Un Día en Bogotá

“It’s on this street. Or maybe the next.” I wasn’t sure where we were going, just that we were trying to find a restaurant that Tony had had a good meal at previously and had been hard to find.

We rounded a corner and hidden among the brightly colored buildings was Maria Candelaria’s. We rang the buzzer and waited as a short, white haired woman in faded blue jeans (perhaps Maria?) shuffled to unlock the glass doors. She ushered us to a table on the patio where an elderly man explained the house specialties. As soon as I heard “albóndigas” I knew that was what I had been craving. Enjoying the warmth of the afternoon sunshine and the brilliance of the flowering blooms on the patio, we noticed a sign above us that read “No servimos comida rápida.” We laughed and settled into casual conversation, watching the elderly couple shuffle back and forth between customers, the locked front door to let guests both in and out, the kitchen. Sooner than we expected, our lunches arrived in individual cast iron pans, piping hot. I oohed and ahhed with each bite – stringy, melty cheese. chunky, fresh tomato-y ragu. tender, savory meatballs.

Afterwards, we continued through the narrow cobbled streets, searching for a once visited patisserie. After only a few turns leading us to other destinations, we found it. We leisurely enjoyed cappuccinos and treats.

Afternoon treats

Afternoon treats

We made our way across the plaza and entered El Museo del Oro. Four floors showcasing pre-Hispanic gold in Colombia – dark halls with subdued spotlights highlighting the richest of the treasures. I couldn’t quite reconcile the opulence with the antiquity; the pieces looked as though they could be on display in a modern jewelry shop.

We chose to go to one more museum before heading home, Museo Nacional de Colombia. One room housed Gabriel García Márquez’s iconic white guayabera, next to a video clip of him accepting the Nobel Prize in Literature. Another domed room housed gigantic Botero paintings from all periods. We sat on benches and stared upwards, amazed that so many styles were created by one artist. And then, home. Past men playing chess, vendors selling watermelon, and beautiful brick buildings.

To Market, To Market

The three of us crowded into the back seat of a small taxi, battling early morning traffic to get to the market. Tony had regaled me with stories of how the parking lot was filled with armies of flower vendors. I love flowers – the colors, the shapes, the smells, the textures. I couldn’t wait.

We got there and immediately went to the buñuelo vendor for a quick breakfast. She was pulling fresh breads out of the oven. The smell was intoxicating. Flour, sugar, yeast  – all wrapped up in the smell of warmth. He brought tiny metal stools for us to sit on – plates of metal on unsteady legs. I sat carefully, watching her move the breads from the oven drawer to the glass warming case on top of it. Tony told her what we wanted and she placed the bread directly from the oven onto our oval plastic plate, lined with paper-thin napkins. One with cheese, one with arequipe (caramel) and one filled with a guava jelly. The outside of the bread was slightly hard to the touch, and immediately yielded to soft, fluffy bread once broken. We shared the three among the three of us and ordered more, in additional to pan de yucca, a petite oval loaf made from yucca root. People came and went, sitting on the rickety metal chairs for several minutes, chatting with others or sitting silently enjoying their breakfast treat and a small cup of coffee.

Fresh Out of the Oven

Next, we walked towards the corner of the massive parking lot. Tony sighed, saying there weren’t many vendors there compared to Saturday or Wednesday. But there were! There were flowers everywhere! Roses, carnations, orchids, sunflowers, flowers I had never seen before. Buckets and buckets and buckets of flowers, vendors calling out, offering bunches for 50 cents or a few dollars. I stood still, breathed deeply, and felt the sun shining down. Pure joy. We meandered through the rows of vendors, choosing flowers for the apartment. Blush roses, beautiful greenery, baby sunflowers.

After we filled our bag, we headed indoors to the fruit and vegetable vendors. Pyramids of tomatoes and onions and peppers and avocados and carrots and broccoli and cauliflower and onions and yucca greeted us. Mesmerized, I followed Tony and Cris, wandering aisle to aisle, stopping to snap photos of the brightly colored arrangements. We bought vegetables for dinner, then wandered through the fruit section – oh the apples! the strawberries! the magnificent grapes! – then on to the herbs.

We were searching for sage. At the first booth, Cris asked the vendor for sage. The vendor mumbled something and Cris immediately left. I asked him, “What did he say?” “When I asked for sage, he said they only have the kind for feminine baths. We don’t want that in our chicken.” I laughed hysterically as we continued to the other vendors, asking for sage that wasn’t for feminine baths or cattle. We eventually found it, then made our way through the fish vendors, back through the vegetable vendors, and back to a taxi. A delightful morning at the market.

An Afternoon with Botero

The guard laughed as he saw my eyebrows lift in surprise and my mouth form an “Ooooh!” when the thunder boomed. We had been discussing what to do next; the immediate patter of rain made our decision for us. We ducked into the museum just as the downpour began.

Only two floors and less than twenty rooms, the museum was manageable, not overwhelming as some museums are. We casually strolled from room to room, taking in the whimsical creations of Botero, his plump figurines interspersed between naturalezas muertas, still lifes. As we finished viewing each room of art, we walked along the pathway encircling the courtyard, occasionally sitting on a bench, watching the rain fall, and counting the time between lightning bolts and thunder claps.

Some rooms were full of statues – big statues, little statues, tall statues, short statues, but always fat statues. People reclining, Adam and Eve and apples, birds, hands – all so plump. They begged for touching; the guard had other ideas as we edged closer than necessary to the smooth stone. He made one exception – the giant hand at the entrance.

Resting in a big hand