Slept well my first night back in the hostel world, woke up to light streaming in and quickly made my way down to breakfast which is included and consists of eggs, a croissant and cafe con leche. There goes my vegan aspirations, I've decided starving is overrated so instead will attempt to go vegetarian. Also caffeine is waaayy back in the diet. I didn't come to the coffee capital of the world for nothing.
So my gypsy self would love to just walk out the door and really orient myself to this new place, new country, my first in South America. Yep, dying to just pound the pavement but I must attend to a few details first.
The money sitch always throws me for a loop and the colombian peso proves to be no exception. Xe.com reports 1USD=1800 pesos. Sheista, not the easiest of conversions, a 50 million peso note is roughly equal to a measly 30 USD. The good news is you don't need to carry around much cash as prices are fairly cheap and most of the sites free.
So, off to the fun stuff (just as the water comes back on but I can't be bothered to take a shower, my apologies to all I encountered if the wet wipes didn't do the trick!) and it's a colorful neighborhood, arty graffiti everywhere and colorful buildings, some dilapidated yet still charming, most are 300 years old. Randomly found my way to a bohemian square complete with jugglers, artists concocting and selling their wares and young and old people alike hanging out. I say randomly as I'm generally not a fan of maps, preferring to feel it out on my own but I've got a mission. Seems only fitting to visit the Gabriel Garcia Marquez cultural center my first day, after all, this is the man that I attribute/blame/thank for my infatuation for all things Latin American. Found it along with the Starbucks like chain, Juan Valdez, of Folgers fame. Si, my coffee habit is back in full force...not gonna miss out on the local tinto as it's known.
Anyone else a huge fan of the overly round, disproportionate shapes Botero is known for? Well, his musuem is in Bogota, it's free but I would have gladly paid. It's set in a beautiful courtyard with 2 floors and even has works of Chagall, Ernst, Picasso and Pisarro. Pretty impressive and who can not possibly enjoy his stuff? Seriously try to walk through this musuem and not smile, I double dog dare you. Even this dietitian did not think that the subjects need to go on a diet....well, ok, maybe once or twice.
Speaking of diets, yeah, I talk about food a lot. Get used to it. ;-) An Israeli restaurant is my first target and yum, falafel is this girl's best friend and their fresh mixed fruit juice was pretty stellar too. After a few more hours exploring the hood and most famous plaza, Bolivar, where the Colombian national government is and vendors of all sorts selling the usual kitschy crap live. I was only intrigues by the woman with an alpaca, no idea what she was selling but she sure did stand out. Some of the architecture reminds me of other cities, like, this is going to sound strange.....but Venice, specifically the Doge's Palace. Then again, maybe it was just all of the pigeons you find here and in St. Mark's Piazza.
But the real food find so far is the most famous snack shop, La Puerta Falsa, known for chocolate completo. That's melted cheese in your.....ready for it? Hot chocolate!
Time to walk off all that food. What better place than a street that's dedicated to pedestrian and bike traffic. Down through the central district with all the shops which were also packed with street performers. An old man yelled to me, Gringa, baila conmigo! Dance with me :-) cute. For the most part, I haven't been hassled, a nice break from the typical shouts. Unless this means I'm looking older, in which case, bring on the hola, guapas! Quickly discovered I much prefer the area I'm staying in with it's quaint feel with cobblestone streets and proximity to the main tourist sites, even if it is full of tourists and students. Downtown is just a typical bustling city where you can tell Bogota is a sprawling city of 8 million. The only green space I found was a park that should be named young couples making out, not Independence park, which reminds me I've heard of the love motels that are popular here since there's virtually no privacy with big families and small places, but I haven't noticed any....yet. I'll let you know if I find one!
Back at the hostel, I was happy to meet Bethan, who was up for a night out. I heard about La Puerta Grande in the north as a live music venue and tonight it was a big deal Colombian group, Ondatropica. Off we went in our taxi, who did not rip us off nor kidnap us and delivered us yep, to a large door. Too early so we grabbed a beer close by, my first, Salud! and a pizza at Bogota Beer Company. Great energy and posh scene, my idea of Bogota changes by the minute. This is such an easy place to be and drop dead, gorgeous venue, the peeps included :-) Even met another friendly American girl, Patricia, as we all shook the night away like Shakira!!! ;-)