Wednesday, 31 May 2006

I stumbled on heaven

Popular belief is that Andres Carne de Res is the most spectacular restaurant in all of South America. It´s a Colombian institution. Families and friends gather for lunch and then stay to dance the night away. I was having a sensory overload… the dishes of plantana served on clay plates, coal cooked meats, dips and salsas in wooden saucers, sangria and juice in coconut bowls – the music and live bands – every inch of space filled with paintings, sculptures, artifacts, odds and ends.

Tuesday, 30 May 2006

Catedral de Sal

On Monday, one of Colombia’s 18 annual long weekends - I told you this was a remarkable country! We took a family trip to the quaint village of Zipaquira, just north of Bogotá, to visit the famous Salt Cathedral. This underground cathedral, which is a contender for the eighth wonder of the modern world, was chiseled out of a former salt mine. Cathedral doesn’t really describe it, it’s more like a catholic theme park with hidden passages, waterfalls of salt, optical illusions, brightly painted sculptures of saints and of course a conference room and gift shop spread over a 1.5km walk. But jokes aside, it is a very special place and I can only imagine how moving it would be to attend Mass there, 180 meters underground, in the huge main cathedral; the echoes of the singing choir - positioned on a salt balcony 30 meters above; the glow of candles reflecting off the white walls in otherwise complete darkness; the pungent smell of decomposing salt and the knowledge that millions of people have walked and prayed in this room before you: magical.
(The photos are mainly of Zipaquira, see the weblink for pictures of the cathedral.)

Wednesday, 24 May 2006

Himmat this one´s for you…

I know you only read my blog to keep up to date with Cata´s social schedule. She told me last night that she mentioned our Pico y Placa fine and you replied, ¨Yeah Babes, I already know¨. So this photo is for you. It was taken on Cata´s first night here in Bogota, the casting list is as follows: Paula, Tomas, Nico, Random, Luisa and the beautiful Catita. Enjoy.

Hungry Planet

I found this amazing book called Hungry Planet written by a husband and wife team. Together they visited 24 families the world over to photograph and document what each family consumed in a week.

It’s scary to compare what the US family ate - not surprisingly it was all brightly coloured packaged foods - with the Sudanese family who has a bag of rice and a handful of vegetables supplied by UN groups.

Even here in Colombia I´ve noticed that they eat a lot more fruits and vegetables than we do back in Oz. Every morning we have fresh fruit for breakfast. All meals, even in restaurants, are accompanied by fresh juice (mango, mandarin etc). When Cata´s family goes shopping one whole trolley is filled to the brim with fresh fruits and veggies. No wonder Cata became sick when she visited my family in Toowoomba!

Mum, I’ll know you’ll be laughing at this remembering the time we saw how many wine bottles we’d gone through over the weekend alone.

I really urge you to look at the Hungry Planet website to see some of the portraits and to listen to the radio interview with the authors, it´s very interesting. Those of you who have veggie gardens and green thumbs, you’ll be pleased you do. Tom and Jade, good luck with making yours this weekend!

Tuesday, 23 May 2006

Tastes just like Chicken

Believe it or not, once upon a time I would cry at the dinner table if asked to eat pasta carbonara, sorry Mum. Luckily I’ve come a long way and can proudly notch on my wooden spoon the following formidable dishes; escargot in France, haggis in Scotland, I don’t know what but it wasn’t cake in Malayisa, potjie and springbok steaks in South Africa, seaweed in Indonesia, surstromming in Sweden and now in Colombia: fried sheep intestines and rice stuffed blood balls. As The Mask would say: Yummy!

So last weekend, after driving almost three hours we arrived, at Catalina’s great-grandmother’s farmhouse, famished. The outside kitchen was dark and warm, everyone stood around the woodfire oven quenching their thirst with beer shandies as mangy dogs wandered in and out. I was pleased to see guacamole and arepas on the menu but spied some rather dubious half beasts sizzling on the barbeque situated further from the house.

The food was casually arranged on a table in the drive way and everyone gathered around to eat and talk. Of course I went for the safe options first, but it wasn’t long before everyone wanted to know what I thought of the more delicate dishes. Of course my answer was going to be the same no matter what the experience: es muy rico! Catalina decided it was best if I didn’t know what I was eating until later, so with one eye on the dog in case my morsel needed a quick escape, I had a taste. And as you can tell, it didn’t kill me.

Dad has brought Sammie and I up to believe that the congealed fat left in the bottom of the cooking tray is a delicacy, so I wasn’t too worried about the fired sheep intestines. My verdict? True, it’s nice and crunchy but unfortunately (or fortunately if you look at it from the Adkins Diet point of view) it’s just too fatty and bland to have me lining up for seconds. And the blood thing, well, it was interesting. The rice was delicious but the outside required far too much chewing which meant far too much time thinking about what I was actually eating.

It’s true, beer improves the game

Felipe told me, no Candice, the point of Tejo is to get drunk. Oh, it all makes sense now!

