Family fun in Quito, Ecuador: Louisville's Sister City

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My family just got back yesterday from a 8-day trip in Ecuador.  While I had intended on being able to update you all more when I was in Quito, a scarcity of internet access derailed my plans.  If there's one thing I learned about traveling in Latin America, it is to expect the unexpected.   I'd love to be able to tell you that traveling with Jack was easy.  Perhaps we would have fared better had he not come down with a nasty ear infection our first day there.  Needless to say, we spent a good majority of our first few days in Quito, sitting around our hotel (Los Alpes: a family-run joint I completely recommend) while Jack rested.  And boy was he fussy.  And those of you who have kids who have suffered through ear infections understand the special kind of hell reserved for ear-pain fussiness.       Once Jack recovered, and we were able to get out of the hotel and enjoy Ecuador, the trip was fantastic.  I was surprised by all of the family-friendly stuff there was to do in Quito, and the surrounding areas.  Here are some of the highlights from my trip:
  •  Museo de la Ciudad (Quito City Museum) is a brand new museum that interactively tells the history of Quito from pre-history to the 19th century.  This museum will even charm kids with the "time machine" you walk through to enter the exhibits (my husband kept on making Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure references).  The rich and vibrant history of Quito comes alive with sounds effects and cool (and sometimes creepy) wax figures.  
  • Basilica de Voto National: I admit...I am a total architecture nerd.  Ms. May's World Civilizations class at Manual High School gave me a love for the flying buttresses of Gothic churches like none other.  And throughout my travels in Europe, I've seen some pretty amazing churches; but the Basilica de Voto National surpasses all of it.  For the measly price of $2 (Jack was free!) they allow you to climb up into the belly of the church and see this gem up close and personal.  We climbed hundreds of stairs, several ladders and shimmied across swaying, skinny bridge to get to the top of the belfry tower and boy, was it worth it.  The views of the city were amazing!  Be forewarned: this climb is not for the weak of heart or those with a fear of heights.  It's really high up and Latin America has a rather ummm... shall we say...lax view on safety standards.  Jack was safely strapped to us the whole time, but I might avoid this attraction if you're going with kids (or other adults) who are accident-prone.
  • Parque La Carolina:  Quito is a wonderfully sprawling, sooty, Diesel-filled city. Parque La Carolina (or La Carolina Park for us gringos) provides a bucolic reprieve from all of that urban chaos.   Stroll around its acres of green grass, kick a soccer ball (er...football) with some local kids or rent a paddle boat.  The best part of Parque La Carolina is the Quito Botanical Gardens.  Just a few dollars for admission will allow you to see luscious gardens, including several of Ecuador's 4000 species of orchids.
  • Mitad del Mundo (the middle of the world): It's fun to be able to brag that you've stood in two different hemispheres.  No matter that recent technology revealed that the actual equator line actually outside of this national park.  The Mitad del Mundo park is a sprawling, and somewhat touristy monument that pays homage to the middle of the world.  Get off the beaten path and check out the Inti Nan Museum, which boasts the real equator line.  For three dollars, they'll give you a guided tour of sun-dials and equatorial parlor tricks: like how water swirls down a drain depending on what side of the equator it is on. 
  • Otavalo: Take a two hour bus ride (for only $2) to the small, yet charming Andean village of Otavalo which is famed for its markets.  Otavalean men and women dress in their traditional garb and sell colorful textiles and other works of art.  Your best bet is to come on a Friday and stay overnight (I highly recommend the Ali Shungu Hotel  ) and wake up early for their famed Saturday market.  Take the kids and walk up to the animal market for an authentic and interesting experience.  
So all in all, traveling with Jack to Ecuador was a chaotic, sometimes stressful, yet wholly rewarding experience.  We look forward to taking him on many trips in the future- hopefully sans ear-infection.  But for now, I'm happy to be home.   You might also enjoy:Greeting from Quito: Sister City of Louisville  Photo: Flickr: Emily Sales 
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