Bombing in Bogotá, Colombia

Yesterday at least 21 people were reportedly killed in a terror-related bombing here in Bogotá. At the time of the bombing I was relaxing with a stroll around an upscale neighborhood park (Parque de la 93). I was in the same city as the bombing, but it’s a big city and I don’t remember hearing a thing.

The bombing location (red star) and my location (green star), 9:30 a.m. local time.

These bombings had seemed to be part of the past in Colombia. Hopefully, they won’t be part of the future.

I checked the time stamp on this photo and it was taken 21 minutes after the bombing. Parque de la 93, Bogotá.

Speaking of Parque de la 93, I love this part of the city. I had not heard of it, I just happened to come across it and it’s sweet. Again, lots of restaurants, cafés and shops, trees, grass and a very chill atmosphere. After seeing more of South America, I plan to come back and live in this area for a bit.

Strange name for a park? Yeah, it is. It’s named after Calle 93, or 93rd Street. I live on Calle 66. I wake up at 4:45 in the morning, shower, dress, and hit the road. It takes me about 40-45 minutes to get to the park on foot. I arrive right at 6:00 a.m. when the Starbucks opens. Coffee! Yay!

Hmm, I guess this means you’d better watch out. Looks like the sign itself had a bit of a fender bender 🙂
This is my favorite diner next to Parque de la 93. The name of the place is, “Diner”. It’s not too empty, not too crowded. Nice open air gig. I had a huge breakfast and two carafes of fresh-squeezed mandarin juice. Cost? $6.00 USD and that includes the tip. Amazing when you consider these are the ritzy neighborhood prices. Sweet!

La Candelaria, Colombia

Colombia has taken in more than one million Venezuelan refugees. Venezuela is a disaster. The Venezuelan inflation rate in October of 2018 was 833,997%. Venezuela’s president Maduro has just increased the minimum wage by 300%. What good will that do when the inflation rate is at almost a million percent?

Guards outside the Colombian Presidential Palace. I was 100% certain they wouldn’t let me take a photo. I greeted them with a nice, “Good morning” in Spanish and then asked, “Se puede sacar una foto?” They said, “sí”. I said “de veras?” – really? They said, “Sí, no problema”. Awesome! I thanked them very much afterward.

I saw some Venezuelan refugees on the streets of Bogotá. They seemed no different from Colombian locals except they had signs requesting money and assistance. I feel bad for them. I’d love to visit Venezuela on this trip, but getting in is almost impossible for a U.S. tourist. The paperwork they require is ridiculous. I’ll probably have to wait for a regime change.

Graffiti in La Candelaria neighborhood, Bogotá.

I got a haircut here a few days ago and my barber offered to drive me into Venezuela for a day – no visa, no problem. I declined 🙂

Alternatively, I see Brazil is going to drop its tourist visa requirements for U.S. citizens. For now the process is honorous and expensive. I look forward to the change in policy.

Graffiti in La Candelaria neighborhood, Bogotá.

In Latin American restaurants, when I ask for something, I normally make the request by saying, “Quisiera, por favor…”, meaning, “I would like, please…”

In Colombia, they say it in a way I’ve never heard before. They say, “Por favor, me regala…” This translates as, “Will you give me (as a gift)…”. I’m familiar with “me regala”, but this is used mostly by beggars looking for a handout. For example, “Por favor, ¿me regala unas monedas?” – Will you please give me (gift me) some coins? Or, you could say, “¿Qué me vas a regalar por el cumpleaños?” – What are you going to give me (gift me) for my birthday?

Graffiti in La Candelaria neighborhood, Bogotá.

Today, I used the phrase for the first time. I asked María, my waitress, if she would regale me with a dish of, “calentado paisa”. She said she would 🙂

Calentado paisa is the same dish I’ve mentioned on this blog a few times before; rice and beans. It always comes with one egg on top. I think most people here prefer it sunny side up. I prefer scrambled – “revuelto”.

