Thursday, January 30, 2014

A Love-Hate Guide to Bogotá

Bogotá is like many capital/large cities in South America (see: Buenos Aires, São Paulo): born and bred natives think it's the best place in the world, whereas everyone else in the country tends to think it's pretty much the worst.

Or at least they say it's the worst: non-bogotanos love talking shit about Bogotá, about the terrible weather, about how unfriendly the people are (unfriendly for Colombia, that is), about the insufferable bogotano accent (uy chino), about the stratospheric prices and the congested traffic and, above all else, about how bogotanos think they are the greatest thing since sliced bread and how they can't dance. at all. 

And then they all move to Bogotá, because that's where the jobs are. 

Or, at a minimum, they end up going to Bogotá fairly frequently because Colombia continues to be a very centralized country and they need an international visa or their companies are based in Bogotá or because there is a Red Hot Chili Peppers/Paul McCartney/Beyonce concert that they can't bear to miss.

Last week, I found myself in Bogotá because that is where the Foreign Relations Ministry is, and I, of course, am a foreigner. Let's not pretend that fun things happen at the Foreign Relations Ministry; I won't say that anything I did last Friday was even remotely pleasant; for all intents and purposes I have erased it from my memory.  

I will say this, though: Bogotá is too cold for me, and I have some serious hate for the heavy metal culture that currently predominates, but after the bureaucratic trials and tribulations were over, we had a really nice weekend.  

We ate ajiaco at a place that proclaimed to have "The Best Ajiaco in the World," and very well might. We walked around the colonial Candelaria neighborhood and went into the (free) Botero museum. We went to the central market and ate ginormous fruit salads overflowing with shredded cheese and sweetened condensed milk (ugh, so good), and then we went to this amazing seafood restaurant/market that is so popular that traffic was stopped outside as people pulled into its parking lot. We spent a drizzly afternoon in Usaquén over coffee and cake. It was nice. 

Throw in the fact that many, many of our friends from Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro are currently living in Bogotá, and by Sunday night, Felipe, Sr. I Hate Bogotá, was letting it slip that maybe it wouldn't be so bad to live in Bogotá for a year or so. 

Or maybe it would be, but it can be quite a nice place to visit. 

Antigua SantaFe
Calle 11, No. 6-20
Candelaria, Bogotá

Coctel del Mar
Calle 69, No. 17-60, 2º piso

Museo Botero
Call 11, No. 4-11
Candelaria, Bogotá

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Condoricosas: Someone's Comic Fantasy...Just Not Mine

I enjoy moteles probably more than the next girl-- whereas some people might see sex motels as sleazy and to be avoided at all costs -- and I certainly did at one time-- I find the best ones to be rather entertaining, an interactive living museum of sorts. And after my experience at Kiss Me last year, it was only natural that the other (and original) motel by the same owner of Kiss Me, Condoricosas, deserved a visit.

I should probably preface the following by saying that before going to this motel, I was not aware that it was based on a comic strip character. I just thought, Condors, this should be interesting! Which is not to say that I wouldn't have gone had I known, but it sort of made it all worse after the fact. But ok, let's get it out of the way: Condorito is a Chilean comic strip, and a rather conservative, machista one at that. Super hot.

You enter Condoricosas to life-sized statues of animals and, of course, Condorito in various incarnations. There is clearly a tendency to overdecorate, making the shared ownership between Kiss Me and Condoricosas apparent, but Condoricosas lacks the over the top mental-patient-illustrating-the-history-of-the-world nuttiness that Kiss Me revels in and just seems a bit (no laughing) trashy and run down.

Condoricosas is, of course, a motel temático, or more accurately a double motel temático as the rooms are not only "international travel" themed but also incorporate Condorito into the themes. We were given a French conquest-themed room, which translated into murals of Condorito in French soldier garb, elaborate Fleur de Lys decorations, and a large mirror directly above the French-king-in-a-Disney-cartoon bed.

As far as standard motel requirements -- cheap, clean, private, and with free condoms (I don't know if this is a legal requirement but all motels in Cali seem to provide them. A+++, guys) -- Condoricosas does just fine. At the end of the day (or on their lunch breaks, as it were), most people go to these places to have sex and are, I would imagine, fairly unconcerned with the decorative sense and humor quotient of the facilities. I suppose one of my main complaints with Condoricosas is that I found the dual comic book character/international destination themes confusing, or just unappealing. Yes, I am a discerning customer. And for that reason I must tell you, if you're looking for entertainment value (and I always am), Kiss Me reigns supreme.

Should you happen to harbor an unrealized Condorito fantasy, or just want to check Condoricosas out for the hell of it:

Residencias Condoricosas
Carrera 8 No. 24-24
Cali, Colombia

Saturday, January 11, 2014

New Year's Edition: La Finca

Everybody left town for the family finca to celebrate New Years', and we were no different. Can you blame us? Citrus trees lining the driveway, guanabanas thumping off their trees, ripe and too heavy to hold on any longer, hummingbirds flitting in and out of the flowers hanging next to the hammocks...did somebody say Cali? My whole body ached after the week-long salsa-a-thon a.k.a. the Feria, and did I mention the hammocks?

This particularly beautiful finca, located in el Eje Cafetero (the Coffee Region), is owned by Lucy and Roberto, two retired university professors who are old friends of Felipe's family. Run down and lifeless when they bought it 20 years ago, they have slowly filled it with greenery and antiques. Ancient sewing machines, corn grinders, and even a coffee bean miller (Our neighbor lost his hand in one of these! -Roberto) line the walls. We eat arepas and fried eggs for breakfast and sancocho cooked over a wood fire for lunch; all in all pretty idyllic, and not a bad way to bring in the new year, not a bad way at all.

Happy 2014 to all! Especially to those freezing their culitos off in the Northern Hemisphere (not to mention those roasting in 110ºF weather in the Southern one)! Sometimes you just got to get some equator in your life.