Sunday, August 29, 2010

Bogota part 1

In keeping with the "if you invite us, we'll show up" theme, we decided to take my brother and his wife up on their offer to come and visit them in Bogota, Colombia. It would be our 5th continent in a year and our first time going south of the equator and just in case if you’re wondering "which direction does the toilet water swirl when it is flushed?" I didn't really pay it another blown opportunity. But one thing my mom did tell me growing up is that on the equator you get 12 hours of sun light, my sister in-law and the sun confirmed this.

We flew out of LAX and switched planes in Panama City. The skyline along the coast is amazing then you feel a little short changed when you land at the airport, which a good distance from the city. FYI don’t expect to finding reading material or a Hudson News type of shop at the airport in Panama, now if you need a pair of Lacoste shoes or a big screen TV you’re in luck. We found our little plane bound for Bogota. My brother met us just as we found ourselves at the end of a long line to customs and we were quickly escorted to the express one designated for VIP types which we hardly fit the bill, but I wasn't going to pitch a fit or much less ask any questions.

The road in and out of the airport is under construction and resembles a labyrinth at night. We arrived back at their place and took the elevator to their penthouse which overlooked the city and what a view it has at any hour of the day. We chatted awhile while admiring their digs until bedtime. We were nice enough to bring some sunshine in the land of erratic weather; Joanne had mentioned that when my niece was there earlier in the summer it rained pretty much every day. Que lastima!
The living room looking out to the balcony. My brother had his own Sapo game out there.

We were told that since the weather was cooperating that we should take advantage of the view at Cerro de Monserrate. We took a taxi through the hills outlying Bogota to the base of the hill and waited in line for the was that or the teleferico. Bogota's elevation is already 8,300 ft. above sea level, and from where this photo was taken we were about 10,400 ft. up. Amazing views all around.

Aside from the church, there were the 14 Stations of the Cross, food vendors, restaurants, and souvenir stalls.

Another view of the city center.

The clouds opposite of the city reaching into the hills.

Stained glass in the sanctuary.

Local cuisine.

There wasn't much of a crowd in the morning.

Who doesn't love a llama ride?

Mueso de Trajes Regionales is tucked away in La Candelaria district (old part of town). There were quite a few of the traditional wears on Colombians and the history. I was more into what some of the tribes wore along the Amazon region. You can see where George Lucas might have borrowed his Ewok ideas from.

Juan Manuel Santos was recently elected president of Colombia with almost 70% of the vote. We just happened to be in town during his inauguration. People are hoping he continues similar policies the former president Alvaro Uribe had set in making Colombia a safer country by containing the drug cartels and FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia/Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-a violent Marxist guerrilla group). Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez stated that he wanted his country to improve relationships with Colombia and flew into the country the day we departed. A few days later a car bomb went off not far from where we stayed, it is suspected that the FARC was involved. Ubire has accused Chavez of allowing the FARC to set up camp in Venezuela. As much as a police state Bogota appears to be with all the police and the strong military presence, there were signs of discontent with the newly elected president.

Plaza de Bolivar was busy with students and government officials. Security was high as the workers were setting up for the inauguration.

You love the hat! A guard outside the gate of Palacio de Narino

Iglesia Nuestra SeƱora del Carmen in La Candelaria

Several years ago after watching a 60 Minutes segment on Fernando Botero, I dismissed him for one reason or another perhaps I was put off by his ego. He has made the claim that he is "the most Colombian of Colombian artists." Now, I was confronted with this orange-obsessed, obese figure painting/sculpting artist and I have to admit that his paintings won me over. Just in case your life doesn't have enough Botero, his museum near Plaza de Bolivar just might be the fix you need.

The Botero Museum not only houses his work, but his collection as well. You will find a Picasso, de Chirico, Max Ernst, and many other heavy hitters.

When the guard wasn't looking I touched this sculpture. Truth be told...I have touched a lot of famous paintings and sculptures. Name the artist and I most likely touched one of his/her pieces in my 20 or so years of doing this. It's something I'm not really proud of; it's more like an obsession.

You might ask why Botero's figures are slightly overweight; this might clue you in dear reader.

Somewhere in-between the Botero Museum and Casa de la Moneda there was an exhibit of dead nun paintings. Unfortunately, there were no postcards of the images in the museum shop, but the postcards they did carry were a bit steep, over a dollar each. And if that wasn't bad enough sending one will set you back almost $4 with no guarantee of it getting there.

A Medina favorite.

At one time Usaquen was a little town on the edge of Bogota, now it sports a Carrefour, Hacienda Santa Barbara (a maze of a house turned mall-maybe MC Escher might have had a hand in the design), boutiques, and hip trendy bars and restaurants. You can even find a Bogota Brewery IPA on draft at the Irish Pub. There are rustic pizzas, Mexican food, and just about everything in between. Not as crowded or congested as Zona Rosa and plenty of room in the square to walk off your meals as you peak at the crafts the hippies are selling on the sidewalk. The streets on the weekend turn into a makeshift flea market in addition to the main one in a large parking lot.

One of the trendy restaurants I'm talking about. I'm sure if this was back in the States it would not only be a fire hazard, but the cost of the termite bond would be ridiculous.

Super Whopper King anybody?

Street art on the way to Andino Mall in trendy Zona Rosa.

Andino Mall has bears...

...and a giant eagle swooping down on large poisionous frog sculptures.

The charm of Andino Mall wore off quickly and next on the list was Plaza de Toros (Santa Maria Bullring) and as good fortune would have it, there would be a free bullfight in our near future.

More sour grapes of Santo's victory.


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