If you want to escape the frenzy of Quito’s typically busy historical center, go there for a stroll late on a Sunday afternoon when it’s pleasantly dead. Like it was a few days ago.
It was hardly deserted, but missing was the rush, the dust and diesel of the work week. The suits and ties. The scarf and underwear peddlers. Even a pair of drunks, on the verge of swapping blows in the center of the Plaza del Teatro, were moving in slow motion, speaking deliberately but annunciating with nary a slur.
The hookers, all three of them, leaning against a drab gray shuttered building on Calle Manabi, stared blankly towards the dozen or so people gathered across the street waiting for a bus. There was no urgency in their vacant stare. Or in their half-hearted come on. Sunday is a lazy day, a day of rest. Commerce, much of it, downshifts.
I was assured by a shish kebob vendor that there is plenty of activity on Sunday mornings, the family-friendly variety, when a several block area of the centro historico, some 30 kilometers of road in all, fences out car traffic, handing the old town center’s narrow cobblestoned and torturously steep streets to walkers and bicyclists.
By the time I arrived the cyclists and most of the hoofers were gone, but the streets hadn’t fully recovered and traffic remained at a minimum. For now this late Sunday speed appealed to me. Maybe I’ll leave the apartment earlier next week. Or the week after.
I’m an avid bicyclist but can’t imagine riding here as much or as often as I do back home in Ljubljana. Did I mention that the streets are painfully steep? Old screeching breaks form a crucial layer of the city’s soundtrack. Especially near the Basilica del Voto Nacional, one of the largest basilicas in the Americas, just a few blocks from my apartment, where this Sunday stroll, and the first of what I hope will be several Quito Photo Walks, begins.
The slideshow below kicks off at the pleasant and terraced Parque Matovelle which sits shrouded in the western shadow of the ornate Basilica, then slopes down Carchi Street until we turn south on Venezuela.
From there the route continues to Manabi, where we head east until Guayaquil, a semi-main drag. From there we backtrack uphill via Olmedo to Cuenca, west for a block on Esmeraldas to Cotopaxi and then home after brief stops on Guatemala and Haiti.
This geographic maze of names means nothing to you, I know, but it’s helping me with my bearings immensely. My apologies for the indulgence.
Quito prides itself on having one of the oldest preserved old town colonial centers in the world, recognized as such when it was named the first UNESCO Heritage site, along with Krakow, Poland.
But this first slide show focuses largely on grit. It’s also heavy on buildings and doors. And in illustrating some of the unavoidable steepness of this western slope that the San Juan barrio, which I’m calling home through mid-May, sits on.
The images? These were all taken with a Samsung S4 mobile phone, edited quickly if at all, and put here for a handful of people to see. 🙂 Enjoy and as always, feel free to share.
And for the record, the lead photo serving as today’s Pic du Jour, the 408th (!!) straight, was taken on Calle Olmedo in Quito on 22-February 2015.