BOGOTÁ, COLOM­BIA

Emer­alds and culi­nary de­lights.

DRIFT Travel magazine - - Inside This Issue - BY: SYLVIA TENNANT

One of South Amer­ica’s premier cul­tural des­ti­na­tions, Bogotá has evolved be­yond the shad­owy his­tory of its scan­dalous past into an abun­dant play­ground of lux­ury tourist at­trac­tions. While the for­mal­ity of the Colom­bian cap­i­tal is still ev­i­dent in the mon­u­men­tal colo­nial build­ings and free mu­se­ums scat­tered through­out the city’s dis­tricts, the cor­dial sem­blance of or­der is dwarfed by a pas­sion­ate live­li­ness that ex­tends through­out its wind­ing, graf­fiti-lined streets.

Ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the best of Bogotá with only four days to spare re­quires some re­search. As a sleep­de­prived colum­nist, ad­just­ing to a sig­nif­i­cantly higher al­ti­tude, con­ve­nience and com­fort are high on my list of ho­tel pri­or­i­ties. For­tu­nately, the NH Col­lec­tion Bogotá Tele­port Royal Ho­tel, which is a con­tem­po­rary up­scale ho­tel, is nes­tled into the beau­ti­ful north­ern sec­tion of Bogotá. This is also where the long­est con­ti­nen­tal moun­tain range in the world, the An­des, meets a vi­brant busi­ness district and sur­round­ing el­e­gant neigh­bor­hoods. The NH spa treat­ments, ex­pan­sive suites, and mar­ble bath­rooms were truly im­pres­sive.

The heart of the city’s art scene lies within Bogotá’s first of­fi­cial neigh­bor­hood, La Can­de­laria. This trendy, bo­hemian district is de­fined by its old-world charm and his­tor­i­cal rel­e­vance. Al­though I only had one day to roam the cob­ble­stone streets, there are a few must see at­trac­tions. Start early at the Museo Del Oro, one of South Amer­ica’s best mu­se­ums, with a se­lec­tion of the largest col­lec­tion of pre-his­panic gold art in the world. Per­fectly pre­served relics are ex­hib­ited along­side bilin­gual de­scrip­tions that il­lus­trate the many dif­fer­ent cul­tures that once resided here. On Sun­days, en­trance is com­pli­men­tary after 3pm.

There is a large ar­ti­san mar­ket across the street, which I quickly dis­cov­ered was a mecca for pon­cho and gift shop­ping. Bring cash and buy in bulk be­cause the gar­ment qual­ity and prices are in­cred­i­ble. My ad­ven­ture con­tin­ued down Calle 11 to the Museo Botero, a free mod­ern art mu­seum that houses an in­ter­na­tion­ally ac­claimed

col­lec­tion do­nated by renowned Colom­bian artist, Fer­nando Botero. The space is stun­ning and peace­ful, with gar­den-lined foun­tains and art by Pi­casso, Monet, Matisse, Dalí, and Botero him­self.

A trip of this na­ture would not be com­plete with­out an in-depth look into the boom­ing culi­nary scene of this lively cos­mopoli­tan cap­i­tal. Within its moun­tain­ous land­scape, I ex­pe­ri­enced ev­ery­thing from street food to canapés. Bogotá de­liv­ered with both va­ri­ety and in­ge­nu­ity. I had the plea­sure of watch­ing Top Chef Spain and Mas­ter Chef Colom­bia judge, Paco Ron­cero, cre­ate a se­ries of plates for the Col­lec­tion Bogotá Tele­port Royal Ho­tel’s gala. He is the culi­nary ad­vi­sor for the ho­tel group. My in­ner foodie was at once spoiled and star struck. His sci­en­tific flair for molec­u­lar gas­tron­omy has earned him a va­ri­ety of ac­co­lades in­clud­ing a two-miche­lin star award. When asked where he would choose to have his last meal on earth, he quickly replied, “With An­dres Carne del Res”.

Lo­cated just be­yond the out­skirts of Bogotá, the in­de­scrib­able com­bi­na­tion of fine din­ing and all­night dance club at­mos­phere was well worth the drive. Upon ar­rival, guests are treated to a large shot of aguar­di­ente (di­rect trans­la­tion: fire­wa­ter), Colom­bia’s na­tional al­co­holic drink. My ini­ti­a­tion was com­plete. The restau­rant it­self is a sur­real disco town that seats 2000 peo­ple, has a 19-page menu, and is 2.76 miles square. I dined on a se­lec­tion of small plates and Ar­gen­tinian steak while cos­tumed en­ter­tain­ers roamed the can­dlelit al­leys and neon dance floors be­tween ta­bles.

Al­ter­nately, if you’re look­ing to keep the party within the down­town district, the Gaira Café Cumbia House is my rec­om­men­da­tion for live mu­sic and a coastal in­spired menu. Owned by pop­u­lar Colom­bian singer, Car­los Vives, the piñata filled multi-level restau­rant is im­pres­sively de­signed with a stage that hosts an 11-piece house band.

Al­though I thor­oughly en­joyed shop­ping for pon­chos, I wasn’t leav­ing Bogotá with­out an emer­ald. The eastern por­tion of the An­des, be­tween Boy­aca and Cun­d­i­na­marca, is where most Colom­bian emer­alds are mined. I found beau­ti­ful, high-qual­ity spec­i­mens from a mine in Muzo at Don Este­ban Joyeros in the Cen­tro Comer­cial Ha­cienda Santa Bár­bara (con­ve­niently lo­cated around the cor­ner from my ho­tel). The house jew­eler had my new ring re-sized within 48 hours, spoke a bit of English, and cer­ti­fied all of his stones. The over­all ex­pe­ri­ence was so lovely that I re­turned with the en­tire Bri­tish press team to show them where to pur­chase emer­alds.

The trans­for­ma­tion of Bogotá con­tin­ues to fas­ci­nate those will­ing to push past its some­what mod­est ex­te­ri­ors. The men­tal­ity of in­sur­gency is no longer. Crime rates con­tinue to de­crease as busi­ness de­vel­op­ment booms. In the past five years, the city’s streets have steadily filled with tourists look­ing to un­cover the cul­tural gems that lie within this ur­ban jun­gle. With a pop­u­la­tion al­most equal to that of New York City, the con­ta­gious buzz of Bogotá is cer­tain to sat­isfy all the senses.

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