Thursday, February 22, 2018

Pablo Escobar & Graffiti


Geoff was up on the roof while I got my in-room massage - which was awesome.  Not only did this woman have magic hands, but she came equipped with hot stones, an electric massager, and a TENS unit.  All for about $35 for the hour.  My back was pretty stiff from tubing. I blame it on the life jacket, not terribly comfortable and kept sliding around. We have another go at tubing in the national park.  Hope I can leave the jacket on the tube.

It is cloudy and cool here with a chance of rain.  Our guide, Carolina, and driver, Juan, were
right on time. Our first stop on the tour was Pablo’s house – which was pretty much an entire apartment building that he built for just his family. It is abandoned today and is owned by the police. You can see where the bombs hit. There were several of them throughout his stay there. From there it was on to the cemetery where he is buried. Visited the grave of Greselda Blanco a.k.a The Black Widow, Cocaine Godmother, and the Queen of Narco-Trafficking, from Miami who taught Pablo some of the tricks of the trade. Next was the

grave of his cousin and partner who got blown up in one of Pablo’s bombs. Last is the grave
site of Pablo and his family. Everyday people still come to put new flowers on the graves of these drug lords. He is referred to by the poor people as the Robin Hood of Colombia. This is only because he bought all his votes by bribery and lies (sounds all too familiar). It is said that Pablo made so much money he spent $2,000 a week just on rubber bands to wrap all the money up! In the end his mother sold him out to the DEA so that she basically could go shopping in Miami. 
Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria  (December 1949 – 2 December 1993) was a Colombian drug lord and narcoterrorist. His cartel supplied an estimated 80% of the cocaine smuggled into the United States at the height of his career, turning over US $21.9 billion a year in personal income. He was often called "The King of Cocaine" and was the wealthiest criminal in history, with an estimated known net worth of US $30 billion by the early 1990s (equivalent to about $56 billion as of 2017), making him one of the richest men in the world in his prime.
In 1982, Escobar was elected as an alternate member of the Chamber of Representatives of Colombia as part of the Liberal Alternative movement. Through this, he was responsible for the construction of houses and football fields in western Colombia, which gained him notable popularity among the locals of the towns that he frequented. However, Colombia became the murder capital of the world, and Escobar was vilified by the Colombian and American governments. In 1993, Escobar was shot and killed in his hometown by Colombian National Police, one day after his 44th birthday. 
Our next stop was over to San Antonio Park. Another bombing sight, where a commissioned Botero bird was blown up. In 1995, a bomb weighing more than 20 lbs was placed in the base of the bird. Botero donated the second bird on the condition that the first be kept along side – representing the old violence and the new peace. Also got to see the police giving a self defense class in the park.

We continued on to Comuna 13 where we met up with Ciro, our graffiti guide. He is a rapper from a group called Casa Kolacho:
The Comuna 13 of Medellín was one of the most violent in the city. Their young, tired, decided to tell that their neighborhood is something more than murders and drugs with rap, graffiti and break dance and for that they founded the Kolacho House. Two decades later, this meeting point of artists has given an alternative to the boys so as not to fall into criminality with art as the only weapon. They aspire to change lives.
One of the first achievements of this youth group was the festival Revolution without dead , which is celebrated for the first time on October 16, 2003, anniversary of Operation Orion. What started as an event for inexperienced young people who wanted to offer microphones, paint and dance floors as an alternative to helicopters and bullets, grew to become an internationally renowned macrofestival that in 2010 managed to gather more than 30,000 people. 
We rode down the famous Medellin escalators built to help bridge the neighborhoods.
High up on the city's hillside, Comuna 13 is an area that had been plagued with violence and was once a stronghold for guerrillas and drug traffickers.
Its 12,000 residents had to hike the equivalent of 28 stories home after scraping their living in the city. Steep roads made it impossible for vehicles to access this poor neighborhood, leaving the community isolated and impenetrable.
The solution? A giant 384-meter orange-roofed escalator that scales the mountain in six sections, with a journey taking just six minutes. Opened in 2011, the development has become a model for urban planning around the world.
More importantly, the simple innovation is credited with helping to bring peace and pride to a community once plagued with violence.
Architect Carlos Escobar came up with the idea. "Nobody trusted that this project would be possible. Before, this area was under the control of gangs," he said. "Right now, this area [has] become a neutral zone. The control is in the community's hands."
One running theme throughout our stay in Colombia so far, has been Pachamama – mother earth. Meaning the earth (nature) gives us everything and it seems we give nothing back in return. This was expressed in Bogota, Cali and now in Medellin in the art.

