- Lima – Bogota
- Bogota Graffiti Tour
We were almost 3 months in to our trip and desperate for some privacy, so myself, Fran and Rhona had booked an Air BnB in Bogota for a couple of days. Luckily our host was an angel and let us in to the property at 7am (since we’d landed so early) meaning we could catch up on some sleep. And that we did! Waking up again at 10.30am, Rhona and I head out in search of coffee, discovering that we lived above a Dunkin’ Donuts. Three coffees and three donuts in later and we were once again human.
We’d booked on to a graffiti tour at 2pm because we’d heard that Bogota’s street art was like no other. Unfortunately the heavens opened about 1.50pm and whilst taking refuge under a shop roof, we missed the tour (or it didn’t run due to the weather). Once it had dried up somewhat, we decided to roam around the area instead.
I’d deliberately booked our apartment in the neighbourhood of La Candelaria. This was the historical and colonial area with much street art, neighboured by the busy shopping districts and black markets. Our walk took us first towards the shopping area and 7th Street. We wondered aimlessly past the gold museum, many a street vendor (we did try the wafer pancake things) and avoided the hundreds and thousands of piñata shop owners hunting us down!
Our route then curved back around to the historical centre where we found the main square, more museums, palace of justice and a Willy Wonka church! I’m not joking, this church was made of candy canes and sprinkles:
By this time we fancied a break and found a little cafe next to the cathedral to sell us coffee and some appertizers. Re-fuelled, we then set off to the supermarket to grab supplies for our homemade dinner. We’d opted for Chile con carne, the good ol’ Mexican favourite. Fran cooked this up an absolute storm whilst Rhona and I watched trash TV. The food was great and it felt incredible to be sat around a dinner table with some hearty, home-cooked food, without Fred, Bob and Harry walking past at every given moment.
The next morning was an earlier one because we had re-booked on to our tour, this time for 10am. I made the girls an avocado and egg breakfast and we head out to Parque de los Periodistas. We were surprised by the mammoth group size but J, our guide, managed to be heard and charismatic with us all.
The tour was fantastic. Honestly, I couldn’t recommend it more to anyone visiting Bogota. In the typical style of a free walking tour (tipping culture), you are given an extremely interesting and quite spectacular artistic view of the La Candelaria region, followed by the political art further downtown. And they give you information about the city, it’s history and tips for things to do, see and eat at the same time. Easily the best walking tour I’ve done.
Some of the most interesting and appalling information J gave us surrounded the governments’ plans to combat homelessness and drug sales. The US (who else?) funded an $8million project aimed at reducing drug trafficking to America. The homeless were believed to be at the centre of this and would mysteriously “disappear” to the surrounding rural areas and be shot, therefore reducing the number of people sleeping on the streets. This was only written out of law 2 years ago and Mexico are currently experiencing the same horrific policies, funded by US investment.
When we left J, he recommended that we visit La Pequleria (literally translating to The Hairdressers) for lunch and coffee. This hairdressers reminded me of shops and cafes found in Bristol, with the space used for a boutique, salon and vegetarian restaurant. I had an awesome lentil burger and the coffee was to die for. We are in Colombia after all, let’s hope the coffee stays this good!
Fran needed a new shoulder bag so we roamed the black market again that afternoon. The girls also purchased some pork crackling from a street vendor and we sat in the locals square eating this, watching the world go by. The skies had really cleared up and it was getting pretty hot, therefore seeming like an excellent opportunity to head up Cerro Montserratte on the teleferico and get a panoramic view of the city.
The cable cars weren’t far from our apartment so we walked up the hill, calf muscles burning, arriving just before sunset. This proved to be perfect timing as we got to see the city in the day as we head up in the pod, watch it haze over, grab some photos with the beautiful sunset colours and then see the city lights at night a short while after. Actually, the night lights weren’t visible from the top as a cloud had come over so we wondered the hill, looking at the church and restaurants, before queining to go back down. It was the ride back down where the city could be seen in all its nighttime glory, vaguely reminding me of flying over London, less the iconic landmarks of the London Eye, O2 Centre, etc.
We detoured back to the supermarket before returning home and then made wraps with our leftover chile for dinner. This time we accompanied the chile with fried plantain for a thoroughly cultural meal that was super yummy! Dessert was less cultural, consisting of Aunt Jemima’s pancakes topped with banana, strawberries and maple syrup! And that evening our film of choice was ‘Walk of Shame’. It’s been so nice to cook, watch rubbish TV, films and sleep undisturbed!
We had to check out the next morning so after I’d cooked a pancake breakfast and we’d divided up the leftover food, we cleaned the apartment and packed up. Our host had offered to store our luggage except failed to let us know where. After some painful Spanglish and Google Translate conversation, we found out the Uncle Léon was the man of the hour! Up we head to floor 20 to be greeted by the most cheery middle-aged man who would keep our bags safe. He spoke not a word of English but was extremely enthusiastic and insisted on chatting to us before we left.
After the success of the hairdresser’s coffee the previous day, we returned to the cafe for our morning coffees again and made our plans for the day. J had told us that there was an array of street art on 26th street so we walked the 3km’s out there to take a peak. It was pretty impressive and so, so grand. But the rain had started and we were tired so after a short roam we flagged down a cab and set off towards a centro comercial to buy travel pillows!
The taxi driver dropped us at Centro Andino, which we quickly realised was the more expensive, designer part of town. The surrounding buildings were either skyscrapers occupied by banks or well-decorated buildings. But, it was nice to see a different area of the city. It took us so long to find any sort of neck pillow that wasn’t full of beans and we all got tired and bored of traipsing around on our search. Eventually, we found one in a pharmacy and then ended up taking a tour of the ‘Farmatodo’s’ in Bogota to find two more! Typically, we found two just around the corner from our apartment after beginning our search over 10kms away. Still, at least we had them. However this experience was not one we found funny at the time and can look back on fondly!
Uncle Léon soon raised our spirits when we returned for our bags and set out for dinner. Another recommendation of J’s was a little French restaurant off the Periodista square. They had a limited menu meaning each item was exsquitely made and fabulously tasting, made only better by the bottle of red wine we accompanied it with! It was a great end to our time in Bogota and meant that we hopped in a cab as happy little chappies, filled up on good food and great wine.
So, 174 days in to ‘life from a bag’ and my knowledge and appreciation of street art has grown once more. Bogota, whilst chilly, is a fun city with great cultural sights and an awesome place to kick off Colombia!