Saturday, October 18, 2008

Celebrity Xpedition - Day 2 - Quito Old Town

Saturday, August 30th we began our day in Quito with a breakfast buffet in the Executive Lounge on the 9th floor of the JW Marriott Hotel. There were a selection of fresh fruits and juices which were so different than the ones back home. The pineapple really stuck out in my mind - it was a lighter color and very sweet. There also were a selection of hot foods and pastries.

Celebrity Xpeditions pre-cruise stay includes complimentary use of the lounge. Besides breakfast, snacks and Hors D'oeuvres are served there later in the day. Coffee, tea, soft drinks, and bottled water are also complimentary. One glass of wine or local beer is also included.

After breakfast we met the Xpeditions staff in the hotel lobby and boarded one of the four luxury buses that were chartered for our group. Celebrity Xpeditions staff really pays attention to details to make the cruisetour special. The bus seats were covered with the Xpeditions logo (pictured above).

Our first stop was at the Basilica of the National Vow, (Spanish: Basílica del Voto Nacional) a Roman Catholic church located in Quito, Ecuador. The basilica stands on a steep hill to the northeast of the old town and can be seen from almost everywhere in the city. We only had enough time for a photo stop both exterior and interior. It is unfortunate that we didn't climb up the bell tower because it offers several vantage points of the city. The stained-glass windows in the church are outstanding, equaling those that we've seen in Europe for example.

After a short bus ride, we arrived at Plaza de Independencia, the the heart of the Quito old town, which is walled by the four pillars of society, the Cathedral , Presidential Palace , the Archbishop’s Palace and the Municipal Palace.

We entered the Presidential Palace from its north side, passing the guards. Two ‘toy-soldier’ guards, decked out in antiquated gold and blue uniforms, the Grenadiers of Tarqui, flank the main entrance. After getting pictures taken with the palace guards, we toured the exterior of the palace.

We toured several of the other historic buildings in the old town area including the monestary, before boarding our coach for the drive to El Crater Restaurant for lunch.

As we headed away from Old Town we got a glimpse of El Panecillo (the Virgin Monument) which towers over the city of Quito. View our Quito Old Town album for many more pictures.

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