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!
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.
A couple weeks ago, I escaped down south to visit my cousin in beautiful Cali, Colombia.
We spent the long weekend or puente (note: something I’ve learned about Colombia is that almost every weekend is a long weekend!) catching up after a long year of not seeing each other and enjoying the tropical climate of Cali.
Between chatting poolside, exploring the flavors of Cali (like arepas filled with meat, plantains, cheese and topped with different salsas), salsa dancing (it’s the salsa capital of Colombia!) and cooking delicious brunches, I felt completely and utterly relaxed when I got back to Bogota.
My cousin’s house is a dream. It’s an open air house with a beautiful garden, full of every fruit tree you can imagine and the most beautiful birds in every color.
Sunday I decided to show her how we do brunch in Boulder, Colorado: eggs and ham, chocolate-banana oatmeal pancakes, papaya and chia smoothes, coffee, mimosas with fresh squeezed OJ, and more!
What do you think? I think we did Boulder proud!
I could have stayed swinging in the hammock for the rest of my life.
Early Sunday morning (like 2 am early…) I was packing and repacking my two suitcases to make sure neither was over 50 lbs (proven difficult with a wishy-washy scale). It’s a really interesting job trying to condense your life into a couple suitcases and a carry on; what makes the cut to travel with you? What stays behind? Should I take these books or this purse? It’s kind of liberating, but also really frustrating because WHAT IF you decide to go to that 70s themed party and those Lita’s you left behind would have worked perfectly with the flared pants you don’t yet own?
Somehow I figured it out and left a few pairs of shoes behind (yes, the Litas), packed the books in my overweight carry on and I was off to the airport. I’m not sure if it was the pressure and emotion of knowing I was leaving the U.S. without finite plans to return but this was hands down the most grueling travel experience I’d ever had. As it was, I was running on 3 hours of sleep from Friday night (woohoo Korean Karaoke!!) so my exhaustion level was up there and then I had an EIGHT HOUR layover in Dallas.
Thank god for the Admirals Lounge. I spent the day comfortably napping, showering, drinking vino, and watching Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.
When the last leg of my flight landed in Aeropuerto Eldorado in Bogota and I went through immigration, it was 1 am and I had been traveling for nearly 24 hours! A proper bed was a welcome sight.
Monday morning I headed to the grocery store after lunch and explored a little. I’ve been in many a Colombian grocery, but this time I made a point to become familiar with it. The mountains of tropical fruits and veggies is remarkable! Many of them you can’t find in the states, and the eggs are in the dry goods section, next to the flour and corn meal. I’m already researching some local dishes to recreate!
I’m not going to lie, I haven’t done much in my first few days here except visit with lots of family but that’s because I’ve been SO sick!
I’m a big time believer in your body moving and expelling energies depending on your state of mind and physicality, and the emotional toll that such a move and change like this takes manifests itself physically through fevers and sweating. Maybe I’m shedding my old life?
Or maybe I just have a bit of altitude sickness? Either way, getting sick when living alone SUCKS. I remember I got sick one of my first weekends in the dorms back at CU and it was awful! All I wanted was my mommy, but I was 18 and I had to woman up/ask my roommates to maybe bring me a snack from the dining hall. This is my first time living completely alone and there is no mommy OR roommates to ask for help… or dining hall for that matter.
Note to self: Always pack a thermometer and some cold medicine.
The next morning was our last day on the ride. We planned to ride all morning, a short distance to my family’s farm in Suesca where other friends and family would meet us for a big birthday celebration for my grandpa.
But first: Breakfast!
Many people think of tamales as the “Mexican Christmas” tradition: sweet corn meal and meat wrapped in corn husks and steamed. In Colombia and Venezuela, they’re a bit different: corn meal filled with meat and veggies, wrapped in a banana leaf and boiled. They’re very common in the Capital/Cundinamarca district.
I ordered one with a mug of hot cocoa (yes, I secretly wished it was almond milk, but I didn’t want to be, you know, annoying). In Colombia, it is very common to get a piece of mild cheese to dip into your cocoa.
Another perk of breakfast in Colombia is the abundance of healthy, fresh juices from exotic fruits! On this particular morning we woke up to fresh papaya juice. Isn’t the color beautiful? I think I want a room in my next house to be that color.
After everyone finished and we said gracias to the cooks, my uncle and I walked down the rode to the farm where our horses waited.
We were surrounded by beautiful rolling green hills, bright blue skies, cows, and children on motorbikes. It kind of reminded me of the Shire (not the kids on bikes part, of course!)
Making sure 20 horses and riders were properly saddled, prepared, and happy is a lot of work so while the ranchers tended to the horses, we mingled around the property, glasses of wine in hand and some snacks to occupy us.
My grandpa and his horse Principe:
My cousin Noe is so full of love for everyone he sees!
Before 11 am, we took off in a line waving goodbye to those driving behind us and embarked on the last beautiful leg of this journey. The ride was calm and sunny. Valleys rolled into small mountains and over the peaks, turned back into rolling, green hills.
It was quite possibly the most peaceful I have ever felt. Riding alone at times along the empty country or galloping amongst the other horses. I felt like I was in a western… or maybe it was a British period piece taking place in the English countryside. Whatever it was, I liked it. And I could have been there forever. So picturesque.
When we finally arrived at the farm in Suesca, a band was playing lively music and guests (family members and friends alike) mingled around the grounds. Little cousins took turns riding horses, people danced, drank wine, talked about the ride.
After a delicious lunch (which I was too hungry to snap photos of) we sang happy birthday and danced a little more before clouds rolled in and we all headed back to the city!
It was an extraordinary and beautiful time spent with family and loved ones, doing something that brings my grandpa so much happiness! What a way to ring in your 70th birthday!