When it comes to Quito, Ecuador has the kind of problem countries like to have: a kaleidoscope of world class things to see.
While hummingbirds flutter through cloud forests inland and turtles glide past pink sands in the Galapagos, Quito stands on the sidelines like a screenwriter at the Oscars: brimming with character and underpinning the action, yet curiously overlooked.
Well, thank goodness for photo archives.
One of the hidden treasures of staying in one place a little longer while I cuddle and bundle up with my lovely tiny daughter has to be the chance to pause.
To pause and reflect and really roll around in all those memories that can otherwise pass in a colourful blur.
Like the colours and characters of Quito.
I’ve written before about the baby Jesus figurines that families dress in different clothes and carry around.
And of the flavours of Quito’s oldest covered market, complete with stinging nettle witchcraft remedies taken standing naked while beaten in the shower.
But what about the crunch of the cool, crisp, handmade raspberry ice cream, spun in a bowl of gleaming gold?
Or the slick-slipped oil portraits that tower, raw and raging, in the former residence of Oswaldo Guayasamin, set in the mountains with a view of the clouds?
And instead of tinker, tailor, soldier, spy, instead I met hat maker, sugar spinner, craft-weaver and cocoa.
Parrots cawed in courtyards and congregations cowered in cathedrals.
Quito itself seemed to rise through the air to pierce the clouds, and it did so in a blaze of colour and character.
The idea is perhaps not surprising: at an altitude of 2850 metres, locals claim it’s the highest capital city in the world. (And, yes, I know, Bolivia’s La Paz. But read their reasoning over here.)
But in the space of just a few days, I found so many stories. Official stories, museum stories. Trading stories, personal stories. Cooking stories and stories that marched to a musical beat.
I felt the fire of the flavours return, through sliced raw ceviche, the crunch of popcorn, the sound of children’s shoes scrabbling across the cobbles in the twilight central square.
And while I can’t bring the taste, the sound, and the smells of the city alive through your screen, I can take a stab at the sights.
Enjoy this selection of photographs that hope to show just a hint, a glimpse and a portrait of the colour and character of Quito.
Disclosure – we paid a reduced price to travel to Ecuador from Cardiff with KLM and Metropolitan Touring. As ever, as always, we kept the right to write what we like. Otherwise, what’s the point?!