Experiencing Quito is, in a word, a surprise; a revelation from start to finish. From its energetic, newly restored La Ronda district with its tiny, jewel-box arts and crafts shops, to its heart-stopping vistas from on high that rival the Amalfi Coast; from La Mariscal's non-stop party atmosphere to today's artisans and designers creating amazing works inspired by pre-Columbian times, Quito is quixotic, kaleidoscopic and, yes, surprising. It is, in fact, the quintessential travel experience we all seek.
The ultimate travel accessory? More than a hardcase Tumi carry-on or sleek leather passport holder, it's an at-least elementary grasp of your destination's native tongue. From reading menus to asking directions, dealing with local transportation -- and not getting taken for a ride -- familiarizing yourself with the lingua franca might just be the singlemost important thing you can do to improve your travel experience.