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Published: September 30th 2017
Geo: 4.60987, -74.082
There would be no Guatavita or Zipaquira today, though either one would have made a worthwhile day trip from Bogota. Between some fatigue and the fact that we were enjoying Bogota immensely, far more than we expected to, we decided to take it easy and enjoy some of the other things that this great city has to offer its visitors.
Our mornings thus far in Bogota have been slow and lazy, as we attempted to recover from the strength-sapping heat of the Caribbean coast. It's been a refreshing change of climate, especially since the drizzly weather and temperatures in the high teens provide just enough incentive to linger for a few moments longer over that mug of hot Colombian coffee. There's something about Bogota that we can't quite put our finger on, something that we really like about the city.
Off to Usaquen, a village north of the Zonas G and T, that was a separate municipality from Bogota before it was annexed by the growing city in the mid-50s. We decided to take a taxi today, after having taken the TransMilenio yesterday, an express bus service that essentially takes the place of a Metro system. It was quite the experience,
Mercado de las Pulgas ...
... mostly full of artisans (i.e. - tourist junk vendors), with a few food stalls.
as we were packed like sardines packed into a can, a bit surprising given that it was a Saturday afternoon.
Riding the TransMilenio cost about $2 CAD for the both of us, and a fare in one of Bogota's cheap cabs would probably have cost about $5 CAD - as I was doing the math in my head as we exited the bus, a local said to me with a laugh "Mister, next time take a taxi!" I think that's a great idea, and we took his advice today!
The old colonial village of Usaquen is very cute, definitely one of the highlights of Bogota, especially on Sundays with its Mercado de las Pulgas. Though billed as a flea market, there are no secondhand goods being sold here that we knew of, only artisanal/tourist goods that were generally of high quality. Either way, it makes for a wonderfully enjoyable atmosphere in Usaquen, its lanes filled with vendors, pleasant crowds, music, and a lively vibe.
Usaquen seems be a fairly exclusive district of Bogota, with fancy restaurants and cafes alongside more hole-in-the-wall-type joints, an interesting mix of the modern and traditional. It's a perfect neighbourhood in Bogota for tourists looking to
Patacones the Size Of Your Head!!! ...
... super thin and crispy, more like a fried tortilla than the more traditional patacones we've had so far on the trip. The giant patacones were served with guacamole and delicious shredded chicken and beef, even better than we expected - we though it might be similar to a greasy plate of nachos, a la the plate of crap we had in Tolu http://blog.travelpod.com/travel-blog-entries/pwong/15/1325287148/tpod.html#pbrowser/pwong/15/1325287148/filename=zj.jpg
shop, with both souvenir stands and upscale shopping malls all within a short walk of one another. We enjoyed Usaquen so much that we decided to skip one of Bogota's most-famous sights, Cerro Monserrate, a pilgrimage destination perched high atop a hill above Bogota, offering magnificent views of the city below.
It's considered a must-see, making it a difficult decision to miss out on it, but it's a small consolation knowing that we'll definitely be back in Colombia one day, and hope to see it then. It was just so difficult to tear ourselves away form Usaquen, which allowed us to enjoy everything we've loved so far in Colombia - good food, great coffee, tropical fruit ice creams, and friendly people! We're positive that Montserrate would have been great as well, but we were already in a lovely locale and having a wonderful time - why give that up for something that may not prove to be as enjoyable?
I've heard stories of Bogota being an ugly city - given what we've seen so far, I'd say that's a bit of a harsh description, even though some areas we've passed through haven't exactly been what you'd call pretty. After having
Usaquen's Main Square ...
... fronted by Iglesia de Santa Barbara de Usaquen.
spent yesterday in the city centre and La Candelaria, the colonial part of town, we could see where that assessment may have came from - but it's difficult to make that blanket statement about Bogota in general, as Usaquen is one of the loveliest neighbourhoods any traveler could hope to visit.
Bogota takes a toll on the body even when your itinerary consists of nothing more than some strolling and stuffing your face, something we attribute to the 2600 m elevation - walking even a few blocks along a slight incline left us breathless, so we actually needed to head back to the hotel for a short rest before venturing out for dinner!
The Zona G is billed by some as not only being the best gastronomic neighbourhood in Bogota, but in all of Colombia. For that reason, we decided to stick around the area for dinner - there is no shortage of restaurants in the area, but the trick is first finding one that is open since most are shut down on Sundays, while also finding one that is affordable. We were shocked at some of the menus we saw - one restaurant had appetizers running up to $40, too rich
... every Sunday, Bogota shuts down certain roads to cars, allowing only bikes.
for our blood!
It shouldn't have been such a surprise, as the street outside our hotel was filled with army guys with machine guns - there must have been some VIP dining in the Zona G this evening. But being simple backpackers and not VIPs, there was no caviar and champagne on the menu for us tonight - only burgers and beer, and the world's largest patacon!
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