I suggest you don’t use this phrase in restaurants outside Colombia. Your waiter or waitress will probably not want to give you free food and drink 😉

Translation: “Here the magic starts with you”. La Candelaria neighborhood, Bogotá.
Iglesia del Carmen, La Candelaria, Bogotá.

Bogotá

The Chapinero neighborhood of Bogotá is brilliant. There’s no end to the cafés, shops and restaurants. There’s row upon row upon row of them.

Two chic restaurants waiting to be explored. The use of red brick and red tile is ubiquitous here.

The photos here are from a walk I took on a Sunday. My Airbnb is on Calle 66, just off Carrera 7. I walked to Calle 94 and back; about 12 kilometers in total.

Starbucks in a beautiful old building. The interior is equally beautiful. Calle 69A and Carrera 5, Bogotá.
On the right, another restaurant in a beautiful old brick building.
Another on the left
Another hidden inside all that green. The red brick and lush vegetation make for a great contrast.
and another…
Another inside this corner building. Note the parasols on the patio.
Here is the entrance to a lovely little park.
Another park. I think I could feel very comfortable in Bogotá if I were to live here for a while.
A very green city.
Santa María De Los Angeles, Calle 79B.
Too many eateries to choose from.
On Sundays, great lengths of city streets are closed to vehicles.
Another park
Entrance to Museo del Chicó
Huge number of residential buildings in this area. Again, the red brick surrounded by trees, grass, parks and pedestrian paths; Calle 94.
Another park – of course.
A park down the center of a divided street; Calle 94.
Calle 94
More residential buildings
More park. Can’t get enough park.
There are paseos here lined with shops and restaurants.
More residential
La Zona Rosa is packed with entertainment, food and shopping. I need to spend more time here.

Colombia

There were six of us on a tour of coffee farms in the Andes Mountains hosted by Andes Ecotours Colombia. Our party consisted of one Colombian man (our driver), one South African woman (our tour guide), a woman from Poland, a couple from France and myself. Aside from the tour itself, it’s interesting hearing the political opinions of world travelers about politics in the United States.

Colombian national flag, Chapinero, Bogotá, Colombia

People who are multi-lingual and who travel off the beaten path seem unanimously opposed to “(insert your country’s name here)-first” politics. Nationalistic, inward-looking, selfish, chest-beating politics are anathema to these people. Bravo. The “America First” path my country has taken in recent years truly saddens me and makes me doubt I could ever live there again. But, hey, I can’t change the world. I’m not able to change minds. I’ll turn my back on it and follow my own path.

Coffee bean buyer/seller warehouse, Sylvania, Colombia

There, done with politics 😉

The drive from Bogotá to the farms was long. The drive back seemed longer. But, it was an awesome trip and very eye-opening. When I booked the trip ($85 USD plus a $5 “service charge”) I pictured us visiting vast acres of neatly-groomed fields tended by large multi-wheeled machines.

Nope; nothing close to that.

Stopover in Sylvania, Colombia on the way to the coffee bean farms

We first stopped in Sylvania where we visited a coffee bean buyer/seller’s warehouse. This is not high season, so the depot was a bit empty, but not completely.

Freshly-squeezed “jugo de mora”; berry juice. Only 3,500 pesos or $1.11 USD, Sylvania, Colombia. Delicious.

We visited two farms. Both were one-man operations. These guys strap small buckets around their waists with the bucket placed right under their belly. They pick the coffee beans by hand, one at a time. The beans are green when they are unripe, but as they ripen they turn yellow and then red. The coffee plants aren’t arranged in neat rows on flat terrain. The plants seem to grow wild and haphazardly on the side of a mountain. This must be very hard work.

