Casting off

We are at the Quito airport waiting for our flight to the Galapagos, and I can do nothing but heap praise on Ecoventura for their assistance at the airport. As promised, they had a representative waiting for us who had forms ready for us and shepherded us through the check-in process. Our bags all had to go through a “quarantine” screening – looking for plants and or food that shouldn’t go to the Galapagos. The actual security line was easy – you can keep your shoes on here (a lot of us well-trained Americans took them off anyway – the Ecuadorian security has given up telling us not to bother, but you don’t have to) and your computer can stay in its bag.

cucurucho-dressed waiter serving ice cream, plaza grande hotel cafeWe spent yesterday touring Quito, the first UNESCO World Heritage site and a beautiful city carved into a valley and mountainsides. At 9,000 feet we were all gasping after walking fast or going up stairs. The weather for half the day was beautiful – sunny and cool. It rained in the afternoon, but we were visiting churches and other indoor locales so it wasn’t a big deal. We got tickets for the Quito Tour Bus, a double-decker bus that does a circle of the city in three hours. It’s a great deal at $12/person — and that option gives you on and off privileges at 11 or 12 sites throughout the city. It’s all bilingual, so language is no problem. We went to La Basilica and the Plaza Grande and spent time walking around both neighborhoods. We had lunch at the cafe in the Plaza Grande hotel. the food was excellent – but if you go, be sure to get ice-cream of dessert so you can experience the server – a hooded¬†cucurucho. Quite spectacular, with dry ice and everything! Oh, and money is a breeze here ¬†– the national currency is the American dollar!

We stayed at the Quito Airport Suites, which is more of a hostel by American standards but a great deal at $27/night. The staff is super helpful – and the taxi ride to the airport is included in the price! They will also pick you up at the airport, which is really nice when you arrive at 12:15am! Breakfast was included; they will fix dinner for extra and they sell wine at $15/bottle and water at $1/bottle. They offer free wifi, but it’s pretty slow, still we were able to get basic browsing and email. The neighborhood is not much but it’s 10 minutes) to the airport so quite convenient.

Photos here.