Where to begin? I apologize for not posting for nearly a week (thanks for the emails of concern), and a hectic week at that with the Champions League finishing up and the French Open getting started but I have been very busy and am still not caught up on sleep after a red eye last night back from the incredible country of Colombia. A country whose stigma is almost all negative. People think of drugs, cocaine, FARC, kidnapping and of course Pablo Escobar. However, what most people who are quick to mention the past do not know is that Colombia has made a complete rebound from the days of years ago and possesses some of the nicest and most endearing people in South America. It also possesses some of the best kept secrets around while boasting some of the best food I have ever eaten. Colombia to me is in a word, awesome.
We started out in Bogota, the capital of Colombia, at nearly the geographgic center of the country, and the third highest capital in South America at some 8600 feet high (behind La Paz and Quito respectively). The layout of Bogota is vast. It is made up of several meighborhoods, sprawling out over a land area larger than that of New York or Mexico City even. 8 million people call it home and it doesn’t disappoint.
There are many sights to see in Bogota starting with main square where most of the government buildings are and one of many churches that will become a theme in Colombia in general-as in many Latin American cities. The day we were there it had just finished raining when we got there which gave it a gothic quality that made it look really cool. The massive square was also completely filled with pigeons similar to St. Mark’s Square in Venice. In fact there was a little girl who kept catching the pigeons with her hands or maybe her mom did but I tried to get some and I couldn’t seem to do it-go figure and imagine a grown man chasing pigeons.
Next, it was up to the top of the Cerro de Montserrat to overlook the city below and the stunning church at the top. The funicular up the mountain was very scenic heading into the clouds at nearly 11,000 feet and had it been less cloudy, the views of the city certainly would have been killer going up. However, arriving at the sanctuary atop the moutain was surreal in that it was so eerily quiet and gorgeous that you almost didn’t want to talk. The church loomed atop the mountain and over the city watching over it like Christ the Redeemer in Rio. It seemed very religious, almost like a monestary or something. But it was very cool and completely worth the trek up and the lack of oxygen. Once the clouds broke a little, the views of Bogota were as good as you’d imagine with a great panoramic of the city with cloud cover making it look even cooler.
After spending a long time atop the city, the driver brought us into the central or downtown district of Zona Rosa where you could’ve been in any cool city in America. The area teemed with life and was probably the last thing you’d expect to see in Bogota. It was really modern and pleasant and there were stores and malls with big name stores and restaurants. The outdoor bars were packed with yuppies and expats from all over Bogota.
The restaurants were first class and in fact I can honestly say that at a place called Club Colombia, I had the best meal of my life. The food all over Colombia was incredible but this particular restaurant was amazing. First it was set up like you were pulling into a country club or something with a circular driveway and the stone exterior. The interior looked like a Latin lodge which was really cool, complete with bearskin rug and fireplace. The food was typical Colombian and eat we did. The lomo or grilled meat was divine along with the best empanadas I’ve ever eaten, black beans and great wine made for a complete dinner. I highly recommend Club Colombia the next time you’re in Bogota. In fact, it was so good that on the way home we drove in from the airport during the layover from Cartagena for another meal and it didn’t disappoint.
Bogota was great, I went there with no expectations and possibly even a little trepidation but I can plainly say that it was safe. The people were great and very nice. The scene is very westernized but still keeps its roots. The food is unreal and the sites make a few days easy to fill up. The mountains surrounding the city are gorgeous and lend for some great pictures. Basically, don’t listen to what you heard about Colombia from years ago and don’t listen to others who have never been there. Open your mind and you will be happy you did. And the best part is it only got better from Bogota!