Road hazard. We had to dodge an amazing number of dogs, chickens and livestock on the trip.
Good advice on the trail to a coffee farm near “El Cerro de Quininí”, Colombia

 

The first farmer’s home we visited. I think the farmer’s name was Fernando, but I’m not sure.
Unripe coffee beans
Ripe coffee beans
The Average Nomad and Fernando.
Aguacates – Avocados

Some of these plants don’t seem real
The second farm we visited, Cundinamarca, Tibacuy, Colombia

Vultures in Panamá

Panama City is better than I expected. It would be worth coming back here to see more.

Cinta Costera, Panama City, Panamá

Sadly, I don’t think I could live here. It’s nice and it’s modern, but it’s very car-dependent and it’s difficult being a pedestrian here. I can’t stand countries that consider pedestrians as an afterthought. Plus, it’s hot here and extremely humid.

Cinta Costera, Panama City, Panamá

Nice place to visit, tho’ 🙂

Tomorrow, Bogotá, Colombia

Cinta Costera, Panama City, Panamá
Vultures resting on a river bed. If you click on the photo and look on the far left, you’ll see a big iguana. One of the vultures is trying to make itself look very big to scare the iguana off 🙂
They use the U.S. dollar in Panama. Very sweet. The bills are the same as in the U.S., but the coins are a mix of U.S. and Panamanian. They have Panamanian equivalents to pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters and dollar coins. A dollar is a “balboa” in Panamá.

Panamá

Panama City is better than I expected. It’s fairly modern and there’s a lot to do here. Plus, it feels very safe.

A ship being towed through the Panama Canal, Miraflores Visitor Center, Panamá

This is where my great-grandfather Frank Taylor disappeared from our family history. He had fought in World War One in France. Later, he went to work on the Panama Canal. The last time he was seen by anyone in my family was in the 1950s. After, only vague rumors and guesses about him maybe marrying a Scottish woman. Then, poof! Gone.

Where did you go, Grandpa Frank? Did you go to Scotland? Did you die in Panama?

Multiplaza Mall, Panama City, Panama

Today was a good day. I got to a coffee shop at 7:00 and relaxed until about 9:00. Then it was Uber time. My driver took me to the Miraflores Visitor Center where I got to see some ships being towed through the locks – after paying a $20.00 entry fee. It was worth the fee. Good times.

Miraflores Visitor Center, Panama Canal, Panamá

Then, as I was leaving, I figured the exits would be packed with taxi drivers looking for fares. I felt kind of weird ordering an Uber. I don’t know why, really. In any event I got ready for the haggling. I priced out an Uber fare to my next destination. After I had the number, I headed towards the exit.

Catedral Metropolitana Santa María De La Antigua, Casco Viejo, Panama City.

Sure enough, before I even got to the bottom of the escalator a guy in a yellow taxi shirt was asking, “Taxi? Taxi?”  Below is the conversation. Email me if you need a translation, or there are online translators available 😉

Casco Viejo, Panama City

Him – “Taxi?”

Me – “Pues, depende…cuánto me cobra hasta Casco Viejo?”

“Quince”

“Quince??? Pero desde aquí Uber es solo seis”

“No…bien, lo hago por diez”

“Diez? Hmm, okay, diez”

It was fine. I can’t blame him for trying to gouge a gringo. They have money he doesn’t have 😉

Casco Viejo, Panama City

He walked me through the parking lot to his private vehicle. Shit! He’s not even a true taxi driver. In Central America these guys are called, “piratas”. You probably don’t need a translator for that. But, it was cool, his pickup was brand new with very comfy leather seats. He was also a very good conversationalist. He told me all about the places we passed along the way. I had told him about my long-lost relative and he pointed out the American cemetery. Two miles further on he pointed out two huge government buildings that house the records documenting the workers involved with the Panama Canal. Interesting. I might want to come back here and do some research. That, or maybe hire a local pro who might do it for me. Something to think about.

Casco Viejo, Panama City

Casco Viejo is very nice. There are plenty of tourists there, but not too many. I counted maybe 15 of them. That’s the largest number I’ve seen in one place since beginning my travels in Mexico in July.

Casco Viejo, Panama City

Tomorrow, a coffee shop to start, then more Uber adventures!