The objective of the game – if there really is one - is to throw the Tejo (a heavy weight, flat on the bottom) into a clay pit. There was point scoring at one stage, which seemed to fade out as the number of beer bottles increased. I noticed a variety of styles, such as Lisandro´s run and throw combination, which each time performed, had me fearing for his life. ¨Wrong way, turn around¨. Now, I don´t know what other purpose having two clay pits held except for to make you drunker (the spinning around technique) but we were instructed to play to each end in turn.

Now, as everyone knows, all exceptional parties have fireworks and the Colombian´s are not to be outdone. So for the game’s piece de resistance, the center of the clay pit has a metal circle on top of which are placed tiny triangles of paper filled with gun powder. I kid you not.

BANG! Out of nowhere and without prior warning one was set off by Lizandro´s landing Tejo. Everyone cheered amongst the smoke as I nervously recovered from my heart seizure, onset because I thought we were under attack by terrorist guerillas.

I couldn´t help it, I took the quiz...

Apparently I should be living in Barcelona rather than Bogota.

You Belong in Barcelona

When it comes to Europe, you don't want to decide between culture and fun. You want art by day and a big party by night.
Barcelona is ideal for you. You can check out some Picasso, eat some tapas, take a siesta, and then dance all night!

Monday, 15 May 2006

Santiago, Chile

I was given a whirlwind tour of this stunning city by my friends Bernardo and Teresa, the three highlights were:

Firstly, walking through the tree lined Plaza de Armas amongst artists and hawkers into the Santiago Metropolitan Cathedral. It took my breathe away: its three naves, two on the sides and a higher one in the center, the white marble altar and the beautiful statues of saints lining the walls. The cathedral was surprisingly busy, families and lovers walking in and out as if it was their personal living room, always bowing and crossing themselves on the exit. But the real magic began when the Santiago Philharmonic Orchestra began a free performance of Malher´s Resurrection. Every mahogany seat was full and we had to stand, peeping from behind a column, at the 70 piece orchestra and 40 part choir.

Secondly, dinner at midnight (which I was assured was normal) with friends in a restaurant dimly lit by original chandeliers & prohibition style lamps and surrounded by floor to ceiling impressionist paintings and 1930´s prints. We drank Pisco sours and discussed religion and Chilean culture over cheesy toasted sandwiches.

And finally, our walks around the city streets. Past the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, park fountains, ivy covered buildings, cool street art, cafes and shops . Tere was fabulous, giving me the history of her city and it’s buildings, as we walked it. I’m still kicking myself that I left behind a Christian Dior silver plated art deco water jug which I found in the street markets for only AU$60.

Friday, 12 May 2006

Paella con Pan

Tonight I experienced the ultimate in home delivery service. Okay, not only do they bring you a perfectly cooked, hot dinner – but they deliver it in a huge metal wok. No pansy plastic Chinese food containers which scream; You Didn’t Cook This Meal! The wok proudly sits on the stove top advertising to your visitors that you spent the whole day slaving (with love) to provide them with the evening’s meal. Genius! (If only they delivered dirty cooking utensils too).

007 License to …

It seems here in Bogotá that even if you have a car, a license (Sammie listen up) and are stone sober, you still can’t drive. This bizarre concept cost Catalina & I 280,000 peso the other day on our maiden voyage to the salon. The (rather cute) police officer walked up to our window and announced we were infringement of Pico y Placa (freely translated as odd & even). This is the name of Bogotá’s efforts at traffic control, yes, rather than fix the roads the government decided to place a rotational band on cars with certain number plates from driving between the peak hours of 6-9am and 4-7pm two days a week. Super! Today was our day and no feigned Aussies accent was going to get us out of it.

NB: The photos are of the office in his moment of glory.

Wednesday, 10 May 2006

What’s the time Mr. Wolf?

There’s a bell tower outside my bedroom window. Once it kept time for the small village of Usaquen. Today that village has been swallowed by the surrounding city of Bogotá and now the tower overlooks a beautiful park, cobbled streets and bohemian cafes. During my first few nights I would lie awake with jet lag and listen to the clock strike 12midnight, then 12.30, then teasing me that I was still awake chiming every half hour until 3.


Celebrating Catalina’s home coming, her parents Diana & Lisandro organised a huge (and chaotic) family lunch. Seafood marina was served in various sittings.

Afterwards, with everyone full and content, we retired to the sitting room to await Catalina´s surprise: a Trio Performance. Comprising of three guitarists, they sang boleros which are slow, rhythmically simple (but sometimes melodically complex) love ballads.

When the maracas and violin came out, Catalina’s grandfather summoned her to the dance floor (see video) followed by myself (no photo, because I was flushed with embarrassment!).

Tuesday, 9 May 2006

Point & Pray

Getting your hair cut by a hairdresser who doesn’t speak the same language as you is to put your faith in the fashion trends of the world and the goodness (goodtaste) of the common man. Pointing feverishly to a thumb sized picture in a tacky hair salon magazine (you know the ones) and holding open page 67 of my Lonely Planet phrase book: !No debia haberle dejado tocarme! (I should never have let you near me). I hoped for the best and thought about hat options that would accessorize with my party dresses. Luckily Juan transformed me into a blond fringed goddess, albeit one who can no longer see out of her right eye.