Airport in the Middle of the City
It might suprise some first time visitors that Quito's airport is right in the middle of the city; but what else can you do when the city is located in a valley surrounded by mountains?
Due to this, you can hear and see the planes from all over Quito, and the landing strip is not exactly the lenght you would expect from a major airport (be prepared for a fast stop when you land!).
The downside to the location of the airport is of course the whole security issue, the benefit however is that the cab ride from the airport to Mariscal will not set you back NO MORE than $4. You can also take the bus from the airport (10-15min). Just go across the street, and look for one of the blue busses with a sign that says "Amazonas." Get off a couple of minutes after the bus passes the big circle with the big Marriot Hotel at one corner, and you will find yourself in Mariscal, thick with hostels and restaurants.
UPDATE: The construction of a new airport has started. The new airport, which will be situated about 40min northeast of Quito, is expected to be done in 2008.
I came across this typically Ecuadorian celebration by chance! It was the evening of 23 September and they were celebrating the Virgen de La Merced on the plaza in front of La Merced.
In the evening, these guys started preparing some form of structures with bamboo sticks. These tall structures are called 'castillos' (castles) which have a series of fireworks that get ignited from the bottom to the top by one light.
At 8pm, the first of the fireworks soon got ignited. Gosh, I had never seen anything like this before! There were about 3 or 4 layers of fireworks. As the first one lights up, there may be a display of spinning or normal fireworks. As that gets burnt off, somehow, the next level of display will be lighted up automatically and another set of display will continue. So, we had words commerating the event being lighted up, a rabbit that dances as the fireworks lit up around it, then, structures that appeared to fall down, but were actually ‘flowers’ opening up upon being lighted… Wow, it was such a fascinating sight!!!
We screamed and hid from the spits of fire as the fireworks advanced through the structure, and then, oohed and aahed over the beautiful spinning or twirling or dancing or whatever displays. At the very end, there would be fireworks being shot into the sky, seemingly endlessly! I could not believe how dangerous this was, because some of these fireworks that shot up into the sky, had burning sticks that fell back down to earth! Imagine, being struck by one such stick-on-fire!! I did not think there were any paramedics around.
The second structure got lighted up in pretty much the same way, to more shouts and delights. I was thoroughly floored by how these structures with fireworks were created. They were made of bamboos!!! And yet they opened up into displays like a church with a scroll of the Virgin unfolded, display of a star, etc… Terribly impressive!
look for the pig
Fritada is one of the Andes great meals. It is roast pork chunks generally served with mote, hominy made of giant corn kernels. These chunks can vary in quality but they are always tasty and usually quite moist if a bit laden with fat. It’s not exactly a health conscious meal though the hominy surely is and most economy restaurant meals have a limited amount of meat anyway. The best way to find these places is keep an eye out for a roasted pig. If you see either the whole thing or an ear or snout you’ll surely be able to get a fresh meal of pork. The very fried looking thing that accompanies the meal is the skin deep fried to perfection much like a potato chip. Go on try it!
Iglesia del Carmen Alto
The Iglesia de Carmen Alto marks, in a way, the edge of the Colonial tourist zone, at the southern edge of Venezuela. It is a quiet church that doesn’t receive nearly the same number of visitors as the Cathedral or San Francisco, but it is nevertheless quite interesting given its typically colonial façade. The small courtyard makes pictures a bit difficult and rather cramped, but this church is nonetheless worthy of a few snapshots, especially if you like colonial Baroque churches, which seem to be the specialty of Quito. I wasn’t able to enter the church to see its interior, but I imagine it to be packed with artwork, like most other Colonial churches in the city.
Quito’s Mercado Central is a great example of the style of market that thrives in South American cities. They are always bustling and full of locals shopping and eating. Quito’s is no exception though it is much cleaner than many with white tile walls in most stalls. It’s a great place to not only grab something cheap and authentic to eat but also to people watch though don’t be surprised if the locals enjoy watching you especially if you are taking a photo of your food! This is a food market and not a place to go looking for crafts. You can buy fresh produce and fruits as well as meats such as the coveted cow hoof, a key ingredient of its namesake soup. There are also lots of food stalls in which to grab breakfast, lunch or an early dinner. Just walk around and point. You’ll have no problem getting served even if your Spanish is meager. $1.50 for meals. Never inquired about the cow hooves.