Chicken bus near Estación Cinco de Mayo, Panama City.
Chicken bus near Estación Cinco de Mayo, Panama City.

Next stop: Panama

Have you ever tried to contact me via this blog? The blog page had some bugs.  I made a post and it disappeared. Messages sent to me never arrived and then the blog went offline for about a week.

In Costa Rica I met the largest ant I’ve ever seen in my life. This girl is a monster! Parque Sabana, San Jose.

I changed the contact form to a simple email address. If you sent me a message, I never got it. Please try again with the email listed on the contact page.

Beans and rice are known as “Casamiento” in parts of Central America. Here it’s called “Gallo Pinto” – painted (spotted) chicken.

As of today I’ve spent about a month here in Costa Rica and it’s time to move on. Costa Rica was great. I’ll have to come back and explore it some more. I mostly spent the month here just relaxing and not doing much of anything. It was good for me 🙂 Early tomorrow morning I’ll be on a short flight to Panama City, Panama.

Squirrels here are very reddish-brown and dark grey. They’re also keen for a treat. Parque Sabana, San Jose.
Christmas parade float. Parque Sabana, San Jose.
Christmas parade float. Parque Sabana, San Jose.

Haven’t missed a workout since 3 October. Feeling good 😉

Costa Rica

Not surprisingly, Costa Rica is fabulous. After visiting Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua for about a week each, I need a rest. Costa Rica is a good spot for it. 

Every country in Central America is covered in green. Parque España, San Jose, Costa Rica.

The people are chill. They have an attitude of, “pura vida” and “tranquilo”. Pura vida roughly translates as an attitude of going along with the flow; enjoying life as it comes at you. Tranquilo is an attitude of being calm, no matter what type of troubles come at you.

Near Parque España, San Jose, Costa Rica

In the four countries I visited before coming here, drivers were constantly at each other. Traffic was insane and honking horns was a way of life – especially in Guatemala. Here in Costa Rica, it’s uncommon to hear someone honking a horn. So nice 🙂

Haven’t missed a workout since 3 October. Feelin’ good! 🙂

I arrived here a week ago. You might have expected to hear about my visits to beaches, jungles, volcanoes or flying down zip lines. Nope. Like I said, I needed a rest. Being a full-time traveler is hard work! Maybe I’ll do some day trips in a few days. We’ll see.

A few days ago I needed to buy a t-shirt to replace one that I’d stained. I took an Uber to a nice mall. I found a shirt I liked and asked the girl, “Dónde se puede probarlo?” (where can one try this on?) She smiled and said, “Ah, quieres probarselo!” (oh, you want to try it on)

Costa Rican flag. Plaza de la Cultura, San Jose.

I laughed at myself as I do whenever I make a mistake in Spanish. I made a point of repeating her correction back to her. “Si, por favor, quisiera probarselo” (yes, please, I would like to try it on). I said it in a funny way and she laughed.

One of these is a conquistador. Parque España, San Jose.

After I tried it on and decided it was what I wanted to buy, I took it to her register (she was damned cute, by the way). I chatted her up for a while talking about Spanish and, jokingly, about my poor command of the language. I chided her a bit on the “vos” form of Spanish they use down here. I think I was doing pretty good with her, but I didn’t pursue it. I just don’t feel like getting involved, even so much as a dinner date. I’m too lazy for that right now 🙂

The view from my 17th floor Airbnb rental looking south. Nunciatura neighborhood, San Jose.

Could I live in Costa Rica full-time? I think I could 😉

Last day in Nicaragua

Asses are not an uncommon sight in Managua, even in the city center.

Early tomorrow I take a 56-minute flight to San Jose, Costa Rica. After Costa Rica, I’ve already made reservations for Panamá and Bogotá, Colombia.

The four nations of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua were very interesting and I enjoyed myself, but now I’m feeling like I need something a little more modern. I miss Starbucks 🙂