In this multi-part travel testimonial, SouthAmerica.travel Clients, Penelope and Raphael, recount their experience exploring the various regions of Colombia on their SouthAmerica.travel Tour put together by Travel Expert, Jason Mayo. Follow along on their adventures in Bogotá in this first part of their multi-part blog series.
Part 1: Bogotá, Colombia
“How do I love thee, Colombia Let me count the ways.”
Visiting Colombia was my son Nick’s idea. He’d gone to Cartagena for a Triathlon and stayed in the colonial walled city. He told us it would be perfect for us—charming, cultural, historical and the Caribbean Sea to boot. It seemed a long way to go for just Cartagena, so I found a travel agency, SouthAmerica.travel. Travel Consultant, Jason Mayo planned an awesome itinerary of the entire country for my husband Raphael and me.
Colombia has long been known for its reputation as being dangerous. Pablo Escobar’s horrific reign and the FARC revolutionary army’s penchant for kidnapping tourists eliminated Colombia as a tourist destination. I am happy to report Colombia has turned a corner. The President recently received a Nobel Peace Prize for brokering a wave of peace with FARC and the mayor of Medellín has innovatively added escalators and cable cars to connect the once isolated crime ridden areas to the rest of the city. Everywhere we went we saw new infrastructure constructed: bridges, tunnels, airports, etc. The citizens are proud and optimistic and seem almost giddy with hope.
Arriving in Bogotá
We flew directly from LAX to Bogotá on the Colombian airline Avianca. The flight was only 6 hours and 15 minutes. Upon arrival, we were greeted by a white cardboard sign with Penelope Ruth Bernal printed on it. (Good thing they included the Ruth). So cool to be picked up from the airport! Our driver dropped us off at L’Opera, a colonial hotel with beautiful, original yellow tile and pastel stone walls in La Candelaria district, one of the most ancient areas in Bogotá.
Once we arrived, we ordered Ajiaco, one of their traditional dishes. It’s a chicken soup with three kinds of potatoes, rice, a large slice of avocado (their avocados are ginormous) and half of a corn cob. Starches anyone? Most of their traditional dishes are everything but the kitchen sink. Breakfast was always included and was simply scrumptious due to the great variety and quantity of fruit. There were several kinds of passion fruit, guavas, papaya and pineapple (sweet without a hint of acid). New fruit like pitahaya, a deep yellow with iguana-like swirled pointy hard protuberances outside and soft gray pudding pulp inside with black seeds was included. Smooth and yummy! All the fruit was sweet and illuminating to the tongue.
Local Guide in Bogotá
Our local guide Magda, picked us up promptly at 9:00 am. Like all of our guides, Magda was bilingual, speaking English to us. The Colombian Spanish accent is considered to be one of the clearest and most neutral accents in the world of Spanish. Both Raphael and I speak Spanish and soon realized this was an awesome opportunity to get semi-private lessons in Spanish, so we spoke Spanish the majority of the time. We spoke the best Spanish we could and welcomed the assistance of our guides. Through our conversations, we learned all about Magda she was married and childless by choice, a situation evidently becoming more common in Colombia. At times, Magda would comment enthusiastically on the many tourists she saw — she said five years ago there were almost none.
See more >> Bogota: 10 Things Locals Want You to Know
Day Tour in Bogotá
Bogotá’s weather was misty, rainy and cool being at 8,660 feet above sea level, located on a plateau in the Andes. After viewing the local plazas and statues mostly of Simon Bolivar, the liberator of Colombia, our next stop was El Museo de Oro (Gold). The Spanish arrived in 1509, bedazzled by the golden lifestyle of the indigenous people which led to the search for El Dorado and the slaughter of the tribes. The delicacy and the artistry of the beautiful jewelry and ornaments were stunning. I so preferred these soft golden adornments to the ornate Baroque gold of the European cathedrals.
Next, Monserrate, the mountain top in the center of the city, reached by cable car or funicular at 10,000 feet overlooking the entire metropolis. The most spectacular way to view this vibrant city.
Rafa managed to breathe most of the way but welcomed the stop at a charming Antique house for food. After a lunch of local baked goods, we returned to our hotel. That night we met with Robert Drake, an expat musician living with his Colombian girlfriend in Bogotá. We walked to a restaurant in La Candelaria, Gato Gris (Gray Cat) with many levels and rooms — almost Escher-like and we enjoyed our first of several Pisco Sours and a yummy Colombian meal!
See more >> Bogota Tours
Stay tuned for Penelope and Raphael’s next stop in Colombia…
Follow along on this multi-part travel testimonial. Next stop is Colombia’s countryside. Find out what activities Penelope and Raphael embarked on, which quirky posada’s they stayed at and more!