Unlike our Galapagos expeditions, we got to sleep in a little bit today, our tour didn’t start until 10AM. Destination, the old city.
Our tour guide, Daniel is very voluble, so we’re getting a good sense of the history of Quito and Ecuador, as well as some pretty nice views.
The tour started at a vantage point overlooking the old city before heading down into it. Dominating the view is the cathedral, built by taxpayers during most of the the 20th century. It’s still not done; the government has finally separated church and state and cut off funds for buliding it. It’s basically done, though, it’s mostly just missing some gargoyles and statues.
The gargoyles of this gothic cathedral are very interesting. Rather than using the traditional demons and such, they’re using statues of wildlife from Ecuador and the Galapagos.
Even though it’s not complete, it was consecrated over twenty years ago by Pope John Paul II, and services are regularly held, so we didn’t get to go inside.
We then drove through the old city. The entire old city is a designated UNESCO heritage site, with classical colonial architecture throughout.
Our destination was another very impressive cathedral. This one took 120 years to build, ending very early in the 18th century by the jesuits just before they were kicked out of the country by the monarchy in 1721. I guess educating the natives was causing problems for the leaders.
Of course I say it was built by the Jesuits, but of course it was basically native slave labour that did the building. The Jesuits are praised for building and running schools and hospitals in the country, but of course it was delivered with a heavy dose of religion.
One particularly horrifying story is about a carving of Jesus on the cross; it was done by a famous sculptor who convinced one of his students to be crucified so that the sculptor could accurately capture the expressions, posture and wounds of a crucified man.
But by far the most impressive aspect of the cathedral is that the interior seems to be almost entirely covered in gold leaf. According to our guide, it totals about 68 pounds of gold. Unfortunately we weren’t allowed to take pictures in the cathedral.
We then walked to the presidential palace. It’s no longer used as such, a former president decided that it was not a good place for his drug-fuelled orgies, so instead took over three floors of the Hilton. He didn’t last long, but ever since presidents have arranged their own accomodation.
After walking through more of the picturesque old town we returned to our hotel, grabbed some lunch and then headed to a local market for some souvenir shopping.