A Taste of Quito’s Old Town in Ecuador

A Taste of Quito’s Old Town in Ecuador

Volume 12 of SUITCASE photographer Claudia Legge and editor
Maria Alafouzou travelled to Ecuador to explore Quito, the
Galapagos islands and the Ecuadorian cloud forest. They spent
several days in Quito, the highest altitude capital in the world,
exploring its famous historic centre, a Unesco World Heritage Site.
They climbed to the top of rickety church towers, explored local
food markets, took a teleferique ride to 3,000 metres to a volcano,
ate far too much ceviche and spent many hours stuck in Quito’s
notorious traffic. This is a selection of photographs from their
journey in Quito, to see the full guide as well as a feature on the
Galapagos and the Cloud forest order Volume 12, Our Planet. The
introduction to our guide to Quito follows below.

Standing almost 3,000 metres above sea level, Quito – the
Ecuadorian capital – is one of the highest cities in the world.
Cradled in a long valley no more than three miles wide, the place
is hemmed in by a wall of mountain peaks. One side offers views of
the magical Old Town with its winged Maria statue, the other has
volcanoes, forests and swooping birds of prey. Its sprawling and
well-preserved colonial centre dates back to 1534 when the Spanish
ousted the Incas as rulers.

Known for decades as a halfway house for wealthy Americans or
straggly backpackers on their way between Andean treks, the Amazon
and the Galápagos Islands, Quito has in recent years become a
destination in its own right. As well as the mysterious Old Town –
with its plazas, baroque churches and narrow passageways – barrios
like the bohemian Guápulo beckon. Here, pastel houses and bars
tumble down steep cobbled streets frequented by local artists and
musicians, offering the magnetic appeal of a bygone era.

Quiteños are reserved and painstakingly polite: residents will
greet each person they pass with a formal buenos días. But behind
their mild manners lies a vibrant political tradition. A mural on
the highway celebrating the dynamic women of the city’s history,
like independence heroine Manuela Cañizares, acts as a testament to
Quito’s revolutionary spirit.

Recently a Left-leaning government has prioritised social
issues, so while health and education have improved immeasurably
since 2007, high taxation on imported luxury goods still frustrates
the locals. A bottle of Chilean wine might set you back £12; the
latest iPhone £650.

The city is currently shrugging off a tradition of fusty
services with thrilling new restaurants, young, creative types are
hanging out at the new coffee, cycling and indie- film joints
springing up in the La Floresta area, while a crop of bars and
microbreweries are bringing nightlife to Old Town. That said, the
best of this new crowd is limited to a handful, so foodies might
not be impressed every night. Brilliant hotels are also limited and
pricey, although the salon glamour of Casa Gangotena is worth the
extra money.

The so-called city in the clouds is undoubtedly moving forward,
but seems determined to do so at its own pace.

| claudialegge.com

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