Colombia Tierra Querida... Gracias por los lindos recuerdos de cumpleaños, amigos, familia y semana santa....
This is possibly my 7th time in Colombia. The first time I set foot in Colombia was when I was working on Capitol Hill in Washington DC. I traveled there with a delegation of Congressmen, hill staffers and the Secretary of Commerce. We were there because the Bush Administration was trying to convince congress that the US Colombia Free Trade Agreement was good for both sides. My trip there was escorted by the US and Colombian military at all times. We had breakfast en la Casa de Nariño with then President Alvaro Uribe and got a tour of Medellin with then Mayor Sergio Fajardo. Oddly enough these two men are still very relevant in the lives of most Colombians today. In that trip I felt suffocated, I couldn't really talk to people, explore or get a good idea of what it was like to live in Colombia.... But this trip was very different and I surely did get a glimpse into what living in Colombia might be like...
In all trips I ask people for their highs and lows.. So here go mine..
Low - Rain, rain, and some more rain. Don't get me wrong I love the rain and coming from LA where it never rains I appreciate a good down pour but coming from LA I also like to see the beautiful sun which is also part of my brand. INTI - means Sun in Quechua. So 11 days and seeing the sun one or maybe two times for about an hour each time was most definitely my low. However, this problem can easily be solved by traveling to Colombia during the dry season.
High - Politics... weird right, who likes to talk about politics... Well I do, not US politics because I don't find those as interesting as Latin American Politics which I can discuss over breakfast, lunch and dinner. Colombia is having their Presidential Election May 27, 2018 and if no candidate receives a majority of the vote a second round between the top two candidates will be held June 17, 2018. So as you can imagine everyone had an opinion and I learned a lot about the candidates. Of course this was in large part do to our vary gracious host AKA Carlos Danger who is a Political Analyst and interviewed every taxi driver and Uber driver that took us to the swanky restaurants, bars and clubs in Bogota. But since this is not a political blog but a travel blog I will spare you all the details of what candidates are up in the polls and what people are saying I will just leave you with the fact that for me, this is a passion and was part of my previous career that I left to start my business and a big part of me misses knowing all about Latin American elections. That being said, I have a feeling that 20 years from now I will move back into the international political field, maybe even as an ambassador porque why not...
Another high was traveling to El Quinido, where my husband's family is from. El Quindio is the coffee growing region or El Corazon de Colombia. The weather is warmer and the views are spectacular. My husband is from Armenia the capitol of that department. There are many things to do here but we did three main things (outside of just visiting family).
1. Pueblo Hopping - driving from one town to another visiting the main plaza, walking having a meal and some coffee. Getting from one town to another is so beautiful because you drive through lush green tropical mountains and see the country life. We have done this before but on this occasion we only saw four pueblos, Armenia, Calarca, Filandia and Salento. I just love the names of these little towns.. and was so curious how they got there names and thanks to Wikipedia now I know:
- Armenia, capital city. Named after the Caucasus republic of Armenia.
- Calarca. Named after Cacique (Chief) Calarca of the Pijao.
- La Tebaida. Named after the Thebaid region of ancient Egypt.
- Circasia. Named after the Caucasus region of Circassia.
- Montenegro. Named after the Balkan republic of Montenegro.
- Quimbaya. Named after the indigenous Quimbaya civilization.
- Salento. Named after the Salento region in Italy.
- Córdoba. Named after the Andalusian city of Cordoba, Spain.
- Pijao. Named after the Amerindian Pijao federation.
- Génova. Named after the Italian city of Genoa.
- Buenavista. Named after the Spanish city of Buenavista de Valdavia.
- Filandia. Named from the Latin words "filia" (daughter) and "Andia" (Andes), thus "daughter of the Andes" (the northernmost municipality of the department).
2. Parque del Cafe - Think Disneyland for coffee lovers. Well I'm not a big fan of Disneyland but I became a big fan of this theme park. First I love big and fast roller coaster, El Crater and El Yippie did not disappoint. We were there in Semana Santa so it was high season and the park was very full, yet I enjoyed it, taking the train and ridding horses through coffee trees was a pretty cool experience. This park is also kid friendly and has plenty of things for the little ones and the more adventurous adults like myself. I definitely would like to go back there.
3. Salento and El Valle de Cocora - This is the thing to do in the region for both Colombians and Tourist alike. Salento is a small quaint town and its biggest attraction is its traditional bahareque architecture, one- and two-story buildings, mostly white but with doors and window frames painted with bright colors. It is also en route to el Valle de Cocora where you can horseback ride into striking landscapes of Palmas de Cera known as the wax palm a Colombian national symbol and why the park is protected. We were there the Friday before Easter and it seemed like everyone one had the same idea. They ended up closing the roads because the town and park reached its full capacity. We went to visit Luis' Uncle that has a cute Hotel in the entrance of the town which I recommend you stay at if you are ever in that region. We also got to witness processions and religious ceremonies which was pretty neat.
I loved the region so much that I'm seriously considering buying some property there in the future and having a finca... That is the other thing to do in the region - stay in a finca and disconnected from the hustle and bustle of city life. Well if this ends up happening I hope some of my readers will visit.
Ok so the main reason I wanted to start a blog was to share my reflections but also to give recommendations to my friends and family of where to stay, what to do and where to eat so here it goes...
Favorite Restaurants and Bars
- Mini-Mal - Food from the Pacific Coast and Amazon. You definetely should make a reservation and there where a good number of tourist in this small cute restaurant. I love that it had a cute store in the restaurant with hand made goods. I also love the quote I saw there "todo tiene espiritu"
- Andres Carne de Res - this was not just a restaurant but it was the perfect place to drink and dances.
- El Mono Bandido - Relaxed bar lounge to have some craft beers and good conversation.
- 4.40 Music Hall - Cool club with live music performance where we saw Gusi - didn't even know who he was but I really enjoyed the music and show.
Things to Do
- Everyone goes to Cerro Monserrate which I wanted to do but was glad I didn't because the lines to get up during semana santa were crazy. Instead we went to el Cerro Virgen de Guadalupe and had the best tamales, arepas, hot chocolate... Great place to get a glimpse of how immense Bogota is.
- Candelaria is in the heart of the city where you can find great museums, and all the main government buildings. What I liked was the artisan vendors on la Calle 11 near the plaza de Bolivar.
- Usaquen this is my place to go on Sundays. I love doing my shopping here and relaxing in the little plaza.
- Ciclovia Bogota is the leading city that started this bicyclist movement. You can rent bikes at some hotels and bike shops near la Candelaria.
Where to Stay
- Thanks to our friend we did not stay in a Hotel this time around. Instead we stayed in Los Rosales neighborhood which was really nice but I would recommend staying the the neighborhood of Chapinero it seems like a pretty cool area for restaurants and bars.
Quindio - Eje Cafetero
Favorite Restaurants -
- El Hato de Evelio in Calarca was the only nice restaurant we ate at since Luis family cooked and hosted almost all meals at their house.
Things to Do
- Visit Parque del Cafe, Salento and El Valle de Cocora (see my comments above) there are many more fun things to do that we did not get a chance to but parasailing is on my to do list.
Where to Stay
- We stayed with family but was able to check out Luis' uncles Hostel in Salento Los Girasoles and the views are breathtaking. So if you are looking for an inexpensive place surrounded by nature but walking distance to the center of town and steps away from the bus terminal this is a great option. They can help you book horseback ridding into El Valle de Cocora.