Carolina took us next to a world famous place to get popsicles.  We got the mango which is dipped in a lemony salt juice.  Great flavor.  While we were there I talked to a woman from another tour. Turns out she is from Holland, Flushing, Holland!! We both had a good laugh when I told her I grew up in Flushing, NY.

Before leaving, Ciro gave us a short lesson in graffiti – which by the way started in the Bronx by a delivery guy who would tag all the places he made deliveries. We did our best and said good-bye to Ciro.

Juan dropped us off at a really cool place for lunch so we could have beans and rice, the Hacienda. It is down the hill from our hotel – which by the way, we have decided to stay and not move. We have learned that there really is not a so-called charming part of town. Medellin is very new and most of the city is large buildings and shopping. Plus we can’t get our money back from this place. We are gone most of the day anyway.

Of course, we changed all our plans around while we were riding in the car. Tomorrow instead of biking city tour we are going to El Penon so that we can take our time. Saturday we will do a city tour – not sure yet if it is biking or car.  This morning was mostly rain – don’t feel like biking these hills in the rain. 

Carolina was able to get us reservations for tonight at a very famous restaurant, Carmen (when I tried there were no reservations to be had). She also made reservations at another great spot for Saturday night – where she set up a meeting with the chef there. So our time is pretty much covered.

The sun came out right before lunch which was great. It was time for an espresso if we were going to tackle the huge hill to the hotel. Found a great place called Fresh Coffee & Bicycle. Ordered two double espressos. I noticed this strange contraption on a table and was told it was a coffee siphon. All of a sudden, one of the guys starts a demonstration and served us two cafes gratis. Very interesting process. It was very sweet of them.

Hiked up the hill, changed into our suits and we are now sitting on the rooftop. We have the place to ourselves.  

Hung around the room for a while until it was time to get ready for dinner.  Took a $3 cab ride across town and got to Carmen's early.  No problem, they gave us a great table in a quiet part of the restaurant. The food was the best I have tasted in a very long time.  The octopus over black polenta was something that neither one of us had ever tasted. We both got different fish dishes and both were extraordinary. The restaurant we go to on Saturday is going to have to go a long way to top tonight.  Of course, we wound up having a lively conversation with our neighboring diners from Michigan via London.  They were also traveling around Colombia on their own and we picked up a few tips. They had done extensive travel in South America so we grilled them on Patagonia -which may be our next adventure. We had a lovely evening and now it is time to say buenos noches.

Next time…El Penon

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

On to Medellin


Not much to write about today. Andres picked us up at around 9:30 and we headed to theairport for our 12pm flight to Medellin.  We wound up on the same flight as the America de Cali soccer team.  They were quite the celebrities on the plane.  Got a shot of their superstar, Carlos Bendvento the goalie.  They are here to play Medellin.  We may watch the game tomorrow night.

Plane ride uneventful. Our driver was there to take us into the city.  The 45 minute ride was quite twisty and over a mountain range.  Medellin is very hilly.  Checked into our hotel, which I am not pleased to say is not really our style.  We nixed the first room and went to eat lunch while they prepared another room.  Same side but higher up -- slightly better view.  I think this place is filled with the bus tour groups.

We checked our the rooftop spa, such as it was.  We met Jaimie who take care of the place, very friendly guy.  He started the jacuzzi and steam room for us. Stayed up at the spa and relaxed for a bit and then went out to explore.  The hill to the hotel is HUGE!  Once you get to the bottom you are in the middle of a bustling city with nothing but malls new age restaurants and traffic.  Really not our kind of neighborhood.  We grabbed a quick bite and took a cab back up the hill.  Not sure if we can move, but I am going to try. 

I did book a massage.  She is coming in about a half hour.  Hoping that feels good. Geoff is going up to the roof to shoot some nighttime shots.

Next time... Pablo Escobar

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

San Cipriano


Finally got caught in the rain and it was a downpour.  Fortunately, we were involved in a water sport at the time.  But I am getting ahead of myself.

Shared a lovely meal last night at a restaurant down the street.  The decor again was artsy and antiques.  Very good and very comfortable.  Back in the room and lights out by 10pm - salsa will have to wait.

