Colombia, Day Four in Bogota

On our last full day in Colombia, we flew back to Bogota. We had a lazy early afternoon and then got together later for a visit to the Salt Cathedral or Catedral de Sal in Zipaquirá.

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There are 14 small chapels inside which represent the Stations of The Cross complete with kneeling prayer platforms. All of it is carved out of salt.

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The walls when you enter are covered with salt and the guide had us taste it. Yep. It was salt. Here is the salt waterfall.

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Here is a closeup of the salt texture.

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This huge cross is made entirely of salt.

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In the evening, we went to the famed Colombian nightclub Andres Carne de Res in Chia, 45 minutes north of Bogota. I don’t know if I can adequately describe this wonderful place but I’ll try. It’s a very large and ambling bar and grill type place. Each wooden table has a heart-shaped light above it with a name and number. There are people paid to dress up in costumes and makeup and walk around, entertaining and taking pictures with the clientèle.

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There is a man with a bowl of limes cut in half and slightly hollowed out that dips them in salt and fills them with tequila and hands them out to everyone that passes. There are a few dance floors that don’t quite meet but are within view of each other. The music is loud and has a great beat and everyone, it seems, is dancing. And the dancing is fantastic to watch. They all seem to be professional dancers but they don’t mind including someone like me that knows only a few steps. To get from one place to another there is no choice but to squeeze in between and through the bodies lining every inch of the floor. Everyone is smiling. And the DJ’s voice coming over the loudspeaker in between songs is Andres himself. It’s a warm voice that invites you to have a lovely time. He loves to come and watch the action but stays mostly to himself. You can get a small cup of Aguardiente, the liquor of choice and made in these parts. It has an anise flavor and burns your throat as it goes down. And a little goes a long way. Also a must try is the tangerine slushie called Mandarino. A word to the wise though: They are strong and one will do you fine. Two and you just might find yourself vomiting out the van door in front of the club and urping all the way back to the hotel out the window in the shotgun seat. Just sayin’.

The next day I flew home. It was an uneventful flight. I had the whole row to myself. I slept most of the time and enjoyed my last cup of fried plantains during the in-flight meal. The plantains over there are used at almost every meal. They have both a sweet and a non-sweet variety. My favorite was the non-sweet when pressed very thin and fried. It was wonderful with a type of salsa or beans and cheese on it. The empanadas were delicious as were the yuca and arepas. Here is some fried yuca with beet sauce. Delicious.

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I tried the Ajiaco (soup) which I liked mostly because it came with a huge slice of yummy avocado. And my favorite thing is probably the grilled corn on the cob which is called Mazorca. I also tried a sweet granadilla which is kind of like a pomegranate inside but softer. There was fruit, fruit and more fruit. It was great.

Carolina Castaneda of the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia was a wonderful guide. She made sure we were well taken care of. She explained everything thoroughly and completely. I almost declined to come on this trip because I don’t know Spanish and I thought it might be rude to go to a foreign country and not speak the language. Carolina put my fears to rest and never made me feel dumb because I didn’t know Spanish. (But I think I’ll take a few classes before I go next time.) Carolina was fun and her energy was contagious. It would not have been as good a trip without her.

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Nora and Mike, frequent world travelers, were fun to get to know. It was their second time in Colombia so they knew a little bit about what they wanted from their second trip. They had a great sense of humor and were up for just about anything. It was a pleasure to travel with them. I hope Nora wins another contest soon and invites me to come along.

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Donna Walter from Weber Shandwick was the one that arranged all the travel for me. She did an impeccable job. Every connection was right on time and I always felt well taken care of. She didn’t know any Spanish either so we stuck together. And she shared her bite relief pen with me. It really worked!

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Also deserving thanks are Santiago Echavarria, General Coordinator of Public Affairs National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia. He had the fun idea of the surprise of Juan Valdez coming down the mountain with Conchita to meet us. (video coming soon) Also Juanita Arboleda, of Public Affairs. She organized all the agenda in Colombia. Without her our fantastic trip wouldn’t have been possible. And Alfonso Angel, Executive Director of the Coffee Committee of Caldas where we got to view all the orchids and butterflies.

I had a great time and never felt far from home as everyone was so welcoming.

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My time in Colombia was wonderful and I would love to go back. (Thank you, Blogher, for the opportunity.) The countryside is beautiful and lush. The people are so kind and welcoming. They love visitors and go out of their way to make them feel at home. There is even a nightlife for the adventurous. Pack a little bug repellent, a hat and some sturdy walking shoes and go see the countryside. Or stay in the city and wear your best dress. Either way, get ready for a great time.

Learning about the coffee and the processes was very interesting. I will try to buy only 100% Colombian coffee from now on. Not just because it tastes better but because of how they run the organization to help all the cafeteros. They are such hard, hard workers and they really put their blood and sweat into creating a high-quality product that they are proud of. And knowing that the cafeteros get the rewards and a good price because of the Federation makes me feel good supporting them.

2 Responses

  1. What a great trip! That salt cathedral looks amazing and the restaurant – so fun! You have to watch out for aguaguardiente – I will show you the amazing handwoven rugs I bought that I absolutely did not need after we had some aguaguardiente…

    I love good coffee but I also drink Nescafe clasico freeze-dried. I got used to it in Mexico and to me it tastes better than Starbucks at about 1/50th the price.

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