My first meeting with banditos in Colombia made for a wonderfully memorable evening. Sitting at over 8,000 feet, Bogotá was a beautiful and cool respite from the heat of the coast. As soon as we landed, we kicked off our bags at the Sofitel in Zona Rosa and hired a car to take us to Zipaquirá to visit the Salt Cathedral. The Saturday afternoon traffic was snail pace, and we realized this would impact any ventures outside of the city. The underground cross stations and cathedral in the salt mine were stunning. The 3D movie and light show at the end of the tour were not, and downgraded the whole experience a bit, but still definitely worth the trip outside of the city.
You can buy a package with both the cathedral tour and an approximately 30-minute train ride through the city. I recommend this, as we weren’t able to spend any additional time in this beautiful city. The train ride gave me time to enjoy seeing the elaborate doors and patios.
On our way back to Bogotá, we stopped at the original location of the Andres Carne de Res restaurant chain in Chia. I was wondering why on earth we needed to pay a $10 cover charge to get INTO the restaurant, but I quickly realized this was all about the experience. The restaurant and property was huge; I couldn’t believe how much stuff they had crammed into every nook and cranny. If you would have told me ahead of time that we were going to a chain restaurant and would be entertained by cross dressers and banditos (that stole us to go dance) while we were eating, I would have probably vetoed going at all. I don’t know how they do it, as these types of over-the-top restaurant shenanigans have never impressed me anywhere else. But, it absolutely worked here. Great food (a mini grill of five types of meat = heaven for my meat loving soul), good wine, and laughing for an hour straight made the entry fee worth every penny.
We started our last free day in Bogotá by visiting the Gold Museum. I am notoriously terrible about visiting museums anywhere I go, but I did enjoy viewing all of the finely crafted jewelry and the boa made of edged parrot feathers. You also can’t complain when it is free (every Sunday). After the museum, we took a 30 minute walk to the base of what ended up being my favorite Bogotá attraction, the Teleférico de Monserrate.
You can hike it or do a combination of the train and cable car. We took the cable car up and the train back down, both at a very reasonable price. Make sure to find the wish fountain and “try” to toss a coin through the hoop at the top into the fountain. I say “try” because I failed miserably and ended up hitting a lady in the head with my coin. After apologizing and rushing away in embarrassment, some nice boy brought me back my coin, and I was able to finally get it into the fountain (cheating by skipping that damn top hoop).
We finished our day of touring by stopping at the Casa Museo Quinta de Bolivar, one of the former homes of Simón Bolivar, located near the base of the cable car. The property is very small, so we were able to quickly tour it with only 15 minutes left to close. Our hotel location in Zona Rosa proved very convenient for shopping (when my computer bag decided to fall apart) and restaurants. My favorite shop was Vélez, where I found a beautiful tooled leather computer bag replacement and camel suede leather booties to bring back to the States. The area had a bit too much “American” feel for me in some parts with the occasional brewery and hamburger joint. But we were able to get local cuisine at Club Colombia (the restaurant, not the beer), where I had the delicious sobrebarriga, a meat cut typically not found outside of Latin America. One more Club Colombia Red (the beer), and I was headed back to the U.S. on a midnight flight that night, already ready to come back for round two (adding coffee country next time).