01/07. Sitting in Casa de Citas, Bogotá
A nice café with colorful decor, Cuban music floating through the rafters as rain patters on the translucent, coragated plastic roof. Waiting on the rain over a few Club Colombia beers and a card game. Nice moment.
We are biding our time today, checking out the few things in Bogota that really called to us. First stop was the station at the base of Cerro Monserate. A quick thousand feet of elevation by cable car and we were looking down at the Bogota sprawl. Checked out the church and gardens surrounding and headed down(honestly disappointed with the view cause of the clouds). Later we circled La Candeleria, checking out the old part of town. The highlight(but the spot were i was most on alert for pick pocketers), was the outdoor iceskating rink plopped in the middle of Plaza de Bolivar. The place was packed! Between the rink and 5 story Christmas tree it was hard to tell if we were in the right place, the statue of Simon Bolivar totally obscured. After aimlessly walking for hours, weariness and rain prevented us from doing much more, but it’s fine by me. There wasn’t much calling me here. Pleasantly surprised by the tranquility here, at night it is SILENT. The streets, at least in our neighborhood, are vacant at night(two fully packed burros just walked passed me…). I don’t get it here. It’s not what I expected, but I think mainly, I need to stop expecting.
Por lo menos tenia almuerzo corriente(“at least I had a typical lunch”) today. We eventually walked into a restaurant that was open(hard to find), cozy and promising. I think it was simply called “Restaurante”, on Ave Jimenez, Carrera 3. As we sat down the older mesero asked “Almuerzo?”. Wiggy and I both responded yes thinking we were committed to lunch instead of breakfast or dinner, basically specifying a menu. Turns out we had ordered already. At lunch time most people grab a quick meal that comes in the form of a set menu. It’s quick(by Colombia standards) and hearty. Eventually the waiter came back and asked if we wanted carne or pollo and limenada gaseosa(sparkling) or natural. He was fully happy to oblige me to a vegetarian version, and although both Wiggy and thought we were getting water we ended up with lemonade natural. The $2.50 lunch set started with sancocho. A light broth contained yucca, plantains, potato, carrot and a dash of cilantro. As the skies continued opening up outside, the hot delicious stew was the perfect to my cold, damp soul and was my favorite part of the meal. **that said, although mine was “veggie it was exactly like Wiggy’s minus the chicken wing, which was probably plucked out before serving**.
The main plate was a colorful and filling dish of beets(light mayo salsa?), potatos(super light tomato salsa), a sautéed green vegetable with onions(similar in taste to green beans but the waiter said they were called “pepinos” or something like that, looked kindof like cactus), arroz and fried plantain. The table held a modest serving of spicy salsa criolla. The place was relatively empty when we sat down, but as I filled my gut with warm carbs and more and more lunching police officers, contruction workers and professor types continuously entered, I knew we were in the right spot.
By the time we left our new, improve hostel(Casa de George, Calle 13 Carrera 3), I was finally shlepping off the preconceived fear of this country & city. Yes at any moment someone could pick my pocket. Yes there is sporadic violence. Yes I don’t come from or fully understand the minutiae of the culture. But how is that different from other great places I love. Guatemala, NYC, Mexico.
We “splurged”(read: spent $20 on a salmon dinner and 4 beers) on a nice dinner at La Bruja on Calle de Oro. A romantic, albeit dungeonous place. Great food. Like any high end steakhouse meal you’d find anywhere with 10 times the ambiance and quarter the price.
Just saying, my favorite part of Bogota was the street art. It is ubiquitous and everywhere. And consistently good.