An hour cab ride from the Bogota airport brought us to Hotel Casona Usaquen, our new home for the next 4 days. We decided to begin with a futbol match in the big stadium. The home team was Santa Fe, so we got in line and bought some red colored fan gear. Travel Tip: get your tickets ahead of time in team stores or some grocery stores throughout the city (ask your hotel front desk). Because we were being spontaneous we ended up in line for over an hour as fans joined their buddies in line ahead of us and the line barely moved.
A highlight for me was visiting the Museo del Oro and learning about the history and symbolism of the pieces in the largest collection of gold artifacts in the world.
The Candelaria neighborhood had beautiful churches, some great examples of street art and lots of university students drinking chicha. A woman of advanced years convinced us to sit at her little cafe under a tree laden with red flowers and buzzing with hummingbirds. She brought out her family recipe chicha and after determining we were married she performed a wedding ritual and blessing on us. Then she poured the fermented corn concoction into cups made from a seed shell. We closed our eyes, held the brew under our tongue for a moment, swished the liquid around our mouth, swallowed and waited for a vision. I had one, but it’s a secret ?.
We took a side trip an hour bus ride away from Bogota to the Salt Cathedral in the quieter city of Zipaquira. It’s a Roman Catholic church built in a salt mine, with huge caverns, shopping, movie theater, and light shows.
The Bogota Botanical Garden was a peaceful escape from the big city on our last day in Colombia. They have a place you can safely leave your bags, so we visited during the afternoon on our way to the airport. We were sad to leave this beautiful and welcoming country but also excited for our next adventure in Brazil!
The rock! I was afraid to climb the rock when I heard it was hundreds of steps straight up. At elevation around 7,000 feet. I don’t like stairs. Turns out it’s 705 to the very tippy top, 659 to a beer/food/ bathroom break. But, we made it in 20 minutes. Without throwing up. And the 360 degree view? WORTH IT!!
After catching our breath at the top of piedra del peñol and enjoying a cerveza while trying to keep our jaws from completely dropping off from the incredible views, we climbed down and caught a tuk tuk into town for $4 US.
Guatape is postcard perfect at every corner. Each section of buildings has its own bas-relief theme along the bottom. These range from simple geometric designs to 3-D sculptures of provential life.
The place we stayed at was amazing. Homemade bread, homemade arepas, homemade jam. The organic eggs are from mountain wandering chickens. The chocolate in the hot chocolate is from a farm right around the corner. Free kayaks to use, a hot tub and sauna. No wonder they have the highest booking.com rating!
Even though we splurged on our room ($55 US per night) we found that Guatape was more affordable than Medellin. For example a glass of wine in Medellin was between $4 – $5 US, but only $1.75 in Guatape.
Getting to Guatape from the Poblado neighborhood in Medellin: take the metro to the Caribe station. Walk over the sky bridge to the giant bus station. Go to Window 14 to purchase tickets. It’s a 2 hour bus ride for $4.50 US each. Comfy, reclining seats and with the window open it was nice and cool as you go up in elevation. And the view of the countryside is worth the trip itself!
And now, Ian’s Take: I like beer. I like beer a lot. I noticed that in recent years while travelling abroad that the craft beer scene has hit the world. Sort of. Being from the U.S. and with the addition of imports from Europe, we are spoiled with hundreds of breweries with thousands of varietals. So of course I want try what the rest of the world has to offer. Or at least I did. Let’s just say that some of the world has a long way to go.
I keep trying these cerveza artisionals that are a bit lacking in either correct ingredients or know how. Let’s say I have stopped trying. A lot of these ‘artisional’ beers remind of some of my own home brewed attempts. I have had some decent batches, however most of them I choked down while gagging due to the fact I just spent $50 in ingredients and waited 2 months. I have tried some IPA’s that hadn’t met a hop if it bit em in the arse and had red ales that you could pour on your pancakes. Sorry Colombia. What Colombia does right is make some great tasting lagers or light ales. Let’s say the equivalent of a PBR, Bud, or Corona. And my go to favorite is the Michelada.
A very simple drink. Squeeze a lime or sour orange into a glass with salted rim and pour in your beer of choice served on the side. So refreshing! I can drink em all day. On a side note, I have had a couple nice micros in Japan. So if any of you have tried some quality craft brews abroad, please share. Until next time, bottoms up! And salud!
Founded in the 16th century, the walled city of Cartagena is known for its cobblestone streets and pastel colonial buildings with balconies draped in bougainvillea. Afternoons are warm, slow and easy. Evenings are bustling with horsedrawn carriages and people dining at sidewalk cafes.
We enjoyed a four night stay in an apartment with this incredible view.
Our place was next to a small university housed in a historic colonial building so we were treated to live orchestra practice in the morning as we sipped from our elegant espresso cups. The sun sets to the right in the Caribbean Ocean. But nothing is perfect, so keep in mind the ants. Even on the 7th floor the little buggers found our bag of chips and had a heyday all over the dinning room table.
We spent three days just wandering the beautiful streets taking in the sights.
It’s hot and humid, especially around noon. Your best bet is getting home to some air conditioning or duck into a restaurant or bar around this time of day.
Travel tip: We had delicious ceviche but didn’t ask the price for our Hendricks gin & tonics which cost us $18 US EACH! We normally wouldn’t make the mistake of ordering without seeing a price but I claim sleep deprivation from our red eye flight from San Francisco.
Aguardiente is the national liquor. Of course we bought a 750ml bottle for $10 US and couldn’t wait to mix some in mango juice with lime. Nope!! This is anise, folks. However, I had a lovely drink at a Colombian restaurant mixed with several things that tasted delicious even though it was dressed like the Grim Reaper.
We thought the streets were clean, the hawkers will leave you alone after a couple ‘no gracias’ and people were generally polite and friendly. Did I mention you can drink the tap water? Yay!
And now we have, for the first time ever! Ian’s Take:
Wow man! I am really enjoying the historic center of Cartagena. Locals carry around big coolers selling water and beer. I buy beer of course to drink while we wander the streets taking in the culture and acting like tourists taking pictures of EVERYTHING! It’s a very picturesque town. In fact I rate it among my favorite romantic towns. The Colombian women all wear sun dresses showing lots of skin with no bras on. Lookie but no touchie married peeps! I am still trying to get Ocean to take her bra off. There are hawkers everywhere selling everything. Sunhats, jewelry, trinkets, tours, etc. It amazes me of how multi-talented these guys are. The hat guy with his 4 foot tower of hats he carries around doubles as a tour guide and can sell you a trip to the off-shore islands. And if you are so inclined, he can also hook you up with a little white coffee (wink-wink) or weed. However we are not interested in visiting the Colombian jail so for now we will just stick to the sunhats. Ciao!