Monday, April 29, 2013

At the Middle of the Earth

One of our days in Quito took us to latitude 0.  There are two locations to visit--the first is the one originally designated as 0 latitude.  The French figured out where it was in 1736.  GPS established the actual location within sight of the first one.  It's pretty amazing when you consider how hard it must have been back then to try to figure it out.

At any rate, I went to the new one.  It's not nearly as impressive as the old one (which I will definitely go visit someday) but it's funky and fun and I'm a big fan of funky and fun.

They had a ton of these fabulous pots.  Some of them are burial urns.  They put the bones of the dead person in them.  Some of them were for water or other things--I was never sure which was which but since I wasn't going to use them, it didn't matter.

The bright yellow sign in the middle of the photo is a lovely set for taking pictures.  It's at the beginning of the tour.

Nothing special--I just loved the look and the colors.

The guy who operates this loom was on a break when I took this picture.  I really love some of these weavings.  It's very traditional to show indigenous people from the back rather than the front.  It's not like they feel a camera will steal their souls or anything, they are just very private.  The lower right shows a condor.  There's a condor park around here--it's on my list of things to see one of these days.  Maybe one of the people I know who is coming here for a vacation will want to go up there with me.

One good reason not to go to the Amazon--those are typical spiders.  They were bigger than my whole hand spread out.  I don't freak out over spiders anymore but that doesn't mean I like them.

The steps to making a shrunken head.  They have a real one on display.  Charming.

Always a good fashion statement for the discriminating Amazonian tribesman.  I've been assured they don't do that anymore.  I'm not positive I believe it but I know they don't do it indiscriminately.  They only use(d) it as a form of severe punishment for committing capital crimes.
I didn't know there were totem poles down here but there are--in all kinds of different styles.  This one is similar to the ones on Easter Island.

Tall ones, short ones, skinny ones, fat ones

This one is carved from a single tree.  I love it...almost as much as..
...this one.  I wish I could have gotten a little closer to this one.  It's amazing.

All these carved eggs are here for a reason.  One of the things you are supposed to be able to do at 0 latitude is balance an egg on end...

...and sure enough, you can!  This egg is balanced on a nail head.  They also demonstrated water swirling clockwise above the equator and counter-clockwise south of the equator.  It was pretty impressive.

This is an actual building moved here from its original site.  It was built in 1875 out of mud, straw, and wood.  The thatch on the roof is replaced periodically but that's all.  I love this kind of thing.

It was a fun day.  Next up, another museum--of course.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Quito Museums and Churches

We went to lots of museums and churches on a couple of different days.  It was great fun.

Enjoy the photos:
This is one of the huge churches in the old part of town.  This is one of the side areas--it's not even the main altar.  Wow!
Another one of the side areas in the church.  Take a look at the pews.  This is what they look like in all the churches, from the little ones to the giant cathedrals.

There's the altar--oh my.  It's quite spectacular.

A close-up from the picture above.  There are two circular places to either side of the flowers at the very bottom of the photo.  That's where the priest stands.  I wanted to point that out because the scale is so hard to grasp with something this huge.

On to the museums.  We went to two of them this first day and for the life of me I can't remember the name of either one of them.  The first one is in what was once a private home.  Rich people used to own lots of pre-Columbian art (and other eras that I don't know the names of) and then the government decided that if it wasn't in a museum, you couldn't have bunches of it anymore.  OK, not exactly technical or probably even accurate but there were people who owned art that they needed to do something with and some of them donated it to museums and others turned their homes into museums.  The first is one of those.  It was absolutely amazing.  I have so many more photos that I didn't include but I figured you were going to be bored to tears as it is, so I kept it to a minimum.

I loved these "owl" guys.  This is very, very old carving and I just think they're cute.

I loved the "rubber stamps" they used for inking fabric and such.  You may want to enlarge this one a little to see some of the details.

The thing attached to the board in the back is a drop spindle for spinning thread.  In front of that are some kind of decorative needle.  I wish I could remember what the use was but it doesn't really matter--just the fact that they made such delicate things that were so beautiful is pretty fabulous.  In the front are needles and a button on the left and on the right are preserved pieces of woven fabric. The weaving was amazingly fine and lovely.

Nose rings aren't new but these take the whole concept a little further than what I've seen recently. The one on the top is the most amazing. That little part in the very center where there appears to be a kind of cut out is the part that went inside the nostrils.  That sucker is huge!


More ceramics (I love this kind of stuff)

Family life depicted in sculpture.

Here's a little guy wearing one of those nose rings I was talking about earlier--we got nothing on these guys.

This is pounded solid gold.  I know it may look like a bracelet but it's large enough to put around someone's waist.

Lots of reflection going on here but this is a two-story vertical garden outside the museum's windows.  It was spectacular.  One of the benefits of living in eternal spring is that something like this is always in season.