We grabbed a coffee and just a piece of toast knowing that this trip includes breakfast. There was some sort of motorcycle demonstration in the streets so we were off to a little later start waiting for the chaos to clear.  Valentina, our guide and Sebastian, our driver came to get us at around 9:15.  We have officially now met the whole Valley Adventours team.  Can't say enough good things about these guys.  Karina and Andres, the owners, went out of their way yesterday to make sure that we had a good time and that we had a nice room to come back to.  All the guides are informative, attentive, and friendly whether we speak the same language or not. I recommend them highly if you are ever in Cali.

I digress again -- San Cipriano is on the way to the Pacific coast, so we had to go over the mountains.  The sun was out and the ride was beautiful.  Stopped for breakfast at this wonderful place about halfway.  After driving through twisting roads and several tunnels we finally arrived at a long rope bridge that took across the river to the brujitas, motorcycle powered makeshift rail carts. This ride is a must to experience. Cruising through jungle at around 25 mph.  

After disembarking, we hiked a while to a hotel/restaurant where we stached our stuff and grabbed some tubes  and starting hiking to the river. There was absolutely no one else here except for a group of guys behind us -- one wearing a Bike Boston t-shirt. Are you kidding me??!!  They were all from the Boston area. This was a bachelor party for one of them who was getting marrying a Calian woman.  Very small world.

We parted ways when we diverted to enjoy the waterfalls.  The water felt amazing after the sweaty humid hike.  There are three all together and we swam in two of them. The San Cipriano River is one of the cleanest rivers in the world. It started to rain but it was of no matter to us.  We eventually got ourselves into the river and took off.  Having never done tubing before, I really got a kick out of it.  It was like a Disney ride, especially when you hit something and it spins you around -- wheeeee..... Fortunately, there seemed to be sufficient water.  I did manage to get stuck once and Valentina had to come rescue me.  Geoff got stuck also and got rescued by some locals swimming in the river. It continued to rain -- change that to pour down on us.  It was quite amusing and may have been better than the blistering sun.

After about 2 1/2 miles, we manged to put in by the restaurant where we started.  Dried up and changed, it was time for lunch.  Fish, rice and plaintains -- basically what we have been eating since we came -- only prepared different each time.  It was all very good.  Finished up, collected our stuff and reversed course back to the car. The rain was kind enough to stop as we made our way way back to the car. Raining on and off all the way home.  

The ride home was pretty quick. Sebastian made one stop for the local rice pudding.  This is a very popular place. People come up here from down in the city just for the pudding.  So of course we had to get some -- absolutely fabulous!!

Got back to the hotel around 5 pm.  Said our goodbyes to our new friends.  The owner of the hotel was at the desk when we arrived.  Speaks very good English. When Geoff told him I am writing a blog, he said to make sure I let everyone know that Casa Alegre is the best hotel in all of Cali -- so I just did that!!

There was talk of trying to go to a salsa club tonight.  The problem with that is they don't start dancing until 10pm. UGH!!  I'm not saying no, but honestly right now it is almost 8 and things don't look promising.  It was an exhausting day. Not even sure we will make it for dinner.  Maybe when we get to the island, we can practice our dance steps.

We leave Cali tomorrow morning.  This city does not get a lot of whatever tourism there is in Colombia.  However, I hope more people give it a chance.  There is much to see and do.  It is filled with art and culture and of course music. And most definitely the people are wonderful.  Again, we want to thank all of you who made us welcome in your city.

Next time .... On to Medellin

Monday, February 19, 2018

Exploring Cali, The City of Salsa!


Finally got into Cali around 7pm.  The flight was very bumpy in fact the woman sitting next to Geoff crossed herself three times when we landed!  I forgot to tell our agent about my claustrophobia, so we had a regular sardine seat.  I felt a bit of a panic when the woman in front of me started to lean her seat back -- didn't need to know Spanish to get my point across. She graciously put her seat back up for the duration.  Fortunately, it was only a short flight. 

Andres was there to greet us. He doesn't speak much English but we managed to converse and he is extremely helpful and nice. Arrived at the hotel around 8.  Well, our hotel luck ran out -- after being shown at least 3 or 4 rooms, we finally accepted the least offensive.  But in my heart, I knew we were outta there!  We walked down to a local cafe, Macondo named after a fictional place in the book, 100 Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia.  He won a Nobel Prize for his work.  The owner of the cafe is a jazz and literary buff.  The cafe is also used as a lending library.  There are books on every table.

