Romanced by the BasilicaTip toe, hip hop, scramble to and fro over the willy, nilly hand paved stone roads. Over the hills and beneath the shadows of the Basilica, through the historical streets of Quito we roam. Peering through the peep holes through the castle-like walls and counting over a hundred as up the stairs we go. Standing near the tops of the steeples and hiding behind the pillars that support the bell towers, we feel as small as ever. Why is that in places grand and old, we can’t fight the compulsion to whisper? Even though the closest bystanders are farther away than the other side of a lake?
The kids pull on my fingers, begging me to let them experiment with echoes….just one time. Just one tiny scream into the wonderful, hollow abyss. I admit it, I too would love to yodel at the top of my lungs. To listen to the reverberation bounce from arch to arch, ceiling to floor, window to door, and from the pews to the pulpit. I wonder to myself just how high they would have to scream before the intricate stained glass would shatter and shower around us.
I hush them once more, but secretly cherish the sound of their tiny footsteps clack clacking through the isles and halls. I smile at the vibrant, pink balloon bopping above their heads in the dark, cool rooms. I guide their shoes behind mine, as I lean against a pillar to poke my lens at the priest. He isn’t saying anything but I feel his eyes pierce through the concrete and shame me for my disrespectfulness. I quickly shove the kids back, guiding them in the opposite direction.
They free themselves through a side door, flinging themselves in the courtyard where their grandmother is waiting there. I nod to their Daddy as I slip back inside to capture a few more shots in solitude. I take a seat on a nearby pew, letting my eyes swirl around me in search of the perfect angle. When I’m sure no one is looking, I slide myself onto the floor and lay my head against the cold, clammy marble floors. I understand from within that there is no way to capture this imagery in a photograph. I am just a novice, but like any artist would…I take a moment to imprint this scene in a place just for me, before raising my camera and creating a photograph for inspiration.
The rest of the afternoon is a colorful blur of historical buildings, charming parks, and colorful homes decorated in Spanish tiles and miniature balconies. It is easy to forget that this piece of old world imagery belongs to the dirty, bustling third world city of Quito. In my mind, I imagine a Sunday afternoon scene of men in suits sitting on park benches and women in fancy dresses twirling umbrellas above the stone palette streets. And then I think back even further, to the Incan civilization that claimed this place in what seems like a world of time before us.
As the day comes to a close the children are amused with chasing pigeons through the courtyard beneath the great San Francisco Cathedral. A street-clown flirts with our kids and beguiles my husband into accepting his end-of-the-day flowers. Two wilted sunflowers and a stunning, red Ecuadorian rose later, we head down the alley for ice cream and empanadas.
We say goodnight to the city before the streets start to twinkle, and we say thank you to Old Quito for romancing us with this part of her story. Once and for all, against all odds, we have fallen in love with the enemy. These country folks have finally surrendered to the sweeter side of the city.
Read Our Last Travel Story: Raindrops on Roses.