Finding the Centre of the World in Quito

Quito in Ecuador is a city which holds a very special place in my heart. This is where I first experienced South America, where I started to learn Spanish and where I tried to balance an egg in the centre of the world.

First Impressions

I would definitely recommend Quito as a great first stop for anyone making a long trip to South America. It is a laid back kind of place, it isn’t terrifyingly big and there are some easy day trips you can make from here. I remember the city best as being a fantastic place for walking around. I would just stroll around in a daze, trying to work out what the shop signs all meant, enjoying the weird spongy grass in the parks and wondering why the planes flew in so scarily low over the city. There is nothing in the city I would describe as anything you absolutely have to do. However, a walk round the old town area will let you see some lovely old buildings while you sample a special atmosphere. As far as day trips go, the stunning market at Otavalo probably deserves more than just a short trip but if time is short then you can cover it in a few hours. A lot of the guide books I read about Quito before going there went on and on about how unsafe it is but I can honestly say that I never felt threatened in my whole time there. If you stay in the Mariscal district then you will be surrounded by other travellers, while the old town area is apparently best avoided once it gets dark.

Learning Spanish

This is one of the most popular cities in Latin America for learning Spanish in, and it is easy to see why. The local accent is simple to understand, the people are friendly and it is a reasonably cheap city to spend a few weeks in. I stayed with a host family and while I didn’t spend a lot of time with them this is definitely worth doing.  You will probably find that your language school organises things like trips to the local market and other day trips. We even got taught some salsa dance steps, as my two left feet revealed that they are equally clumsy in any language and on any continent. If you are going to be travelling around a number of countries in the region then learning some basic Spanish here will stand you in good stead. The markets and shops in Quito are good places for practising out new words and the locals seems genuinely interested in helping foreigners who struggle with the language.

The Center of the World

quitoIf I am being honest there was one question about Quito which bugged me before I arrived there; how does the blooming water go down the plughole? I already knew how it does it in the Northern and Southern hemispheres but what about right here on the equator? I found out when I went out to one of the tourist places bang on the equator. It seems that there are two of these places and that while one is good the other one is rubbish. I have genuinely no idea which one I went to. Actually, since the highlights of the day were pouring water down a drain and balancing an egg on top of a nail I can probably guess which one it was. Anyway, this is a great day out whichever way you look at it and it is a fine way to find out what water does on the equator, although I won’t spoil the surprise for you.

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