Hello, everyone! Remember when I used to write about Colombia? Yep, it’s been a bit since I wrote about my trip. This post has been a little daunting to write, because we saw a couple of things on this jaunt so it isn’t just about one subject like the other two have been. So let’s just dive right in.
When we left off, Nestor and I left the shop that sells products from the glass factory we visited and made our way to La Candelaria, which is the old part of the city. I had seen glimpses of La Candelaria as we drove around Bogota and was so excited to see it! (Not gonna lie, Nestor also talked it up quite a bit, but for good reason. When we were introduced he was told that I’m an artist and he asked some questions after we left the apartment that I think he was able to use to figure out what I’d be interested in seeing.) La Candelaria is filled with old buildings, lots of street art (more on that another day) and a plethora of museums. Another thing that I noticed as we drove through to find a parking ramp is that there are a ton of hostels. Apparently this hasn’t always been the case; there was a time when there were only a couple, but now there are hostels everywhere you look. It just goes to show how much tourism to Colombia has increased. (Also, if I didn’t have a place to stay in Bogota, I’d definitely be interested in checking out a hostel in La Candelaria!)
After we found a place to park our first stop was this calendar of events. This is a list of all sorts of cultural events that I believe are put on by the Bank of the Republic so you can attend for free. I don’t remember what specifically was on the calendar, however I do remember one event in particular looked really cool, but took place after I left.
At this point I was starting to feel the altitude and probably would have taken some time to sit down at our next stop, but we only had ten minutes to take a look around before they closed for lunch. When we were at Monserrate, Nestor told me that he’d take me to an older church and this was it: La Iglesia de la Candelaria. Like he did at Monserrate, he pointed out the features of a Colombian church, which include pillars on each side that represent the stations of the cross and paintings.
This one definitely had a different feel than Monserrate and I absolutely loved spending time in this older (I think it was completed in the early 1700s!) church. I think I’ve said this before, but I enjoy touring churches when I travel and this one was so beautiful and peaceful. If there had been more time I would have loved to sit for awhile—and not just because I was tired!
When we left we decided to make one more stop before grabbing a bite to eat: the Museo Botero. Fernando Botero is an artist who makes things that are big, so he has this giant hand sculpture that is a popular photo spot and all of the subjects (people, fruit, etc.) are really big in size. He donated his entire art collection to the Bank of the Republic so that it could be on display. The museum is in an old colonial mansion and is free. It was really cool to walk through and learn more about this artist and his work. And not only is his artwork on display, but he also donated the art in his personal collection from other artists. It wasn’t too impressive or anything, it just featured artists like Matisse, Monet, Dali and Picasso to name a few. 😉 In all seriousness, it’s an amazing collection of artwork. It wasn’t all in my taste, but it was amazing to see and this museum should definitely be a stop on your tour of Bogota!
Here are a few of the paintings by Botero that I snapped photos of. My favorite was his version of the Mona Lisa, but I didn’t take a photo of that one. Quick tip: don’t get too close to the artwork. There are sensors that will sound an alarm if you do. Nestor told me about this right away and one lady set off the alarm when she had a photo taken. Take a look in the corners of the rooms and you’ll see the sensors (they’re easy to spot) so that you know how far to stay away.
Next it was time for lunch. “Do you want to go to the tamale restaurant Anthony Bourdain ate at or would you like to get soup?” Nestor asked. I love Anthony Bourdain, so the tamale place was really tempting, but earlier in the day Nestor told me about a traditional soup. It sounded really good and I’m not even the biggest fan of soups! So soup it was. I had ajiaco, the traditional soup of Colombia and it was delicious! It’s made with potatoes, chicken, corn and some herbs. There’s cream mixed in and it was served with a side of rice and a huge slice of avocado to mix in. It was delicious and filling… I barely made a dent! For a drink I tried blackberry juice. I was told that I should order it without sugar, because they tend to put a lot in, so I did. Nestor suggested that I order it with milk, which I thought was a little odd, but he was so insistent that it’s the best way to drink the juice that I did. It was fantastic! I later had blackberry juice, but forgot to ask for it with milk and Nestor was right. It was still very good, but the milk definitely takes it up a notch.
Nestor ordered another traditional soup with beans (and pork, I think) so that I could try it. This was also good, but the ajiaco was definitely my favorite. For dessert we had some cheese covered in a fruit topping and caramel. Just like everything else, this was delicious! I was pretty stuffed at this point but I ate my fair share of dessert.
After lunch we walked to Plaza de Bolivar—named in honor of Simón Bolívar—which is in the center of La Candelaria. There are some important government buildings around the square and just down a street from the square is the president’s house, so we walked over to see that. He also pointed out the Cathedral of Bogota. We weren’t going to go in, but as we walked by to go back to the car we heard the army band playing so we went inside to see what was happening. There was a huge crowd of people and apparently in the middle of the crowd was the Bishop of Bogota.
And with that serendipitous moment my first day out in Bogota was done. I was told we fit what’s typically a two day tour into one day, which might explain why I was ready to sit for awhile when I got back to the apartment. But this whirlwind tour was a fantastic introduction (and first day!) to Bogota.
(Also, you might remember my reluctance to go on a guided city tour of Bogota because “I don’t like them.” Yeah, I’m laughing right along with you. The guided city tour was TOTALLY worth it!)