9th September 2014.
We arrived in Quito last night. It was dark, late and we’d arranged to be met at the airport. We were advised that we’d need two cars to fit us all in. Quito has its safety problems and we’d also arrived pre-briefed about pickpockets, bag snatchers and kidnappers (wanting cash for the safe return of your kids). So for the first time in my life, I found myself sat on the plane contemplating a ‘kidnap-avoidance-taxi-planning-strategy’. Who should go with who? If I were a kidnapper what would be the most difficult combination that might make me not bother?
We collect our bags and have a quick pep talk on holding hands, keeping back packs on, no-one going to the toilet alone and no parent leaving the kids by the sinks while they’re in a cubicle. If we weren’t on high-alert already – we are now. We’re ready. We go through the doors. We’re almost the last out. There’s no smiling face with a name board. Bollocks.
We try to style it out and look in total control and that’s when we learn our second important lesson of the trip: If you do in fact save important ‘next step’ information outside of an email to avoid the no-wifi-issue, remember where the hell you put it. I’m all over my iPhone, the contact details are not in the notes section, not in my photos, there’s no wifi to check emails. (The next day, I find it written down on a piece of paper. A piece of PAPER!)
Andy does three laps of the arrivals hall to try to locate our transportation while I do a Jason-Bourn-style assessment of where (i.e. who) the risks are. At that moment, everyone in the arrivals hall is a potential kidnapper in my eyes (not all that helpful, I admit).
What seems like an eternity later, our airbnb host Irene scurries up to us and holds a piece of paper with my name on it. Safe! We head to the cars outside and I ditch my pre-conceived taxi configuration in the belief that I’m tempting fate, and we simply go with boys in one car and girls in the other.
Forty-five minutes later, we all arrive at our airbnb accommodation in La Mariscal. No-one was kidnapped.
First impressions are: it’s perfectly fine, not gorgeous, but perfectly fine. We’re all in the same room (positive: given my current kidnapping obsession), bathrooms are shared and down the hall (negative: two kids may get up in the night) and I would try my hardest to ignore the loud, vibrant, mismatching animal print sheets. We put our best cheerleader heads on and the kids were excited about the adventure.
A pretty broken sleep later, with many accompanied trips to the loo, we receive a great briefing from Irene the owner of the guest house on places to go and things to see. Without her realising, her advice turned into a day of curfews. We can walk through the park in the morning but in the afternoon we should walk around it. We can go to the Historic Old Town but make sure we’re out of there by 5pm…. and because it’s a weekday, when we go for dinner in La Mariscal make sure we have left by 10pm! She shares advice about bus travel; they will be very crowded, don’t have anything in any pockets and any backpacks are to be carried in front of you. Taxis are between $1-$4. It’s settled, we’re getting taxis.
We pick up a local sim card and explore the city, on foot to start. We head through Carolina park, the kids play on zip wires and climbing frames and then move onto the ‘Old Town’. We avoid shoe shining children in Plaza Independencia, watch a dance troop perform to many many Michael Jackson songs outside Palacia de Gobierno, chase pigeons in San Francisco Plaza and climb Quito’s Basilica.
This was today’s highlight – we climbed to the very top of the spire and inside the clock face. No health and safety regulation in the whole of Great Britain would have allowed us to have the same experience back home. It is steep, it was scary, there are no nets and not a whole load of protective fencing. The children received a lot of kudos from other travellers who stopped short of reaching the very stop – if they weren’t with us, I’m pretty sure I would have bailed after the second set of stairs too.
Quito’s Basilica: This is a video of our trip to the top.
- Local currency is US dollars (there’s no alternatives).
- It’s a requirement to carry your passport with you. A photocopy is fine – it’s also often needed to enter tourist attractions and we needed it to buy a sim card.
- There are two entrances to the Basilica – one to climb to the top and one to go inside the church – both have separate entrance fees.