Adventures in South America 2

L. R. Laverde-Hansen By L. R. Laverde-Hansen, 5th Sep 2014 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/83-q1jae/
Posted in Wikinut>Travel>South America>Colombia>Bogotá & Around

Here follows more of my 2011 tour through the city of Bogotá, Colombia.

First Attractions

Continued from the earlier account, also published on wikinut.com

It rained constantly in Bogotá. I got used to carrying four light umbrellas in a bag. We had family business all over the city, but still managed to get in some sightseeing. A lot of that was in the south. As the source of the old city, Bogotá's south central is its historical heart. The National government buildings are there, as are the historic ones which commemorate the nation's birth two hundred years ago. One highly regarded place is the 20th of July Museum (for Colombians the 20th of July is our 4th of July). It's a relatively small but historic building, complete with artifacts from the Independence period.

Doings around La Candelaria

The museum is right there by The Candelaria district. La Candelaria, as it's known, is much of the old city preserved. You will find countless blocks of cobble-stone streets and Spanish colonial and Baroque style houses. Some of these neighborhoods go back several hundred years. It's a welcome slowdown from the high traffic in the rest of the city. By law the buildings cannot destroyed or altered by new construction, so you can meander narrow European-style streets.

Nestled among it's blocks are several attractive schools, theatres restaurants and museums. Oddly La Candelaria has both cheap and expensive restaurants, depending on the establishment you choose to enter. There was one wonderful restaurant, which specializes in the seafood of Colombia's Pacific coast. It's a "cheap joint" in that lunch will not run you more than $7 or 8 U. S. Dollars, and it's not high-end decor. But that's not the point. It's some of the best seafood I've ever had, and if you can watch out for the bones, you're good to go.

We bought avocados from the vendor right outside and sliced them into our ajiaco santafereño. This is the wonderful potato-based soup, which is both a comfort food and what the city is famous for. The ajiaco is almost a meal in itself, but we had to try the whole fried fish. I didn't ask what the fish was exactly, but it was superb. It was just right and flavorful, like a flounder, but not exactly. As usual, we washed them down with a blended juice of mora (blackberry) or maracuya (passion fruit). This ain't no typical basic meal--thank God! We walked out full, but not in that empty calorie way. There would be more experiences like that.

More doings in Downtown

That was the weird thing. Sometimes the low-end restaurant was superior to the high end. A few days later I had a Colombian tamale in a really cheap joint a few blocks away on their Seventh Avenue (see picture of night scene). Above in the picture, is the Torre Colpatria (Colpatria Tower), the tallest building in Colombia, and one of the tallest in South America.

This area extending north of La Plaza De Bolívar (Bolívar Square) is closed to vehicular traffic on weekends and a tourist gem. There are these fabulous artisan shops there, as well as street vendors. While some of the tourist merchandise is mass produced, there are many fabulous hand-made pieces as well. Everything from Tee Shirts, to adorned bags, to creative contraptions can be found there. Additionally there is a parking lot up there, which becomes a flea-market on weekends.

Monserrate

One day after shopping, we were hungry, so we went up to the street to this place in the downtonwn area frequented by laborers and students. To play it safe, I ordered a chicken tamale with a Pony Malta (malt drink). There was a wait for the tamales, but when they came, steaming, and so good. I think the secret of a good chicken tamale is to have the chicken moist and flavorful without being soggy. Nearly a week later, I went to this more upscale place in La Candelaria and again ordered a tamale. Although the bill was bigger and the decor very nice, the tamale was dry. It wasn't bad actually, but once you've had a great tamale, would you settle for less?

Visible day and night from Seventh Avenue atop the eastern slope is the Mount of Monserrate. A famous church was built there, and it has remained a religious and secular center ever since. The hearty like to climb the hill's 3,000 meters, but a great cable car service and special train ascend the heights. I didn't go there this time, but I remember the green of the high hills, the lovely streets stretching from the Church, and of buying a special bottle of Aguardiente con hierbas (with herbs). For those who might not know, Aguardiente is the national liquor, like Pisco in Peru. Since it translates loosely into 'fire water" in Spanish, you can guess how potent it is.

