This summer, I had the opportunity to go on the trip of a lifetime. In fact, I had the opportunity to achieve my my biggest bucket list item and life goal. You see, from the age of six, all I wanted to do was visit the Galapagos Islands. For as long as I can remember, I have been obsessed with animals. I found my passion with reptiles, specifically tortoises. All I have ever wanted was to see a giant Galapagos tortoise in the Galapagos Islands.
My chance came when I transferred to Palm Beach Atlantic University. They offered a “Natural History of the Galapagos” course which includes a 10 day trip following the school year. I never thought I would be able to go based on finances, but I was able to obtain a scholarship that covered nearly all of the expenses.
Day 1 (Travel Day): I left the day after graduation (not the best timing, but well worth it). I went with my entire class and our professor. There were 19 of us in total. We flew out of Miami, and after a 2-hour flight delay, we made it to Quito, Ecuador. After quickly clearing customs, we hopped on a tour bus to take us to our hostel.
We stayed at the Solera House Adventure Hostel. This was my first time staying at a hostel (I had always wanted to but never got the chance). It was beyond incredible. There are not enough nice things I can say about this place. They had a “chill out” room with a movie theater set-up, a ping pong table, and a plethora of games. They had reading areas, several rooms, extremely clean bathrooms, etc. They also had free wifi, which was made it easy to tell my friends and family that I had made it safely. I would honestly stay here again in a heartbeat.
Day 2 (Quito): We spent our second day walking around and exploring Quito. The morning was spent exploring “Old Town Quito.” We had the opportunity to explore a few different churches in the area, my favorite being “La Iglesia de la Compañía.” The church was designed during baroque era, which is evident from the beautiful golden interior design. Unfortunately (but understandably), they didn’t allow cameras inside the church, so I was unable to get my own photo.
Following our church tours, we walked to the Palacio de Gobierno (Presidential Palace) to witness the changing of the guards, an event that happens every Monday. The Ecuadorian president comes out for this event, so we were able to see him as well.
After the city tour, our next excursion was to La Mitad Del Mundo (The Middle of the World A.K.A. The Equator). Having the chance to stand in two hemispheres at the same time has been a big bucket list item for me. It was a little bit cold here, so I was glad to have packed a sweatshirt and some longer yoga pants. We ate lunch here, and I don’t think you could go wrong with any of the restaurants here. Everything I ate was absolutely delicious!
After we returned to the hostel, we had free time to explore the city on our own. My friends and I went to Cheztiff Pastelería, a chocolate shop on La Ronda (one of the streets in Old Town Quito) right next to our hostel. If you are ever in Quito, you seriously MUST go to this chocolate shop. The chocolate is incredible and the owner is the nicest person you will ever meet.
We had dinner at a café at la Plaza de la Independencia. Unfortunately, I cannot remember the name of it, but they had the best tamales I have ever eaten. We also got some ice cream at one of the shops at the Plaza. I picked one that was tangerine flavored, and it was wonderful. We finished the night at a bar called Happy Rock. I ordered a mojito, and it was hands-down the best mojito I have ever had. Just be careful about having ice in your drinks if you are not used to the water!
Quito is an incredible city with even more incredible food, and I would go back in a heartbeat if I ever got the chance.