Of course if there's fiber art to be found, I was the one who was going to find it and I did.  Since I wasn't able to use my flash in any of the museums, I had a very hard time holding the camera still enough to get a steady shot but it still looks good from a distance.  It's amazingly well-preserved.

On to the wax museum.  These fellows were the ones who determined where zero latitude was.  Considering the tools they had, it's pretty amazing how close they got to being right.  You can measure the difference in yards, not miles.

I have absolutely no memory of who all the people below are but the craftsmanship is fabulous.

My favorite--if you were just walking past and not really paying attention, it might not strike you that two of these people aren't actually people but models.

In the gift shop, on the way out, this woman was doing something that reminded me of something we did when I was in grade school.  You color lots of colors of crayon on a piece of paper and then cover it very heavily with black.  Then take a sharp stick of some kind and draw on it so the colors can be seen as the black crayon is scraped away.  This very intricate piece of art started with the blue waxy substance over the beautiful gold and this woman is making amazing designs by removing the blue to show the gold under it.  I could have watched her for ages but I was getting pretty tired by then.

On the way out I managed to capture a shot of two of the guards at this museum.  Pretty impressive, aren't they?  I think they may actually be military or something since this one was a cultural museum owned by the government.

Another lovely day in Quito.  More to come.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Quito Miscellaneous

Odd and ends of this and that.  There are all kinds of things that have something to do with specific things but these are just little bits and pieces I wanted to squeeze in somewhere and decided to just put them all in one place.

One of my favorite pictures is this one of Julie taking a picture of Sarah who is getting ready to take a picture of Julie--of course I'm busy taking a picture of both of them.  Ah, tourists.

This is the guardian of Quito.  She's the Virgen de Quito, the Virgin of Quito.  Many think she's the only statue of the Virgin Mary with wings but I didn't do any research on it so I wouldn't know.  What I know is that you can see her from just about anywhere in the city.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Quito Adventure Begins

It's been a while since you've heard from me and there's a reason--I've been exhausted!  It's true, I totally wore out and have taken almost two weeks "off." That's in quotes because I haven't exactly been lying about but I sure haven't been doing what I've become accustomed to.  Here's what's been happening.

A dear friend invited a Cotacachi friend and I to spend Semana Santa (Holy Week) in Quito with she and her family.  We took her up on it and headed down there on Monday, March 25th.  Monday was a pretty quiet day.  We took a bus from Cotacachi to Otavalo and then another one to Quito.  Our friend met us at the bus terminal and took us to Las Palmeras for lunch.  It was fabulous and I didn't even remember to take my camera out of my purse.  Trust me, though, if you ever get to Quito, it's the best!  OK, I have no idea where it is but I can tell you that the food they serve is typical of the Esmeraldas area.  I highly recommend it.

After a kind of late lunch we ran a couple of errands and then went to Sarah's for dinner and a quiet evening at home (there was a DVD involved--what fun).

Tuesday we started out in earnest on our grand tour of Quito.

We started the day at the Grand Plaza which is surrounded by history and culture all over the place.  One one side of the plaza is the Presidential Palace.  I have to tell you, I was surprised at how relatively modest it is in comparison to some I've seen in photos.  Don't get me wrong, it's lovely and definitely large, but not garish or overdone.   

Just below the main floor of the actual palace there is a series of doors, each of them a shop of some kind.

This one is a barber shop.  I wonder if the President gets his hair cut here.

I think this may be one of my favorite parts about the Presidential Palace.  This plaque announces that the President of the republic was assassinated at this spot on August 6, 1875.  The carving above it says, "God does not die." Here's the part I like about it. The plaque is there to remind the current president, whoever might be in office at the time, that if he doesn't behave himself, this could happen to him. I wonder if it keeps them on their toes.

Walking down a side street I saw this stained glass window on the side of the Presidential Palace.  I'd love to be able to see it at night with the lights on inside.

We had hoped to tour the Presidential Palace but we discovered that Tuesday is school tour day.  These are just a few of the dozen or so classes of children we saw waiting their turn for a tour. I guess I'll just have to go back another time for that.

Across the plaza is one of seven huge Catholic churches in Old Town.  This place is huge!  See the door in the center?  Look below to see just how big it really is.

It was pretty darned impressive.

There are more pictures of the church, the plaza, and then the museums we went to see later that day but I have to confess that I'm totally beat and I'm going to head for bed.  I won't be writing tomorrow for sure because I'm going to be gone all day but I'll do my best to write something Friday and definitely something over the weekend.  Actually, it's not the writing that takes the time, it's editing the photos.  When I'm all done showing off the parts of Quito I got to see, I'll confess to how many photos I took in my five days there--want to take a guess?