Houses jammed the hills rising from the center of town. Rising over the southern edge of el centro histórico is a hill known as El Panecillo (“little bread loaf”), crowned by a ~90’ statue of the Virgen de Quito. The winged Virgin stands on an orb with a serpent curled around her feet and chained to her arm, as she gazes serenely down on the city.
We had a delicious lunch of Ecuadorean dishes. Highlights were the delicious guanábana (also known as “soursop”) juice (more like a fruit smoothie than fruit juice as I think of it) and a “smoking” ice cream desert (helados de paila). Gonzalo told us the story behind the ice cream. If I remember correctly, it originated during the reign of the Incas. Natives in the town of Ibarra made what we now consider sorbet using ice and snow brought down from the top of the nearby Volcán Imbabura. The ice/snow surrounded a large bronze pan (a paila) containing hand-beaten fruit, which then froze. As they descended, the ice began to vaporize, creating the appearance of smoking. In our restaurant, however, the smoke came from a bit of dry ice under the dish—pretty funky. Regardless of whether I have the details of the legend right, it was delicious.