Following breakfast, we book a Tourism taxi to take us to the Teleferico (cable car) up to Cerro Monserrate, and a look around the Colonial barrio of Candalaria. Being it is still Christmas season, some of the tourist tours are not available and the front desk felt a Tourism taxi was safer.
Before embarking on our journey we headed to Bancolombia for some much needed cash. We prefer not to travel with too much and use ATMs which are reliable here.
Our driver Victor arrives right on time at 10:00am and is very professionally dressed in a suit and his vehicle was impeccable. So far, the Colombian people have impressed us immensely – extremely courteous, polite and helpful. No wonder their slogan is “The only risk, is that you will want to stay!”
We are off first to Cerro Monserrate which overlooks all of Bogota (a population of 9 million) and is situated at 3170m, over 10,000ft. Victor expertly winds our way up, up and up, through beautiful neighbourhoods to the entrance of the Teleferico. We wait about 1/2 hour for tickets, and to get on to the cable car for the short 4 minute ride to the peak.
The views are spectacular and you can literally see almost the whole city from here. We took a quick visit into the church and then made our way back down where Victor was waiting for us.
Next up is a drive through Colonial Candalaria which is very typical of most South American cities, narrow cobbled streets winding past beautiful coloured buildings, and of course, the main plaza. Here we park and walk to Plaza Bolivar, where the Cathedral Primada is situated as well as the Mayor’s office, the Palace of Justice, the National Capitol which is the seat of the Colombian Congress, and behind this is the Presidential Palace. This plaza was the site of ‘La grita de independencia’ on July 20, 1810, meaning cry of independence and in Fero’s translation “when the Colombians told the Spanish to go home”.
Walking back to our car, we stop at the Antigua Santa Fe restaurant that reportedly serves the best Ajiaco in Bogota. We invited Victor for lunch and asked him to choose his favourite restaurant, and here we are. Three Ajiaco, three limonadas and we are set. Now what is Ajiaco you ask, I asked the very same question, it is a local soup filled with chicken, corn on the cob and a cream base that was out of this world. It was served with a slice of the largest avocado I have every seen, and rice. It was extremely tasty and filling, but we couldn’t resist finishing it all.
Next stop, back to the hotel to siesta – I love this culture!
Ok siesta time is over and Fero declares, “I need a haircut”. Off we go in a taxi to El Retiro shopping centre – wow, move over Beverley Hills! This is where the rich and famous in Colombia hang out. There were lots of dogs attached to security guards and policeman, quite interesting.
We did find a pelequeria (hair salon) for Fero, and the look on his face when we walked in and asked the price was priceless – $50,000 pesos! He said it was the most expensive and the longest haircut he has ever had. And the best part was watching his reaction to the stylist – he was dressed in grunge style and had tattoos and piercings everywhere, but was an artiste! Although $50,000 pesos is only $25 CAD, it is expensive for here as an engineer salary is around $1400/month. Fero always has his haircut on vacation and usually only lays a couple of dollars, in Cuba it was $.75!
Fero’s hair coiffed we are now off to change our Canadian $$ into Pesos. It was a little bit of a challenge finding a Casa de Cambio amongst all the glitter, but we managed.
And finally, the main attraction here at El Retiro, is the famous restaurant, Andres Carne de Res. It was recommended to us by two separate friends (one Colombiana & one Peruana) so we couldn’t miss going. It was 4 floors of eclectic decor, young energetic staff and excellent food. The steak could be cut with a butter knife and melted in our mouths – the absolute best I have ever tasted.
Tomorrow we fly to Manizales and the Eje de Cafetero region. We are staying on a coffee farm for three days and are looking forward to it.
Buenos noches from Bogota!