the top, and it was breathtaking. This side was even higher than the spire and not something you want to do if you’re afraid of heights; it was WAY up there!! After enjoying the view and taking more than our fair share of photos, we climbed back down in order to grab a cab to take us to the Instituto Geographico Militar.
Here we wanted to check out some topo maps for dad. I had heard the last time I was there that you could get all the maps of Ecuador on a CD. So we asked about it, and the guy helping us actually remembered me from the last time I was there! How funny, it was probably 7 months ago! Finding out that we could find all the maps on a website, we left and meandered over to the Planetarium. They had incredible displays out. One was a map of Ecuador, topographic style, but 3 D so you could actually see and have a more conceptual idea of the levels of the mountains and volcanoes. There was also a map room, talking about cartography through the ages. They began with the Babylonians and they had a disk depicting their idea of the world, from there they went through Greeks and Romans, the theologians and thinkers ( I believe ?), to Christopher Columbus, who is known here as Cristobal Colon, then all the way up to the end of the 20th century with GPS and infrared viewing and satellite mapping. There was another room dedicated to the planets, their moons, and stars. It was outside this room we were able to become astronauts!!! And see Felipe, the space penguin. The entire place was really neat. Along the curving wall they had pictures of space things through the years as well as old space and mapping items. I don’t have any idea what they really were, just old machines. Seeing all there was to offer there we walked out to try and find a cab. Not finding one we made the short walk down (finally! Right mom?!) a steep hill to find one at the bottom to take us back to the crappy hotel. We had a short rest then it was back in a cab to a restaurant Café Mosaico. It was a beautiful little place with a suburb (trying to use more adjectives) view of Old Town at night, but the food was only ok. We shared a plate of lasagna which came with 2 sides, so we both got the soup. It came in a huge bowl that would have been plenty for us, but then the lasagna. We ate quick and headed back to sleep, we were exhausted!!! Long day.
So this is just one day of the trip, but we had a lot of fun together and didn't get to see nearly as much as I would have liked to show her. However I am extremely glad mom was able to come and visit. I really enjoyed it. Love you mom!! and of course, Dad too! Miss you~!!!