Bogota, Last Stop with the Hinks

We would only have a couple of days together in Bogota, and we arrived on the late side, just barely making it to the pet shop nearest our hotel to pick up cat litter before they closed. We tried to have dinner around the corner at a ramen restaurant, but it was Friday night and there was a line out the door, so we settled for a slightly more generic Asian fusion across the street. They had vegetarian sushi, so Tauni got to try her very first maki roll. Big cities are nice. The hotel lobby also had a big Christmas tree, which made Jazz happy.

We got up on the earlier side the next morning, scouted out the hotel breakfast, and caught a cab to the historic part of downtown. We met up with our tour guide at the Cranky Croc hostel, and trekked out into the streets of La Candelaria. First, some street art. Apparently there’s a series of these green sculptures, up out of reach, depicting tradesmen going about typical tasks.

Our next stop was the historic “local” market, which has been transforming into a tourist center. Our guide had the fruit stand slice up some Colombian fruits, like guyabana, tomate de arbol, and some different kinds of passionfruit. They also mixed us up a smoothie. Jazz saw that they also had strawberries and went off-script, double-fisting her breakfast fruit deserts. Notice also how much clothing everyone’s wearing, compared to our usual: Bogota is cold, and even with three or more layers we were all feeling chilly most of the day.

The tour continued through the Candelaria, and we passed a bunch of awesome street art. Some of this had significance; I’ve forgotten all of the symbolism.

Through a plaza and down a tiny side alley led us to a tiny doorway. We sat down outside the shop, and were served some Chicha, a traditional Colombian fermented corn drink. Chicha is technically illegal, the target of a major morality-based smear campaign by the then-nascent beer industry. But it’s still brewed and consumed, though as you can see from her face, not by Jazz.

Our next stop was the Plaza Bolivar, a wide open marketplace surrounded by impressive government buildings, like Congress and the Hall of Justice. There was a small market set up that day, with an especially impressive fruit stand and a very steampunk roving coffee stand.

The last stop on the tour took us through the Journalists’ Park (Parque de los Periodistas). We were stymied in our quest for tejo and chocolate by an unexpected cafe closure, and ended the tour with a streetside empanada instead. This was sad, but we got the details of another tejo place for later, and took a short walk down the street for a burger.

Stomachs sated, we headed a few blocks away to the Museum of Gold. Gold was a big deal in pre-Colombian civilization, and there are gold museums in several Colombian cities, including Santa Marta. We hadn’t managed to get a reservation at that one, but Bogota’s is bigger, and we were able to just walk in. And we saw lots of gold, poured and hammered into all kinds of adornments and ritual implements. It was pretty neat, though at this point our brains were a little full.

After an afternoon nap-break, we headed out to dinner. La Divinia Comedia Trattoria specializes in ravioli, with a big display-case of it to greet you at the door and a number of sampler menu options. Just our thing. So Tauni got a vegetarian sampler, Jazz had a dish that explored all the different ways to pack in more Parmesan, and Andrew had four different preparations of veal shank. All were happy.

Back home, Captain needed a little bit of love.

So the next morning, he came out with Andrew and Jazz to First Breakfast, at the coffee shop right outside the hotel. They were thrilled to have him, and he was pretty excited to guard the door against passing dogs.

When everyone was up, we hired a driver for the day, and headed north of the city. Some fun sights along the way: a little girl waving a Mickey Mouse at us out of an excellent truck, and a roadside sales and refill station for fire extinguishers.

The destination was the Salt Cathedral of Zipaquira, but by the time we reached town, we were ready for lunch. So we stopped at the Restaurante la Cathedral de la Gallina, Cathedral of the Hen. Despite the tourist vibe, the food was actually quite good.

The cathedral entrance had a strong tourist-trap energy, and we walked by most of it, but had to take a picture at the (sadly closed) rock climbing wall. We were also surprised at how pet-friendly the whole place was; we could have brought Captain and rented him a stroller.

The cathedral was originally a salt mine. As you descend, you first pass by a set of Stations of the Cross, constructed by salt miners on their off hours. The audioguide had a few snippets of history like that, but mostly stuck to the religious significance of the symbology, so in hindsight we would have skipped it and just enjoyed the pretty views.

After the stations, the cave opens up into the cathedral proper, with several large and eerily-lit worship spaces.

Of course, it was Christmas season in Colombia, so everything was decorated.

The light show was nice, but we found ourselves strangely fascinated with the detail of the carving in the stone roof. Note the net over the cafe: no rock fall should interrupt a cup of coffee.

The ride back was slow, and we realized we had miscalculated: it was Sunday, and everyone who’d left the city for the weekend was driving back right as we were. But we had a good time chatting and checking out the lesser landmarks, like this strategic national Coca Cola reserve.

By the time we made it back to the city, it was tejo time. Tejo is like a Colombian version of cornhole, where you throw heavy stones at a mud board, trying to ignite little packets of gunpowder. This was a lot of fun, though only Tauni seemed to have the magic making-things-explode touch. The groups on either side of us brought cases of beer and snacks, so it’s clear that this is a place to spend an evening.

We couldn’t stay all night, though, because we had to get Tauni and Tim onto their flight home. So we had a last meal and last margarita, before heading back to the hotel and packing them into a taxi.

It’s rare to have guests for almost two weeks and still be sad to see them go. We had a really great vacation together; hopefully the next time we’ll see them it will have been less than three years!

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