1 One of the first places we visited in Quito was the Intinan Solar Museum. The museum serves mostly as an amusement center where guides share various interactive tricks supposedly possible only on the equator. http://museointinan.com.ec
2 The Intinan also had several Ecuadorian cultural displays. This one showed copies of various native tools. Grains were among the main crops of the Incas and were prepared by pounding them between stone mortars and pestles like these.
3 The main attraction was this area reportedly marking the equator. It was surrounded by several stations where visitors could try various tricks and humorous experiments to test the physical forces in the "equatorial region". It was quite amusing for us all.
4 Alexis, Jude and Truman took turns standing on the painted red line indicating what proprietors claim is the middle of the world. The trick was to walk the line with eyes closed and not fall over.
5 Several sundial-type instruments and markers are setup to show how the sun passes perfectly overhead on the equinox, and always has an equal 12-hours of day and night.
6 Guides demonstrated an amusing trick based on the scientific Coriolis Effect - the force that affects the movement of water on both sides of the hemisphere. When the sink was directly on the red line, the water drained with no spin or vortex; however, when it was moved, water seemed to swirl either clockwise or counterclockwise.
7 Here, the guide pulls the plug out of the sink and water goes directly down the drain.
8 Then the sink was moved a few feet to the south, and water was again poured into it. When the plug was removed, the water swirled clockwise - moved north, the water spun counterclockwise. The children were amused. In actuality, the spin occurs in whichever direction the flow of water pushes it.
9 Another interactive trick involved balancing a raw egg on the head of a nail - again to show the lack of Coriolis Effect when placed directly on the equator. Realistically, it's just hard to balance an egg on a nail anywhere, but I did it!
10 Here is my egg balancing on the nail - some people were successful, while some were not.
11 Here I am with our guide. It was definitely an entertaining tour.
13 On one side of the restaurant there was a small sunroom filled with hanging ferns.
14 This is the bar - very clean and inviting.
15 Here I am with the staff of Patria Restaurant. On my left is executive chef, Maurice Acuna, and on his left, co-owner Julio Vinueza.
16 This is the Plaza de San Francisco, or Saint Francis Square. It is a major public square in the historic center of Quito. Jude and Truman loved running on the plaza - the Church and Convent of St. Francis is on the left.
17 The Plaza is built on ancient Incan ruins, including Emperor Atahualpa’s palace, who reigned from 1497 to 1533. Other buildings on the Plaza include the Chapel of Villacís, the Chapel of Cantuña, and the Palace Gangotena, Casa Gangotena, where we stayed during our time in Ecuador.
18 The Church and Convent of St. Francis in Quito is commonly known as el San Francisco. It is a 16th century Roman Catholic complex and is the largest architectural structure among the historical sites of colonial Latin America.
19 The church faces the Plaza de San Francisco. The statue on the left is of the virgin known as La Virgen del Panecillo. Panecillo is the name of the hill where the statue is located.
20 This is the interior dome of Quito's Church and Convent of St. Francis.
21 The interior includes Mudejar and Baroque style elements - lots of gold covered the ceiling.
22 This is the Church of the Society of Jesus or La Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús. Its facade is carved out of Andean stone. The church is part of the list of the 100-manmade wonders of the world.
23 The Iglesia de la Compania is just one of more than 50-Spanish churches in the historic center of Quito. This is the nave, filled with gold leaf, gilded plaster and wood carvings.
24 The altars, pulpits, pillars, arches are covered with gold leaf. The church also features Baroque carvings plated with 23-carat gold. Jude and Truman loved this church - it was very lavish.
25 It took 160-years to complete the church. Other styles used include Churrigueresque which is seen in much of the ornate decoration, and Neoclassical, which adorns the Church's Chapel of Saint Mariana de Jesús.
26 This is the Chapel - also decorated with gold.
27 Here is the dome inside the main sanctuary of the church.
28 The ceiling is also decorated with gold leaf. At one end, the 1104-pipes of the organ of La Compañía is visible in the balcony.
29 The Basilica del Voto Nacional is a large Neo-Gothic building in Ecuador whose construction started in the 1800s and was finished late last century. It is often considered the last of the historical churches in old town Quito.
30 It is also the largest neo-Gothic basilica in the New World.
31 The Basilica is 460-feet long and 115-feet wide. Visitors can climb to the top of the towers for views of the city and the surrounding mountains. We didn't go all the way up, but the children loved running in this expansive courtyard outside.
32 Inside the Basilica was a large group of boys and girls receiving their First Communion. Truman loves ceremony and music and really gets into celebration - he wanted to stay.
33 in the nave of the Basilica, the ceilings are nearly 50-feet high.
34 We saw this woman selling food on the street - the yellow potato-like vegetables are known as "mellocos". Also known as ulluco, it is one of the most widely grown and economically important root crops in the Andean region of South America.
35 We stopped into a shop called Galeria Latina, filled with folk art and handcrafted items from South American artisans of Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, etc. http://www.galerialatina-quito.com
36 And, we also went inside Quito's Mercado San Francisco, the oldest covered market in the city - it's been around for more than 120-years.
37 Fresh fruits abound in Mercado San Francisco - bananas, citrus, starfruit, melon, apples, papaya. We all loved visiting this local market to see all the native produce.
38 Melon, papaya, pineapple
39 And, corn
40 What I also found interesting were the many food stalls where local fare was served - both tourists and residents flocked to these booths.
41 The food in the center is known locally as "mote", which comes from the Quichua word "moti" and is basically boiled large corn kernels. Oftentimes, mote accompanies popular dishes such as hornado and fritada, or used in soups.
42 Known locally as "guatita", this is one of the more popular dishes in Ecuador. It's the inner lining of the cow's stomach, largely consumed by locals in several preparations, but mainly sauteed with a peanut sauce.
43 Here I am with one of the vendors at the market.
45 These workers were painting the facade by hand. The Hotel is located in a newly-restored historic mansion overlooking Plaza San Francisco.
46 Casa Gangotena is a lovely, elegant and very impeccable hotel - this is a section of the indoor sitting room.
47 It also has a large covered patio.
48 The hotel is well-managed, and the staff was extremely cordial to all of us. The children also liked Casa Gangoten, and were very well-behaved.
49 This is the display for the Homero Ortega genuine Panama hat shop. The Panama hat is actually from Ecuador. Straw hats woven along the Ecuadorian coast were taken to Panama initially to be sold to canal workers. These hats are so well made and very desirable. I tried on many hats and brought home three. http://homeroortega.com
50 While in Quito, I was invited to a party thrown by American Ambassador to Equador, Todd Chapman, and his wife, Janetta. To my right is his Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Quito, Douglas Koneff, and his wife.
51 It was a very special 4th of July weekend reception.
52 There were more than two-thousand guests invited to the evening gathering. Here is Ambassador Chapman giving the welcoming remarks.
53 I was so happy to be included - and the Ambassador asked me to say a few words about our visit to Ecuador. It was a lovely time.