Date :Nov- 2-4/2015
Place: SFO to BOGOTA
We depart SFO in the afternoon of Nov 2nd and landed in Huston Texas on our way to Bogata. Right before departure, at the Zero hour, David absolutely had to run out and meet his out of town visiting professional bodies, who congregated at the Clarermont hotel in Berkeley, for some business meeting. They had notified him of this ad -hok gathering at the last moment, which was less then an hour from when our cab was due to pick us up. The Taxi driver was kind enough to wait for David's 15 minutes late return, only after my nervous pleading.. So after David's whirlpool acrobatic get -ready record, we finally were on our way and made it on time to SFO. We had a very short connection in Huston and barely made it, on time, to the next flight section, as our UNITED flight from SFO to Bogota took off 40 minutes late. One can not compare the type of UNITED planes, service niceness, and efficiency extended, at the Business category to the experience on the BA flights.
However considering the unbelievable $1000 round trip price (SFO to Bogota) in business class category, which David located on the following excellent site, http://matrix.itasoftware.com/ , I definitely had no right to be complaining.. At 3:00am CA time, which was 7:00am Bogota morning and after 10 flight hours, a half night sleep on partly reclining sits and an overdose of air plane digestible meals, we had finally landed, on a foggy cool but pleasant Nov 3rd day. The short and reasonable ($12) taxi ride from the airport to Bogota's center was unmemorable. Checking that early morning into a fantastic room on the 7th floor at the landmark Colonial " Opera Hotel" (Calle 10). was a true relief.
Born from a restoration and joining of 2 houses, next to the national Colon Theater, and built during the 19th and 20th C. the Opera hotel at a center location, is most charming.
The hotel used to house once Spanish settlers and later the personal guard of liberation hero - Simon Bolivar - who resided across the street in the Palacio de San Carlos, which currently houses the Ministry of Foreign affairs.
After a fruit only breakfast and a reigniting short nap in the room, we hit the cobalt stone roads of the impressive:
La Candalaria - old town center.
The architecture of the old houses, churches and buildings has Spanish Colonial, Baroque and art deco styles. It houses several universities, libraries and museums.
It is always worth our time to visit the area's closest (I) information center which we walked into, off the:
Simon Bolivar square.
This Principle square - a very modest version of "Capitol Hill" surrounded and hosts colonial cut stone most important National Governmental buildings, is actually hill-less, tree-less space, comprised of a tilted wavy stone base, which is dotted by thousands squabbling pigeons and their shit, since the birds are always being fed by local vendors selling seeds to the visiting tourists, who for some add reason, love to bask in the company of these unappealing creatures and their mass droppings.
The Square Looks much nicer at night
The free walking tours are offered in English by the I-Center only on Tuesdays and Thursdays, at 10:00am and 2:00pm . So we lucked out as we were staying only 2 days in Bogota, and registered to the afternoon walk. During the 3 hours up to the start of the walk, when left to our own vices, David scouted all the "Money Exchange" booths surrounding "Parque De Santader" -another popular square, only to be enraged by the ludicrous 10% commission rate they all rob off the tourists. Most Banks do not provide Cambios services, so it is tricky to find those who do, and get a service at early hours, before they get mobbed by the local crowd.
Parque De Santader
While preoccupied by money matters, we checked in the " Gold Muzeum" and were mentally soothed by the shining artisan heritage exhibits, of the Pre- Colombian cultures- defiantly is worth the visit.
Our appetite was also pacified, later by having a fantastic lunch at a place near by the Gold Museum, recommended to us and named:
Restaurant - "Sant Just" on Calle 16a # 2-73.
On the Walking Tour So when the old city walking tour started on time at 2:00pm we were patient enough to put up with the Colombian Guide - a sweet student of languages, badly deficient in English proficiency. 2 hours later, we did though, got a good orientation of the layout and historic legend of this city of its 7 Millions inhabitants. and had improved our Spanish vocabulary. The bigger accomplishment then that was David's success in raising an interest and "selling" Israel to the 4 other tourists on the walk - 2 young sisters from Venezuela and a young Colombian couple both Busyness Admin students at the city whom along with the guide, who knew almost nothing about our " Vila in the ME Jungle" but all promised to visit Jerusalem next year.. We continued wondering around the Colonial Calles of the La Calanderia area by our hotel, on our own, eye-balling the many Emerald specialized stores and in pursuit of a novice chocolate store, recommended by the guide.. as Colombia is known for the quality of its chocolate.
