My host mom recommended that another student, Nanna, and I go to Otavalo, a small town an hour and a half away from Quito that becomes a marketplace on Saturdays. So we went together to Carcelen, the northernmost bus station in Quito, and bought a bus ticket that only cost $2.50. We drove up and down mountains, passed by small towns, and enjoyed the landscape of Ecuador, which was so different than the United States.
When we finally arrived to Otavalo, Nanna and I used Google Maps to go to the main square, Plaza de Ponchos. The market stretched for blocks. We were shocked to see all the handmade goods. Everything in that market was beautiful and the prices were incredibly reasonable. I spent just about all the money I brought and then some. My favorite thing that I bought was a table runner that was made by an elderly woman that had her own shop full of embroidered goods. I ended up walking from her stand at the outdoor market to her storefront, where her family was working. I was shocked at the amazing work her family makes. Nanna had to stop me from buying more.
The next day, Nanna and I spent the entire day in el Centro Historico de Quito. We went shopping for fruit with our host mom, Monica, in the morning and then she dropped us off at the trolleybus station. We first spent some time in Plaza Grande before walking to the Basilica del Voto Nacional. There we climbed all the way to the top of the basilica and got an amazing view of Quito. Our next stop was a coffee shop, Café Galletti, which responsibly sources all their coffee from Ecuador. Each type of coffee had a story. For example, the Las Mujeres blend is sourced from a village where the people that pick the beans are all women. Afterwards we spent some time in the Museum of the City, where we learned about the history of Quito from prehistoric ages to modern day. The museum was once a hospital that was in service for over 100 years, so the building itself had a huge significance to Quito’s history.
At night, we went up to see La Virgen del Panecillo, or the Virgin Mary of the little bread roll, named after the hill that has the shape of a little bread roll. We went up the statue and saw Quito at night. Nanna and I were able to point out the streets we walked and the places we went throughout the day.
When we went back down the statue it was already dark outside, which was perfect timing because that weekend Quito was hosting their third annual Fiesta de la Luz. Since it was the weekend of Ecuador's independence, the city set up various light installations around the historical center. Nanna and I went from one installation to another. Some installations were projections onto the most recognizable buildings in Quito and others were sculptures that lit up. The city was crowded. There were performance artists and food vendors everywhere. It was a perfect day to experience the culture of Quito.
Be sure to check out Ana's very first Ecuador blog post! Click the link below to start her adventure from the beginning.