Plaza Foch in Quito – Happening Central

Plaza Quinde, which is the official name of Plaza Foch, is the heart of the famous La Mariscal neighborhood, meeting point for locals as well as tourists and where you also find the Exploring SouthAmerica team’s headquarters.

Years ago this was a relatively free and open area and now it’s a place surrounded by the patios of different cafés and restaurants in which tourists sit along with Quiteños (people from Quito) having lunch or drinking coffee during the day and in the evening enjoying a beer or a cocktail. Even early in the morning I see some people who, like me, are on their way to work as well as tourists leaving on excursions or sitting on a café patio having breakfast in the sun. During one of these mornings Christian, my colleague, explained to me over coffee that this idea of sitting outside is rather new in Quito. A few years ago the opportunity to sit outside at a café didn’t really exist here in Quito although the weather is perfect for it. For me, a girl who comes from a beer garden culture, it’s hard to believe that this is all new here in Quito.

Plaza Foch never stands still. The reasons for this are also the clubs, bars, and restaurants in the area as well as the hotels, guesthouses, travel agencies, and language schools found in Mariscal. In the midmorning and early afternoon the movement is at an average level, but around 4 o’clock it starts to fill up. The bars and surrounding clubs turn up their music and Plaza Foch becomes a hotspot where people young and old as well as Ecuadorians and tourists of different nations meet, creating quite a cosmopolitan atmosphere.

Not only is the diversity of Mariscal represented among the people, but also the different restaurants, clubs, and bars in the area. When deciding where to go out for dinner, you are spoiled in the variety of choices you find, ranging from Chinese to Italian, Mexican, German, and Ecuadorian cuisine. In addition to many small restaurants that are especially famous for their Ecuadorian-style lunch menus, the restaurant Mama Clorinda at the corner of Reina Victoria and José Calama is famous for its excellent Ecuadorian food. If your next stop after dinner is at one of the bars in the area, you will find yourself faced again with quite a schmorgesborg of choices including salsa, rock, pop, and reggaeton.

Plaza Foch is its own world and does not entirely reflect the rest of Quito. In the Mariscal neighborhood, everything is a bit more modern and dazzling. But there are still moments in which reality catches up with you. For me, this happens when I see street kids who, equipped with a hawker’s tray, sell sweets, cigarettes, and snacks until late at night or homeless people sleeping in dark house entrances and corners. Especially in the evenings and at night you should be careful to watch your valuables or better yet, leave everything you do not need in the hotel because otherwise the evening that you started off so well might take an unexpected, unpleasant turn. I also must say that I love to get together with my friends in the evenings at Plaza Foch and I’ve never been robbed. I do leave my purse at home when I go out at night.

The nightlife is not the only representative characteristic of Plaza Foch and Mariscal. During soccer games it seems like half of Quito gathers here to cheer on their team while watching the game on big television screens in bars. This is how Plaza Foch was during the Ecuador-Venezuela game, with an ocean of yellow, red, and blue-colored clothing everywhere. The atmosphere was the same as at televised game viewings during the World Cup and the European championship I know from Germany: heated and tense and then fun and relaxed after a victory. Unfortunately, I was only able to watch all this excitement from the office and was not in the thick of things for this World Cup qualifying game.

On weekends a market where it is possible to buy handicrafts, jewelry, and various other things takes place in the Plaza Foch. During the whole week there is another market for arts and crafts on Reina Victoria and George Washington streets, a small version of the one in Otavalo. From Monday to Friday there is not much activity going on there so you can look for small treasures while more relaxed. When I visited the market the first time, I was surprised to see that almost all the vendors have their own TVs. Seeing television sets in small shops was something I’ve gotten used to, but it was strange to see them at the stands at the market. It was especially strange when I bought something and the friendly woman took my money and gave me my change without averting her gaze from the TV.

In addition to the markets, there are other buildings that tell more about the history of Ecuador. For example, you can find Villa Alhambra, which was the residence of former president Galo Plaza Lasso at the corner of the streets 6 de Diciembre and Wilson or Pinto House on Reina Victoria which today is Gourmet Gallery.

For me Plaza Foch is an example of what Ecuador is famous for: total diversity. With every walk in Plaza Foch and the Mariscal I discover new corners and places that I haven’t visited before. This is great because it remains exciting! And when the day comes when I’ve visited every place in Mariscal, I am looking forward to just drinking a coffee in the sun, enjoying the atmosphere, or jumping into the fray.

Text: Christina Bremekamp

Translation: Maggie Bjorklund

Photos: Sebastián Oquendo

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