Puente essentially means “3-day weekend” here in Colombia, and fortunately these “puentes” roll around pretty frequently. As Colombia is a Catholic country almost all Saint days are celebrated as national holidays, and most are celebrated on Mondays, thus creating lots of fantastic 3-day weekends 🙂
Antique postcard of how downtown Bogotá (Plaza Bolivar) looked before remodeling
For the second puente in May (18-22), Ele and I travelled to Bogotá to visit family and friends and do some sightseeing as well. We arrived to Bogotá on Friday and had lunch with Ele’s mom before rummaging through Ele’s suitcases to find me some winter-like clothing (Bogotá generally has a very cool temperature, 50-65 degree F). After Mission Winter Clothes was accomplished, we headed out to have dinner in the Zona T (a trendy bar/restaurant zone in Bogotá) with some of our good friends from the UK (Colombians that were doing M.A. degrees at the same time I was in the England). It was really good catching up with Juan and Carolina, as I hadn’t seen them since last September before leaving the UK.
On Saturday, we had an incredibly delicious breakfast with our wonderful friend Monica. We met Monica when Ele was studying English at the ELI (English Language Institute) at the University of Alabama. Monica made us some delicious tamales (typical Andean dish) with hot chocolate and cheese (that, of course, you let melt in your hot chocolate). It has been AGES since I had this breakfast and I could not have found better company to share it with. Thanks, Monica! 😉
Me, Ele, & Monica
After that incredible breakfast, Ele and I headed to downtown Bogotá, el Centro, to do some sightseeing. First, we went to el Museo de Oro (The Gold Museum), which is one of the most famous museums here. The museum is basically exactly what it says: a museum of gold. The museum has gold art work and artifacts dating from mainly pre-hispanic times on display and does a great job displaying the pieces through both regional and chronologically themed showrooms. The most famous pieces in the museum are the poporo quimbabya and la Leyenda del Tesoro Dorado (the leyend of the golden treasure) or also known as la Barca Muisca (the Muisca raft). It was incredible seeing all the unique and very intricate pieces the museum has on display, but also sad to know that a large portion of the gold works that once existed in Colombia were taken and melted down in gold blocks by the Spaniards, meaning that what is left is only a small portion of what once existed in this country.
Ele with el poporo quimbaya
the Muisca raft (the picture is grainy, but it is SUPER detailed and amazing in all the sense of the word)
After the Museo del Oro, we ate lunch, “almuerzo corriente,” or “corrientazo,” (daily lunch special) at a small diner and headed to el Museo Botero. We were told it was only a short walk from el Museo del Oro, but soon found out it was a nice trek through the historic neighborhood of la Candelaria, and a bit past the Biblioteca Luis Angel Arango (the most well-known library in Bogotá). However, it was well-worth the walk. Fernando Botero is a very famous Colombian artist. He created his own style by painting “chubby” people and scenes–he made everything chubby. He even did a version of the Mona Lisa 🙂 He has also produced some famous sculptures (in his same “chubby” style)–you can find a lot of them in el Parque Botero in Medellín, that I visited back in 2008.
Entrance to the Museo de Botero with la Candelaria in the background
chubby Mona Lisa
chubby horse sculpture (there’s a larger version in bronze in Medellín that I love!)
The Museo de Botero is part of a group of museums managed and run by the Banco de la República (Bank of the Republic). On site with the Museo de Botero is the Casa de Moneda de Santa Fé, which is like a currency museum. It explains how and when money began circulating in Colombia, and explains what was used before in the “trade and barter” society. It was pretty neat to see all the old Colombian and even Nueva Grenada (when Colombia still formed one “country” with Venezuela and Panama) money. I can honestly say that Colombia has an incredibly rich history of currency–there bills change quite frequently and, in my opinion, always have interesting and even artisitc designs on them. My very favorite bill is a 10.000 peso bill featuring an indigenous woman.
These colors are much more vibrant than any colors I’ve seen used on currency before
After a day of sightseeing, we had onces (evening snack–normally coffee with bread) with Ele’s mom, and then headed to dinner with some other friends of ours in Bogotá. First, we went and met Freddy and Henry’s precious cats, who are Ragdolls–what cuties!!!!
Then, we met up with some more friends and went to a wonderful pizzeria and had a long, and well-overdue, chat over pizza and drinks before turning in for the evening.
On Sunday, we spent the day with Ele’s mom. We took her to eat a Colombian chain restaurant called Crepes and Waffles–pretty awesome food and even better desserts, and then watched some afternoon TV with her before heading to a Colombian barbeque for the evening. A Colombian barbeque, in case you are wondering, is very different from an Alabamian barbeque. In Colombia a barbeque typically means you grill all sorts of meat–beef, chicken, chorizo (Colombian sausage), morcilla (blood sausage), arepas (Colombian tortillas/corn cakes), and papas criollas (small type of potato). The barbeque was delicious and the time we got to spend with our friends was amazing.
Colombia barbeque (photo courtesy of Carlos Parody)
The next day, Monday, was our last day in Bogotá. We spent the morning walking through the Jardín Botánico de Bogotá (Botanical Gardens). We saw all sorts of beautiful flowers, tress, and plants. Colombia is the most diverse country in the world in terms of plant and animal life, i.e. it has the highest level of biodiversity in the world. Colombia also has over 2,000 species of orchids. And, even though the Botanical Gardens could only give me a taste of all the amazing plant life in Colombia, it was a beautiful way to spend a Monday morning.
Bird of paradise
the first amazonian lily pad to bloom in “captivity”
Entrance to the Botanical Gardens
After the Botanical Gardens, we met up with one of Ele’s best friends, who we were also staying with in Bogotá (Gina) and had arepas rellenas (filled arepas–corn cakes) and a very small, but cool restaurant called Aquí en Santa Fé. My favorite arepa rellena is with shredded beef, cheese, and hogao (mix of onions and tomatoes), and that is exactly what I ate for lunch 🙂 Once we finished eating, we walked from the restaurant back to Gina’s apartment (which just happens to be the apartment where Ele and I lived when I studied abroad in Bogotá in 2008) to finish packing and get ready for our extremely early flight on Tuesday morning.
Aquí en Santa Fé
View from Gina’s apartment
Overall, we had a fantastic time in Bogotá. We got to spend lots of quality time with friends and family and to also spend some quality time together sightseeing. Seeing friends and family there made me realize just how scattered around the globe all of our friends and family are, and that each and every chance we get to be with them is a true blessing that should never be taken for granted.
Love to you all!
Until next time…