After several weeks of exploring life on the rustic shrimp farm and the more nature-friendly areas of Ecuador such as Montañita, Loja and Baños, I was extremely excited to board the bus heading to Quito, my first urban experience in almost two months, to do all of the fun “city things” that I’ve missed after moving from Amsterdam.
First Day of Leisure
After getting settled in my hostel in the Mariscal barrio, the first city activity up on my list was to have a really good non-Ecuadorian meal with good wine. I found the perfect spot in Plaza Foch at Restaurant Q with outdoor seating so I could engage in the ever enlightening activity of people watching/judging as I sipped my white wine and ate some fusion-style salad. It was so calming being back in my natural habitat, I stayed for a second glass of wine and splurged on dessert. I was also amused by the looks of confusion from the more affluent vacationers and professionals sitting around me as I carelessly indulged in my grand feast while decked out in my finest of backpacker chic clothing. Oh silly rich people!
After lunch, I was getting more and more into the city spirit while walking about and spotting several international restaurants and even stumbling across a random music festival in one of the parks. Nothing says “city” like jazz in the park! By the time I made it to margarita happy hour with one of my friends from Pro Mujer, I was full-on city dweller again. I was even wearing my polka dot trench coat for the first time because I felt it was very fitting to the environment. Declaring that I was “over nature”, I mentioned that all I wanted to do in Quito was peruse some art museums and check out the architecture of the city. Lucky for me, it just so happened that one of the women was heading off soon to an exhibition opening at the Museum of Contemporary Art. I thought my head would explode from the sudden influx of city culture. Within the hour, I was strolling around the maze of a museum through an exhibition on art and technology in Ecuador. There were even hors d’oeuvres! I was back in the zone again.
Smelling the Roses
Even though I said I was “over nature”, I only meant that in the sense that I was taking a break from hiking giant hills and mountains to see yet another cliché awe-inspiring vista. This is why spending a morning in the Botanical Gardens of Quito, a museum of flowers if you will, was an approved activity for my city revitalization treatment. I obviously love flowers if I was so incensed as to have four of them tattooed on my back and the gardens of Quito were a definite crowd pleaser for me. My favorite part was the rose garden even though roses were never my favorite flower. But here, the act of stopping and smelling the roses was hypnotizing. Maybe I really was just overthinking it and trying too hard, but even over a week later, I still remember the distinct smells of all of the roses and how stress relieving it was.
Speaking of stress relief, I’m quite glad I went to the gardens because later during my stay I didn’t feel any pressure whatsoever to do all of the standard tourist activities like hike up to a myriad of lookout points around the city. I’d tell a fellow traveler that no in fact I didn’t feel like doing that and would be met with the, “How could you miss that in Quito?” talk. Oh, biggest pet peeve ever. I hate when other travelers react so dramatically if you dare laugh in the face of Frommer’s and say, you’re not actually going to see and do everything they tell you to do in a city. I agree that the “beaten path” is “beaten” for a reason, but I really see no benefit in doing something that truly has no appeal to me solely for the ambiguous idea of, “It’s a must see!” A “must see” during these types of conversations is a bottle of French wine and the backs of my eyelids. I figure, it’s my vacation and I’ll enjoy it how I want, dammit!
Of course, after this incensed declaration, I spent the next day inside most of the time nursing my heartburn because I had drunk too much wine and ate too much hot sauce with my tacos. Weird combination I know, but I loved every bit of it!