I was looking out over the Mediterranean dotted with a couple of sailing boats. Low rolling hills line the horizon. The image was framed by Corinthian columns covered in flowering vines. I felt as if I was on vacation in Greece, Italy, or Spain.
Did that make sense, with my being 9,350 feet above sea level, in Quito, Ecuador’s capital?
A Luxurious Bath
I enjoyed this view from my spotless white bath in a marble bathroom that was part of a comfortable and spacious room decorated in a blend of classic and modern. I was literally bathing in luxury in the three-story Boutique Hotel Casa Gangotena.
Travel in Ecuador – Recommendations
- Horseback Riding to Ancient Pyramids At Hacienda Zuleta (Ecuador)
- Why the Galápagos Islands Are Worth a Visit (and how you can visit them)
- Slow Travel – Does it Really Matter Where You Are?
After an extensive renovation of the more than 100-year-old, neo-colonial mansion, Casa Gangotena opened its doors in 2011. The hotel has preserved as many of the original architectonic features and decorative elements as possible, the wall-to-wall fresco painting across the bathroom and bedroom of the scene described above being one of them.
Among the others are two paintings at the reception and several mirrors in the hotel. They perfectly fit in with the modern design hotel with touches of Art Nouveau and neo-classical architecture.
Next to the tub that I was soaking in, Coen was taking a shower which had the force of a waterfall after we found the bathtub a tad too small for two persons. He was shampooing his hair – ‘mmm, smells good’, he commented – without turning off the tap.
What was the big deal here? Weren’t we just taking a bath/shower? Well, for travelers who have lived in an antique Land Cruiser for more than ten years and whose outdoor showers consisted of five liters of cold water from a shower bag – for the two of them – bathing in warm, no hot, water with foamy bubbles and not having to turn off the tap while soaping up was sheer luxury.
A slight feeling of guilt of bathing in such opulence was soothed by the thought that the hotel’s water was heated by solar panels and all soaps and shampoos (as well as the hotel’s cleaning products) were biodegradable.
We cherished a moment of relaxation after an intensive day. We had chosen a perfect day to drive to downtown Quito, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1978, which despite its alluring colonial buildings, plazas and churches suffers just as much from traffic jams as any other major city in the world.
But it was Sunday and the roads were practically empty. When parking our Land Cruiser in front of the Hotel of Casa Gangotena we learned that the hotel had an underground parking lot, but not for 2.70-meter-high vehicles.
“No worry,” Diego, the porter, said. “We’ll find a solution while you get settled in.” Jane, the receptionist, took care of the paperwork and while taking us to our room showed us the glass-roofed lounge and patio garden where we would later have our ‘Quiteño coffee’. She enthusiastically shared background information on the boutique hotel, which until some ten years ago was owned by an influential family called Gangotena.
From our room we took some of the Ecuadorian fruits with us, such as tomate de arbol,granadilla and uvilla, which were waiting on a tray with a handwritten welcome note. We then walked up the spiral marble stairway to Casa Gangotena’s panoramic terrace on the third floor. In easy chairs underneath a parasol we ate our fruits, and took in the view of the adjacent immense, cobbled San Francisco Square that is lined with majestic churches and colonial buildings.
As we left the hotel I wondered why so many travelers preferred staying in the northern section of Mariscal. Hotel Casa Gangotena lies smack in the middle of Quito’s most scenic quarters. The old town is characterized by charming plazas and pedestrian streets, making it easy to go for a stroll and visit Quito’s most beautiful churches (Iglesia de la Merced and Iglesia y Convento de San Francisco), interesting museums, and watch scenes from daily life.
We watched the shoeshine boys at Plaza Grande, and from some women from neighboring villages, dressed in traditional clothes we bought a portion of treinta y uno (thirty-one), an intriguing name based on the traditional 31 pieces of cow stomach and other intestines that make up this snack. In fact, to learn more about Quito’s daily life, we had planned the Metropolitan Tour’s Live Quito Like a Local Walking Tour for the following day.
More Pampering in Hotel Casa Gangotena
Around five we returned to the hotel, in time for the Quiteño coffee which is pretty similar to the typical English high tea, and which is served daily between four and six pm in the lounge. When Victor, the waiter, asked us whether we wanted coffee or tea we got into a discussion about flavors of Ecuadorian high-quality coffee and teas.
“We have fresh herbs for infusions and if you like I’ll show them to you,” he suggested and off we were to the patio garden, smelling and tasting mint, hierba luisa, cedrón, and thyme. We settled for the mint, which was served with an array of homemade canapés, pastries and petit fours all based on Ecuadorian ingredients, such as turnovers made of green plantains and shrimp.
After having eaten our complimentary fruits upon arrival, snacked downtown, and enjoyed this elaborate high tea, our stomachs were so heavy that we skipped dinner. While Marco, the porter on duty, escorted Coen in the Land Cruiser to a suitable parking lot, I slid into a warm tub filled with bubbles and closed my eyes.
I felt the fatigue draining away. My eyes felt heavy and the image of the Mediterranean started to fade. It was time to hit the bed.
A king-sized bed that was, with pillows in three sizes. Big enough to lose one another, I mused. The size of the bed was about that of the entire interior of our vehicle in which we have camped for so many years. And since I had never lost Coen in our car, I figured that I wouldn’t in the king-sized bed either.
Practical Information on Casa Gangotena
- For more information, check out the Hotel Casa Gangotena website.
- More information on the walking tour Live Quito Like a Local here.