Friday, July 31, 2015

In the air again…..

On Sunday morning, we were due to fly to Armania for the last two weeks of our trip.  We had been warned to leave early for the airport because there was a Half-Marathon that morning.   It was called the Media Maraton Internacional de Bogota and had around 45,000 people involved in the events of the day.

We could see the excitement in front of our hotel as they set up a Medical tent and hundreds of pedestrians on bikes, skate boards and non-electric scooters enjoyed the open roads…..


Just as we were driving out from the hotel we heard two gun shots that signaled the start of a mini parade with police cars and a small float carrying the Patron Saint of the race.

It was good that we left early because many of the roads were closed for the course and our poor taxi driver had to really work to get us to the airport.

Once there, we picked up a cup of coffee and “Dunkin Donuts”….Michael made me go in so that he can keep his record of NOT having US fast food while in foreign countries!!!

Our flight was delayed by about an hour but was a fairly easy trip.  We enjoyed talking to the young man sitting next to us.  He was a player on one of the Tulsa Professional Soccer Teams (Football Clubs).  I didn’t catch his name, but figured that I could find him easily online.   Little did I know that there were more than one club so I don’t know who he was!! 

We were met at the airport by Henry, Victor & Katherine and they escorted us to our very nice hotel!!! 

Our first impressions of Armenia were exciting as the mountains rose on either side of us.  Armenia is the capital of Quindio which is a Department in Colombia.  To the best of our reckoning, a Department is the equivalent of a state in the US.  The city has about 200,000 people.

There was a huge earthquake back in 1999 that leveled much of the center of the city.  It has now been rebuilt and is beautiful.  However, the area is still tectonically active so we were told to expect to feel tremors.

We had a walk around our hotel area and were able to find the University that Michael will be teaching at.  After a while, we decided to eat dinner at a place called “La Fogata”.   We enjoyed a fantastic meal…..beef for Michael……


…and Chicken for me…..DSC05055

We felt horrible when we realized that the restaurant had actually closed about 15 minutes before we left, but they never hurried us at all!!!

We were excited about being in a new city and pleased to meet the people who had made our trip here possible!!!!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

To market we go…..


Michael was off today (HOORAY) so we headed to the next place that we both wanted to see….the local market. 

Before our taxi driver could go a single block, we were stopped while a movie was being shot.  One of the crew had on a shirt that said New York Film Academy….don’t know if they had anything to do with it.   In this scene there is a fight and the guy on the left (in tan shirt) gets thrown to the ground……DSC04872

Apparently the stunt was not done exactly right as he was still on the ground when we were allowed to pass with several people standing around him obviously asking if he was ok!!!  

With no further stops, we arrived at the market and started out by looking at the vendors on the outside of the building.   I was flabbergasted by their display techniques and, at the same time, horrified that my bag would knock one of the fruit towers over!!DSC04876

We moved inside the building and were met with row after row of fruits and vegetables….DSC04885

It was interesting watching the vendors as they worked their wares.  This woman was meticulously de-cobbing corn….one kernel at a time!!!!


Along the sides of the market there were stalls that sold everything from restaurant equipment and supplies…..DSC04907

… HUGE bags and bottles of ketchup, mayonnaise and other condiments….DSC04879

….to the always useful “Glue for Mice”….yuck!!….


We kept hearing cheers through out the market and finally came upon a large group of men watching TV and happily celebrating the Tour De France ride of Colombian rider,  Nairo Quintana!!!….


Unfortunately he didn’t win the day but it was fun seeing everyone’s excitement.

So, onto the meat section of the market.   You have to love these cow hooves….


They look like they are lined up to do the Can-Can!!!

This gentleman did not want me taking a photo but I cant imagine why….


Quite the opposite, this lovely woman allowed us to watch and photograph her as she prepared thin sheets of fat and skin that we assume will be used to make Chicharron. DSC04918

Her two children were in the stall with her and they thought that we were nuts!!!

I loved the diversity of these types of sausages…..


….and what can I say about these skinned-out pigs…..


There was almost a uniform that the meat vendors wore, consisting of an apron and rubber boots…..DSC04928Now we moved into an area that sold flower supplies.  This shop sold ribbons, bows and cellophane wrappers for fresh flowers…..


