3 recommendations you need to hit up when you’re in Bogotá

Standard

I love that feeling you get when you wake up in a new place. How the sounds bleed in bit by bit—people in the street, unfamiliar cars, the clattering of wheels and feet—until they’re accompanied by smells, feelings, a flash of sunlight through a curtain.

We started our trip in Bogotá, a city about which I’ve heard mixed reviews. Some people call it cold or undifferentiated from any other capital city—a little boring or difficult to navigate.

I loved it. The local people were incredibly friendly (keep in mind, I flew in after two years in DC, so my expectations might have been low), and the food was divine—ajiaco for the win.

Our three days in Bogotá included Monserrate, the beautiful mountain in the photo that’s crowned by a chapel and offers expansive views of the city, the nearby town of Zipaquirá and its salt cathedrals, and exploring Bogotá’s colonial sectors, including La Presidencia, el Congreso, a former-convent-turned-art-museum, and (my favorite) a street filled entirely with book vendors next to the Gabriel García Márquez Cultural Center.

We also checked out La Zona Rosa, which has some very high-end shopping and restaurants. After dark, we were careful to take a secure taxi service, since the number of robberies-by-taxi in Bogotá has been growing. All in all, we felt very safe, although our hostel in the La Candelaria neighborhood encouraged us to go out with a security guard late at night (we generally declined).

In addition to the classics (Monserrate, Plaza Bolívar, Museo de Oro), here are three different recommendations from my time in Bogotá:

1. Café Magola Buendía: This adorable coffee shop is what dreams of Colombia are made of. Super chill place with super chique decorations and, of course, delicious hot and cold coffee beverages, not to mention aromáticas, sandwiches, and chocolate goodies. It’s next to the popular La Candelaria neighborhood. Free WiFi!

2. Museo Santa Clara: Located one block away from Plaza Bolívar, this museum is a former convent that now houses colonial art and religious relics. It’s very affordable ($3,000COP/person, about $1) and mysterious—nuns were cloistered for life here, and you can still check out the narrow, winding path they took to get to their confessional boxes. The museum also hosts rotating exhibits from a variety of plastics and performative artists.

3. Centro Cultural Gabriel García Márquez: This cultural center was a gift from Mexico to Colombia, which explains the big Mexican flags out front. They sell every book imaginable here and demarcate special sections of Colombian fiction and non-fiction, which, if you have a literati heart like mine, will make you very happy. Local booksellers also set up stalls outside of the center, so you can easily find bargain-priced used books.

Are you going to Bogotá? Have you already been? Hit me up with your own recommendations or questions in the comments!

What’s your travel jam?

Video

Maybe this has happened to you: you’re at work or school or the store and out of nowhere you catch something — a special scent, sound, or sight — that instantaneously brings you back to a past traveling experience.  It’s like you’re there again, hundreds or thousands of miles away, right back in that geography, with that sunset or those friends and loved ones.

For me, the mother of all travel-triggers is music.  Music becomes part of my body when I’m on the move, and it stays with me long after I’ve come home.  Re-experiencing a particular song I was listening to on some bus ride or with a group of people I had just met breathes life into that bygone moment.

In fact, we all have songs that bring us back to certain moments from our past trips.  These songs are special to us.  They help define us.  That’s what this post is about: travel jams!

The song memory I’m sharing comes from the Puerto Rican band Calle 13’s “Latinoamérica.”  When I hear it, I’m suddenly cruising through the Salar of Uyuni at four in the morning, the only person in our Jeep who keeps awake in the vast, star-studded emptiness to accompany our Bolivian guide (who turned out to be a really cool guy, a good conversationalist, and a fan of this song). It reminds me of a void, of peace, and of bizarre beauty.

These songs mean a lot to us — so let’s make a playlist.  Whether it’s a pop tune that shows up weekly on the Top 40 Countdown, a song in another language (even one you don’t understand), the sound of a lone instrument, or anything in between, comment on this post with a memory and a link to your own travel jam — a song that brings you back to another part of the world (near or far) when you rock out to it. 

Can’t wait to add your jam to my iTunes playlist!