On Bogota

Bogota is a city of complexities. I can’t say I loved it, but I can’t say I hated it either. It was simply a place that I passed through, and admittedly had a lot of fun while doing so.

One thing that struck me was the mall mania. Colombian’s love their shopping malls, it seemed almost like a national pride.

Upon driving into the mall armed officials with Alsatians check your car for explosions. Apparently back in the day the guerilla groups targeted shopping malls for terrorist attacks. This stringent safety precaution made made me feel safer. I think.

I was shown around countless malls. I dined in many malls. I was even surprised to discover that they had clubs on top of their malls! Night clubs! It was such a surreal feeling to get all prettied up, park and then walk through a deserted mall to go to a club.

To be fair it was one of the funnest clubs I’ve ever been to. Four floors of eclectic mayhem. The staff come around and decorate you. I was given a hat and a sash that translates roughly to “your life will be beautiful.” One can only hope.

And I was lucky enough to suffer my first Aguardiente hangover, or Guaro as the locals so fondly call it. Guaro is a fun drink, kind of like Tequila but with an Aniseed twang. When you’re drinking it the world is a wonderful place. That could be because you order it by the bottle, and drink it in shots. Vomiting Guardo I can assure you, is something you never want to repeat ever again.

My most vivid memory of Bogota is Colombia’s first game in the Football World Cup. We piled into a foot traffic area called Zona-T and the ambience was unreal. Here in New Zealand we’re not the most passionate folk, even over our beloved Rugby. Colombian’s passion for football was something else. The facials were incredible. The streets were alive. It was like one big giant dress up party.  After the victory we had to escape before we were completely caked in foam and flour (though to be honest I wouldn’t have really minded)

As locals became drunk the festivities quickly spiralled out of control. Drunken fights broke out, flour throwing become aggressive, and next thing there was a topless girl crying on a police mans shoulder. 8 people died that night from fights or incidental victory gun shots going awol. As we all know, passion and drinking don’t always very well together. But that things escalated so badly is a little bit frightening, and perhaps a reflection of Colombia’s sadly violet past.

That game sparked a liquor ban in Bogota for the rest of World Cup. Luckily I was soon long gone, in parts of the country were folk tolerated their liquor more cheerfully.

BOGOTA2

Clean eating travels

I write from my friend’s apartment in Bogota, Colombia reflecting on the gourmand side of my journey thus far. Melbourne, Los Angeles, Bogota have all varied greatly in their cuisines on offer.

In the last 6 months I’ve become a mild healthy eating nutter. I can’t say what exactly inspired such a drastic change, but once I felt the results of healthier eating I was a convert. The one problem with travelling though, is you can’t afford to be a fussy eater nor do you want to miss out on anything delish.

I stayed on the North side of Melbourne, just out of Brunswick, and saw a whole new side of the city. Vegetarism and Veganism are huge. Huge. I felt like every 3rd cafe or restaurant in Brunswick had a Vegan sign adorned with hearts and flashing lights. Raw food was also trending. Whole food stores littered the streets of every suburb I visited, and what pleased me most was all the green smoothies and fresh veggie juices on offer.

Kale rides bikes in Melbourne

Kale rides bikes in Melbourne

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m not sure exactly what inspires such a food movement, but I feel like it was fitting with the locals – there was a rustic, bohemian artist vibe. I visited Ceres an organic veggie farm, market and cafe. Here the children, chickens and even parents seemed to roam free. Unpretentious and happy with the simple things in life. Good coffee, fresh produce, and mismatched woollens.

The Ceres Veggie Garden

The Ceres Veggie Garden

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Los Angeles was a whole different story. It seemed to me, a place of stark contrasts. Diners and juice bars populated the streets. Huge meals typically hamburgers with fries seemed to be the go. There were of course variations, but these too generally involved white bread of mammoth proportions. I ordered the chicken salad once, but it wasn’t worth it. The chicken barely resembled meat, and plain iceberg lettuce isn’t really my thing.

Some lunch options on Venice Beach boardwalk

Some lunch options on Venice Beach boardwalk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then there were the juice bars. There were so many equally delicious smoothies I had difficulty choosing. I was given a full dietary rundown on the fibre, calorie and nutrition of each, and all of course were endorsed by some famous LA nutritionist I’d never heard of. The fact that the smoothies were described as “soooo filling” and the same price as a burger combo, made me wonder if these were in fact intended as liquid meals. Do the masses eat the combos and the rest smoothies? It is possible. My visit to LA was so fleeting, and the city is so vast, I think I missed all the hidden gems.

Smoothie lovers paradise

Smoothie lovers paradise

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On route to Colombia I stopped in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and I found even the airport food was pretty impressive. As soon as I’d gotten off the plane I knew there was a Carribean flavour here. Afro-Carribean and Latinos voices sung out across the airport in Spanish. Menus boasted local flavours and fresh organic produce. This place was heaven to my stomach. I ate breakfast at 430am.

And now Bogota. My first meal was a steak with an egg and tomatoes on top, salad, potatoes and guacamole. It was so huge I couldn’t eat it all, and that rarely happens to me. There is definitely a strong American influence in this Colombian capital but you have the best of both worlds. Fresh fruit juice is huge, local superfood berries are in the rise, and the coffee is strong.. so I’m pretty happy. My Spanish isn’t quite good enough to request any of my usual orders but that’s probably a good thing.