Bogota, La Candelaria, and Monserrate

On Monday morning, we headed down to Bogota, Colombia on another Copa Airlines flight.  Again using United miles, we were able to fly in business class for 20,000 miles each plus a  little over $50 USD per person.  Arrival in Bogota is straight forward and taxis from the official taxi rank are safe and cost-effective.  Our drive to the hotel in the Parque 93 area took about 25 minutes and cost about 15,000 COP which is the equivalent of about $4.50 USD.

Bogota from Monserrate

Bogota from Monserrate

 

For our hotel, I selected the Blue Suites Hotel on Calle 93, just a couple of blocks south of the upscale Parque 93 area.  I stayed here on business last year and the location cannot be beat between the immediate vicinity and a short walk to the Zona Rosa area where there are malls, bars, restaurants, and lots of shops.  Further more, a nightly rate of approximately $52 USD is hard to beat! This rate includes internet and a made to order breakfast.

Two cautions about this hotel.  One, there is a lot of construction in the area.  The building they were working on last May when I was here is almost complete but several others are going up.  Jackhammers start as early as 7:30 a.m. and there was also music at 5:00 a.m. so be forewarned if you are a light sleeper.  I don’t think the construction situation is going to change in the near future.

Second, some Spanish skills come in handy here as there is very little English spoken by the staff.  One could probably get by with gestures and such, but some basic Spanish for check-in, departure, and breakfast interactions would be a big plus.

Day 1 – Bogota Beer Company, Walking in the Rain, and Habana 93

We arrived around lunch time so took the three block walk to Parque 93 and settled in for a pizza at the Bogota Beer Company.  This chain has outlets around the city and is always busy in the early evening.  In addition to their own craft brews, they serve a pretty good pizza and it was  good refuge from a strong rain shower coming through the area.

Pizza at BBC in Parque 93

Pizza at BBC in Parque 93

 

After lunch, we headed out on foot to the Zona Rosa, a place most visitors spend quite a bit of time in.  It is always busy, has many hotels in the area, and is safe to walk about at almost all hours.  The walk from the Parque or my hotel should be about 20-25 minutes.  But, I have a tendency of overshooting the area and ending up much further south than necessary.  So, I turned this short walk into a 90 minute training session much to the chagrin of my daughter.  By the time we actually got to the area, we were ready to head back (in a taxi) and take a break before dinner.

When visiting Bogota, it is important to remember the city is at a significant altitude – just over 8,600 feet above sea level. Given our travel and our extended walk, we decided to stay nearby and go to dinner at one of my “go to” restaurants in the area – Habana 93.  They have music almost every night starting around 8 or 8:30 p.m. and this night was no exception.

Habana 93, Bogota, Colombia

Habana 93, Bogota, Colombia

 

They have a menu that focuses on fish, steak, and chicken and I’ve never had a bad meal here.  Plus, the music is lively and sometimes dancing even breaks out.

Day 2 – La Candeleria, Museums, and Andres D.C.

On Tuesday morning, we caught a taxi to Plaza de Bolivar to spend the morning seeing the old town, known as La Candeleria.  This is one of those “must see” destinations and contains many sights.  We started at the Plaza de Bolivar which is flanked by the primary cathedral in Bogota which is the largest in Bogota and one of the largest in South America.  The National Capital – home to Colombia’s congress is also on the square with the President’s residence just behind it.  The seat of Bogota’s mayor and the Palace of Justice – home to the Supreme Court – round out the rest of this large square.

Plaza de Bolivar, Bogota, Colombia

Plaza de Bolivar, Bogota, Colombia

 

After taking in these sites, we started walking around the area and down Carrera 7 through the thriving heart of La Candeleria. There are many museums clustered around this area including an art collection donated by Colombia’s most famous artist – Botero, a museum dedicated to money, a church museum – Museo de Santa Clara, the famous Museo del Oro – more on this in a moment, and many unique sites such as the Military Museum that we took in because 1) it was free and 2) why not?

The Museo de Militar Colombia is a simple and elegant display of the history of the armed forces and honors to former and current military members.  It also teaches a bit about conflicts that most of us will have no knowledge of such as the brief conflict between Colombia and Peru knows as the Leticia Incident.  Admission if free but you must have ID on your person to be registered into the attraction.  It only takes about 30 minutes to tour but we were glad we stopped in.