Later on, we had these really superb empanadas uptown by the Avenida Caracas. They were at this unpretentious joint, and came in chicken, beef or shrimp flavors. They were not too greasy, but would not be confused with light food. We enjoyed them so much, we had to have another and come back another day.

La Zona Rosa (The Pink District)



On the opposite end of the spectrum, we went towards the end of our trip to La Zona Rosa (Pink Zone) This is the trendiest, swankiest neighborhood in town: Bogotá's Madison Avenue or Rodeo Drive. We hung out in the Centro Andino, which is as polished a shopping center as anything I've seen. I though about buying a Cuban cigar in one of the mall's stores (like most of Latin America, Colombia does not observe the embargo against Cuba), but I wanted to be a loyal American. But come on--this law is getting old, fellas.

Still in La Zona Rosa, we finished up at Andrés D. C., which is this zany, fabulous multi-story restaurant, bar, cabaret, etc. There is a great story to this. Around thirty years ago, so the story goes, Andrés was a guy who began a small joint in Chia, which is another town in the north outside of Bogotá. Then little by little, organically, haphazardly, it grew. Andres just kept adding to the original structure without the centralized remodeling American restaurateurs would employ. Today Andrés Carne de Res (Andrew's Steak House) is this sprawling, wacky and yet upscale establishment, which hosts over two thousand people a night. But Andrés Carne de Res is a long drive out of Bogotá (though worth it, I assure you).

Andrés D. C. captures in a smaller way, the spirit of his original place, at least on a vertical level. To his credit, the place conforms to no exact rules, except to be a lot of fun. Lights and spectacle abound. On some levels, there is live entertainment; on others dining, drinking and dancing. The waiters have a cool pleasant manner. But there is no skimping on the dining. The food is expensive and excellent. If you crave a unique experience (no quiet night out for sure), this would be your cup of coffee. Going there was a great way to cap the trip.

As I keep writing, I came to realize that there is so much more to Bogotá than I could put into a short piece. I didn't mention my trip to the Gold Museum, or to various art galleries. The bottom line is if you want a world-class destination not always mentioned in the tourist books, Bogotá is your kind of town.

Until later, happy travels.

Originally Published on Yahoo Voices
New York June 10, 2011
Revised September 6, 2014

Tags

Andres Dc, Bogota, Centro Andino, Colombia, Monserrate, Zona Rosa

Meet the author

author avatar L. R. Laverde-Hansen
Poet, playwright, commentator. I write wherever I can. Currently I reside in the City of New York.

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Comments

author avatar Retired
6th Sep 2014 (#)

What a wonderful review of Bogota! I would never have thought of Bogota as a vacation destination, but your descriptions give it a chance on our prospect list. Thank you!

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author avatar L. R. Laverde-Hansen
6th Sep 2014 (#)

Love your comments, LeRain. Also love your great and incisive articles on gems.

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author avatar cnwriter..carolina
6th Sep 2014 (#)

another great travelogue...many thanks..

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author avatar L. R. Laverde-Hansen
6th Sep 2014 (#)

Thank you, Carolina, as always.

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author avatar Mark Gordon Brown
6th Sep 2014 (#)

I would love to go to South America, particularly to Machu Pichu or any of the older ruins.

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author avatar L. R. Laverde-Hansen
6th Sep 2014 (#)

Thank you, Mark. Oh you should, but make it the whole Continent. But cities and out of doors. Like Canada, there are great highlands. Amazing climate mitigated by the elevations.

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author avatar Fern Mc Costigan
9th Sep 2014 (#)

Awesome post mate, and glad to see your work again, cheers!

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author avatar L. R. Laverde-Hansen
9th Sep 2014 (#)

Thanks so much, Fern.

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