Posted by: Jena Davison | February 21, 2013

Luxury “Stay”cation: Casa Gangotena, Quito

Typically, I travel as a budget backpacker does: carrying my Osprey pack stuffed with practical, wrinkle-resistant clothes; sleeping on buses or in dorm bunk beds as I hop from destination to destination; and eating street food (while sometimes treating myself to a nice local meal).

So when I had the opportunity to stay at a luxury hotel this weekend in Quito, the city I live in, I truly felt like royalty. From the moment I stepped through the ornate wooden doors of Casa Gangotena, I was thoroughly spoiled and instantly transformed from the adjusted, unfazed-by-anything city resident that I am to an enlivened tourist in my own town.

Casa Gangotena from Outside

Casa Gangotena from Outside

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Casa Gangotena is a stunningly restored former mansion that belonged to the powerful and wealthy Gangotena family; it was renovated into the beautiful boutique hotel it is now in 2011. It is located in Plaza San Francisco, one of the grandest plazas of Quito’s picturesque Centro Histórico, or colonial center. The plaza is historical, dating back to the time of the Incas, when it was used as a “tianguez,” or open-air market, where people would trade their wares. The hotel is located next to the architecturally interesting San Francisco Monastery, which dominates the plaza and gives it its name. From Casa Gangotena’s wrap-around rooftop terrace, guests are treated to a spectacular view of the plaza and beyond, including a view of the distinct towers of the gothic La Basilica church and the Panecillo, a massive angel that looks over the (central and northern part) of the city and is beautifully illuminated at night.

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Plaza de San Francisco, Centro Histórico

As we checked into the hotel, we were quickly greeted with a refreshing glass of “Agua de Frescos,” a brightly colored pink medley of herbs, including spearmint, lemongrass, lemon balm, sweet basil, esencia de rosas, and amaranth flowers, stewed with just a touch of sugar. Its unlike anything I have tasted before, a really exotic and energizing taste. The Agua de Frescos’ electric pink color comes specifically from the ataco, or red amaranth plant. This unique drink is typical to the southern Andean region of the country, around the cities of Cuenca and Loja.

We swiftly checked in and were escorted to our room by an elegantly dressed, smiling staff member, who revealed a bit of the hotel’s history to us as we took the elevator to the second floor and walked down the sophisticated yet welcoming hallway that led to our luxury king room. Our electronic key card opened a sturdy beige door, revealing a plushly decorated space with refined details, neutral and royal burgundy accents, and a heavenly king-sized bed piled high with equally divine blankets and pillows. A plate of Ecuadorian fruits was waiting for us: uvillas, tomate de arbol, apples, granadilla, and a peach, accompanied by a guide that explained what each fruit is and how to eat it, in addition to a personalized note from the hotel manager welcoming us.

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Our Luxury King Room

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Complimentary Ecuadorian Fruit Plate

These thoughtful details kept revealing themselves throughout the stay. In fact, it seemed like the management had really thought of everything: the room had an iPod dock, a plasma TV with Direct TV, a temperature control system for optimal comfort despite Quito’s unpredictable weather, a credit card-operated safe to hold valuables, and even two sets of slippers. The bathroom was marbled from floor to ceiling, and featured modern appliances, a bathtub, and complimentary items way beyond the typical soap and shampoo bottles normally found in hotel rooms: body lotion, a small vanity kit for make-up application, a loofah for maximum scrubbing, a hair dryer, a stack of high-quality towels, and matching robes that gave it a romantic feel.

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Marbeled Bathroom

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Bathtub and Matching Robes

Unfortunately, shortly after checking in, it started raining in true Quito fashion. We were not bothered, though; I was happy to have an excuse to stay in the hotel rather than walking the narrow, cobblestone streets of the historical center surrounding Casa Gangotena. We decided to spend some time in the hotel’s library, a small yet stately decorated area with sofas and photography coffee table books about Quito, Cuenca and the Galápagos Islands. Some poetry, English-language novels and wildlife guides were also there for guest use.

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Casa Gangotena’s Library

At around 4:30 p.m., just as our bellies were starting to rumble for a mid-afternoon snack, we were invited to partake in the complimentary Quiteño coffee, the Ecuadorian answer to “high tea.” Sitting at a small table in the lobby area, we were served a two-level tower of treats: sweet and savory empanadas and mini-sandwiches on the bottom tier, and a mix of desserts like meringue cookies, fruit tarts, banana cake, and blueberry cheesecake on the top one. We nibbled on the snacks while sipping on a cup of Ecuadorian coffee to our liking: cappuccino, mochachino and macchiato were just some of the options, and tea was also available. By the end, we were stuffed and satisfied.

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Casa Gangotena’s Lobby

Heading back to the room to relax and nap off our food coma, there was a knock at the door about 30 minutes later. Housekeeping was outside, asking if they would like them to tend to our beds, and dropped off a comments card and a plate of alfajor cookies and coconut-rolled white chocolate truffles. More food? We looked at each other, wondering if the flow of nice gestures and excellent sweets would ever stop.

Later on, we went to La Ronda, just a few blocks from the hotel, one of my favorite places in the Centro Histórico. One of the staff members willingly walked us to the street’s entrance to ensure our safe arrival. La Ronda is Quito’s first road and is reminiscent of traditional Spain. The cobbled street is filled with small places serving typical Ecuadorian food and canelazos (a warm drink made with sugar cane alcohol, local fruits and cinnamon), many of which have live music, as well as some art galleries and shops selling typical Ecuadorian artisan products. Once back at Casa Gangotena, we headed straight up to the wrap-around rooftop terrace, which affords beautiful views of Plaza San Francisco and beyond. From the terrace, you can also see the Panecillo, the strikingly large angel at the top of a hill facing the central and northern part of the city with arms outstretched.

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La Ronda at Nighttime

In the morning, it was difficult to get out of bed. My body had seemingly melted into the mattress overnight, and the room’s grand, opaque curtains blocked out every drop of sunlight, confusing my eyes into thinking it was eternal nighttime. But alas, we did wake up and went down to the dining room for breakfast. The breakfast buffet spread was overwhelming: pancakes, waffles, bacon, breakfast sausages, and potatoes alongside an extensive yogurt toppings bar, cheeses and meats, various breads and fruit marmalades, and muffins. All of this accompanied by fresh fruit juices and bottomless cups of coffee. It was a fantastic way to start the day, to say the least.

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Breakfast Buffet

Afterwards, we packed up and checked out, sad to say goodbye. The whole experience was extraordinary and eye-opening, a small peek into the way some people live and travel. At nearly $500 (with taxes) a night for the cheapest room, I don’t think I’ll be able to stay there again anytime soon. However, I do think if I had the money, I would make it a priority to stay at Casa Gangotena while in Quito. A hotel of this caliber would cost much more in the United States or Europe, so forking out the cash while in a place like Ecuador, you can experience the perks of an immaculately run luxury boutique hotel at a fraction of the cost. All in all, it was a spectacular stay and a true taste of Ecuadorian hospitality.

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Spiral Staircase at Casa Gangotena

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Responses

  1. Jena, I´m trying to contact you because I´m interested in doing an interview regarding being an expat on Ecuador. I you could email me back that would be awesome 🙂

    • Hello! I am no longer living as an expat in Ecuador but did live there for over 3 years if you have any questions. Not sure how relevant it will be, since I moved back to the U.S. in March 2013.

      On Thu, Dec 11, 2014 at 9:18 AM, Everyday Musings From Across the Equator wrote:

      >


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