However, the precious green gem didn't made my head spin, and more disappointing was the fact that we failed to locate the chocolate place, and had to be consoled by the "emergency" See's bars I shlapped with me from SF. I was too tired and still full from the delicious lunch we had, so David was willing, though reluctantly, to accommodate me and compromised on having a light non-pretensions supper at the hotel's restaurant, which was most convenient ending to a very loooong sleepless night and busy day. ********************************* Date: Nov 4th /2015
Place: BOGOTA There is not much to tell about the Breakfast at the hotel Opera, so I will spare you the non-remarkable details. On the other-hand, the views ,of the city's landscape vast spread, on its many shining churches' domes, bell towers, stone and red bricks structures, and surrounding mountains, as seen from out of our room' window, at the top of the 4 story building, which questionably is marked as the 7 floor on the elevator button, are stunning and had been delightfully consumed.
A block and an half walking distance, from the hotel, a charming colonial compound which used to be the National Bank of Colombia, now hosts a Mint Museum -
Casa de Monedawhere - the heavy duty machinery, taken straight from the 18th Century industrial revolution, once manufactured the artistic designed Colombian coins and gold bricks of the past.
Within the same structure on its beautiful flowery grand courtyards, also is located the 2 stories BOTERO museum, open free to the public.
The BOTERO collection - paintings and sculptures- of whimsical tribute to the heavy and hefty, is exquisite and should not be missed.
Museum founded in 2000 when Botero donated more than 100 of his own work You can find in the museum also an impressive representation of the classical impressionists including, Pizarro, Renoir, Bodain, Picasso, Miro, Max Earnest, along with even Chagall and Sutin.
We took a 15 minutes cab ride from our hotel, to the "Centro Internacional" neighborhood, were we had a lunch meeting with a complete stranger young women -a native Bogotanian. So if you happen to wonder, how that happened.... be patient to hear a typical Navehs convoluted story... When we shared with our newly acquired friends- Ofra and Shlomo - who recently moved near by us, from Fresno to Oakland, that we plan to visit Colombia, they kindly offered to hook us with their dear Colombian friend - Eduardo- an MD who now resides in Fresno. He was kind to converse with us on the phone, however assured us, that his sister -Monica - a financial annalist, now residing in LA, is so much more qualified to consult us on planning our trip. Monica, who was gladly recruited to the task, instantly connected us with her associates/friends - Carolina and Dora from Cartaghena. These 2 women, further enlightened us on what we should do and not miss.
Carolina even kindly went the extra mile, and lined up her friend - Tatiana from Bogota to meet us. And that is how we happened to have had this lunch with a complete stranger... one from a chains of good willing Colombian strangers, at "Centrico" restaurant, from which the views of the city are spectacular as it is located in the San Martin Building on the 42nd floor..
Meeting Tatiana The 33 year old Tatiana (somehow this Russian name is popular in Colombia..) a graduate of Political Science works for a unique peace reconciliation Governmental initiative named: "The national center for historical memory", which services and collects historical data off all the victims impacted by the wars waged, both by the Colombian Gov, the drug cartels soldiers, and the Guerrilla political opposition terrorists. We were amazed to learn that, with-in the Colombian Economy, it is possible for an idealistic single young woman, who also is involved with environmental projects, to meet ends in her professional occupation and also afford buying an apartment..... a basic need which is denied from Israeli youth. Tatiana also was kind to assist us with money changing, at a near by Citi Bank Branch, in which to our delight, we spotted a Kippa on an head of a man rushing into the bank, accompanied by a body guard.
As we always frequent Jewish sites, at the places we travel to, I had written to the JCC of Bogota, before arrival, but got no reply. From the moment of our arrival, and for the next 2 whole days, David had been in an on going-e-contact with a Jewish lead, given us at the Tourist Information office.
