Thursday 7 February 2019

Bogota with Kids (yes Colombia) - family travels

It was certainly a long haul flying to Colombia, we flew Turkish Airlines, via Istanbul, and arrived early in the morning, tired, hungry and as a consequence a little grumpy.

I make a point of never judging a country by it's capital, and certainly not after just getting off the plane.  The same way you can't judge England on arrival in London, or France by visiting Paris.

not quite embracing our
The taxi journey to our accommodation was unremarkable, with no spectacular sights along route, but then why should there be?   This is a country living in the shadows of the infamous drug barons, and cartels, and picking up the pieces after being finally clear of the drug lords, who had "allegedly" been pushed over the border into Mexico (or at least that was what we were told)!!!!!!

Our accommodation wasn't ready for us yet, so we set off looking for some breakfast.   We had in mind some eggs and bread etc. so with tomales as the offering - huge, unrecognisable, and a tad greasy, am sure we all looked a bit crestfallen.  Queue the the owner trying to cheer us up, making us wear quirky hats to take pictures and "smile", we must have looked like a right family of miseries!

Thankfully, after settling into our accommodation, and chilling for a bit, we wandered into the centre of Bogota, which was just at the end of the road we were staying in.  Immediately we got a sense of the City itself, vibrant, bohemian, edgy and arty, with a mix of normality running through it.  There happened to be a festival happening that Saturday too (or so we thought), which was vibrant and noisy, with great street artists, including "snake man" and a Michael Jackson tribute.   Turns out this was normal weekend entertainment in Bogota, so the sense of excitement began to grow as we realised what an amazing adventure lay ahead of us.

Having done our homework before travelling, we already had an idea of what to see whilst here.   We had booked the Street Food safari from home.    We found out details of the Graffiti tour, bicycle tours, and how to get to the other attractions on offer.   There is certainly lots to do in Bogota, and thankfully we were flying back here before flying home, so didn't need to try and cover it all in our first part of the holiday.

Day 2 - Montserrate Bogota Funicular
A great day out, with a breathtaking funicular, amazing views across Bogota at 3.127 m.a.s.l.  Wonderful stations of the cross on the way around, then some more amazing street food, and a market full of colourful souvenirs to buy.  I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.




The ever present "coca" tea that we came across in Peru, apparently is helpful if you suffer from altitude sickness.
Our first time eating the street food, I had the corn on the cob above, the kernals were so big, and so meaty, quite unlike any corn I'd eaten before.
So much to enjoy on this day out, views, history, food, shopping, and the breathtaking ride itself.
A must see.

Day 3 - The Street Food Safari
One of the top recommended trips in Colombia is a street food tour - or food safari as we booked.  It would make sense to do this early on too as when we arrived the first morning from the airport looking for breakfast, we were surprised to be offered such hearty food - akin to a winters Tea - as opposed to the tea and toast we are used to.

Chris found our host Loon from the uk (link from the title), and we were booked to meet him on our 3rd morning.  We met at 9am beside a mall - we got a cab there, using our Uber account - best way to get around if you don't want to attempt the busses.

We walked around the corner to a buzzing outdoor flower market.  Loon explained that after coffee, flowers were Colombia's largest export.  Mainly to the USA.  The flowers looked awesome (as you can see), but it turns out the trend is to dye or spray them these bright colours, dashing my hopes of some awesome hybrid.

Anyhow, onto the food. We walked through an indoor market full of little cafes, all full of Colombians eating their breakfast.  The smells were incredible, and Loom explained that a lot of these workers start very early in the morning, and their jobs are highly labour intensive, so they are ready for their soups and tomales.  The soup idea reminded me of the pho in Vietnam.  The age old phrase of "breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dine like a pauper" is the principle here, and translates into Spanish too!

So for our breakfast, we were presented with fresh nectarine juice, tomales and catfish soup, with a homemade salsa on the side.  The tomales was made with chicken and pork, including a few bones and fat for flavouring, with corn and rice, wrapped in plantain leaves.  It tasted good, but even better when we added some salsa - the fresh chilli, lime and coriander coming through beautifully.  A much better experience of the dish than when presented to us on the first morning.

We ate fruits we'd never heard of, and Loon was so knowledgeable, the whole combination of walking through the streets to each experience was fabulous.  It was also all so local, so we could come back again off our own backs.   I mean who would want to miss trying the "big bottomed ants"!!!!

happy days

drinks and cake to finish off a perfect day

Day 4 - Botero Museum

What a find this was, I'm not normally one for art, but wow this was amazing, even the kids loved it.  Botero is a Colombian national treasure, born in Medellin, and we spent hours here.  His style is kinda fat things, that's from a simpleton's point of view, but what's not to love about a fat horse!  This museum also houses art by Renoir, Toulouse Leutrec, Leger and Monet - possibly other famous artists, but these were the ones I had heard of.