Speaking of restaurants and the such, we found out today that Crepes and Waffles was started by a pair of students and has now grown into quite a chain.  In Colombia it is well known for only hiring single women or women in need.  Another worthy project.

Our mission this morning was to find some new accommodations.  The good news was that the tour company helping us in Cali was right down the street.  We were there first thing and explained our predicament.  Karina said go on the city tour and she was going to look for a suitable new place.  GREAT!!

Alex showed up at 10am and we were off.  The first stop was the famous Cristo Rey statue
Cristo Rey (English: Christ the King) is a statue 26 meters tall located in the Cerro de los Cristales (Hill of the Crystals) in the village of Los Andes, west of the city of CaliValle del Cauca, Colombia. The hill is so named because of the large amount of quartz that could be collected in the surrounding area.
On Sunday October 25, 1953, the statue was inaugurated at its summit an image of Christ in celebration of the fifty years following the end of the War of a Thousand Days. It is made of iron and concrete, with a mass of 464 tons and a height of 26 m, of which 5m belong to the pedestal.
On the way down, we stopped to admire the carvings along the road, "The lament of the Pacha Mama"  by a popular artist, Carlos Andres Gomez.  He plans 34 such carvings to line the ravines. From here we went further down and stopped at the statue of Sebastian de Belalcazar, 
Sebastián de Belalcázar (1479 or 1480, Córdoba – Cartagena, 1551) was a Spanish conquistador. De Belalcázar, also written as De Benalcázar, is known as the founder of important early colonial cities in the northwestern part of South America; Quito in 1534 and CaliPasto and Popayán in 1537. De Belalcázar led expeditions in present-day Ecuador and Colombia and died of natural causes after being sentenced to death in Cartagena, at the Caribbean coast in 1551.
Next it was a drive down into the city stopping to take a stroll along Gato Park:
El Gato del Rio is a three-ton bronze sculpture by the late Colombian artist
Hernando Tejada, who moved to Cali from Bogota at the age of 14 and died there in 1998 — two years after he donated the sculpture to Cali. It came to the city as part of a municipal improvement project designed to beautify the banks of the Cali river on the city’s north side, and ten years later in 2006, the project expanded to include 15 smaller felines — all cast in the same shape — which other local artists subsequently painted as well. 
You can see these cats all over the city.  Alex then took us into the heart of the downtown municipal buildings.  Here we handed the car over to Andres and we hoofed it back to the tour shop.  First we had to admire this enormous horn-trumpet like structure in the middle of the Plaza.  It usually plays salsa music but not today. 
Unveiled on Dec. 25, 2015, “Niche “is a monument designed as a tribute to the artist Jairo Varela. The famous musician from Cali has been the driving force behind the group Niche, which has given an identity to the Salsa of Cali. The designed sculpture is 10 meters high, displaying the word ‘’Niche’’ in galvanized steel painted with gold synthetic enamel. The trumpets and trombones were the main inspiration for the form, as they are considered essential musical elements in the group’s music.
Stopping for a lulo fruit juice in the park, before wrapping up the tour. Crossing over the oldest bridge, we passed through the downtown area complete with bike path running through it, to the oldest building in Cali. It is now a church and nunnery.  

Got back to the shop and Katrina said there was a room for us around the corner at Casa Alegre. Alex, Andres and Geoffrey and myself all went to take a look -- it is GREAT! and cheaper! There is even a jacuzzi tub which I hope to try after tubing tomorrow.  We immediately said we would be back to check-in.  But first it was time for SALSA!!

The boys dropped us off at the studio and from there it is 1,2,3  5,6,7 count!  I had a ball and Geoff struggled.  I give him a lot of credit for doing it.  Our instructor said he would get there with a bit more practice.  I'll have to work on him.  Not sure if salsa is in the cards tonight, we have an early morning.  Grabbed some lunch at another very good restaurant in the neighborhood --which by the way is very pleasant and safe.  Old colonial style streets and buildings. Left Geoff to finish my lunch and rushed over to meet Andres who helped me move our stuff over to the new hotel.

Almost forgot to mention the three crosses - here is a view from our window:

The Three Crosses monument was built because, it is said, the devil appeared on the hill and cursed the people of Cali, so to counter this curse a father organized the building of these to lock him inside the mountain itself. Initially they were made in bamboo but later made the change for existing concrete.
We are now settled in and very comfortable. Spoke with Paula at IMPULSE and she will straighten out the rebate from the first hotel.  Her patience with me is unending and I appreciate it enormously.  

