Mitad del MundoThe country of Ecuador is named after the imaginary line that divides the planet into the northern and southern hemispheres and a visit to Ecuador would not be complete without a visit to its namesake. Conveniently visiting the equator is an easy and fascinating half day trip from Quito.

Deserved or not Quito’s reputation as an increasingly dangerous latin city and the scaremongering reports of certain guidebooks has left many of the more weary urban travellers ill disposed towards Ecuador’s capital, anxious to beat a hasty retreat after the prerequisite whilstle stop visit around the UNESCO heritage site of the old town. Amid the bustle, constant stream of people and often chaotic day to day life of down town Quito (which in some cases such as my own is exactly the charm of the city) it is easy to forget that Ecuador’s buzzing capital is nestled in the heart of the Andes and has plenty of tranquil escape spots that don’t cost the earth in organised tours or demand a five in the morning wake up call and full hiking apparel. La Parque Metropolitana is one such spot, located in the centre north of the city winding up behind the Estadio Olimpico it offers miles of unspoilt tranquil parkland that even the least enthusaistic trekker can’t fail to enjoy a few hours light strolling in.

It’s not every day that you get to see a two-time Latin Grammy award winning band playing in a bull ring but as the words “Puto” reverberated around the Plaza de Torres in Quito and the surrounding area it was clear that Molotov had arrived. Since their conception in 1995, in Mexico, the band has been anything but mainstream. Their aggressive politically inspired lyrics have opened them up as the band of choice for a politically conscious youth in Latin America. The establishment have not looked on them so kindly and the band was forced into exile in Spain after a near ban in Mexico.

It is inevitable that in coming to south america you will at some point be hauled to the dance floor to bust our some shady salsa steps. It makes me cringe to think about some of the erratic steps I've danced around Ecuador with a bevy of interesting partners. I take solace remembering a comment made by a salsa instructor: 'If the dancing is bad, it is always the mans fault'. Sorry fellas but there is truth in this. You big, strong, masculine chaps finally have the opportunity to take a firm grip and do as you like with us beautiful spinning ladies. In this wonderful world of Salsa, we will go wherever you tell us too, we need guidance, so the pressure is on. As is true in real life, we women are never wrong, so take control and dominate us.

For many, discovery is an accident. The hypothetical non-Latino steps into a Latino club in Milwaukee or Prague just for kicks or flies off to some part of Latin America and ends up going out dancing. He or she suddenly realizes with a jolt of jealousy that Salsa is no improvisational hippie dance, no arbitrary, arm-swinging, head-bopping night of rump-shaking. Salsa is sensual and hypnotic, racing with an undercurrent that urges one to dance. Yet, you need rhythm and a partner, and the more moves you know, the more fun it is.

To newbies, Salsa seems as time-honored and pan-Latin American as futball. Why else would Cali be the World Salsa Capital? Why do so many Latinos know how to dance Salsa? Why the Dominican, Cuban, Peruvian, Argentinean Salsa stars?

It is difficult to believe that less than 15 years ago, La Mariscal was a neighborhood like any other, because today it is a genuine pleasure island, where there is never a lack of nightlife, or "daylife", for that matter. Every phenomenon begins with a pioneer, though, and, in the case of La Mariscal, it was NO BAR that assumed the challenge. The bar is undoubtedly one of the few establishments that drove the explosion of multicultural activity and entertainment in this flourishing district.

The NO BAR was founded on the 10th of March, 1994 to appeal to a public that yearned for a place of fun, healthy entertainment, and dancing. The interior of NO BAR is characterized by its rustic feel. The cadence varies widely between salsa, reggaeton, latin pop, techno, hip hop, and American and European chart toppers. The DJs stand out for the perfection of their mixes and the freshness of their selections.

If you´re looking for quality food served by friendly people in a relaxed atmosphere, new Vietnamese bistro Indochine may just be the place.

A stone´s throw away from Plaza Foch, Indochine stands out from rival restaurants due to its uniquely attentive approach to service.

The highly qualified staff, who have worked in various locations around the world, prepare delicious, affordable dishes and take them out to the tables themselves.

 

Less than ten minutes from the centre of the Mariscal, the winding street Camino de Orellano entices passers-by into the historic neighbourhood of Guapulo. Generally known for its bars and live music scene, there are as many things to do as there are VW punch buggies to see in Guapulo, Quito's hub for all things bohemian.

 

Perched on the mountaintop at the entrance of Guapulo, the Shakti Centre of Alternative Art and Energy is a newly opened, multipurpose space. The brainchild of a group of young Guapuleños, the centre boasts a massage parlour and reiki healing. Yoga and percussion classes are available for adults and children alike and regular therapeutic dance and aromatherapy workshops are also run.

Taxis are an essential consideration for safe living in Quito, for both Ecuadorians and multinationals, so it is worth taking in these top taxi tips:

Tucked away in the north of the city of Quito, around a tight corner and down a steep hill, is the quaintly beautiful neighbourhood of Guapulo.

Here on Thursday and Friday evenings can be found artisans, musicians, students, left-leaning young professionals and curious tourists who gather amidst flickering candlelight and amiable chatter. The charm of this hidden treasure, I am told, lies in its historical importance, as ancient peoples from pre-Spanish times apparently passed through the narrow streets to get to the centre of Quito. However, the white-washed buildings are distinctly colonial in appearance and so betray a mixture of cultural influences meeting with the intellectual minds within.

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