Quito: Arriving, The Secret Garden and Spanish Lessons

Quito Travel Blog

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Anna taking up a safe position in amongst the crowds of the Easter procession

Its fair to say that we really didnt know what to expect when we first landed in Quito and its also fair to say that we underestimated the language barrier.

We arrived at our hostel, the now "very famous" Secret Garden (thanks to a little segment called the "Authors Choice" in the latest edition of Lonely Planet: Ecuador) situated in the heart of Quitos Old Town, at 11:30pm on a Thursday night and were greeted with a half drunk Ecuadorian guy who only spoke Spanish. After offering us a beer he proceeded to give us a detailed tour of the hostel by opening all of the dorm rooms, turning on the lights and having rather loud conversations which neither Anna or I had a clue about, all while most of the hostel was trying to sleep.

Easter procession
Nice way to make friends!! After eventually managing to understand where our beds were, we "quietly" crawled into bed, and all I could think about was what the hell we had gotten ourselves into.

The next morning presented a totally different story. Most of the staff and guests at the hostel spoke English, we had managed to score one of the best dorm rooms and the hostel had a killer view from the terrace, which has also been fashioned into an alfresco restaurant, overlooking the whole of Quitos old town + a little bit more. The first task of the morning was to book ourselves into some Spanish Lessons - 40 hrs of them in fact....we would need every single one of them. Mission accomplished we grabbed some breakfast (so good!!) and checked out the layout of the hostel.

Doing it tough

The Secret Garden Hostel (www.secretgardenquito.com) is located in Anteparra Street, right in the heart of Quitos "Old Town". It is owned and operated by an Ecuadorian-Australian couple, however they are currently developing a new hostel in the Cotopaxi region and therefore their time at the S.G. is limited. The day to day running of the hostel is left to a couple of managers (Brad and Rob), Ecuadorian staff who perform the cooking and cleaning, and a squad of volunteers from all over the world (check out the website if you are interested in volunteer opportunities). The hostel has a number of dorm rooms ($6pp per night), private rooms (starting at $12 a night), internet, restaurant (serving breakfast and dinner) and laundry service, all spread over 5 floors (it is quite narrow).

Quito Old Town
 On request they can help organise spanish lessons (held at the hostel), set you up for a homestay with a local equadorian family and they also offer various tours to the jungle and the Galapogas Islands. In my mind though, the thing that gives the hostel such an infamous reputation has to be the terrace. On the roof of the hostel, its views over Quito are magic day or night and provides a great place to have a beer ($1.50 for a long neck!!) with other travellers. The restaurant is also located on the terrace and the food is absolutely awesome, dinner time provides a great atmosphere, especially Wednesday nights when a local ecuadorian band play. Dinners usually cost $3-$7 depending on how many courses you order, cheap as for overseas travellers!! The one thing that the hostel does miss is a lounge room with big comfy couches for kicking back with a book.
The happy travellers
Also, because of its recent popularity, make sure you book in advance and if you like a bit of privacy or just want some "alone" time then I would suggest a booking a private room. Great place though, definttely a big thumbs up from me!!

On our first morning in Quito we ventured out for a look around the old town. It just so happened to be Easter Friday and it just so happens that the main religion in Quito is Catholicism which can mean only one thing....thousands and thousands of people lining the streets for an Easter procession. After being advised by a policeman (who seemed to make it his priority) to strap our back packs to our chest, Anna and I picked a spot on a corner and waited for the parade to come past. Now the last parade I went to was a christmas pageant in Latrobe with little kids and santa claus.

Sunday life in Plaza de Sanfrancisco
...this one turned out to be just a little different. For two hours, hundreds of people walked past dressed in what looked like purple Ku Klux Klan outfits, some carrying (slash dieing under the weight of) huge crosses, some wrapped in barb wire causing them to bleed, others whipping themselves with rope. These were occasionally broken by marching bands playing a mixture of morbid and army songs (or maybe they are one of the same). I am not quite sure of the religious context behind the parade and I know the importance of a countries culture and beliefs, but for me the parade was a little too weird....a great experience though none the less.

Following the first day, the remaining days of our first week in Quito consisted of exploring the city in the morning, Spanish lessons for 4 hours in the afternoon and dinner on the Terrace at night.

Quito Old Town looking up towards the Basilica
At the end of each day we were exhausted, mentally more than physically. Getting around town was a challenge to start with: we couldnt read signs, we couldnt understand menus, we struggled asking people for directions and we constantly had to be aware of everyone around us in case someone took a fancy to our "gringo" belongings.

Then Spanish lessons in the afternoon. I would describe learning Spanish as incredibly frustrating, you think you have finally got a hold of it and then it flips a birdie at you and runs away as fast as it can flashing a moon in the process!! In the first week we took in so much information, we went from novice to a little better than novice (Anna faring much better than me) but its amazing how a little amount goes a long way. Suddenly we had more confidence eating out, catching buses etc etc.

The Basilica in Quito, Old Town
. We had an awesome Spanish teacher called Narda who helped us heaps (and was particularly patient with me), I would definitely recommend her to anyone, she was an absolute champion.

A big shout out to Sandra (with whom Anna revised her French with) and the Aussie boys John and Brad, good luck with your volunteering adventure lads, it was awesome getting to know you!!

Stay tuned for the Sights and Sounds of Quito and also our Homestay in Quito!!

Adios,
Dave

paodelatorre says:
nice blog... the costumes here in Ecuador are a bit crazy, lol, but that's my beautiful country!
Posted on: May 24, 2007
huge says:
Hey Cristy, thanks for that, hearing about it in English is a little easier to understand than in Espanol!! Hope you guys are well. Dave
Posted on: May 01, 2007
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Anna taking up a safe position in …
Anna taking up a safe position in…
Easter procession
Easter procession
Doing it tough
Doing it tough
Quito Old Town
Quito Old Town
The happy travellers
The happy travellers
Sunday life in Plaza de Sanfrancis…
Sunday life in Plaza de Sanfranci…
Quito Old Town looking up towards …
Quito Old Town looking up towards…
The Basilica in Quito, Old Town
The Basilica in Quito, Old Town
Inside the Basilica
Inside the Basilica
The view from on high. Just at the…
The view from on high. Just at th…
The way it should be. No health an…
The way it should be. No health a…
Street ball at its best
Street ball at its best
The clock spires of the Basilica
The clock spires of the Basilica
The virgin
The virgin
Southern Quito
Southern Quito
Taking in the vista
Taking in the vista
Quito
photo by: Bluetraveler