It's going to be early to bed and early to rise for us this evening.

Next time... San Cipriano

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Leaving Bogota


Sitting at the Bogota Airport waiting, waiting, and waiting for our flight.  Had I known there was a flight every half hour I would have re-booked us, but I found out too late.  Well, I've learned my lesson.  Walter dropped us off at the airport around 3pm and our flight does not leave until almost 5:30.

We gathered our things early and left the hotel in search of Casa Terracotta.  We were not interested in the religious museums or the giant fossil, of which we have many in the states. No it was the house made out of clay that held our interest:
Besides from being the biggest piece of pottery in the world, Casa Terracota is a matchless work of art: It merges not only architecture and design, but also all the arts and crafts known. This happens because its designer—Colombian architect Octavio Mendoza Morales—believes that they are all key tools in the process of creating innovative spaces, where alternative standards of living can take place; friendly lifestyles not only for the building’s residents, but also for their surrounding community and environment.
Among other things, architect Mendoza’s philosophy suggests that “inhabiting a place” does not only imply occupying its interior spaces; because, he states, it also has to do with a harmonious coexistence between the people and both the building and those nearby—regardless of the fact that they are other humans, animals, wilderness, or rural or urban communities.
Thus, his construction system and its corresponding beliefs invite us all to adopt groundbreaking dynamics that transform the whole concept of what we usually call “architecture”: starting from the mere act of designing and building a space, and ending with how we make it a home to live in. This way, he states, we are able to create stronger bonds between structures, people and nature. 
Being the first to arrive, we had the place to ourselves.  What a hoot!  It was time to get back in the car for the long journey back to Bogota.  Walter made great time getting back to the city and somehow we even managed to avoid the rain.  Lots of cyclists today.  All over the hills plus Bogota closes down a few streets to traffic on Sundays and holidays.  It was great to see.  One thing these guys like to do is hitch a ride up to the top of a mountain and bike down.  We noticed the other day that a guy with a bike was on the back of a motorcycle -- we couldn't quite make it out -- now we know!  

Made it back to the city by 11:30.  Walter dropped us off at the Usaquen Flea Market only open on Sundays.  Patricia walked around with us -- the place has some very interesting art and handicrafts.  Geoff spotted a massage chair and I hopped right on it.  My neck had a really bad kink.  Wow!! Greatest 12 minutes of my life.  This gal knew her stuff.  It was time for lunch, so Patricia escorted us to Crepes and Waffles (very popular here) and we said our good-byes.  Ordered tuna and it came covered with cheese, of course!  Everything comes with cheese and usually pesto -- if I didn't know better I would think we were in Italy!  The guy on the plane really knew what he was talking about.  

Finished lunch, walked around some more. Stopped into a cafe for our, usual afternoon, coffee.  Enjoyed our drinks as we watched the chefs perform their craft. It was soon time to meet Walter and head out of town.

So here we are with about an hour left.  See you in Cali.

Next time... Exploring Cali

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Train to Zipaquira


No dinner last night.  We were so full from our day of cooking. Broke into the mini-bar for a few snacks, watched an episode of Poldark and went to sleep. The sun is out again this morning – lucky us. Breakfast was pretty quiet.  The OAT tour folks have gone to Medellin. Walter and Patricia were waiting for us at 8 am to take us to the train. They were driving up.

The train was as funky as I thought it was going to be but it was a hoot and quite entertaining. There was a French tv crew shooting a show about trains. Then the band came through and the gal in front showed us her salsa steps. It was exactly a 2 hour ride   the town – and I must say, probably a lot more comfortable then sitting in traffic.

We all met up at the station and headed to his salt cathedral. This place is amazing. It follows the stations of the cross, which in Colombia are 14. Everything is carved out of the salt.

The Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá  is an underground Roman Catholic church built within the tunnels of a salt mine 200 metres (220 yd) underground in a halite mountain near the town of Zipaquirá, in CundinamarcaColombia. It is a very popular tourist destination and place of pilgrimage in the country. The name "Salt Cathedral" is mostly to attract tourists - while a functioning church that receives as many as 3,000 visitors on Sundays, it has no bishop and therefore no official status as a cathedral in Catholicism.
The Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá  is an underground Roman Catholic church built within the tunnels of a salt mine 200 metres (220 yd) underground in a halite mountain near the town of Zipaquirá, in CundinamarcaColombia. It is a very popular tourist destination and place of pilgrimage in the country.The name "Salt Cathedral" is mostly to attract tourists - while a functioning church that receives as many as 3,000 visitors on Sundays, it has no bishop and therefore no official status as a cathedral in Catholicism.  

