Centro Historico — Old Quito
Friday night (11th of September), Emily’s host mom offered to take us out to Centro Historico to explore the colonial centre of Quito. I am a sucker for colonial architectural style, so my favourite part was taking in the surrounding buildings in the Plaza de la Independencia (Plaza Grande). We walked around, exploring the sights, glad to have a guide with us (shout out to Sonja), while we wandered in the dark. Sonja brought us down the steep street La Ronda, the oldest street in Quito, which is filled with expressions of culture: singing, dancing, food and artisans. We were approached by a vendor who sold us all scarves for $2/each! At a cute little restaurant we all were able to fit in we ordered empanadas, and I got some chocolate which here means hot chocolate, and I even got it the traditional way — with cheese to put in it!– it was really good! We got to buy and try some traditional dulces (candies) as well which was exciting.
Hotel Plaza Grande is this incredibly beautiful and fancy hotel in the plaza, so we made sure to get a regal photo shoot in.
Walking around I saw so many things I want to do: beautiful churches I want to visit, museums to explore.. I will be going back during the day hopefully this weekend to explore more of what it has to offer!
Otavalo is a city north of Quito which hosts a widely renowned Indigenous Market. On saturday 12 of September, me and 7 other girls from the program as well as one extra friend Tim, headed out for Otavalo at 8am. It was about a 2 hour drive north from Quito. The views along the way from the windows of the van were spectacular. It really gave us some perspective: while we carved our way through the mountainous terrain, we were awestruck at how incredibly difficult it must be even to build roads here. We arrived in the fray of what is the Otavalo saturday market, and went about exploring what there was to see. Mainly Indigenous vendors sold many key handcrafted items. Alpaca wool products (my personal favourites) were among the most expensive crafts, including sweaters (~$18), socks (~$5), blankets (~15), bags, ponchos and scarves. Textiles were also widely available, including products from them such as traditional Ecuadorian striped pants, shirts, and even overalls. Accessories included purses, backpacks, duffels, jewellery, handwoven headbands and hair scrunchies. It was an incredibly fun and intriguing to be in the thick of it all, and gave us all the opportunity to use our developing Spanish skills to barter with the vendors (which we did pretty well with it seems). In addition, there were vendors selling fresh produce and food to the shoppers. Next time around I plan on trying cuy (guinea pig), and buying some produce as well.
That being said, I am definitely returning to Otavalo at least one more time before I leave for Canada in the spring!
Next up, the driver of our personal van drove us a little farther north to Cotacachi, a town known for it’s leather. The driver chose a restaurant for us, (which was good, but pricey, next time I will just eat at the market) and it was nice to sit down indoors after hours in the hot hot sun at the market.
We walked around a bit, but not so much for the shopping aspect, as at this point most of us had spent the majority of our cash earlier at the market (I only had $2 left).
We then went on to drive to the ecological reserve, and its incredible lakes. At Laguna de Cuicocha we hiked up a trail parallel the the water’s edge, and were able to overlook the breathtaking view from higher up. I had to cut my hike a little shorter than the rest of the group due to a combination of pain in my unhealed ankle and an
inability for my lungs to access enough oxygen, but my seat offered me an excellent chance to connect with my experience.