25/07 - 27/07
Once everyone had gulped down the delicious juice, we walked on towards Plaza del Teatro. This was a large square in front of the Sucre Theatre.
The Monasteries de San Francisco (San Francisco Church) is the city's oldest church and is the main attraction overlooking the large San Francisco Plaza. There is a local legend that surrounds the building of the atrium of this magnificent church.
It involves a great architect who made a deal with the devil. Cantuna was a very successful architect and builder in Quito and was commissioned to design and build a large atrium for the church. Although he worked diligently, his progress was slow and if he did not complete the project in time he would not get paid anything at all and would be thrown into jail. It was the evening before the due date and Cantuna was far from finished. He began to despair when suddenly the devil appeared. The devil had a proposition for Cantuna - his demons would work on the atrium overnight and if it was fully completed by dawn, Cantuna would have to give the devil his soul. Desperate and with no other option, Cantuna agreed to the deal. Suddenly a wave of creatures appeared and started working on the atrium, lifting stones and putting them in place. Cantuna was happy with the work but just before dawn he began to regret the deal he had made, so he went to one of the pillars and removed a single stone. Just as dawn rose, the rest of the atrium was completed and the devil began to celebrate victory and demanded Cantuna's soul. But Cantuna's had out smarted the devil and pointed out that one stone was missing, thus making the deal null and void. Cantuna had completed atrium and could keep his soul. Today, locals and tourists still search the atrium looking for the missing stone.
We were able to then enter the San Francisco church and admire the artwork and gold laden interior.
We were then told all about the process of making a shrunken head. There was a helpful step by step mural along the wall so we could get a good visual of the process.
On the Equator things get a little confused because of the conflicting pulls of gravity. We were able to do all sorts of experiments that can only be done at the real Equator.
We were then lead to another more modern traditional house
The production process displayed -
Just outside the park there were two llamas (or alpacas) and one sheep in a pen. They looked rather hungry and as one of the caretakers brought a few leaves near, they got extremely excited.
We were up early and made our way to the Central Market were we enjoyed strawberries and a delicious local fruit juice. This market was quickly becoming our favourite hang out spot in Quito.
We were absolutely filled to the brim after our decadent lunch (Dr Elsa generously kept sharing her food with us and the owner gave us a complimentary bowl of rice, so we got much more than we had bargained for). The rest of the afternoon was spent Skyping friends and family back home and continuing our research for the rest of our days in Ecuador. That evening we went out to The Secret Garden Hostel, just across the road from us, to enjoy a glass of box wine with a few people from our dorm. The wine was not the greatest but the company and the view of the city made for a most enjoyable and relaxing night out.
We had sent out many CouchSurfing requests the previous week but had not yet got any potential hosts, but late on Sunday evening we received a message from one local accepting our request and offering to host us from Monday night. We were so excited but at the same time a little nervous. His name was Daniel and he lived up in the North part of Quito. We still had a few sights we wanted to see in the Old Town so we arranged to go to his house on Monday afternoon, giving us the morning to complete our missions.
First on the agenda was to witness The Changing of the Guards at the Presidential Palace which took place every Monday at 11am.
As we approached Plaza Grande we could see the crowds gathering and the police standing at attention, ready to deal with any rowdy civilians.
Although there were lots of supporters of the Government present, it did seem that there were some protesters within the crowd.
We also wanted to go into the Palace and look around but when we enquired with the guard at the entrance, he communicated that it would only be open to the public at 1pm. This gave us an hour so we decided to go and climb the two towers of the Basilica Del Voto National.
We had to pay a small entrance fee ($2) to climb the stairs to the top of the towers, which were 115 metres above the ground at the highest viewing point.
The high walls were lined with the most stunning stained glass windows.