With near perfect weather, the last few days have been great for exploring Bogotá. After a week, the TransMilenio system is less of a mystery and it’s easier to get around. Bogotá’s street grid consists of Carreras (Avenues) running from north and south and Calles (Streets) running from east to west. Major streets are called Avenidas. This isn’t that much different from other major cities but it still takes a few days to register – at least it does for me.
Bogotá is divided into 20 districts (barrios). Each one has its own mayor and local government. Together the localities make up over 1,500 different neighborhoods! The north and northeast neighborhoods are the wealthier areas. Lower-income neighborhoods are mostly in the south and southeast, and the middle class tends to live in the central, western, and northwestern sections of Bogotá.
Yesterday began in the Santa Fe district in northern Bogotá. Like Zona T it’s a modern area compared to La Candelaria where I’m staying. The TransMilenio terminal is near the Santa Fe Mall. Without all the Colombian people walking around, it could be a mall in just about any city in the US. I didn’t stay in the mall long but found a lunch buffet full of fresh fruit and vegetable dishes.
Colombian fruit is absolutely the best. I’ll try to describe some of their more exotic fruits – many new to me.
Araza is a bright yellow fruit with a highly acidic taste. It’s mixed with water and honey for a refreshing juice drink.
Ceresa is a Colombian cherry like no cherry you’ve ever tasted!
Chirimoya is known as the “custard apple”. The exterior has fleshy spikes and the white fruit inside is surrounded by seeds. It tastes like pineapple, strawberry, papaya, and banana all melded together.
Ciruela are small, red plums used in the Torta de Ciruela, a dark cake made with semi-dried plums, wine, and nuts.
Curuba tastes like a blend of banana and passion fruit. It’s rich in vitamins and minerals and used for juice and dessert sauces.
Feijoa is a green, egg-shaped fruit with sweet and juicy pulp. It’s different from anything most Americans or Europeans have eaten!
Zapote is an orange-colored fruit that’s a cross between a pumpkin and a sweet potato. Sometimes it’s added to milk.
In addition to these and many more exotic tropical fruits, Colombian watermelons, bananas, pineapples, mangos, papayas, and coconuts are abundant and delicious!
Didn’t make the longer trip to Usaquén, the far north colonial quarter of Bogotá. Usaquén is an affluent district known for Spanish colonial architecture similar to the buildings in Candelaria.
The trip to the Northern Portal of Bogotá takes time even via TransMilenio. Street performers, hawkers, and panhandlers often use the TransMilenio to sell their products or get their message across to captive bus riders. Today a rapper, salsa dancer, and beggar gave their stories. I seem to be in the exact location they pick to make their stand and today decided to move away from the salsa dancer who was dancing in the bus as we were speeding over rough cobblestoned streets! Most of the people on the bus seem to either enjoy the theater or completely ignore it. I gave a small tip to one guitar player who was very talented.
The TransMilenio dropped me off at Las Aguas station close to a Juan Valdez café (Colombia’s Starbucks) back in La Candelaria and near the university. I hadn’t explored the back streets in that area and they were interesting. Found a few small restaurants and cafés that look like good places for dinner.
The day ended looking up at the gryphon statues that act as sentinels guarding Bogotá’s National Capitol buildings. Since my arrival in Bogotá I’ve noticed a heavy police presence on all major streets and squares and in the TransMilenio terminals. Assume this is for safety during the holiday season when there are lots of tourists and visitors in the large and busy city.
Tomorrow is my last day in Bogotá and I will spend it visiting some nearby galleries and museums. Monday morning I travel across the Andes to Cali and warmer weather.