Another Continent Down: Visiting Bogotá, Colombia

With my Europe days behind me, I seldom entertain the notion of blogging about my mundane life so managed to go two months without writing. What does that mean? I must continue traveling so that I have stories to share. Since writing last, I stopped in Colorado for enough time to get my life together and then turned right back around to make the move to Miami. I found a new apartment with an old roommate, and dived back into the the media world where I am still trying to find my place. While I slowly settled into things, my boyfriend Gabe did the same. Unfortunately, he has set up shop in his home country, Colombia, in the capital of Bogotá. On the plus side, it is not too far from Miami and rather cheap to fly there (thanks Spirit!). So when I got a couple days off this past week for the Jewish holiday, I decided to visit him and cross South America off my continent checklist!

I arrived on Saturday afternoon and we walked around an old shopping plaza. I got lucky because I unknowingly came on El Día de Amor y Amistad, a Valentine-esque holiday that they take very seriously. This means rose petals and heart-shaped balloons scattered all around, live music serenading and people simply love-stricken strolling about. We had dinner at Andrés Carne de Res, a magnificent four-story restaurant that comes alive as a club at night. It has the largest menu I think I have ever seen (no exaggeration) and was a great way to jumpstart the evening that later involved lots of salsa dancing fueled by aguardiente, their notorious anise-flavored liqueur.

The next morning we woke up and headed to El Museo del Oro, or Gold Museum. This showcased Colombia’s rich gold history with plenty of glass cases full of the stuff. After that, we headed up into the valley to a lush area known as La Calera to have lunch at El Tambor

You wait in line and write down your order on a paper, within minutes your meat is chopped and plate put together. We had beef, blood sausage, chorizo, potatoes, yucca, a corn arepa and chicharones alongside their sauces. We sipped on refajo– a mixture of Aguila, Colombian beer, and Colombiana, a popular fruity cream soda drink out of a bucket!

We ate this…

and this…

washed down with this!

Afterwards, we grabbed desserts (that were consumed post food coma) from La Cabaña Alpina. After trying a few different things, I found I really enjoyed arequipe on practically anything, it is very similar to dulce de leche but “better” according to Gabe, but he might be a little biased. Later on, we caught the majority of the Steelers game and prayed we would get somewhat hungry before having dinner at Colombia’s popular chain Crepes and Waffles, with one of Gabe’s old friends.

Monday he had to work so I relied on Mike from Bogotá Bike Tours to show me around. It is ranked as the number one tour in Bogotá on Tripadvisor, and for good reason! I was joined by four other visitors- a man from Atlanta, two British girls and a Slovakian- making for one eclectic group. We rode around for five hours, following Mike’s lead that took us from the old city center of La Candelaria to the city’s second largest fruit market Plaza de Mercado de Paloquemao, and even through the Red Light District or as they call it, “tolerance zone of high impact activity.” We also went to a coffee factory where I learned that the majority of the notorious Colombian coffee is exported, while the coffee I drank in the sidewalk cafes are imported cheap kinds. Moral of that story is do not go to Colombia expecting to drink the good stuff. Instead, head to your local American coffee shop that carries the Colombian variety.

Another interesting spot was the central cemetery. There was a good amount of people strolling through on a Monday afternoon with flowers in hand to scatter around various grave sites,  not just those of their loved ones. Some residents believe some statues hold certain powers so ask them for favors and leave gifts and flowers.

One grave site of a former astrologer is thought to bring people money if you rub a bill against it. Supposedly, its powers are enhanced if you smoke pot there too, so you can imagine there were some young kids doing that, as well.

I left the following afternoon on an easy three and a half hour flight to Fort Lauderdale. It is crazy how in only a few hours you can be transported to some place so different from where you were before. I have a feeling this short trip was not my last to South America. I strongly desire to visit Taylor in Buenos Aires, and am already being convinced to go to Barranquilla, Colombia for their infamous Carnaval celebration in February. If all my dreams play out, this will not be my last entry.