I’ve written a few times about Colombian breakfast, especially in the country, where breakfast is done BIG…But if you’re spending only a few days in Bogota and you want to maximize your cultural experience and eat like a local (good for you!). Here’s the secret: ditch your hotel breakfast and go for a walk.
Walk around Bogota in El Centro or El Parque 93, Quinta Camacho, Zona G, Usaquen, Zona Rosa… where ever it is that you might be staying and buy a fresh juice on the corner or fruit cup to enjoy in the sunshine and try not to get by cab driver.
A truly authentic experience would include stopping by a local bakery (my favorite: Colombiano Pandebono on 95 and 15th) for piping hot pan de yuccas, pan de bonos, almohabanas, or areaps con queso (all various styles of cheese breads and the most typical Colombian thing you can eat) (yay carbs!) and enjoy one or all of them with a coffee. Remember gringos: if you order “un cafe“, they will serve you a coffee with milk (cafe con leche). If you order “un tinto“, you will get a black coffee. If you’re really feeling the vibe, go ahead and order “un avena”. It’s an oatmeal drink thats kind of like a cross between an spiced oat smoothie and horchata (but not made of rice). I promise you’ll like it! And it’s cheap! (5 mil pesos for 2 pan de yuccas and a tinto).
But maybe you’re kind of hungover and really need some solid food to start your day… in that case, I would recommend walking (or Uber-ing) your behind to the nearest Andres Carne de Res (which I’ve mentioned in this post). AndresCDR is a Colombian party institution with roots just outside the city, but has grown into various locations around Bogota (Andres DC, La Plaza de Andres, and Andres Express) for both the food and the party! The menu offers every typical dish in Colombia from regions like Antioquia to Boyaca. The breakfast menu is solid… with some standard dishes like scrambled eggs, calentado, caldo de costilla or arepas–pero wait! You said you wanted to eat super local and you had a hangover?
Skip the tourist menu and ask for: un consomme (like a caldo, although little lighter and with shredded meat and potato and cilantro), arepa de choclo (sweet, yellow corn, pancake-like and filled with cheese), and some coffee. All for about 15 mil pesos ($5)
As soon as you finish that consomme your hang over will be long gone and you’ll be ready for another day of touristing!
I thought Paris was difficult… Until I got to Berlin. Berlin is ROUGH. It’s crumbling and grey and smells strange in many places. You can feel the blunt affects of war on this city, perhaps more than any other. Graffiti stains monuments and people don’t stop often to help you. It is an aggressive city, not unlike Bogota.
A few weeks after my trip, I sat next to a man in In-n-Out and we got to talking to about Berlin. He was enamored by the city and he called it a diamond in the rough… Nonetheless, it is rough.
However, (just like in Bogota), I witnessed some moments of pure and unforgettable beauty. Our first night in the city, we roamed around the streets at dusk and stumbled upon a man and his guitar on the steps of a church. For an hour we sat in awe as he played the most beautiful acoustic versions of Green Day, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Beatles, and Pink Floyd for a crowd of over 50 people.
On our last day, we took some pastries and sat in Tiergarten for a few hours to read and relax. I was lying in what felt like the only green space in of all of Berlin. As I stared up at the sky, surrounded by trees, I felt like time had stopped. Only the loose clumps of pollen were floating in slow motion above me like tiny fairies. I could hear children laughing in the distance and water from a creek rolling by; but in that moment I felt like the only person in all of Berlin. I felt over 500 years of complicated history seep into my soul. The triumphs and the falls, laughter and tears mingled with fear and despite everything, love.
Berlin is complicated, once the center of classical culture, now stained by the pain of war. But maybe the man at In-n-Out was right: it is a majestic diamond in the rough.
What I’ve come to learn from Berlin is that you either love it or you hate it. It’s not for the faint at heart. Berliners are unapologetic and fierce in their ways, perhaps that has to do with years of war or being at the center of Europe. That history is reflected in the vibe of the city, as it was so integrated into every day life for so long: the food (a cross between classic German and the immigrant population), the local’s style (edgy, practical, and rugged). Drunk, shouting homeless men lived in cohesiveness with young 20-something girls sharing a photobooth outside a liquor store. Guys dressed with chunky dog collars and everyone waited in line at 3am to enter the nightclubs. Nothing is off limits there. Even Tiergarten seems like a place of escapism. Home to the beautiful landmarks of the city, people spend long, leisurely days in the park, eating, drinking, doing exercise, or protesting. In other corners of the sprawling park, you’ll find groups of nudist lounging next to their bikes getting some sun. (I told you, unapologetic).
Maybe I’ll go back. If I do, I’ll approach the city differently. I’ll embrace its crumbling architecture and dig deeper into the city.
Amsterdam was a blissful oasis tucked between the chaos of Paris and Berlin. It was a strange Utopia of calm after a slightly overwhelming weekend in Paris.
We arrived by train at midmorning to Amsterdam Centraal and I instantly knew I was in my kind of city!
