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kc goes to bogota

April 20, 2011

There are cities that you know you’re going to love before you ever get on the plane…Paris, Rome, Sydney, New York City. When I booked my flight to Bogota for a work trip, I was excited at the idea of going to Colombia and terrified of the idea of telling Mr. KC that I’d be going to…well, Colombia. Mention it to anyone and you get more “ohs” than “ooohs”.

But then you arrive and you fall in love. You fall in love with the city, you fall in love with the people, you fall in love with the food…oh, the food. I was there only a few short days and as I mentioned I was there for work, but in those few short days, Colombia shot up the list of places I was desperate to get back to. Afterall, Cartagena is the new Buenos Aires, right? How could Mr. KC pass up a trip to the “new” Buenos Aires.

Some of the highlights…

The stunning salt cathedral of Zipaquirá outside the city. This catholic church is built in tunnels through a salt mine. The climax of this tour is a salt water pool at the end. A pool of water so salty that it creates an incredible mirror (below left)

And no trip to Colombia is complete without a trip to a coffee plantation. I had been to one many, many years ago in Costa Rica (note for future reference, a visit to the Coloma coffee plantation does not count as a trip to a farm and as such you should not check off “yes” to that line on your customs form–lesson learned the hard way), but it was huge and felt relatively industrial. This tour was small, fun and ended with a sip of coffee liquor and an espresso–what could be better?

For me coffee is one of those commodities where you realize how and why it costs as much as it does. Seeing each step as it goes from a berry on a tree to a roasted little morsel of goodness destined for greatness in my morning mug is not only fun but amazing. The grounds were beautiful and it was a nice escape from the hustle and bustle of the city center.

A butterfly with the most amazing transparent wings

Later than evening, we took a bus ride up to Monserrate to take in the sunset. Sadly, traffic was bad (a common theme in this city of 10 bajillion cars) and we missed most of the sunset. With that said, we were none the wiser as the city lights made up for it. I love travel moments that make you lose your breathe for just a moment–or maybe that was the altitude, I forget.

But enough about sites. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that what left me looking for cheap flights to return was the food. Oh, the food. How do they all stay so itty-bitty down there? I’ll never know.

One plate that appeared on so many menus and also made its  way into my belly SO many times was the arepa. On the outside a crazy delightful mash-up of a sweet corn tortilla and a pancake. On the inside, ooey, gooey white cheese. The variations were endless, but I was happier than a pig in dirt with the simple corn and cheese version.  I’m weak in the knees just thinking about it.

It wasn’t the only thing I ate, of course. Soups, seafood and meats that impressed this Midwestern girl were everywhere. There wasn’t a single meal that left me disappointed. Not even Paris can make that claim. This city was about good food, made from good ingredients by amazing people.

Now, I know what you’re all thinking. But was it safe? Here’s something I genuinely believe. Bad things can happen anywhere. Walking around Bogota, you’d have to be blind not to be reminded of the threat of crime that exists. Drug- and explosive-sniffing dogs are stationed at many mall entrances. We had to pass through a metal detector to go to one restaurant. And I can see how that’s a turn off to many people. But having traveled extensively in Brazil, I felt like this was a city that knew there were problems but had procedures in place to address them. If you’re worried, the advice I would offer is the same piece of advice I would offer to anyone traveling to any city. Be smart. Be aware of your surroundings. Don’t wear valuables around your neck or wave money or electronics around–you’re just begging for someone to take them off your hands. Find a great guide who can not only offer you wonderful insight into life in Colombia, but also keep a watchful eye on you.

Go with the understanding that what you know of Colombia is probably all wrong. This is a city of amazing old-world architecture, world-class museums, incredible restaurants–not a Hollywood drug cartel action film. People work hard and are proud of their country–they should be. It’s beautiful, it’s welcoming and for the savvy traveler, it’s a wonderful place to spend a few days.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. April 20, 2011 5:54 pm

    Hi, I am a frequent reader of your blog and this is the first time I comment. As a proud Colombian I have to let you know how much I loved your post. I was very happy to have read it and the photographs are beautiful. The last paragraph was very touching and you are right on. Good luck in your many travels, I will keep reading!

    • April 20, 2011 6:40 pm

      That means the world to me, thank you so much for your comment. Hope to see you in the comments section more often! And if you have any killer arepa recipes, pass ’em along! 🙂

  2. John permalink
    April 21, 2011 10:49 pm

    Like margaritaculinaria, I am a frequent reader of your blog but have never commented. I’m probably attracted by a common love of food and travel, not to mention the beautiful photographs you take. Keep up the good work and Happy Trails!

    • April 22, 2011 9:48 am

      Hi John! Thanks so much for chiming in. Glad to hear that you enjoy the blog–hope to see you around more often.

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