Peek into a Quiteño home at 6 p.m. on a chilly afternoon and you might behold a family assembling around a steaming pot of hot chocolate. Remarkably, this delicious drink is accompanied by fresh farmer’s cheese (queso de hoja or queso fresco), which is dropped into the mug and melted down into a delicious mixture of sweet and salty. The sweetness is not derived from just any chocolate…Quiteño hot chocolate is made with chocolate de hoja, which is combined into the milk using a traditional wooden molinillo. Available on: Monday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday
Very few have access to this iconic church’s interior treasures. We are hosted on this visit by a Franciscan priest from the monastery, who takes us around the innards of the edification. At San Francisco, the courtyards bring together the church’s many altars, hallways, and galleries to retell centuries-old stories and showcase a historic beer-brewing process. While here, discover the rustic machinery and techniques employed by the Franciscan monks in the brewing of beer in the 16th-20th centuries. Later, we can relive the magic by sampling delicious, present-day craft beer from one of Ecuador’s famous breweries.
The choir of San Francisco Church, above the high altar, smells of wood and mysticism. It is an example of the diverse architectural styles that influenced, over time, the construction of the church, boasting even Middle Eastern iconography on the ceiling. After a visit to the choir, follow us through the narrow, wooden stairs to the bell tower, which could easily be the setting of a novelesque scene written by Victor Hugo. The San Francisco bell towers await to show you stunning panoramic vistas of this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Revel in this small intrusion, as this spot is accessible to virtually no one. If Ernest Hemingway ever wondered for whom the bells toll, here they toll for you.
In the late afternoon, this abbey and its museum open their doors to guests of Casa Gangotena only. Built in 1653, the mysterious convent is home to an order of Carmelite cloister nuns making some of Quito’s most delicious traditional treats. On our visit, we discover beautiful religious paintings, antique architecture, whole-room replicas of the nun’s living quarters, and the silent traces of their presence. Curiously, the abbey was once home to the late Marianita de Jesus, (1618-1645), Ecuador’s first saint.