Middle of the World, Quito, Ecuador - February 9, 2015
We seem to think that land to the north is "up" and land to the south is "down," i.e., up north and down south. Actually the earth's rotation is more like an axis running through the North pole to the South Pole in a horizontal position, with the northern hemisphere rotating clockwise and the southern hemisphere rotating in a counter-clockwise fashion!! We visited 0o0'0" latitude which marks the exact center circle of the earth, the Equator. We saw demonstrations of balance, vortex spin directions, and shadows - each showing a different result depending on whether a person is standing on the north or the south side of 0 degrees latitude. Our visit was very interesting and intriguing. We learned about the indigenous tribes who inhabited this area and learned stuff like the steps to process shrunken heads - yes, the practice of shrinking the heads of conquered enemies belongs to Ecuador, not Borneo and not Africa. We also received confirmation that in fact, Penis Fish do exist. If a man swims in the river or stream, it is possible the Penis Fish might swim up into his urethra through the penis, especially if he pees in the water. This fish follows the ammonia in urine. The only way this fish can be removed from the human body is through surgery. The moral of the story . . . don't pee in the water and guard your goods.
We did a quick drive-through much of Quito today. Quito is a UNESCO (United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization) World Heritage site (chosen for special cultural or physical significance with outstanding characteristics for the common heritage of humanity—started by the UN in 1972). Its landscape looks like a colorful patchwork quilt of colors against steep slopes and deep valleys of the inter-Andes mountains at the foot of the Pichincha Volcano. . . still active. There are quite a few volcanoes around here—I forgot the number. We are not sure even the locals know. One guide told us 36 active volcanoes, another told us 72. We have seen no activity.
We visited the statue of the Virgin (Monumento a la Virgen de Qunto) built in 1975 with 7000 individual pieces of aluminum from the country of Spain. The Virgin was placed on top of a religious chapel constructed in 1892. The mount on which the Virgin sits was once the site of an Inca Temple of the Sun. In their conquest of the Incas, the Spanish destroyed Inca temples and sacred places and erected cathedrals and religious buildings on these sites. The idea was to eliminate the native belief by destroying their sacred places and items.
We saw the North Valley (more upscale) and the South Valley.
In old Quito, we visited the 16th century Plaza Grande o de la Independencia, around which sits the Presidential Palace, Palace of the Archbishop and the Cathedral Metropolitana de Quito. So ancient, so ornate, so lovely. In the center of the square is the statue, Lady Liberty, honoring Ecuador's 13-year battle for independence from Spain in 1822. We really liked this plaza. It was beautiful and historical. And to top it off, even on a Monday afternoon, people were out and about enjoying the atmosphere, the air and each other. Our guide, Diana, said that you could ask any of the older people sitting on a park bench there a question about Quito's history and they would delight in getting to chat with you and relate the story as they know it. If only we had time. . .
While in town, we sampled a typical Quito snack. I don't know what it is called, but it is a mixture something like Poppycock. It contained sugared toasted corn, fava beans, candied peanuts and who knows what else in this bag of confection? This treat is totally addictive and only costs $.60 per bag. By the way, Ecuador's currency is the US dollar - they converted from their sucres to dollars in 1999 . . . can you imagine??? When this occurred, some people lost everything but those who had inside tips and invested in American dollars became millionaires. Meanwhile common people suffered for several years until their financial world and economy settled down.
We had lunch/dinner around 4 pm today. We were headed to the supermarket and determined to eat at the first decent looking restaurant along the way. Our hotel is in a very nice area so that was not a hard thing to do. Around the corner, I saw a nice looking place. I did not concentrate on its name but I noticed that it ended with " alta mar." I knew good seafood might be there. I suggested it to Stan and within minutes we were seated. I ordered shrimp ceviche and Stan ordered marinara (seafood boulabaise). It was delicious!!! Dee-licious! I think I will have ceviche every day for the rest of our trip if it is anything like that I had today! Our food was served with appetizers of toasted corn, sugared popcorn and a dish of a uniquely flavored hot sauce. But to top it off, our young, attractive greeter, Sophia, spoke English! Not English with a Spanish accent but mid-western English, complete with comforting slang! We chatted and talked for many minutes. She was such a pleasure. Turns out, she is purely from Quito but attended the American school here so both English and Spanish are natural languages for her. The name of this congenial, wonderful restaurant is Barlovento Alta Mar on Av. 12 de Octobre. If you plan to visit Quito, make this restaurant an important pleasure destination.