Day 5 - Walking Graffiti Tour

We have a copy of this in
our living room at home.
We met in the centre of Bogota, having seen stickers all over the City advertising this walking Grafitti tour, and thought it would be perfect for the kids too.   The tour is free, with a suggested donation at the end, and it was well worth it. 
he guide was chatty and engaging, and told us all about the artists, some of whom travel around the world making their mark.  He also told us about the little stickers and "marks" you see, what they mean, and what to look out for as we wander around ourselves,   A wonderful day, yet again,
I can't believe we did so much, looking back, but the smile on my face whilst writing this, and looking through pictures, my face is actually starting to ache, and we didn't even know what was yet to look ahead to.

never knew what these apparent "random"
stickers meant.
This was on the side of a hotel.

There was so much detail given, but I don't want to give too much away either, but I love the fact that artists respect each other, and would not dream of going over another artist's work. 

The lady with the butterfly in her mouth, that was apparently due to this grattifi artists' boyfriend went off with another grafitti artist known for her butterflies. you can work the rest out!

We were able to get ice creams for the kids during it, just nipping into a shop, and still keeping up.  All ages were covered, and you get the bonus (again) of walking round the streets and getting to know more of the City at the same time.

Suffice to say we saw a lot of Bogota, and got the most out of it.  I've only really skimmed the surface, there was also a Gold museum, big bottomed ants to eat, a lot of fried food (not liked so much), tried my first Subway, amazing buildings, colours, and the Pope was due to visit so you could buy various paraphanalia!   We came back again towards the end of our trip,  So will update again with the cycling tour that Chris and the kids did.

But from here we said goodbye to Bogota, and looked forward to our next Colombian adventure.  Watch this space......
Annie x

Sunday 3 February 2019

Travelling COLOMBIA with Kids - Yes South America, NOT Columbia!

I still see it being spelt Columbia
on maps

With news that Colombia was safer to travel to now, we grabbed at the chance to experience tourism here in its infancy, and cannot recommend highly enough.
It was 2017, and we were travelling as a  well travelled family of 4 - Chris, myself, Jasper (13) and Scarlett (9).   We booked the flights in January, with plans to travel for just over 3 weeks in August 2017. 
We made up our own itinerary, then booked our accommodation and internal flights etc. from the UK, whilst leaving us some wriggle room if we wanted to change the itinerary en route.
In the words of the kids Best.Trip.Ever!!!!

Our Itinerary was:
Bogota, bus to
Villa De Leyva, ancient sites and Terracotta House
Pereira, coffee country, how could you not!, bus to
Medellin, incl. Nutibara Hill, Penol, mountain climb and zip wire! Guatape
San Andres, boat to
Providensia, boat to
San Andres, flight back to

I'll blog about each of the destinations we went to separately, to save you hauling through all of the places we visited, but will start with some basic, and hopefully, useful information.

Currency: The local currency is Colombian Pesos, which you won't be able to get before you go.  A lot of things may be priced in US$ but we took some and weren't able to spend them (same happened in Peru so should have guessed that, but didn't want to chance it).   It is also a tad confusing as the Peso sign is very similar to the Dollar sign!

At the time of travel (August 2017) 1US$ was around 3000 Pesos, and we got 1.290 $ to the £!   Clear as mud, maybe not but you can do the sums when you go.

Cash Machines and Debit Cards: We used cash machines - cajero automatic - without a problem. They generally max the amount you can take out daily, minimum 600,000 most we saw was 780,000. There was sometimes a charge on top of around 4000 pesos, but at around £1 not too bothered, and made sense to take out the most we could each time.
We used our debit cards in the Supermarkets (Exito was a major supermarket in a few of the areas), and in some restaurants no problem, but check first at some of the more local restaurants in the more rural areas.

Toilets: Toilets - BaƱos - there is often a charge to use the toilets, around 1000 pesos, and they will often give you a small supply of toilet paper each time, or you will find them on a roll inside - so make sure you are sorted for supply before you go into the actual toilets. Having said that, they were all very clean, no complaints there.

Altitude Sickness - we didn't look into this before we went, but we did meet 1 man in Bogota who was suffering with it.  Though we all had a mild "thick head" for a few days, not uncomfortable, in hindsight might well have experienced a bit, but we all managed to get by.
There is coca leaf tea available, which was also widely available in Peru, and you can google yourself as to what it may or may not contain?

Getting around - we used a combination of busses, boats and planes, very easy to book, though Chris speaks Spanish which obviously helped, but the local people are so lovely and welcoming, and desperate for tourism.
Accommodation was booked from the UK, using, which gives you some flexibiliy of course,  I'll detail where we stayed on each post.

Ask away if you plan similar and have any questions or concerns.

Otherwise, thanks for reading.