¡Yo soy turista!

Happy day: After an hour-long wait, I got my passport back from the immigration office (not sure why it was necessary to hang on to it…but that’s just how it goes for everyone) and then I hopped on the Quito Tour Bus. Yes, it’s as cheesy as it sounds. But in the end, it helped me discover my favorite place in the city.

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The Quito Tour Bus – In all it’s glory!

The Quito Tour Bus is one of those hop-on-hop-off double-decker tourist buses that hits all the major sites. Along the way you get to listen to upbeat music and pre-recorded commentary. I would never have considered doing it, if I hadn’t done it once before in Berlin with my parents – it turned out to be a good way to get oriented and rest our feet for a bit. And while it was always easy to orient myself in Berlin, Quito is another story.

So, at last I have some touristy photos for you – with my favorite place at the end! (Sorry for the small-sized photos, but they make for easier uploading!)

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BIG bus, tiny streets!

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Plaza de Independencia, in the heart of historic Quito.

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The historic city center is full of old colonial architecture.

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Quito has some massive urban sprawl, hugging up against the sides of some old volcanoes. This is the view from a hill known as El Panecillo on the south end of the historic city center. (Although, the hill is probably near the geographic center of the city today.)

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Notre Dame in Quito? Almost. This church is the closest look-alike I think I’ve ever seen. I didn’t get close enough to see, but the gargoyles are supposedly real Amazonian creatures.

So, where, in such a city, you might wonder, is Cindy the happiest?

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Cindy, with the bromeliads at Jardín Botánico de Quito.

I gave a sigh of relief as soon as I walked into the Botanical Gardens (Jardín Botánico de Quito). While churches and museums are interesting to a point, nothing draws me in like old-fashioned nature (I guess that’s why I’m a scientist). This garden, albeit small, was spectacular. They’ve tried to capture several ecological zones of the Andes. I was especially interested in the páramo – this is an alpine ecosystem that holds most of the water supply for Andean communities – and it’s pretty sensitive to changes in rainfall patterns. As you might guess, you’ll be hearing more about this from me later on.

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Best flower photo of the day. The cloud-forest exhibit was also awesome, and it made me eager to get out of the city.

It was hard to leave the gardens and return to the diesel fumes, motorbikes and buses. But it made me excited for things to come.

 

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