Goodbye Bogota, Hello Cartagena

This morning we left Colombia’s capital and made our way to the Caribbean coastal city of Cartagena. We’ve only been here for a few hours, but it already feels incredibly different from Bogota. I suspect that if we left the city centre things would be different, but on our first stroll around the neighbourhood where we are staying and on to the beautiful historical centre, we saw more tourists than we observed over the entirety of our five night stay in Bogota. This isn’t necessarily a good or bad thing, it’s just a testament to the fact that Cartagena is a well established tourist spot, while Bogota is still establishing itself as a place where foreigners want to visit.

Upon first glance, the old city of Cartagena is incredibly beautiful and I’m excited to explore it in more depth over the next few days. I’ll talk more about Cartagena in a later post though, because I don’t want to miss talking about our last couple of days in Bogota!

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Let’s rewind back to Saturday. After having so many delicious fruits on our bike tour, we had to go back to the downtown area market and sample some of our favourites again. I couldn’t remember what most of them were called, so I panicked and just pointed at the one I really wanted, the dragon fruit, or pitaya. We got a couple so that we could eat one right away and save one for a snack later. They were just as delicious as we remembered, if not moreso. I definitely plan on eating a few more of these beauties before we leave Colombia as we certainly can’t get dragon fruit that comes anywhere close to that quality in Canada. We also had a chance to do a little bit more exploring in La Candaleria where most of the beautiful old buildings are situated. The historical area of Bogota really reminded me of Naples – there were a lot of buildings that looked like they were once majestic but they haven’t been well kept up. Nonetheless, there are lots of interesting things to look at in downtown Bogota. I’m usually more interested in cool graffiti than old buildings anyways.

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Our main mission for the day was to head to the bohemian neighbourhood of La Macarena (you know you want to do the dance now). I loved the myriad of colourful buildings and the foodie in me appreciated the restaurant offerings from around the globe. Due to the fact that it was raining and that we were completely unprepared for said rain, we didn’t explore the area in too much depth, but we did have lunch in a great little restaurant called Tapas Macarena.

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Tapas Macarena seats maybe fifteen people, and that’s if you really want to get cozy with your neighbours. Its menu is made up mostly of traditional Spanish tapas, but there are also some nods to South American thrown in. As we sipped on our sangria tinto, a traditional red wine sangria with finely chopped apples to soak up the vino, we were given bread with a tomato puree to start off our meal. I liked the departure from the traditional butter or olive oil, and the puree was extremely flavourful – not too sweet, and just salty enough to bring out the true flavours of the tomato. It was fresh and delicious, and did exactly what an appetizer is supposed to do, get us excited for the dishes to come.

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The first dish that appeared in front of us was a beef carpaccio with two cheeses. Topped with caramelized onions, this dish had the perfect mix of salty and sweet. The thinly sliced raw beef was extremely tender and kept me going back for more and more. It took every ounce of my restraint not to lick the blue cheese sauce that was left on the plate after the beef was gobbled up. Among three delicious choices, this was my favourite of the day.

Next came the tuna ceviche. Served on thinly sliced cucumber, it had an asian flair, which I obviously loved (for those who don’t know, I’m pretty obsessed with almost every kind of Asian cuisine). I loved the salty wakame that was served on top, and didn’t hesitate to nab Zevi’s portion when he wasn’t as enthralled with it. It got me pretty excited for all of the ceviche we’ll be eating in Peru in a week or so.

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Finally, we were served the patatas bravas – fried potatoes coated in a slightly spicy mayo. I must admit that I had pretty high standards for these potatoes based on the first-class ones that I’ve eaten at Calgary restaurant Ox and Angela, and these didn’t quite measure up, but they were delicious nonetheless. You can’t really go wrong with deep fried potatoes and mayonnaise, right?

All in all it was a great meal with lovely service, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the restaurant to anyone in the area!

One of the best parts about staying in hostels is having the opportunity to meet likeminded people, and we found a fun crew on Saturday night at 82Hostel, which was our home in Bogota. Some were only away from home for a short stint, while some made our three months seem like nothing, as they planned on staying in the country for months or even years. It was great to get some different perspectives on some of the places we’ll be visiting, and to chat with people from Ohio to Australia about their experiences in Colombia and beyond. Everyone came from different backgrounds, but sharing a common love of travelling seems to bring people together somehow.

On Sunday we climbed Monserrate which was quite the adventure. You can read about it on Zevi’s blog – I think he captures the craziness of the climb pretty perfectly!

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