….and this shop had baskets, flower pots and other wonderful things.   DSC04920

I took this photo before I shopped with the woman in the picture.   She was so sweet and we asked if we could photograph her but she said “No” and that she was “mui feo”, meaning old and ugly!!   We all laughed

We had been told that there was a colossal flower market on the site and we finally found it when we walked outside….. DSC04957

It was filled with all sorts of flowers, but the rose vendors seemed to be the most prevalent.  It was interesting to see how these roses were packaged….DSC04958

It was fun to see people walking around with huge bunches of flowers…..


….but I especially enjoyed seeing these two little guys….


There was a fascinating variety of flowers and business was brisk….. DSC04965

I loved this “thistle” looking fower…..DSC04987

We kept hearing people make a shrill whistle and couldn’t figure out what was happening.   Finally, we realized that it was the vendor’s way of saying “get out of my way….I am coming thru”.  We listened more intently from then on.

Also, when big trucks are backing up they don’t beep at you, but instead play a little song.  One of them played “London Bridge is Falling Down” as they backed!!

We had planned to go across the street to another market area but, in the end, we couldn’t figure out where the street was again!!!

Thus began an interesting part of our trip….how do we get out of this maze??? 


Our comments went something like this….”No, that is the same coffee vendor again”…..”Maybe if we go this way!”... “No, let’s just circle and see what happens”….”We are SOOO lost!”.  But, what a fun place to be lost in!!!

We finally found a way out of the market and into a taxi and enjoyed a ride back to our hotel.  On the way we passed a series of shops that were selling things for funerals….boxes for urns, flowers, monuments etc.   We realized why they were all clumped together when we passed a VERY large cemetery.

We arrived back at our hotel and downloaded our photos from the market…..hmmmm…1-1/2 hours and 157 photos….sounds about right!!

After a brief rest, we headed out to the Old Town again to see a few new sights and for Michael to see the best of what I had already seen.  Keeping with our tradition in foreign countries, we were stopped by a couple and asked for directions!!!   I guess we just look like we know where we are going.  Little do they know!

In particular, Michael wanted to see the Botero museum so that is where we headed first.   Since I now had a photographer with me, I had to get a photo in front of Mona Lisa….


It is a bit bigger than the one in Paris!!!

We walked passed the Centro Cultural and quickly checked out an exhibit by one of Colombia’s favorite poets.  The presentation was interesting with an industrial feel


The art was colorful, but not really my style….


We decided to just walk around some of the government buildings but then saw this sight from a distance….IMG_1071 Naturally, we had to investigate and finally figured out that it was Iglesia Del Carmen.   Unfortunately the church was not open but we enjoyed looking at the outside architecture and I even found some quilt blocks…..IMG_1076


I have now looked at photos online and seen the interior of this church.   I am very sad that we were not able to see inside it!!

We next ran across the “Museo Arqueologio” and, based on the blurb in the travel guide, almost gave it a miss.  We are so glad that we didn’t pass it up!!!

The initial displays that we saw were not all that impressive although we did enjoy this string instrument…..


We took a few photos of the outside of the building…..


However, as we were leaving and thinking that we weren’t impressed, the guard motioned for us to follow him as he unlocked a door and motioned us in.   This section of the exhibit contained some beautiful pottery…..


This pot with a face on the side reminded me of a character from a Dr. Who show (remember the “Face”?)….


We couldn’t see any other galleries so we headed out toward the front door.  Once again the guard motioned asking if we had been upstairs yet.  We had seen the stairs with the “Prohobido el paso” sign, and being the rule following people that we are, we had not passed!!!  The guard walked us to the stairs, removed the cord blocking the way and motioned for us to go up…..IMG_1115

We entered a striking gallery that had several things going on at once.   The first was ethnic music being played.  Secondly there were sheer fabric screens between the exhibits with a video being played thru the fabric.  Finally, there were small boxes of pottery with very bright lights shining thru the boxes and displaying shadows on the far walls……


It was a stunning gallery as it tickled many senses at the same time!!

After leaving we continued down the street and came to a large building with tall ironwork fences going around it.   There was a statue in the middle with a guard in front of it so I walked up to the fence, stuck my hand thru and took a photo…..


We walked a few more feet and I stepped up on the sidewalk again to take another photo and was approached by a smiling guard who said that we couldn’t walk on the sidewalk.   In thinking about it, I am amazed that they let me go up to take the initial photo.   We finally decided that they must have decided that we were “mostly harmless”!!

Eventually we figured out that we were at the “Capitolio Nacional”….


….thus the need for additional security from clueless Americans!!!

