Another good night’s rest found us ready to tackle Quito once again — except that we’d be seeing the city as a group this time. Up bright and early as usual, by 7:00a we were down for breakfast at Bistro Latino, the JW Marriott buffet. While we did lose our included-in-the-rate internet when the Celebrity package kicked in, we gained included-in-the-package breakfast — not a bad tradeoff considering the buffet is more than $20/person. (Hence our mercado-purchased breakfasts these past several days; not paying those prices, no sirree.)
There was a wide variety of the usual — breakfast meats, scrambled eggs, cereals, breads and pastries, and fresh fruits — and some not so usual, such as shrimp ceviche and sushi! The made-to-order eggs were cooked to our specs, which you can’t always count on. The juice selection did not include the more exotic fruits we’d been enjoying the past few days, but Mui found a new favorite fruit — granadilla — from the variety of cut-up fruits at the buffet. (It’s the round fruit with the black seeds featured in the photo above; I couldn’t get myself to try this one since it had a slimy texture.)
With an hour to spare before the Celebrity tour, we went out for a stroll. It was amazing to see how little pedestrian and vehicle traffic was around on a Saturday morning as compared to the weekdays. Remembering the cautionary words of the concierge, we didn’t stray far, but it was nice to get some fresh air before joining our group.
At shortly after 9:00a, there was a mass exodus to the busses. We’d been told that there were 96 people and that four busses would be used. We hung back and took the last bus. Designated the blue bus, this would be our group for the rest of the day.It’s not often that we do group tours. That said, I found this one to be well done. Our tour leader was Rodrigo; he did a great job of providing commentary throughout the day. In addition, there were two other men who traveled with us. One of them was identified as a guard, the other as a Celebrity staffer. If the guard was armed, it wasn’t noticeable to us. I think their real job was to ride herd on the group and make sure no one strayed away.
In all honesty, I found having a guard a bit of an overkill, but I think it made others in the group feel more comfortable with being out and about in the city. I will say that traveling en masse as we did, I felt we were a bigger target for any pickpockets and such, so perhaps there is a method to Celebrity’s madness. All I know is that we felt more comfortable wandering around the Centro Histórico (historic center) on our own, than we did wandering as a group.
A little bit of common sense goes a long ways anywhere in the world, and that includes leaving off the gobs of expensive jewelry a few of the women in our group were wearing. Can’t imagine having to be cautioned about such a basic travel rule by the tour leader, but Rodrigo managed to get his point across quite directly.
Enough about all that. Our first stop was La Basilica, which Mui and I had already toured (post here), so I’ll skip that one, except to post this one image which shows the detail from one of the doors. The Celebrity tour did not go inside, but after his commentary, Rodrigo gave everyone 15 minutes free so that those who wished could go in at their own expense. We used that time to get exterior shots of the basilica since the light at this hour of the day was so much better.
Stop #2 was new to Mui and me, so I am going to post about it separately. Continuing on, La Compañia was stop #3 on the tour (exterior shot above). Although we had toured this church when we hopped off the
HO-HO on Wednesday (post here), I followed the group inside. Having Rodrigo’s commentary this time was very valuable as he pointed out things that I had not noticed when we toured on our own — such as the use of the Inca cross as a decorative element; it was intended to bring the indigenous to church.
Stop #4 was also new to us, so I’m going to skip that for now and move onto lunch at the Theatrum. The restaurant is located on the second floor of the Teatro Nacional Sucre (Sucre National Theater). The neo-classical building was constructed in the late 1800s. It overlooks Plaza de Carnicerias (Butcher’s Square), home to the old slaughterhouse of Quito as well as a bullfighting arena during 1565-1765.
We shared a table on the balcony with Gian & Craig, cruisemates from Australia.
(between the second and third column from the right).
Although the usual fare at the Theatrum is Mediterranean, today we were served a buffet lunch featuring the Islas Galapagos menu, which included: a caprese salad; locro de papas (traditional Andean soup made with potatoes and cheese, and garnished with avocado); beef tenderloin served with mushroom sauce, and sides of mashed potatoes and vegetables; a typical chicken dish; baked sea bass; penne pomodoro; and for dessert, chocolate cake, tres leche (three milk) cake, and ice cream. Two soft drinks were included with the meal; we opted for mixed blackberry and guanabana, which was just heavenly. (Sorry no photos.)
On the terrace of the Theatrum; the man in the jacket is Rodrigo, our guide.
[I neglected to ask about this statue; sorry no info.]
The last group to arrive at the Theatrum, I didn’t think we’d find a table on the balcony. We lucked out; Gian and Craig were gracious enough to share their table with us. Sitting outside meant that we didn’t see the performance by the opera singer. But we heard him, and that was good enough for this couple that will always choose to dine al fresco whenever they can :-)
Our view of what was once Plaza de Carnicerias.
After a satisfying meal, we boarded the bus to resume the city tour. This time, we headed out of town to visit the equator. Mui and I had already straddled the equator, and had, in fact, explored the environs of Quito in both hemispheres. Nonetheless, we decided to go along to the famed equator monument instead of returning to the hotel. I’ll write about that and dinner in a separate post, however, as this one is already plenty long.