The temple at the bottom has three sections, representing the birth, life, and death of Jesus. The icons, ornaments and architectural details are hand carved in the halite rock. Some marble sculptures are included.

The Salt Cathedral is considered one of the most notable achievements of Colombian architecture, being described as a "Jewel of Modern Architecture". The cathedral represents for the Colombian people a valuable culturalenvironmental and religious patrimony.

After the tour, we drove into town for some lunch and a coffee before heading up to Villa de Leyva where we will spend the night.  We made a couple of stops along the way.  One was a photo-op of the river and the other was the Puente de Boyaca:

To understand what this place represents, it is necessary to go back to August 7, 1819, when near Tunja on the Teatinos River, the Royalist army led by the Spanish José María Barreiro and the Patriot army commanded by General Simón Bolívar, gave start to the historic Battle of Boyacá, a fact that triggered the independence of New Granada. Yes, that quiet and peaceful place that radiates a certain peace, was at that time the scene of one of the most important battles in Colombia, in short, a war camp.
It all began on August 4, 1819, when Simón Bolívar, after the battle of the Pantano de Vargas in Paipa, made a skillful maneuver with his troops at night, taking over Tunja and cutting off the advance of the army of the Spaniard Juan María Barreiro. which was intended to connect with the reinforcements of Santa Fe (Bogotá). The royalist commander, when surprised, went to the capital by the road to Motavita, but Bolivar left to prevent him from marching on the Boyacá Bridge. There, at two o'clock in the afternoon, the two armies met. 
It was a fight that lasted two hours and gave the victory to the forces of the Liberator. The royalists, seeing themselves defeated, gave in to the attack and began the retreat. The majority of the members of the royalist command fell to the patriot army, around 1,600 soldiers with their weapons and all the war material. 200 royalist soldiers and 13 patriots died. Among the officers who were able to escape, two of them ran to take the news to Santa Fe. 
From that moment the Boyacá Bridge, that cold and immensely peaceful place, became a historical place, a monument that although small in dimension is visited daily by hundreds of tourists, who cross it with a heart full of patriotism or simply out of curiosity .
We arrived into Villa de Leyva around 4:30, settled into the hotel and made a plan to meet up with Patricia and Walter at a Peruvian restaurant at 7pm.  Although the wifi is a bit iffy, the hotel is great.  It definitely has old world charm. The room has lots of charm and a special someone over the bed.  

We showered and made our way to the square -- this is a very beautiful place, surrounded by mountains.  We took our time walking through the shops and admiring all the wares.  Arriving at the restaurant early, we did everything possible to try to contact Walter to meet us earlier than 7pm.  No luck.  We ordered the calamari just to hold us over.  It was awful!!  Immediately sent it back.  Not being too happy with the place, we were pleased to know that when P & W showed up, this was not the restaurant that Patricia suggested.  However, that one was closed.  

We settled the bill and left for somewhere else.  The restaurant on the corner was lively and the food was great.  The couple next to us ordered the pasta in cheese.  They literally toss the pasta in this huge roll of cheese.  Never saw anything like it.  Walter ordered Colombian tea, which was quite elegant.  There was even a cool dude doing some live music.  All in all we wound up having a lovely meal with some good conversation. 

I know there was a lot of talk about what to do tomorrow before we go to the airport to catch the flight to Cali, but I am still not sure what was decided.  I guess I'll find out tomorrow.  Until then, buenos noches.

Next time... Leaving Bogota

Friday, February 16, 2018

Tropical Abundance Tour


Still waiting for hubby to get up.  Finally got a full night's sleep. We haven't been sleeping all that well the last few nights.  Not sure if its the traveling or maybe even the altitude.  We haven't seemed to have much problem during the day -- although yesterday's climb to 10,000 ft took a bit of air out of our lungs.

I am going to take this time to explain the Bogota street grid - which was the first lesson Walter gave us on the drive from the airport when we arrived.  Having the mountains on one side will always give you direction (I have experience with this from living in Boulder).  For the most part the streets are laid out in Calles (streets) which increase south to north and Carreras (roads) increase from east to west.  Our hotel's address is Calle 10 #5-72 - this means it is on calle 10 with the cross street carrera 5 and building 72. 

