My adventures today were very mild, as I am going out to dinner later and didn’t want to exhaust myself. So, I stuck to the Old Town area near the Plaza Grande.
Hot chocolate and a plate of tiny cheese empanadas on the Plaza – I had planned to write but instead ended up sitting with some tourists from Paris who didn’t want me to eat my breakfast alone. They were spending 5 weeks in Ecuador, must be nice! Then, I went to check out the tour of the Presidential Palace but found that I have to make a reservation (giving my passport number!) a day beforehand. This was easy to do over email and now I’m planning my visit to be tomorrow morning. It seems that the tour is accessible (more or less) and at one point if you are a wheelchair user you get ushered into the President’s private elevator. If I bump into President Moreno in his private elevator, I will tell him about Whirlwind Wheelchair International, an org that teams up to help create sustainable local wheelchair factories and maintenance (with disabled people at the helm).
Everywhere I go in Quito I get stopped by people politely asking me for information about my powerchair! My ability to discuss the chair in Spanish is slowly improving. The guards outside the Astronomical Observatory finally reaped the benefits of my practice as they told me about their family members who could really use a powerchair. I don’t think there are even powerchairs sold anywhere in Ecuador. I described the light weight cheap ones that can fold ( se puede plegar!) but the prices upset them (the cheapest I know about is around $1000). I wish it were not so hard – putting a motor on a wheelchair! It doesn’t have to be hellishly expensive!
Right next to the Plaza I found an accessible entrance to the Centro Cultural Metropolitano. The ground floor didn’t have a lot going on, and I couldn’t get into the library or its reading room, or the bathrooms, but there was an elevator to the 1st floor. Some great art exhibits there (and you can get the staff to unlock the actually accessible bathrooms which are for employees only, in theory). The building is pretty & there are historical plaques everywhere about the history of independence & a bit more about the French geodectic survey expedition.
My favorite art exhibit was called De vuelta centro del mundo by Antonio Bermúdez, with a lot of postcards of Chimborazo which he bought online exhibited next to the eBay order forms, packaging, and mail envelopes. I love that sort of thing!!! Of course, as a tourist myself I felt right at home in the display of 100 year old postcard kitsch and the strange diaspora of the Chimborazo postcards going all over the world and then getting bought & mailed around the world right back to Ecuador. Excuse me while I put a stamp on myself and jump into a mailbox! But seriously I thought of the long poem “Carta de viaje” by Elvira Hernández (that I translated, with footnotes longer than the poem almost) and felt very happy looking at the exhibit.
I could also get into some of the smaller sections of the library (though not the bigger, juicier looking main reading room + stacks) so I camped out in the social sciences, looking through an armload of books on the history of the petroleum industry in Ecuador. “ecuatoriano, defiende tu PETROLEO!” had the best title but “En la lucha por el crudo” had the best cover design. I then found some folklore books, which were great, and I’d like to go back another day to sit & read them. This also looks like a good place for me to sit and write and work on some things, since Quito doesn’t have much of a laptop using cafe sitting culture and I don’t want to be a complete boor.
Just one building down from the Centro Cultural, there is a side gate which guards will open for you and your wheels, into the giant golden baroque cathedral, or church, whatever it is, called Compañía de Jesus. Holy shit, it’s beautiful! It is covered in gold! Scary!!!!!! There is also a sort of… coffin monument thing with a statue of Quito’s first saint.
Lunch by myself in a super fancy restaurant, well, outside in its sidewalk seating anyway (I picked it for this feature since EVERY restaurant has steps — maybe the President will let me know the best places for lunch… hahahhaah… Surely he must know?!) It is called Purísima & the food was great, for the price of a sandwich and a coffee in San Francisco I had 3 courses and a fancy soda (seltzer + blackberry syrup, if mora = blackberry, anyway, it was good) I like the herb that was in this, it wasn’t celantro I don’t think but had a more funky flavor. The waiter said it was called something like aniyuyu though I cannot figure out what it really is. My soup had tiny potatoes, crunchy fried corn bits, quinoa, at least 3 kinds of lumps of tasty cheese of different textures, and a quail egg. Also served on super amazing china (from an enormous china soup tureen with gilt handles) and the tortillas were wrapped in silk. It was a little OVER THE TOP for my seat on the sidewalk! Wow!!
Wandered home again – Old men seem particularly amused when I grimly face a steep curb and then surmount it, bumping slowly like a tiny, purple haired tank. They get a twisted grin of disbelief on their faces and occasionally laugh outright if I go “beep beep.” (I have also been beeped at by them.) Young men on the other hand just rush to try to push me up the curb (which doesn’t work – i have to come at it a certain way – and then they observe the resulting tank action and we exchange polite compliments and thanks.)
I have skipped the ice cream today since lunch was AMAZING.