Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Quito, Day 4, Part 1, Thursday, October 21st

I am so thankful that my mom, the travel agent, taught me to keep a journal while traveling.  It has taken me a long time to write about our Quito adventure.  Hopefully my blogs will be a nice reminder to the kids of our great trip!

Our friend Andres arranged to have his cousin Sebastian, an aspiring tour guide, show us around the historic area of Quito. 

Meghan, the tourist, plans our day.

Below are pictures of a church with gargoyles.  The gargoyles are actually animals native to Ecuador. In the second photo, if you look carefully, you can see tortoises.  The Galapagos Islands are the property of Ecuador and are known for their large tortoises.

The streets of colonial Quito are narrow and quite steep.

When the Spaniards moved into South America, they chose Quito as their capital and named it San Francisco de Quito.  Quickly several religious orders moved into the city and built convents and monasteries.  Our first stop was the Monastery of Nuestra Senora de la Merced (our lady of mercy). 

This spacious courtyard had a fountain with a statue of Neptune.

Amazingly, the walls of this courtyard held many paintings, all protected by only a single sheet of glass.  The paintings were barely protected from the elements.  Quito has an arid climate, which prevents the artwork from being damaged.

As I was writing this blog, I discovered a little secret I had captured in the picture below.  Look at the reflection in the glass.  This shows the beauty of the Quito landscape.

We met the priest as he was walking the long hallway.

In an old city like Quito, we never would have seen anything if we had not carried our kids on our backs.  Strollers are useless in a place with so many stairs.  Also, the kids stay very content and safe when attached to Ken and I.  Below you can see Camille in her special back-pack carrier.  Thankfully at age 3 1/2 she still weighs less than 30 lbs.

Quito is full of al fresco paintings.

On the way to the next church, we passed a stand with software.  Ken found some usually-expensive software SPSS he uses at work for under $10.

We also saw some schoolchildren walking down the street.  They were so cute in their matching uniforms!

Our next stop was the Convent of Saint Augustine.

As we were climbing the stairs of the convent, Camille looked at one of the enormous paintings on the wall and exclaimed, "there's my guardian angel!"  This was very exciting for Ken and nearly moved me to tears.  Camille was very specific and just knew that one of the cherubs in the picture below belonged to her.
Along the long hallway of the convent, we saw more al fresco slowly being revealed beneath the paint.
Senor Sebastian then had us climb these stairs. Once again, thank goodness we were not pushing a stroller!

And Ta Da!  At the top of the stairs, we stepped out of the roof of the Iglesia de San Agustin to the most amazing view of Quito!

Here we are on the roof.  The weather was a little windy!

Don't look down!

As we sat on the rooftop, Sebastian pointed out the various landmarks of Quito and shared their history.  I would like to say I learned a lot, but really all I was thinking was, "Oh. My. Gosh!  I am sitting on the rooftop of an ancient church in QUITO!"

Once we came to our senses, we climbed EVEN HIGHER to the bell tower.

Here is a distant view of the Quito Virgin from the bell tower.

Eventually, we did climb down and toured the convent.  The Convent de San Agustin includes a Chapter Room containing an exquisite altar and wood seats that are beautifully carved.  The Act of Independence (from Spain) was signed in this room on August 16, 1809 and is on display there.  Reportedly the remains of men who signed the Act of Independence are buried in the tombs behind the altarpiece.  No one is allowed to take pictures in this Chapter room and the one below is the only one I could find on the internet.
81969645, DEA / G. COZZI /De Agostini Picture Library

The Act of Independence is in the Chapter Room opposite the altar shown above.
Adjacent to the convent is the Museum of Miguel de Santiago.  Santiago spent much of his life in the Convent of San Agustin painting the life of Saint Augustine.  I was in awe of the artwork in this museum as much of it used brilliant reds and a lot of gold and was quite graphic.  In the museum, stairs along one wall led to a separate room.  I was curious about this room and asked if we could go in.  The contents of this room took my breath away!
This statue of Christ is life-sized and carved out of one piece of wood.  Reportedly people venerate the statue on Good Friday and several miracles have been attributed to touching this.

I have decided to break up this day into several parts to keep the blog posts brief.

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