|The Fort at Sunset, Cartagena|
We decided to escape carnaval madness and we went to Colombia to visit our friends (from Sao Paulo) who now live in Bogota. I always forget how big this continent is! I was thinking it was a couple hour flight... 6 hours later, a little bit frazzled flying with two kids we landed in Bogota...
I think people have similar perceptions of Brazil and Colombia in terms of security. Yes, there are certainly dangerous elements here and there is a higher chance of 'something' happening but I honestly (and maybe naively, I'll admit) don't feel as threatened / intimidated as I have walking through Clapham Junction or parts of South Bronx...
So the idea of living here is that we get to travel and know this region better, as for me, it's completely untouched. We booked our tickets the day that Camille and Ian moved there! Bogota has a temperate climate all year round aside from the last months which rain heavily. I hadn't packed enough warm clothes for the evening but we made do bundling the kids in blankets and layers.
Food: soup, soup, soup. I love soup and the Colombians certainly do it justice, even in steaming hot sunshine. Add a squeeze of lime and a spoon of chilli. Lots of peruvian ceviche too, delish- i could eat it every day, along with sushi and pizza and everything in between. Everything was a little bit tastier than what you get here in Brazil - I think they actually use pepper!
We stayed in a super cute pousada / boutique hotel called Casa El Carretero in Getsemani (which I read in my travel guide that it's known as the red light district.. ). I really recommend it - it only has 3 rooms and a pool on the top. It's right next to a square where all the locals hang out - we spent one night after dinner with a beer and watching boys kick a ball around, a bunch of police standing around doing nothing, local girls flirting with local boys, sleeping grannies - it was like being in a movie set!
The old city is split into 4 sections - Getsemani being one of them. Most of the American tourists (generalising here...) stay out in the Tourist section (yes, seriously called that) with the big hotels and McDonalds. What I loved about this old city is that it's still filled with locals going about their daily business - alot of the shops are catered for locals, and old buildings have been converted into government buildings or schools / universities. We did as our guide book suggested and spent our days there just wandering the streets and picking most restaurants at random. We had been recommended to stay at the Charleston which looked fabulous but we struggle to pay $600 a night for a hotel.. and La Cevicheria which is a very lowkey, on-the-street restaurant visited by Anthony Bourdain so obviously popular!
I love visiting cities where friend's live - to see how a normal (expat) person lives their life there. It always makes me think about how much I would enjoy living in a different city. They took us to La Candelaria (the old town) and to Usaquen which had a good market and lots of fabulous looking restaurants. One that sounded great was 'WOK ★' - Read that out loud! For our dinner out we had more yummy ceviche - infact, I'm going to say the best I've had so far in my short (well medium) life .... even better than La Mar here in Sao Paulo.
Everything just seemed much cheaper! We met some other expats who thought it was expensive but I guess coming from Sao Paulo makes everything relatively cheap. I spent the morning in the supermarket buying jalapenos, baby wipes and fajitas. Even the airport is SO exciting compared to Guarulhos here - the have a decent coffee shop, and things to look at other than other bored passengers.
Colombia - definitely worth a visit while you are in the region. We heard about lots of other places in Colombia we want to visit (Medellin, Santa Marta, Taganga and the national parks) but think we will have to look at leaving the girls behind the next time!!