A walk through the historical old town of Quito - In times of Corona
It is Saturday, beginning of June 2020, three days after the first reductions in corona measures were also made in Quito.
From 18 March to 2 June the city was more or less at a standstill. Curfew was from 14:00 to 05:00 and only grocery stores and pharmacies were allowed to open. Parks and public places were officially not allowed to be visited. Public transport was only available on selected lines and only for people who absolutely had to reach their place of work and could show an appropriate document. Private vehicles were only allowed to drive during the week according to the numbers on their license plates.
These measures were known as “red traffic lights”.
From red to amber in the traffic light system
In the last few weeks, some districts and municipalities have switched to “amber traffic lights”. So did Quito last Wednesday. The curfew is now from 21:00, restaurants are allowed to open for 30% of the actually admitted guests and public transport is allowed to run at 50% capacity. Except Sundays.
One measure that I am personally particularly pleased about is the reopening of the parks.
So now I made my way to the historical center of Quito, which I visit regularly on a weekend day under normal circumstances.
I was leaving early in the morning and started from the Mariscal, where I live, walking towards the old town. The weather showed itself from its best side, it was sunny, the view to the surrounding mountains spectacular.
I walked along the Juan Leon Mera street, past the Ejido Park and a little later through the Alameda Park. So I was already in the middle of the centre.
Quito after 78 days quarantine
After 78 days the city seemed to wake up from a Sleeping Beauty sleep. Construction sites were back at work and there were significantly more people – and vehicles – on the road, although not as many as under normal circumstances. All of them wore mouth and nose protection as prescribed. People have got used to this by now. Visors and full body suits still look a bit more strange, but even these are now part of the cityscape.
Actually, I wanted to have breakfast in the oldtown of Quito in my favourite café En dulce, that is also a bakery, but after Corona, it was not yet open to the public but only sold in the streets. But I found another open restaurant not far away.
When I entered, my temperature was measured with a device held in front of my forehead. I also got disinfectant alcohol on my hands and had to walk over a doormat soaked with disinfectant. At the table I could finally take off my mask. The waiters all wore masks and visors.
Stroll through the old town
After breakfast I went on to the Plaza Grande. There is usually a lot more activity here but at least there were enough people around to have the feeling of being in a city. I sat down on one of the – now many – free benches and later walked along the pedestrian street Garcia Moreno. Normally it is full of street artists and small stalls. Now, however, there are only pedestrians and some flying merchants who sell masks, gloves but also fruit and vegetables – as usual.
I took the road to the right into the Plaza San Franzisco with the important convent. On this street and at the edge of the plaza there is still a construction site where work is now being done again after almost three months.
On and around the Plaza San Franzisco there was already more going on. CDs were sold here, shoe soles, towels, underwear and even more fruit and vegetables. So actually everything was quite normal. Only with mask and distance, where it is possible. But with the narrow footpaths it sometimes turns out to be a bit difficult.
I returned to Garcia Moreno Street and treated myself to a lemonade in one of the few open restaurants. Upon entering, the same procedure as for breakfast, although I was only outside.
Visible effects of the pandemic
I kept watching the activity. Unfortunately, you see more begging people now than before. Those who live from hand to mouth, in other words from the daily sale of products – for example in the old town of Quito – have taken the measures against Corona particularly hard. The situation is also fatal for restaurant, bar and club owners. On more and more doors you see a “for sale” or “for rent” sign.
Then I went down to the Plaza Santo Domingo and turned right into the historic street La Ronda. Where else cafes, restaurants, galleries and handicraft shops invite you to stroll, it still looks ghostly at the moment.
Actually I wanted to go up to the Itchimbia Park afterwards, but halfway I was told that it was still closed. So I enjoyed the view over the old town at least from half height before I went back home.
It was a nice first walk after the quarantine because of Corona through the historical old town of Quito, even if by far not everything is as it was three months ago, and it is questionable if the cityscape will be like it used to be. But one has the feeling that things are going uphill. Finally, it is time for the city and for all of Ecuador.
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