It was well after 2:00pm and we were both hungry but didn’t want anything big because we were planning to eat a larger dinner, so I suggested that we get an ice cream cone from McDonald’s!!  Now, Michael and I have tried to keep a tradition of NOT going into American food establishments when we are traveling overseas so this caused a bit of consternation.   The decision was made when we realized that we could order from an outside window and not have to go INTO the building…..crisis averted!!!   We got a mixed cone that had vanilla and a light caramel flavored ice cream.   It hit the spot!!!

As we walked back home, we joined throngs of people who were out enjoying their Saturday afternoon.  We wandered up on one gentleman who had a collection of Guinea pigs in the middle of the street.


At first we thought that they were for sale, but soon realized that they were a betting game.   You would put a coin on top of the “house” that you thought the Guinea Pig would enter and would win if you guessed the right one…..DSC05041

I was mostly amazed that the Guinea Pigs didn’t run away and I wondered how they fared against the dogs that roamed the street!!!

For dinner, we searched for a restaurant and figured out how to get there from our hotel.  Naturally we were lost in about 2 blocks so we decided to just walk past a few and pick one out.   We ended up at “Chichombia” and enjoyed another Bandeja Paisa.   This one not only included Chorizo (sausage) but a Blood Sausage as well.   The flavor of that one was good, but it was dryer and was not a favorite……


Our waiter did not understand English and we were having a hard time asking for Dessert.  I finally said “chocolate” and he smiled and said “Postre”.  I knew that word from our stint at McDonald’s so we smiled and said “Si”.    He described (in Spanish) a dessert and said that it was very good, so we said to bring one even though we weren’t sure what we were getting.   We should not have worried!!  It was a very moist vanilla cake covered with a creamy caramel sauce….delicious…DSC05048

The night ended with a slow walk back to the hotel, enjoying the sights and sounds of beautiful Bogota!!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

What’s the weather in Bogota….no way to know!!!


According to Weather Underground, it was supposed to be a warm day…NOT.  Michael called me right after he left the hotel and said that it was windy and cold!!!

As I started making my way to my first stop, I mused on the fact that I seem to be the only person who crosses the street quickly…especially when crossing against the light!!!

Now, over the last week, I have been trying to see inside two churches that were very close together.  At last one of them, Iglesia de Veracruz, had their door open when I passed,  

The mass was just finishing up when I entered, with a gorgeous pipe organ blasting the final anthem of the day.  It was beautiful, as was the church.  This one is very different from any I have seen as it is decorated with DARK, DARK wood carvings……


I took the photo of the church itself and then this photo in one of the alcoves…..


and then I saw the sign that said “No Photos”…..oops….

As I was leaving I could hear a pan flute playing quietly in the background and thought that it was a nice touch.  Then I realized that it was playing “The Sound of Silence” which seemed a bit strange. All was revealed when I stepped back out onto the street and realized that the music was coming from a street vendor just outside of the church!!

I walked across the street and entered the most attractive “Museo del Oro”.  This highly praised museum is filled to the brim with golden delights and I cant imagine how much money is represented here!!

The first gallery was about the people who worked the gold and it was noted that the goldsmiths were greatly respected and held dual status because of the technical and supernatural knowledge that they possessed.

The Peruvian Andes metallurgy was know for their hammered gold, even using small stones (some shaped like irons) to further smooth and flatted the gold….IMG_0891

Because the thin gold would crack during the process, they learned to heat the metal and then dunk it in cold water to give it more strength.  This is called annealing.

It was incredible to see how thin the gold could be cut and still not break….IMG_0895

There were many, many objects that had been made using a wax mold and I had never understood how it would work….I mean, wouldn’t the wax melt when the hot metal was poured onto it?

The answer came around the next corner when I shared a bench with 2 little girls and watched a video of the wax process.   It is done like this…..

First the wax is used to sculpt the object that you are going to make from gold.  Then clay is formed around the wax.  The clay is now heated so that the wax can melt and be poured out of the clay.  Now you have a clay mold that has the indentations from the wax…..see where it is going???   The  next step is to pour the metal into the clay  and allow the metal to fill up all of the holes left from when the wax was melted out.

Finally, the clay form is broken and the metal piece can be polished and brought to life.

Unfortunately this process only provides a one-of-a-kind piece of art!!

Many of the gold pieces that were displayed were taken from various sarcophagi that had been found.  This tomb had been carved out of a tree trunk ….


It looks to me like a person would have to be REALLY skinny to fit!!

This piece was used to cover the face of the deceased…..



