There is a moment when the inky blackness of night turns to a milky hue over Plaza San Francisco. Rousing from your comfortable bed at 5:30 a.m. and heading to Casa Gangotena’s third-floor terrace , you will witness the darkness shift, slowly at first, almost imperceptibly. Then suddenly, in the blink of an eye, the historic square is bathed in light, revealing an excellent view from the terrace of Casa Gangotena. Here on the Equator, the sun rises at almost exactly 6 a.m. every day of the year. For those from hemispheres closer to the poles, it also rises and sets surprisingly quickly (due to the angle at which it rises or sets beyond the horizon).
The View from Casa Gangotena at Dawn: All is Quiet
Why attempt this dawn madness, this self-inflicted insomnia while on holiday in the capital of Ecuador? Because at this time, all is quiet. The city is absolutely still. This is the window before the workers and tourists are bussed in from near and far, the enchanted hour when the city is entirely itself. It is a glimpse into the square before it has to face the world. It is like arriving early to an empty school: all the marks of life, and all the space and tranquility in which to study it.
The First Sounds of the Day
“Merrrrcio de hoy! El Comercio!” A street seller advertising newspapers breaks the reverie with his daily call. Church bells join in with their peal from the golden La Compañía church, or perhaps they ring out from one of the ten churches surrounding Casa Gangotena. Then there is the flap-flap-soar of hundreds of pigeons taking off, lost devilish souls on the lookout for Cantuña, Plaza San Francisco’s legendary trickster.
Snapshots of Local Life
In this first pale light, a prone dog and a contemplative man sitting on the great, half-moon steps of the San Francisco atrium cut solitary figures. A man hurries across the square carrying a plate of food and backpacked youths stop to ask from directions from an indigenous woman in an elegant brown trilby, the golden beads of her necklace catching the early sun. These are the intimate snapshots of local life: a morning like any other in the Old Town, yet one of the most magical ways of experiencing it from this spectacular morning view from Casa Gangotena.
The Sights Reveal Themselves
On a clear day, one can see all the way across the city to the great white peak of the Cayambe Volcano, luminous and oddly close-looking to the east of the neo-Gothic spires of the Basílica del Voto Nacional. At 5,790 meters (18,996 feet), Cayambe is the third-highest of Ecuador’s peaks, located some 70 km (43 miles) from the city itself. Some of Quito’s best sights reveal themselves one-by-one: the great winged Virgin of the Panecillo statue, the green-tiled domes of churches, fertile pasturelands and the colonial patchwork of the Historic Center.
A City Stirs
One by one, traders take up their positions around the square under their rainbow-colored parasols that signal the opening of doors to all. A man selling bags of corn makes his first transaction of the day and pigeons swoop in. The child who threw the grains stomps in, scattering them once again.
The Day Begins…
At 8:30 a.m., the great wooden doors of the Chapel of Cantuña open with a clank, ready to receive the worshippers of the city. Plaza San Francisco has been filled with color, with noise and with life. Another spectacular and lively day in Quito has begun. And you’ve just gotten a proper sense of what it’s like from this excellent view from Casa Gangotena! And now…
Once you have captured this exquisite moment from the terrace of Casa Gangotena, what now? Breakfast, of course! Head downstairs to Casa Gangotena’s restaurant to begin the day anew, in both luxury and style.