The last two weeks of May blasted by in a proverbial heat wave of beach bliss, air travel and relocation to a new city, making this one of the most focused, life-changing months since the start of 2017.
Mid-May brought a pleasurable long weekend in beloved beach favorite Playa Blanca, where the swoon-worthy white sands and turquoise seas of Isla Barú beckoned like the pages of a travel magazine, offering tranquil warm waters, copious tropical fish, and color-drenched sunsets.
Early morning calm waters meant clear snorkeling for hours, and a bounty of visible sea creatures, including a variable farm of twenty-plus huge, plump orange starfish. As Reggae music from nearby hostels drifted on salty winds, the warm sun glowed over this stunning slice of Colombian geography.
A week or so later, flying LATAM to Bogotá meant a climate change of measurable proportions, as the aircraft touched down from a chilly afternoon sky into the fifth-most-populous city in the Americas. Traveling by taxi from the airport to district El Retiro, traffic grew thicker as we neared the metropolis, passing heavy cement walls adorned with striking graffiti worthy of it’s own walking tour.
Spending a few days in the capital of Colombia was a reminder of the vast population living here (8.081 million in 1,775 km², 2016), as busy city-dwellers rushed along the streets of the dense urban area. Still, among the hustle there was plenty to enjoy, like the rich chocolate croissants at one of several Tostaó bakery cafés (Overheard – in English – “They’re popping up everywhere!”): perfect for a morning commute to the office.
While work seems to be top priority in Bogotá, dining out is a must, with so many delicious options. On this visit, three places were enjoyed immensely, as they were all appetizing and vastly different from what’s available on the coast.
Lunch at Japanese notable Arigato was a healthy mix of miso soup, seaweed-spinach salad, and delightful, lightly-fried tempura rice rolls. Our meal was served on the spacious patio with grace and appreciation from the co-owner herself, Maki Tokai, who first traveled to Colombia in 1994.
watch this wonderful video (in Spanish) featuring Maki from Arigato and her smart business
La Plaza de Andres
The crowded, colorful La Plaza de Andres at lunchtime was slightly challenging, both in finding a table and then trying to decide what to eat among the dozens of “stations” available, including rice dishes, noodle selections, fruit juices, desserts and plenty of meat and fish.
After searching without success for Changua, an egg and milk-based soup popular in Bogotá, the craving for a bowl of warmth was satisfied with other choices, accompanied by a pitcher of refreshing limonada de coco.
Among other original dishes, nopales fritos (fried cactus) tacos in handmade corn tortillas and crispy, tangy tostadas de pulpo (grilled octopus) were devoured with joy, served graciously by the handsome staff of the rustic, hip restaurant, whose outside wall features the Mexican phrase “No Mames.”
The weekend wrapped up nicely in the Northeast of Bogotá, savoring a few brisk days in tree-filled parks and grassy areas near Palatino Mall, before a fast flight back to Cartagena de Indias where a blast of coastal heat emphasized the vast difference in the many terrains and elevations of Colombia.
A few days later, after once again packing this adventurous life into suitcases, a relocation to Barranquilla, where the journey to Colombia started back in 2014, was welcomed with excitement and anticipation of greatness ahead. Stepping into the noisy streets of La Arenosa, a delicious afternoon breeze signaled the newness of opportunity and adventure, awaiting and available, in this brilliant South American city.
Want more information? Read ProColombia’s feature about The Joy of Barranquilla