Expect the unexpected in Bogotá. Modern skyscrapers are tucked side by side with five hundred year old colonial churches. Emerald peddlers and thieves roam the city streets, sometimes difficult to distinguish one from the other. Gold leaf, jewels, and new wealth are juxtaposed with abject poverty. Art is everywhere. Graffiti transforms walls into stories and acrobats perform at busy street corners for spare change. Bogotá is the perfect gateway into life in a country discovered by Alonso de Ojeda in 1499, and in a perfect position to share its rich culture and natural beauty with the world today.
The Andes mountain range surrounding Bogotá embraces a population of nearly seven million and hosts a city 8600 feet above sea level. A friendly city with friendly citizens, take time to linger in the cafés. An hour and a half breakfast is normal. Sip cappuccino at MASA while waiting for a cast iron skillet breakfast brimming farm fresh huevos revueltos (scrambled eggs) and a just-out-of-the-oven baguette, or a Croque-Madame layered with Gruyere cheese, bechamel, and fried eggs on homemade sourdough toast. This kind of heavenly substance will take people watching to a whole new level.
After breakfast, stroll through the PALOQUEMAO MARKET. Produce from the Caribbean and Pacific coasts, the fertile Andes Mountains, and the the tropical jungle engage all the senses. Arrange a BICYCLE TOUR through the city and learn from an expert the messages behind the prolific artistic graffiti chronicling the social woes and armed conflicts of Bogotá while appreciating the centuries old colonial architecture and juxtaposition of old and new in the city.
Reserve at least two hours to preview the collection at the MUSEO BOTERO. The bronze and resin statues, the 123 Botero paintings, and works of Picasso and Chagall certainly produce giggles and grins. Absurdly round people painted in the Renaissance tradition but portrayed in modern settings set a sardonic, ironic, and playful mood. In addition, this museum artfully portrays the colorful nature, traditions and bloody history of the Colombian people.
Folk tales perpetuate the myth that GUATAVITA, a green lagoon an hour from city center, may have been the home of El Dorado, the legendary city of gold, that inspired a mythical tribal chief to plunge into the sacred lake waters to receive god like powers. Even without a dip into the spring temperature waters, the lake provides a breathtaking panorama worthy of the day trek.
An authentic Colombian experience would be incomplete without an outing to the quirky ANDRES CARNE DE RES in Chia, an hour's drives from Bogotá. Go hungry and go well-rested. This lights out experience will last hours and is best enjoyed with trips to the dance floor between bites of the parrillada platter (blood sausage, pork ribs, sirloin, chicken thighs, flank steak, prunes, & bacon skewers) and sips of the local aguardiente (the best is a sugarless anise liquor). Catch a glimpse of the cooks in the kitchen. Surprised by the technique, and with Argentine tenderloin a mere $2 a pound, send a wrapped in wet cloth, salt and oregano seasoned, thrown directly into the fiery coals, juicy piece of filet to the table.
For gastronomically curious and more adventurous eating souls, EL CIELO embodies all the techniques of modernist cuisine. The study of neuroscience and the roots of Colombian cuisine are combined to take guests on a sensory culinary journey. Skip the coffee and opt for the after dinner blackberry aromatic--intense and lovely.