Saturday, 28 September 2013

Bogota. Muy Bonita.

Flying over the Andes
We have had such a brilliant time here in Bogota, not counting the day we arrived when we were just too tired we had 4 days here.

Day 1 - So after our drama of arriving we got up the next day ready to take on the city. Diosa, our Spanish teacher from London's aunt, is lovely. She lives in Villa Magdela, which is a suburb about 40 minutes north of the city centre. She has a great 3 bedroom flat in a security building. She has been so welcoming and really made us feel like this is our home away from home.
On our first day sight-seeing Diosa walked us to the bus station so we knew where it was, and asked for our bus tickets for us and tried to tell us which bus to catch. Her English is pretty good, better than our Spanish, we manage to converse ok with the help of Table Top a great translation app we can form broken sentences and use this for when neither of us know a word for something.
Our host in Bogota, Diosa

Bless her, Diosa is lovely but she thinks Bogota is 'muy peligroso' (very dangerous) and got a bit worried when we got home at 7.30 at night when we said we expected to be back at 7.
We got on the bus, a note here, the bus system in Bogota is great but confusing, there are many buses going down the same dedicated bus lanes but only stop at certain stops and there is not a great way of knowing which stop the bus will stop at, 5 buses later, when we think we have worked it out something goes wrong.

La Candelaria
Bogota is beautiful, once you get out of the south west of the city - which is where got off the bus. It was full of dodgy looking people (including one who followed us), litter, loads of traffic so a lot of pollution, but walk 15 minutes east and you hit the pretty historic centre - La Candelaria. It is filled with galleries, painted colonial buildings, cobbled streets and on Wednesday it was filled with school students visiting the galleries. We went into the Museo Botero, which houses 123 pieces of Botero's work as well as some from Picasso, Chagall, Dali, Monet and Klimt among others. It was a nice haven from the bustle of the town, in a beautiful old colonial building. One of the school kids had sat beside Angel on a bench and was intrigued by the english/spanish dictionary he was using to translate something he had read.
Kids at the Museo Botero

We had a very tasty meal at a pasta and salad place in the old town called Andante Ma Non Troppo, delicious! It is quite cheap here to eat out (with GBP as the currency of our budget), we are under budget each day, which has evened out the overspends in Brazil and Argentina.

As the day was relatively clear - note that due to the mountains and the elevation (we are at 2600 metres here) the weather is generally cloudy and occasional rain - we took the funicular up to Cerro de Monserrate which is at 3200 metres, to be honest we have noticed the altitude when we have been walking up the streets in the historic town (which are very steep), and have had to stop occasionally to catch our breaths and way up here was no different - the views are literally breathtaking. There is a church built on top of the mountain - we could not imagine how they got the materials up there.
View from Cerro de Monserrate
Day 2 was spent other Museo del Oro, the gold museum. The largest collection of had made gold artificacts in the world. Three hours of looking at gold, don't get us wrong it was amazing, there was just a lot of it! We then went emerald shopping, Columbia is famous for its emeralds, there must be 100 shops selling them, we didn't count them but they are in one area of about 2 streets plus the Emerald Trade Centre, and despite all these emeralds, Ellen didn't find anything she liked, she's too fussy, she wanted platinum - which is surprisingly not common here, despite Columbia having a large supply of it. We'll have to look in Cartagena.

We did see one of the most distressing and moving things we have seen on our travels, a man on the street, he didn't look more than 20, filthy - not just dirty, filthy. No shoes, thread-bare clothes and he was reaching out to a woman walking along eating something, he looked like he could hardly walk. We have seen questionable homeless people begging all over the place but this guy - both of us were fighting back tears with the sight of him, we walked into the nearest shop which was a Subway and got him a sub with a coke and added a banana we had in our bag and walked back and have it to him, he looked genuinely shocked that we were giving it to him. There is so much poverty here in South America, it's quite shocking. 

Salt Cathedral
Zipaquira Plaza de Independencia
Day 3 we went to Zipaquira and to the Salt Cathedral, this is still a working mine though these days it is not mined with picks and shovels, it is water and pressure. The mines themselves are impressive, each tunnel could take a jumbo jet. Along the tunnels to the Cathedral there are the stages of the cross, which are really just salt carved crucifixes with really tacky coloured lighting. The actual Cathedral is 75m long and 18m high and can fit 8500 people, today it was just us, about 4 school groups and some German tourists. To get there we took the confusing Transmilenio and the one of the local buses, which was an adventure all on it's own - there are no stops (apart from the first at the Portal de Norte) you literally see the bus coming so you wave it down and quite often it veers across 3 lanes of motorway traffic, amidst much horn blowing, to pick you up.
Local bus, Columbian style
Zipaquira itself is a quiet, pretty town, though we could imagine in high season it is pretty rammed as there are many restaurants. There is a very old looking church which was closed and two main town squares. We ate at a place on the Plaza de Indepencia, we have discovered the brilliant value of the plates of the day - a generous soup starter, followed by meat, rice, and a salad, a juice and a small sweet all for about £8 for the both of us. We had eaten another in the old town Bogota on day 2 which cost us only £7. Amazing value.

Anniversary dinner
Day 4 we decided to have a chill out day, it is our anniversary after all. So did our laundry as there was the novelty of a washing machine and drier, and then headed to Andres Carne de Res, a Bogotan institution. It's part restaurant part night club, as our flight is early the next day we decided on lunch. It was brilliant, our best meal so far. During the day the place is buzzing but nothing like the dancing on the tables which apparently happens at night. The place is huge and has an eclectic decor of bits and bobs, most of which look like they were made specifically for the restaurant. We both had the charcoal tenderloin which was out of this world, it came rare but as it is served on a boiling hotplate we just sliced it up and it cooked as we ate it, it was so tender and delicious. We also had an avocado and parmesan salad and margaritas, Ellen had a coffee and Angel (naturally) had a dessert - Chocolate cake and ice cream. All up it was 1/3 of the price we would have paid for the same meal in London, and this was better than anything we have had there (including Hawksmoor!).

Next stop; Cartagena, our flight is at 8 and we have to leave at 5am. ouch.

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