Category: Ecuador, 2015

A Day in Quito

June 17.
Okay, here are a couple photos of our hotel that don’t come close to doing it justice. I have no idea what this place costs (because we pay a price for the entire trip, and it’s not broken down), but if you ever have the chance to stay at the Hotel Casa Gagontena–DO!! It’s really quite spectacularly elegant. (Small, dumb example: At the table that has juices for breakfast, there’s also a chilled bottle of champagne. Okay, I know that that may be a bit obnoxious. But I like the idea, even tough we did not partake.) You know that Carol and I have been around a bit, and this hotel fits right up near the top ranks of the truly memorable. Service is terrific, too. Sometimes a hotel is just a place to sleep, and sometimes it becomes an important part of the trip experience.


After breakfast at the hotel, we are met by Diana, and set out on a tour of Quito, a city of some 2.2 million people.    We walked around the old city, which is quite charming, with cobblestone ans narrow streets going up hills.  In Independence Square we saw some older people protesting a bus fare increase.  And there are large signs, welcoming the Pope, who will visit this 80% Catholic country early next month. 


We visited the San Francisco Convent and Church, which is right across the street from our hotel.  Interesting art work and impressive church, which is (the oldest in Quito and the largest religious complex in South America) and fronted by a large cobblestone square.  We also visited the main Cathedral, La Compañía Church (considered one of the continent’s most spectacular monumental buildings), which is heavily guilder with gold.  While these stops are interesting enough, frankly, we may already have exceeded our lifetime church quota.  By now, I was feeling the altitude a bit, though I drank a lot of water, as advised.

We drove to a market, loaded with fruit, vegetable, meat and people eating, which was more fun than the churches (though we’re not far from reaching our lifetime market limit, too. 


Far and away the highlight our day was our visit to the Around midday, we will visit Capilla del Hombre (Chappel of Man), one of the most important museum and art galleries in the country that shows the work of famous artist Oswaldo Guayasamin.  Neither Carol nor I had ever heard of this artist, but we’re enormously moved by his monumental paintings depicting anger, grief and hope of people who have been murdered and subjected to mistreatment by governments over the centuries.  His work had elements of Goya, Ben Shahn and Picasso, but we’re uniquely his own.  He died in 1999, leaving this enormous legacy of which we were totally ignorant.  If there’s one thing people visiting Quito should see, based on our experience, it’s Gyayasamin’s work.  I can’t begin to represent it here, as I was allowed only one photo from the doorway.  The museum is in the fashionable Northeast section of Quito, which affords beautiful views of the city. 


Diana drove us through the new portion of Quito, then for a brief stop to see the huge Neogothic Cathedral that was funded by the people, took some ninety years to build and was opened by Pope John Paul in 1985.
Back to the hotel for high tea.

At 6:30, we have arranged to meet Susi and Franklin Hecht at our hotel. The Hechts live in Quito and are long-time clients and friends of our Brandeis classmate, Len Oshinsky, who put us in touch. Oddly enough, Len had written to us some eight months or so ago to tell us that the Hecht’s daughter, Jessica, and her husband, Esteban, had moved to Chicago. At the time, Ecuador was not even on our radar screen as a possible travel destination. We met Jessica, who we loved (Esteban was not available the night we had dinner). And now, we have the chance to meet Susi and Franklin. These sort of charmed and chance coincidences are what make travel, and life, interesting. We had a very nice dinner at an Italian restaurant overlooking Independence a Plaza, and a great chance to hear about them and their children. Franklin is unhappily having to return to the bakery business from which he retired, because of problems in the business. Though he and Susi have rented an apartment for a month in Chicago in September, Franklin is now unsure whether he will be able to come.

After dinner, Susi and Franklin walked us back to the hotel and we said good night. Though they have said they’d like to,get together again, our tight schedule makes that unlikely. Our luggage had not arrived at the hotel, but the latest was that it was expected at 11:30. We told the desk not to bring it up to the room, since we are getting up at 4:30 tomorrow morning.

Note: we’ve had internet difficulties, which prevented posting this yesterday.  We’ll do our best, but it could happen again.

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