Greetings from Bogotá!
From the street vendors hawking tropical juices to the many tributes to Gabriel García Márquez to that first, white-knuckled taxi ride, it was clear that we were in Colombia. I’m still absorbing and assimilating everything, so before I post something reflective, let me zip right to the images and highlights of our weekend in Bogotá. The Colombian capital, with its historical and cultural offerings, made a great introduction to the country before we hopped over to Andres’ hometown.
Plaza de Bolivar
Plaza de Bolívar, Bogotá’s main square, is flanked by important buildings such as the Palace of Justice and the Primary Cathedral of Bogotá. Inside the plaza, a jumble of performers, street vendors, pigeons, and crafty entrepreneur’s vied for our attention. Slow-moving llamas took pint-sized kiddos for a spin (and photo-bombed at least one of our pics). Wind whipped through the flat expanse of the square, alternatively ruffling and straightening the colors of the Colombian flag. The plaza was an obvious starting point for our tour of the city, as the streets that led off of it made it easy to explore the art offerings in the neighborhood of La Candelaria.
Cafe de Colombia
What better place than Colombia to battle that pesky traveling companion, jet lag? Juan Valdez is Colombia’s go-to coffee stop, popping up everywhere from museums to malls. After checking out the Museo Nacional, we stopped at the adjoining Juan Valdez for a no-frills espresso. (Verdict: Let’s go back, por favor.) Starbucks opened their first stores in Colombia just last month, but for now, at least, the global coffee giant clearly has stiff local competition.
I didn’t learn about artist Fernando Botero until a college professor of mine revealed that he was related to this famous painter. My interest was piqued, but I never imagine I’d get the chance to see so much of his work in person. Botero’s light-hearted and colorful expression is mimicked perfectly in the museum that houses it. A giant hand waves invitingly from the entryway, a tell-tale sign that this is no stuffy art affair. Whether baskets of oranges, renditions of famous portraits, or canvases filled with quotidian characters, these larger-than-life objects made for an experience that was anything but stodgy.
Andres D.C.is a zany restaurant famous for Colombian fare, as well as the effervescent bacchanalia. Everything is over-the-top, starting with the 63-page menu, and it was an upbeat addition to our weekend in Bogotá. The wait staff adorned their outfits with all sorts of kooky charms and amulets; most distinctly, I recall a blue Furby dangling from a waitress’ neck. Add confetti, wandering musicians, boot-stomping rounds of “Happy Birthday,” and TV screens following the diners, and you have an idea of the carnivalesque atmosphere that accompanied the meal. The multi-storied restaurant is so packed with trinkets, art, and ceiling ornaments, that I had a hard time even recognizing if my thumbnail shots were right-side-up or sideways!
Mixed platter with: arepas, two avocado dishes, potatoes with different sauces, grilled corn, and a fried plantain stuffed with cheese and quince paste
Staying in Andres’ brother’s apartment meant that we were treated to 17th-floor views of the high-rises and mountains surrounding Bogotá. The living room window took up an entire wall, and I was struck by how gorgeous the mountains looked both during the day and at night. Fog collected around the mountaintops, making the landscape extra picturesque–and even more illusive to photograph.