I loved this mask, especially that it comes complete with earrings and a nose ring….IMG_0902


This stone stamp was used to put temporary tattoos on skin.  Love the design!!IMG_0904


These three nose rings were interesting.   The cut out area was placed in the nose and the circular part was to protect the mouth…..IMG_0908

The intricacy of the work was astonishing when you realized what tools they had to work with!!

By this stage….about gallery number 3…. my eyes started to glaze over and I reverted to my old habits of just looking at what caught my eye and not reading all of the descriptions.

These three are musical instruments (you blow into the “mouths”) but mostly  I loved the facial expressions….IMG_0910

The museum did a  magical job with their presentations.  In this display you could see the gold items that were found in the tomb, with the shadow behind showing the body that they were found with…..


The quilter in me found this design to be interesting….


The note about the design talked about their use and love of line and symmetry!!

One of the most interesting exhibits was a sound proof round room that you entered entirely in the dark.  One ingenious tourist pulled out their I-phone and lit our path.  Once inside, you started hearing the chants of a Shaman and the walls started being lit up to reveal beautiful gold treasures.   Many of the displays looked like birds or butterflies in flight.  It was very moving….


There was one display on the floor of the museum that was a movie of kids working on an “archaeological “ dig.  They divided the area into squares and then each child carefully cleaned out one square, revealing the “ruins” below.  The final analysis was that it was the site of two people laying on the beach listening to records, eating a meal and enjoying the surf.   It was a special demonstration!!!

I was impressed with the knowledge of the guides as they took small groups of people around the museum.   Even if I didn’t know what they were saying, they were emphatically proclaiming the history and beauty of the displays!!

I wandered further down the street and found a small “Cafeteria” where I could get a couple of Empanadas and a drink.  The only problem that I had with ordering this time was whether it was to eat there or to go!!

The Empanadas were excellent and I was surprised to find a boiled egg quarter in the middle of the meat!!  There was  a green sauce on the table and it was a savory addition to the pastry……


The pigeons that were wandering between the tables promptly ascertained that I was the one who was going to make a mess eating so they grouped around me hopefully.   I did not leave them wanting!!!

Now I was heading to an Art Gallery that I had seen a couple of days previously and knew that I needed Calle 11.  My plan was to continue walking down Carrera 7 and then turn left on Calle 11.  But first, I had to stop in to do some shopping in  one of the Vendor halls.   I think that my lack of English preceded me as I made my way up and down the aisles.  One gentleman talked to me  incessantly in broken English and was desperate to sell me a necklace, but I held my ground and kept walking.

I did buy a purse from a young couple who were so very friendly.  She spoke fairly good English and was so sweet.   After I had paid and was getting ready to leave, she brought out a braided bracelet in the  Colombia colors, tied it on my wrist and said that it would remind me to come back to Colombia!!!

I kept walking, switching every few minutes from my umbrella and coat to no coat and sweating.  The weather probably changed 20+ times during my hours out!!!

I found another religious icon store and went in looking for a Nativity scene.  I didn’t find one that would fit comfortably in my suitcase, but did find many HUGE icons and people were buying them as fast as they could.


I should have known better, but I decided to detour down Calle 12 so that I would miss some of the construction that was going on…..BAD move.   I never really figured it out, but Calle 12 is actually two or more streets….12, 12a, 12b etc.   I managed to turn myself around completely and ended up, 45 minutes later, back at the restaurant that I had eaten at…..SIGH!!!  I have decided that I have the most problems when I try to do anything with confidence.   That ALWAYS gets me in trouble.

So I took off again and didn’t stop until I hit Calle 11 and the Bolivar Plaza.

On one end of the Plaza is the Palace of Justice which houses the Supreme Court of Colombia.   This was the site of a Guerilla attack in 1985, killing several justices and holding 350 people hostage.  The military counterattacked and took the building back, but over 100 people were killed and the building was destroyed by fire. 


At the other end of the plaza is the Capitolio Nacional which houses the Colombian Congress. DSC04859

At last I found the Museo de Arte Del Banco de la Republica….a long name for a wonderful art gallery.

The exhibit halls were stunning with excellent lighting ……IMG_0957

I enjoyed this painting by Luis Alberta Acuna.   I am always intrigued by what true artists can do with small dots of paint!!!IMG_0939

I found two paintings that were side by side and found them extremely thought provoking.   They were both painted by Emiliano Villa and this one is call  “La meurte del Justo”  (The death of the just)


The next one is “La muerte del Reprobo” (basically…the death of the reprobate)….


