So you may have seen that I went on a whirlwind, 4-day trip to South America. Bogota, Colombia to be specific.
When I told people where I was going, I got mixed reactions. From delight that I was traveling to such an exotic place, to horror that I was going to such a “dangerous” city. Meh, I figured that my friend, whose wedding I was going to, wouldn’t be inviting all of us to a city where we would be in danger of getting shot or kidnapped, so I was pretty comfortable with it.
It was amazing.
We spent two days on a tour with the most incredible tour guide through Hansa Tours. Juan was about the same age as our group and getting his Masters in Colombian History, which gave him an amazing perspective on the country, it’s people and it’s politics. If you have a chance to tour the city, Hansa is the group to do it with.
We started at the Salt Cathedral, a masterful mix of religion and tourist-trap, located in a small town about 45 minutes outside of Bogota. It was a little creepy to be180 meters underground, but was fascinating to see.
I loved the cathedral, but the town of Zipaqueria where it was located? Was so.totally.awesome. It was brightly colored, full of gorgeous cathedrals and beautiful plazas. And I ate capybara there… one of the highlights of my trip. (In case you didn’t know, the capybara is the world’s largest rodent and it is DELICIOUS… if you’re feeling adventurous.)
Day two was all about the Old City. The Candelaria was all old european buildings, the main square, churches and of course Monserrate, a church located in the mountains above the city, at about 10,000 feet. Despite the fact that we were all devastated from a late night of drinking and dancing we enjoyed the second day, it’s history and views. And we totally enjoyed the ajiaco, the world’s best hangover cure in the form of a chicken and potato soup. Heaven in a bowl for those of us who overindulged. (Certainly not me… *wink*)
Two days of tours, 4 days of amazing food and a culture that was fascinating to learn about and see. A city of runners, bikers and the craziest drivers I’ve ever experienced. Seriously, the drivers are flipping NUTS. But the city devotes a substantial number of roads on bike-only Sundays, which is not only a breath of fresh air but a relief after the auditory assault of the traffic during the rest of the week.
The people were amazing and while most people spoke at least a small amount of English, I’d suggest brushing up on some basics before you head down there. My spanish, which was marginal at best, was MUCH better by the end of the trip after having to explain to the cabbies where I needed to go.
The shopping at the local markets was fun, as there are about 2,000 Colombian pesos to each US Dollar, which was about 2 to 1. I came home with several local items, woven bracelets for my friends and a few Mochilas, the traditional Colombian bag that everyone carries. Even our tour guide was rocking one that we jokingly referred to as his “Man Bag” the whole time.
The coffee is to die for and their local “Starbucks” is the Juan Valdez cafe. They sell bags of coffee that are easy to bring home for gifts and reasonably priced. I have to admit that the flight back to the states smelled like coffee from all of the bags that we were transporting but it was well worth it. This stuff is GOLD.
We stayed at a beautiful but totally reasonable hotel, down in the Virrey section of the city. It was two blocks off a park that ran through the center of the city and was filled with runners and bikers and people just out walking their dogs. We were able to walk or take cabs most everywhere that we needed to go and they were really inexpensive. Case in point, my 45 minute trip from El Dorado Airport was only about $15 US. Crazy, right?
At the end of 4 days in Bogota, I’d stood at the top of a 10,000 foot mountain, drank too much Aguardiente and learned about a city that I would never have visited in a million years. But I would so.totally.go.back.
If you can get to Bogota and to Colombia in general? GO THERE!