I am not a professional writer, but I do like to travel, and I like to put my thoughts down on paper. My writing style is not formal, but it is just a simple reflection of what I experience and feel in my journeys off the beaten path So, for the purpose of this website, I will take a stab at some travel writing and let you try to experience what I see through my eyes and the soles of my shoes. I will be interested in what you think.
I will start out by sharing a little of my most recent journey to Colombia. Here goes:
A couple of months ago, my friend Jay and I were eating lunch at our favorite Mexican restaurant, when I looked up from my food and said “Jay, I’m going to Colombia—I hear its still undiscovered as a tourist destination and I think now is the time to go”. Jay just looked at me and said, “Are you crazy? It’s too dangerous!” 3 weeks later he was signed on to go with me.
“There is a peculiar pleasure in riding out into the unknown. A pleasure which no second journey on the same trail ever affords.”
So began the plans of a trip I had been dreaming about for a long time–Colombia!! Have to admit, it was a struggle to get it off the ground because my wife, Carol, and the rest of the family didn’t want me to go. Carol was concerned about safety issues. I had been trying to convince her for over a year that Colombia would be a fantastic place to visit.
Since I had been studying Spanish for a couple of years, I thought it sounded like a perfectly reasonable idea to do a language immersion program at the Nueva Lengua School in Cartagena and live with a non-English speaking Colombian family that the school would arrange. Carol finally gave in, but said she wanted no part of the trip even after I showed her a travel magazine story and a report from a friend who visited last year that said, “Cartagena on the northern coast is a great place to visit”. Knowing that I sometimes like to wander off the beaten path, Carol stipulated that as long as I went STRAIGHT to Cartagena and BACK, with NO traveling around the country, she MIGHT be OK with the idea of me going. Keeping the promise would prove to be easier said than done.
The next night, while I was planning the trip and looking at fares on the internet, I discovered an obscure fare combining American Airlines with Avianca (the Colombian airline) routing us through Mexico City and returning through Miami. As I began to read the small print on the booking restrictions (I know, no one ever does that), I noticed that it allowed unlimited stopovers in Colombia as long as the stopovers were 24 hours or less. I experimented by adding stopovers in dream cities (Bogotá and Medellin) and the fare remained exactly the same. Too good to be true!! I could fly to Bogotá-spend 23 hours, then on to Medellin for another 23-hour stopover, then on to Cartagena for 5 days in the language immersion program.
I couldn’t book the fare on-line so I called AA just to test price the routing and see if they could ticket it all the way through for me. The AA res agent was skeptical she could make it work, but after 40 minutes on the phone with her, she finally got it to price correctly! I booked it at that instant! Unfortunately I had been so caught up in the excitement with the success of booking the ticket that I forgot the promise to Carol that I would ONLY go STRAIGHT to Cartagena and back with NO DETOURS! I had lots of selling to do but finally convinced her I would be extra careful and stay in a very nice, SAFE hotel (4-5 stars) in a very nice area in both cities (Bogotá and Medellin). Plus, Jay was going with me.
As I researched hotels in the chic, upscale, and safe Zona Rosa area of Bogotá, I saw plenty of the standard top-notch names such as The Intercontinental, El Presidente, etc, etc that would all fulfill my promise to Carol. But, I felt I was betraying myself by taking the more comfortable way out. After all, this would probably be my only chance to get to Bogotá, and I wanted the “real” Bogotá! Why would I sell my travel soul by staying at some “brass and glass” place when the “real” Bogotá awaits me?
I bought a map and tour book (hard to find) and discovered an area called “Old Bogotá” and a neighborhood called “La Candelaria” 6-7 miles south of the Zona Rosa in the oldest part of the city referred to as the “heart and soul of Bogotá”. I knew instantly this was the neighborhood for us! To make Carol feel better, I searched for the nicest hotel in La Candelaria and came across the Hotel de la Opera in the center of the neighborhood. From there it would be easy walking to the many sites of interest even though it is not advisable to walk the narrow streets of this neighborhood at night.
So as not to bore you, I will stop here and pick up the story in a few days—stay awake, it gets better.