The difference in the tone of these two paintings was captivating!!

I was drawn to this character lurking behind the bed of the second painting.  I thought that I could find something online about the painting, but haven’t had any luck so far…..can any of you artists help me out????  IMG_0966

One gallery contained only portraits of dead Nuns.  Supposedly each Nun’s portrait was painted twice….once when she first took her Orders and then soon after her death.   They were a bit eerie!!


I stumbled onto a kids area where they could experience different types art including fiber arts, drawing, painting, clay designs and shadow art.


It would be a fun place for a kid!!!


The museum had a massive modern art section, encompassing several galleries.  I found this guy intriguing….IMG_0987

There were guards in every room however he was standing outside of this particular gallery and he entered when I did.   The reason for his standing outside soon became clear.   There was one art piece that was made up of metal strips and it was jiggled by a small motor and made the most awful noise.  There was no way that he could have stood in there for any length of time without going completely crazy!!

I loved this piece……


….and even more when I realized that it was made up of stripes painted on the canvas and red glass strips running perpendicular to the painted stripes.

There was an entire floor of “installation” art, some of which was interesting and some was simply strange!!  There were two rooms dedicated to photos of some of the riots of past years.  Those were interesting, but what I really liked was the way that this display was presented…..


The photo was printed on glass and split into strips.  Then a bright light was shown thru the glass, reflecting onto the wall.   It was very effective!!

The most interesting (and frightening) exhibit was a small thin hallway that had mirrors on all sides that had a small wooden “bridge” that you walked across.  The problem is that the mirrors were all showing images of the ocean and the roaring of the ocean waves was very loud……


When I made my first step onto the bridge, I got dizzy and felt like I was going to fall off of the bridge.  I quickly stepped back and had a good look at the exhibit .  Surely there was more to the floor than just the bridge!!!!  Finally, I knelt down and made sure that there was a floor under the bridge so that I couldn’t fall off.  Of course there was and I knew that in my head, but had to check it out anyway!!!  This was the view looking over the edge of the bridge…..


It was a bit  eerie, but VERY cool art!!!

As I came down from the Installation Art, I noticed that there was a sign pointing to the Botero museum.  Since I had enjoyed his art so much the other day, I decided to check it out as well.

There were numerous galleries all filled with the pudgy Botero people…..IMG_1035

Even his flowers take on a roly-poly persona……

IMG_1001I love that he can even make his buildings and other inanimate things look rotund and in need of a diet…..IMG_1050

And to my quilting buddies, is this what we look like when at the machine???



This “Mona Lisa” was one of the most photographed and was one of my favorites…


I entered several other galleries and found much of Botero’s personal art collection.  He had quite a diverse eye for art.  Pieces included those by …..

….Henri MatisseIMG_1007

…..Pablo PicassoIMG_1010


…..Max Ernst…  I loved this painting called “Explosion in a Cathedral”.  I am sure that I was drawn to all of the triangles, diamonds and other shapes in the outer edges….IMG_1015


….Henri de Toulouse-LautrecIMG_1021

….Pierre-Auguste Renoir….IMG_1023

…..Claude Monet


….and MANY other artists that I didn’t recognize.

As I finally left the museum, the skies opened,  it started to pour rain, the wind started blowing and I was totally miserable for about 15 minutes.   At least I didn’t take any wrong turns in the rain…..that would have been debilitating!!!  Then, magically, the rain stopped, the sun came out and it was gorgeous by the time I reached the hotel.

One phenomenon that I did observe was that the streets were eerily quiet when it was raining.  Then I suddenly realized that all of the vendors had moved out of the rain and that was why it was quiet.  However, as soon as the rain stopped, they were all out again with their speakers blasting out slogans of what they were selling!!

We were met by Henry and Juliana this evening and enjoyed a wonderful meal at a restaurant called La Taparia, and yes we had Tapas!!!   Six wonderful dishes starting with…..

….potatoes in cheese sauce  (fairly spicy)…..


….a plate of various sausages and cheeses… was magnificent….DSC04866

….fried Calamari with a spicy sauce……..


…..a beautiful grilled Eggplant with cheese and tomatoes…..DSC04869

…..glorious sautéed mushrooms….you can see how hot they were…..DSC04870

….and finally a plate of fried chicken with a spicy sauce….yes, we bought chicken wings!!!!


All in all, we had a wonderful day but were VERY tired at the end……

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