Laura greeted me at the door, welcomed me into her spacious apartment, and introduced me to Juliana, her roommate. They had known each other from childhood, having both grown up in Cali. Tired from the long travel day, my body still operating on Spanish time, I kept it low key the first night by chatting, using their wonderful wi-fi internet access, and watching The Simpsons in Spanish.
My first night at Laura’s was comfortable, but I didn’t get much sleep. I awoke around 2am local time (8am Madrid time), and only slept intermittently thereafter. It was some of the worst jetlag I’d experienced on my trip. Juliana left for her first day of the new semester at university. She’s majoring in architecture, while Laura started out with art and has since moved to international law. Her classes begin the following week, so she would have time to show me around.
We headed out mid-morning. I wanted to try the Trans-Millenia bus, the city’s alternative to building a metro. It was crowded, a little more costly than the normal buses, but fast. Our first stop was the Juan Valdez cafe in La Candelaria district. The JV cafes are Colombia’s version of Starbucks, which has yet to open shop in Colombia, though Laura said it was a possibility for the future (less for the coffee, more because it was symbolic of American culture). Needless to say, the coffee was good.
We then wandered through several interconnected museums…all free. What a concept! I had fun trying to improve my Spanish by using visual cues in the paintings to translate the titles. Laura helped when I got stuck. Between art galleries, and Spanish-dubbed episodes of The Simpsons, there’s hope for me yet! I really enjoyed the Fernando Botero collection. As Colombia’s most famous artist, he donated not only his own work but part of his private collection which was extensive, including works by Picasso, Degas, Dali, and Monet. We walked through the Mint museum too, seeing two jewel-encrusted, golden sculptures (housed in their own vault room) and plenty of coins.
Laura’s friend Laura met up with us back at the cafe and we walked to the Plaza de Bolivar. It was filled with pigeons, and uncharacteristically I was told, a band playing live music. I had already shared with Laura my focus on food, and she made sure to steer us into a restaurant offering the typical regional cuisine. I liked the background music. I chose the traditional soup with tender shredded chicken, potatoes, onions, and cream. It arrived with a side of avocado and rice, the perfect accompaniment. The serving sizes were huge, an neither the Laura’s, nor I, could finish half of what was given to us.
After lunch, we walked around another part of the city where the bullfighting stadium was located, but the rain was putting a damper on our walk so we returned to Laura’s apartment via the regular bus, which was more comfortable than the Trans-Millenia, but far slower. The night was spent the same as the first, watching TV and hanging out. Again, I found myself awake at 2am from the jetlag, too tired to get up and not tired enough to fully fall asleep again.