…… Where Panama is dominated by its temples to Mammon, its banking towers, Ecuador reminds you of the energy and wealth that went into religion in the Spanish colonial era of the 17th century. Some of those buildings might be oppressively florid in their excesses, but you have to acknowledge their magnificence nonetheless.
My favourite is the Basilica del Voto Nacional, which commenced building in 1926 and continued for several decades.
If you have the nerve to cross a rather rickety walkway across a rubble-filled construction area, and climb up a narrow spiral staircase and three sets of ladders, you get an awesome view of Quito from the clock tower.
If you find all this climbing a bit much (and you begin to notice the altitude) you can rest for a bit in a little cafe on the 4th floor of the tower, where you can pick up some postcards or other souvenirs, and enjoy a cup of te de coca (coca leaf tea), also known as mate de coca.
The leaves of the coca plant contain alkaloids which–when extracted chemically–are the source for cocaine base. However, the amount of coca alkaloid in the raw leaves is small. A cup of coca tea prepared from one gram of coca leaves (the typical contents of a tea bag) contains approximately 4.2 mg of organic coca alkaloid. (In comparison, a line of cocaine contains between 20 and 30 milligrams.)
Owing to the presence of these alkaloids, coca tea is a mild stimulant; its consumption may be compared to consumption of coffee or tea. The coca alkaloid content of coca tea is such that the consumption of one cup of coca tea can cause a positive result on a drug test for cocaine, however.
The Basilica del Voto Nacional has some of the most exquisite stained glass windows you could find anywhere, in an excellent state of preservation.
The rose window is especially awesome.
And here is a close-up view as well.