Despite sending copies of our scanned Israeli passports, completing numerous requested forms to get a clearance, and after many phone calls, we failed to break through the bureaucratic impenetrable wall , permitting a visit at one of the local synagogues. If you ever would like to try using this resources , below, do let us know of the results , in hope you will be more successful Asstenterabino@chsbogota.com Comunidad Hebrea Sefardí Calle 79 No 9-76 # 2562629 256-2580 So when encountering the Kippa-head at the Bank, we ceased the opportunity to satisfy our curiosity in eliciting info on the Jewish presence in Bogota.
We were told, that there are only about 500 Jews officially residing in the city. Most are holding very lucrative specialized positions , like the Health Minister, Tax Governor as well as was Joshua - the religious fellow we bumped into. He is holding a position of Director of Gov Controller office for Colombian Banks . Also we were told that there are 4 Synagogues, built in the span of the last 50 years, all located in the Northern neighbourhoods of the city. Well ... we missed them on this trip..
And you can read more at:
Jewish History in Colombia The first Jews came to Colombia during the 16th century. They came as settlers from Spain who practiced Christianity but were really Marranos.
After lunch we rode the cable car- Funicular up to the top of the hill to further enjoy the city's panoramic best views, from the highest elevation point, where Mount Monserrate - Bogota's known famous Church icon - is bulging.
Read The mountain of Cerro de Monserrate rises over downtown Bogotá, dominating the skyline of Colombia‘s capital. A church high up on the mountain is one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions,
On the way back, shortly down the hill from the cable car, we visited
"Quinta de Bolivar" - an enchanting compound residence, built in 1801, which served as a safe heaven home to the famous Latine freedom fighter hero - Simon Bolivar, and which functions now, as a House- museum.
The fully furnished home gives a great glimpse to Colombian life in the turn of the 19th c.The botanical garden within the compound, on its lushes vegetation and incredible plant variety is exquisite and can be fully appreciated by garden's lovers.
Walking further down the hill, back toward La- Candaleria, along the paved brick road which is decorated by a mile long of cascading water fountains, one observes many students from the near by university, spread resting on the grassed hill, some reading while other necking.
Half way down that road, to our delight, we run into the Chocolate place recommended by the guide, the day before, and were I had the best ever hot Chocolate drink. You can try at:
Magola buendia cafe del huila Cra 2a # 17 - 60
The superb Coco beans, which David devour with immense pleasure at the Cafe, are grown and treated to perfection in the Pauna district. you can find more: at www.distritochocholate.com We continued walking all the way back to the hotel, through the narrow bustling streets, piping into the charming open Colonial courtyard and old fashion small shops which mainly offers pastries and trinkets. What most amazed me were the incredible huge size artistically creative colorful street Graffiti paintings, on every conceivable free spaces on walls, building and fences. More on the History of Bogota - National Capital of Colombia
Being put off by taking a long taxi ride of about an hour to the modern North part of town, where the night life and selection of restaurants are more attractive, we had dinner at the hotel, and call the night off early.
So to those of you more of adventurous night creatures, you may want to try
: "Rephael" Restaurant at Cll 70 N 4-65 , as was recommended to us.
We have to catch an early flight to Pereira next morning.
To be continued...
Arriving back at Bogota, after our round in Pereria, Cartagena and Rosario (see separate posts) we checked, for one night, into the "Best Western Plus", a modern most convenient hotel in the center of the North part of the city, a block from Park 93
For dinner we went to a trendy most popular place in the city, an exceptional theme mix between restaurant, bar and dance club.
5 floors of action, with funky decor and loud lively music, attracting mainly the young. It was really busy and it had great atmosphere.
called " ANDRES CARNE DC"
We were not crazy for the food , but the ambiance was defiantly unusual , so over all had fun.
Upon leaving the place, we met 2 tourist from Washington DC and they brought to our attention, that a place with almost similar name " Le Plaza De Andres" is considered one of the best “All the flavors" of Colombia in a single place” .
"La Plaza de Andres" is a nice place similar to a local market (traditional food market) located inside the same Shopping mall.
I think that is the one we should have gone to ... well we had a good time any way..