Most of the attraction of La Candeleria is simply strolling about and taking in the bustling activity and street scenes.  Unlike Casco Viejo in Panama, this district is not set up for tourists but for commerce.  Stopping in some local shops to check out the wares, stopping for a bite to eat, getting a shoeshine, or sampling a snack from a fruit stand are all ways to spend time here.

 

Finally, we came to the Museo del Oro.  This is one of the prime tourist attractions in the city and one that I have avoided on previous visits.  However, we felt an obligation to go in and check it out for only 3,000 COP per person.  I think I can give you an idea of what you will see.  Gold.  Lots of gold.  But, not even really attractive gold.  Instead, you’ll see lots of gold pieces from hundreds of years ago before there was Jared, before Kay Jewelers, and before they had really good tools.  What you are really going to get is a history lesson about ancient cultures and tribal groups from around the South American area.  Well, you are going to get that if you actually stop and read all of the exhibits.  We didn’t.

After about four hours in the district, we took a taxi back to the hotel for about 12,000 COP or $3.70 USD.

For dinner, we headed out to one of the most lively restaurants I’ve been to – Andres D.C. in the Zona Rosa.  People who have been to the original location of Andres de Carnes Res in Chia will tell you it is the best, but it is also about 45 minutes by taxi from the city.  I’ve been to the Zona Rosa location on multiple occasions and it is plenty fun plus a good meal  My daughter, given it was her first visit, was given the full treatment including a shower of confetti and a mariachi band playing for us as we danced around our table.

We ordered several appetizers that included grilled corn which she discovered she loved slathered with guacamole sauce!  With drinks, three appetizers, and a main course of steak for both of us, our total bill was about $83 USD.  This dinner atmosphere might have been the highlight of her trip.

Day 3 – Monserrate, Museo Botero, and Street Art

One of the key attractions for tourists is to take the funicular or cable car up to the top of Monserrate for views over the entire city of Bogota.  At an elevation of 10,341 feet, it towers over the city.  I had never taken the time to do this so we headed out and took the funicular up to the top and spent a couple of hours looking around, visiting the church there, and having lunch.

Apparently, some people hike to the top on Sundays but I cannot imagine how long it takes as this mountain goes straight up like something out of “The Grinch” Christmas cartoon.  The round-trip costs about $8.50 USD per person and let’s you off just below the church that is a pilgrimage site for many Catholics.

Monserrate Church dedicated to El Señor Caído

Monserrate Church dedicated to El Señor Caído

 

After stopping in to the church and watching the 12:00 p.m. service, we decided to have some lunch.  Unfortunately, we chose the Monserrate Parilla and it was simply awful.  The lomo steak, my daughter’s burger, the arepas..they were all awful.  You would be better off visiting the nicer restaurant and enjoying views of the city as you have an edible lunch.

On the way down, we took the cable car and it offered better views than the funicular.

From the station at the bottom of the mountain, we took off on foot to head back to La Candeleria for a couple of remaining sites.  As we walked near the University of the Andes, we found ourselves in an area dominated by street murals – much of which was focused on animal life.

But, the real find for my daughter was this mural that seems to almost be an advertisement for Caterpillar – a company she is going to intern at this coming summer.

A random mural depicting Caterpillar corporation

A random mural depicting Caterpillar corporation

 

Maybe she’ll be able to casually drop this into conversation when she is working there, “You know, when I was in South America earlier this year, I saw a strong presence for Caterpillar both at the Panama Canal and in Bogota.”

We finished up our sightseeing at the Botero Museum.  All the art here was donated by the artists and includes – in addition to an extensive collection of his own works – a strong collection of French Impressionists, several Picassos, Max Ernst, a Salvador Dali, and several other artists that you have heard of before.  Admission is free and the courtyard is a lovely place to stop and relax even if you are not interested in the art itself.

Botero's take on Mona Lisa

Botero’s take on Mona Lisa

 

We had our final dinner back at Habana 93 and called it an early night as she had to leave the next morning to get back to school.

Final Thoughts

This was my fifth trip to Colombia and I continue to enjoy myself here and find the Colombians to be warm and helpful people.  And, I don’t know if it is just me, but it feels safer than ever and I was not worried about the times when my daughter walked around the area of hotel by herself and I feel confident she would have been fine in every place we went, at least during the day.

I will finish up my visit with a couple of business meals and then I’m off to Peru in the morning..

 

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