There’s something about the Dutch that is so comforting! While touristy, there is also a deep sense of locality. And the locals are warm! They welcome you, chat with you, and make you feel like you’re a part of the city. The city and its locals are cool, style-conscious and cosmopolitan; yet nothing is ever pretentious or forced. A beautiful sight after years of LA-designed hipsterism.
Their style is chic and sophisticated; but utilitarian and practical, lending to their constantly active lifestyles.
And although the city is in constant motion and people always seem to be doing something with a purpose, it’s calm. People don’t scream and honk at bikers who swerve in the way of cars… They just… Let them pass! Everyone is friendly, helpful, and eager to share info about their country or favorite cafe. Frankly, it was refreshing after living in the density of Bogotá. My inner energy really needed those 2 days of peace in Amsterdam.
I found a local shop called Adam Local, in Jourdaan, which sells souvenirs made my local designers and artisans. Highly recommended if you’re looking for a beautiful trinkets and designs.
It’s easily my favorite city now, though our time was limited. We enjoyed the coffee shops, the cafes, ice cream along one of the canals, explored the red light district and often split up to walk on our own.
Paris. Paris was difficult for me… It was beautiful and romantic and full of everything I wanted it to give me. But it was also overwhelming, far from our flat (the airBnb description was a bit misleading), and harder to navigate than I expected (on account of everything I wanted to see in just 3 days was spread across the entire city).
Also, I noticed, after traveling 3 out of 5 days, one’s cooperation and patience stores are depleted.
Perhaps my real problem was that I went in with too many expectations and too many siblings (like I said, there’s a serious lack of communal cooperation after 3 days of exhausting travel..)
The things I did see, however, were beautiful. Everywhere I turned the architecture amazed me. Giant, ornate buildings. Romantic Windows above narrow streets. Locals and tourists intertwining like the streets in front of us.
I took myself to the Pompidou one morning while my brothers explored Notre Dame and spent hours zig zagging through the exhibits and admiring the view from the top. Another day we spent a few hours in the Picasso which was beautiful and a great collection. I admit, we missed the Louvre but the crowds were massive and we didn’t have much time. Next time.
Basically we just walked and walked, crossing bridges and sometimes getting lost until we stumbled upon sites and cafes. Delicious croissants, croque monsieurs, picnics of baguettes and cheese near Shakespeare and Co. We drank wine under the Eiffel Tower and watched it sparkle before meeting a friend of mine to drink by the Canal Saint Martin with the locals. We read our books in the shade of the parks, while we sipped champagne and rode bikes through the Paris Zoo park.
Our flat was just outside of Paris proper (Saint Mandé is right on the edge of the 12th arrondissement). I was looking forward to living in the hustle and bustle of Paris, but in the end, we were able to experience the true Parisian lifestyle without English or tourist traps and significantly cheaper.
On Sunday morning we were lucky enough to catch a local marche en plein aire and picked up a few snacks.
So yeah, France was difficult for me. I regret not taking more initiative in planning and a day by myself to explore without my (very slow walking) brothers. But I guess that’s more reason to go back. I still loved what I saw. And we still had a lot of fun.
Our time in London came and went and I fell in love with the chilly city just as quickly.
Here’s how we did London in 24 hours:
First and foremost, we didn’t sleep. The battle was difficult but we fought the jetlag until 11pm. Go out for dinner, grab a pint, walk around. Do whatever you need to do but don’t fall asleep before a normal sleeping hour.
When you finally sleep for the night, plan for an early morning and take advantage of the long ass summer days. (Seriously! It gets dark around 10pm!)
In the morning, we walked around our new hood (we stayed in Soho off Oxford Street). At 830 we were out the door, exploring, watching the locals, zig zagging through parks and streets toward Covent Gardens.
We had a light breakfast at Paul’s (decent cappuccino and bread) and met with one of my best friends, Djon! (He happened to be in London the same week!)
We walked off our breakfast in the direction of Trafalgar’s Square and got down to business.
In the square, enjoy the free museums. We popped into the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery (great for British Monarchy buffs!). From the stairs of the NG, you can catch some epic views of London’s greatest landmarks.
After a few Lion snaps, we started walking toward Buckingham Palace along the Mall and were lucky enough to catch the changing of the guard AND a procession of ambassadors visiting the queen.
After checking out BP, we headed toward Westminster to check out Parliament and Downing Street. During lunch, we decided to split up for a while: Mateo meeting up with a friend from university and the rest of us heading across the River Thames.
London was such a bright and diverse city! The energy was inspiring and exciting. I loved everything about (except for maybe riding my bike amongst the double decker buses). There was so much style, so much history!
So here I am again. Bags packed and ready for another brothership adventure. I’m currently on my way to London via Madrid to meet up with my brothers for 2 weeks of Europeanness (museums, landmarks, cafes, cheese, wine, pastries, walking…. Yaaaass).
I’m literally so tired and jet lagged I think my eyes are going to fall out. But I’m almost there. And it’s already Day 1. Damn, time flies when you’re having fun.
Oh yeah, here’s a pic with my dog before I left ❤️. We call him Black Fox now.