Thank you Dan for finding (on a lonely planet blog) a driver to take us from the airport to our hotel in Quito at 2am. Although exhausted after long customs entry lines, seeing a moon-lit South American city in the middle of the night (no-traffic!) is truly a gift.
We stayed in a small hotel, "La Casona de La Ronda, in the historic center of city. An unexpected surprise was to find out that Dan's sister and husband Thomas had stayed here not so long ago! Great minds... Ronda was the name of the neighborhood. What a gem.
Delicate handpainted flowers of every color climbed around each dark hardwood door, balcony and spiral staircase. In an indoor terrace hidden on the top floor, a wall window view of the old city focused on the revered wooden winged Madonna statue, La Virgen de Quito, peering down on the valley. (Come ON!!) All of this, and a caring, respectful & professional staff. Last, endless self serve filtered water at your fingertips. (You'd think I was working for Trip Advisor here, but I just really loved this place.) As it was in a big city in the historic section, it fell at the high end of our budget, but still less than a low-end room any night in NYC! Or, for that matter, Boise, Idaho this past summer when I needed a room on my Denver-Portland drive.
Our first day in Quito was a Sunday, and while many of the stores were closed, action on the pedestrian-only streets and parks welcomed us to Ecuador in the form of handmade crafts and art, rock convert puppet shows, amateur, professional and religious singers and dancers alike. Quito has some of the most supportive city policies for bikers and walkers, closing various major streets to cars each Sunday for much of the day. Someday when we return with older children or solo we plan to rent bikes and join the urban adventure.
It was interesting to see modern mixed with indigenous fashion in the crowds, sometimes both periods of style on the same person. Immediately Jane (and Maggie to follow) were on the search for Andean alpaca shawls. Until that point, we'd successfully avoided purchases larger than bracelets and small gifts... but no more. The sight of them wearing the traditional shawls, combined with begging eyes and an undeniable chill in the air = 2 happy warm locally fashionable young American girls.