Quito is not just a gateway to the Galapagos. The Ecuador capital, along with Krakow, became the first city to qualify as a Unesco World Heritage Site 35 years ago. You’ll see why around the historic center’s colonial churches filled with unique art, cobbled lanes and plazas and chocolate shops, all under a backdrop of the Andes. I visited for the first time a few months ago, and just wrote about the best things to do in Quito for Lonely Planet. But my favorite of the bunch is simply walking around with a beba, a retro baby-shaped bottle filled with syrupy gelatin-like juice.
A bright case of bebas caught my eye on La Ronda, a ped strip that was once a red-light district and now lined with restaurants, shops and clubs, an easy-going place families come to and stay out late. So I bought one, and soon found they provide a full-proof way to meet locals. One older couple seeing me, lit up, and stopped me to talk several minutes about how they used to buy them for their kids, then grandkids. Other young couples would simply offer ‘BEBA!’ approvingly, while passing by.
The charm doesn’t reach its taste, for me at least. After an hour carrying it, I tempted a couple sickly sweet sips, then poured the rest down a drain.