UNESCO claimed this prize for its first honors as a world heritage site in 1978. Its name originates from the Quitu tribe which hung around in the first millennium.
It's the largest old town in the Americas, and the greatest. Of course, I'm partial.
This amazing historic center - on the Avenue of Volcanoes on the Andes - vibrates with the joy of these remarkable, gentle people.
How do I know? I've been:
Quitenos love celebrations! Throughout the year, fiestas pulsate rhythmically.
The whole colonial center bursts into a walker's paradise on Sundays, and pedestrians rule, well almost. Just watch out for the bikes whisking through! Always look out for cars and motorcycles though... always... because exceptions happen, seems like more and more.
Church bells echo invitingly throughout the historic center every morning beckoning the faithful to Mass.
The Presidential Palace sprawls on the famous Calle de Las Siete Cruces. President Gabriel Garcia Moreno himself named this street. Later, the name of Garcia Moreno Street took over in honor of the martyred president. Now, the name reigns.
In 1873 a bishop and Garcia Moreno consecrated Ecuador to the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the Cathedral. The president created a following as a peacemaker through his deeply religious convictions and subsequent results in the name of peace.
A year later, a succession of bullets stopped him because of his unwavering faith... assassinating him upon leaving the Cathedral after adoring the Lord for several hours - just steps away from the door to the Presidental Palace...WOW!
Blue letters on a plaque on the wall of the palace mark in Spanish where it happened...where the assassinated president fell to the sidewalk below.
His statue stands erect at Garcia Moreno Plaza in front of the grand Basilica - the temple built at his request during his tenure in office as President of Ecuador as a monument to the awesome consecration.
His famous last words, "Dios no muere," which translate, "God doesn't die," will forever remain etched in the minds of the people. His legacy continues in spite of enemies spreading lies vocally and in writing.
False accusations are weapons used by the enemy who assassinated him from the beginning to cover up their crime.
Do you love ancient churches as much as I do? Then, start on this street after you have toured the Basilica del Voto Nacional (Basilica of the National Vote)...it sure gets my vote!
The seven crosses marked in progression where the conquistadors planned to erect seven churches.
Six of the magnificent gold-leafed vibrant churches continue their mission. The seventh emerged into Hospicio San Lazaro (St. Lazarus Hospice) since 1767 when the Jesuits reluctantly left it behind, expelled by enemies of the Catholic Church.
Restored ancient churches permeate the downtown area and can be strolled free mornings - as long as you don't disturb the worshippers. Hold it on the photos during Mass - you could get thrown out. Some can be toured for a fee throughout the day
-- Some churches, such as the cathedral, the sagrario and most others now forbid photos altogether inside the church --
The only exception to the tours comes with the closing of particular churches for about a year for renovations - depending on when renovations become inevitable and available. More majestic churches unashamedly wait to be appreciated throughout the city and all of Ecuador.
Free tourist information and maps float around the colonial center, one of them at a Spanish school across from Carmen Bajo Church. Another at the tourist center across from the Plaza Grande on Venezuela. Just ask.
Speaking of tours, Quito Tours buses glide right under my balcony at least once an hour. The word has spread about the wonders of Ecuador, and eager tourists are clicking their cameras in rythmic sequence throughout the day and on into the night.
A relaxing way to just kick back, explore and discover colonial Quito offers itself in a ride on the horse-driven buggy. After 3 PM it parks close to the Plaza Grande downtown Garcia Moreno Street. For under $5, a person can really savor the Ecuadorian flavor! (For more about the delicious flavors, see "Eating In Historic Cntr" and "Eating With a View".
I finally got to kick back and admire colonial Quito in the quaint carriage! The driver explained points of interest along with myths surrounding them. The intermittent drops of rain didn't bother me one bit.
Getting carried away by horse and buggy beats all other tours in my book, even if only for a short trip and back.
The times of the horse and buggy ride have changed to accommodate the city Tour Bus that now parks where the horse and buggy used to park all day and where it now parks after 3PM.
Of course the tour bus takes you much further, and you can stop at any of the stops and get back on with the same fare.
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