Old Town Quito – Ecuador’s Colonial Capital

Once we FINALLY found the street in Old Town Quito that our hostel was on, we breathed a sigh of relief.  One last hassle, of course–we realized the hostel recommended to us by Lonely Planet was waaaaaay out of our price range–like $20 for a dorm bed!  Luckily, we were saved by the small, not-trendy-but-perfectly-functional Hostel Belmont down the street.  While it didn’t have the bar, restaurant, art, and hip vibe of the last place, it did have $12 double rooms with private bathrooms and free internet.  Score!  Actually, the really nice young woman who runs the place is looking for a female volunteer to help her with her English.  If we had been staying in Quito longer, I totally would have obliged in exchange for the free room she offered!  (Someone jump on this!)

Anyway, after decompressing from our stressful intro to Quito, we hit the town for some exploring.  First we hit up La Ronda, a narrow street in the Old Town which really gets hopping on weekend nights.  The street was filled with musicians performing, artist’s shops, cafes and bars.  The highlight for us was trying our first canelazos:  a hot drink made with rum, sugar, cinnamon, and fruit juice.  These are on offer at every stop along La Ronda, so we tried two different places.  I preferred the orange flavor to the blackberry, and be forewarned that a whole pitcher gets to be almost too sweet by the end!  We also got some plantain and cheese empanadas as we sat relaxing and beginning to forgive Quito.

Old Town Quito

The highlight of Old Town Quito is the architecture.  Intricate stonework and beautiful white-washed bell towers fill the sky everywhere you look.  Our problem was that we really only had one day, and it was a Sunday so almost everything was closed!  Hence we just did a lot of walking and picture taking!  Take a look!

Old Town Quito
La Virgen de Quito

Old Town Quito

Old Town Quito

I wish we would have had more time to get to know Old Town Quito.  But we had to move on quickly to Baños for our second WWOOFing adventure!  Coming up next!

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Parque Arqueologico, San Agustin, Colombia

One day in San Agustín, we walked from the Maya Hostal 2.5 kilometers to the Parque Arqueologico just outside of town.  After being in the town for almost a week it was strange to actually find the restaurants listed in our Lonely Planet guidebook.  They are the over priced places selling the same rice and fried plantains that are all over town, they are just on the tourist path to the park.  After reaching the park, we entered for about $5 each for the basic package–walk around and explain it to yourself.  Famous ancient statues are layed out over a series of trails through some thick forest.  There are about 50 different statues of various heights and depictions.  Some have angry faces with crazy hats and most of them with different things in their hands.

Parque Arqueologico, San Agustin, ColombiaParque Arqueologico, San Agustin, Colombia

The statues are in Parque Arqueologico, San Agustin, Colombia are in very good shape for being between one and two thousand years old.  There is also lots of awesome plantlife along the way.

The path was actually not that easy.  We broke a hard sweat climbing up hill in the humid weather and were soon wondering why we decided to walk the long way around.  But we had to see everything of course.  Eventually there was even a dog that followed us for part of the trail, posing for Carrie’s pictures.  Once the rain started to come in we hurried home.  We were ready to hit the streets in town for some cheap emanadas and maybe a Poker (the best Colombian beer) or two.

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Reading List

I always try to read and research a lot about places before I go there.  I think it’s important to read more than just the travel guides and actually delve into the history and literature of places I’ll be traveling.  It gives me a lot more insight and helps me not feel like an idiot when talking to locals.  Here are the books I’ve already read or plan to read in preparation for this trip:

I read this in the fall and hope to read more of Marquez's books.
This is the book that Hugo Chavez famously gave Obama as a gift. It's supposedly a really critical history of imperialism in Latin America. I can't wait to read it.
Zach is reading this now but I call it next! Maybe I'll make him write a book report on here when he's done.
I found all of these books used on amazon.com for a couple dollars each when I searched "South America"

And of course the two essentials:

This will be our Bible.
I'm trying to do one chapter per week of this book.

 That’s what I’ve got so far!  Please leave any recommendations in the comments!

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