To this New Yorker, it sounds very much like the street grid of Manhattan. However, since Bogota has multiple zones and twists and turns there are many exceptions to this rule.  But for the most part it has worked out for us in our neighborhood of La Candelaria.  Walter tells us that Bogota used the same designer as NY, Gaston le Large.

Geoff's awake so I guess it is time to start the day.  I see blue sky amid the clouds. This seems to be standard for Bogota no matter what the weather report.  Made a quick call to my brother while we had time this morning -- all's well at home.

We weren't meeting Walter until 11am so we walked around the corner to the Botero Museum.  We will also be visiting his museum in Medellin, where he is from.  He has quiet a sense of humor with his art.
In the year of 2000 the Colombian artist Fernando Botero donated 208 art pieces, 123 of his own making and 85 of other international artists, to the Bank of the Republic. With this collection, the Botero Museum was founded in the neighborhood of La Candelaria, the historic center of Bogotá, in a colonial mansion that was acquired by the Bank of the Republic and made suitable to house the art collection by Fernando Botero himself. Since November 1, 2000, the museum has been open to the public free of charge.
Back to the hotel, we met up with Walter and Diana, our chef and tour guide.  Fortunately, we visited a different market than the one we visited on the bike tour.  This one was a bit more local and we liked it better.  Daniel met us there -- he is in charge of content and communications with Impulse Travel -- basically PR.  He tagged along today to shoot some promotional video of this tour.  We were also joined by JuanPablo, Diana's boyfriend and co-chef.  

We had a great time, not only picking out veggies for dinner, but partaking in some of the wares, as well.  We tasted some lulo fruit juice, and experienced a most fabulous fruit salad -- with cheese, yogurt, and all kinds of local fruit.  Could not leave the market without sampling the local dish of arepas:
Arepas are the most common traditional dish in Colombia and are served as an accompaniment or as a meal in itself. Arepas are served throughout Central and South America, but Colombia has its own original type of arepa. Arepas can come in a number of varieties, including arepas de choco (made from a sweet corn and filled with cheese), arepas con queso (filled with cheese), and arepas de huevo (an arepa which is deep fried with an egg cracked inside and then refried). Each region in Colombia has its own traditional way to eat and make arepas.
The cheese man was most accommodating, and we were able to taste a variety of cheeses. All local and all delicious.  Our last stop was outside the market -- Mr. Avocado man -- more tasting.  Finally loaded up the car and headed for Diana & JuanPablo's apartment.

We invited Walter to come up and join us.  We had a wonderful afternoon learning about this fabulous couple and Colombian cooking techniques.  Geoff helped out and was paying close attention for when we try to recreate some of these dishes.  Walter was kind enough to write down all the food dishes that they prepared. Here is the menu for the main meal:

Arepa de huevo. 
Patacones con aogao. 
Cubios rostisados
Ensalada de quino
Maiz tostao

And the cheeses from right to left: 

1)Queso campesino 
2)Queso 7 cueros 
3)Queso costeño 
4)Queso paipa

We finished off the meal with homemade truffles and some strong Colombian coffee, naturally.  There was much talk of the lifestyles, family and children -- so we had to brag about Deidre's art and I brought up her web page. Lots of oohs and aahs.  These are young people, and Geoff asked if they had ever heard of Kelly -- well if they didn't before, they did now.  Diana insisted on seeing OMG Shoes -- so they all gathered around Walter's cell phone for a dose of Kelly.  Lots of laughter. Everyone loved it!!  

What a wonderful afternoon, with some very fine people and lots of good fresh food.  We were able to learn so much about the culture and the country.  We are both very grateful for the opportunity to spend time in their home and share such a rich experience.  Oh I almost forgot about the cat and the dog -- got a dose of some puppy love and a bit of purr action.  Absolute purrrfection!!

Headed back to the hotel and got in a little after 5.  Said good bye to Walter.  We will see him bright and early tomorrow.  The sun was going down -- I grabbed the camera and got a few shots from the hotel restaurant.  A lovely evening.  Looks like it will be another early night for our last night in Bogota.  We are exhausted and we have to be ready by 8 am to get the train out of town.

As we are being serenaded by a group outside the Opera house, I can only say that our stay here has been nothing short of wonderful.  We could not have asked for a better experience. We want to say thank you to all of you who helped our Bogota experience become a most memorable one.  We now look forward to the rest of our adventure.

Next time...The Train to the Salt Cathedral