For some reason, my fingers just want to make this Columbia, not Colombia. Muscle memory is difficult to retrain.
We found Rolando’s apartment through MisterBandB, a gay version of AirBnB. We needed a place for 12 nights, but his was already booked for the first two nights we needed. He arranged for us to stay at his friend’s apartment, in the Chapinero district. The friend is in the US. Chapinero is on the other side of the city.
Bogota has few named streets. They use Calle for streets that run east and west and the north and south streets are Carrera. Now to a New Yorker, this may make perfect sense and create ease of movement. Then there are those of us who are geographically impaired and find a compass without colored pictures more than challenging. Amazing I made it all the way through Boy Scouts. To me, a map is just another piece of abstract art.
Because we arrived after midnight at the friend’s apartment, we were not too frisky the next day. We did go out to explore the neighborhood trying to find some of the places Rolando suggested were close by. However, after traveling all day and then arriving late, most of the advice he gave us could have been in code. There was a three percent retention rate.
Within a block was a stunning church; I refer to the outside architecture only. The fence around the entrance kept us from going in to see the interior. The guard that kept sending people away was another deterrent as well.
A poor homeless man was walking with his dog, both dressed in Santa gear, most likely to garner generosity from others. At one point, the dog stopped following his master. The man could not coax the dog to follow, so finally left him. After some time, the dog must have had second thoughts and caught up.
The next day, we did walk down the major street called Carrera Séptima, which runs through the entire city. Considered the most important street for culture, history and economy, it is a major artery for crossing the city. We were looking for an English bookstore that had gotten a few hundred excellent reviews, but we left without the exact address. After walking for a couple of miles, Calle by Calle passing by, Ron stopped in EnglishWay English Language School to ask for directions. There was not a soul in there that spoke English, so he had to resort to using his truncated Spanish. And we were off again.
Apparently, they do not use the word ‘mall’ here. We asked dozens of people, including police officers where the mall was located. We thought Rolando told us there was one in this direction. No one knew the word ‘mall’. In Spanish, I tried ‘many stores under one roof’, ‘lots of shopping’, ‘big stores’, ‘many restaurants’, but they all drew blank looks or directions to find wild geese.
We never did find the mall, but we did find a bookstore where the clerk informed us that the Author’s Bookstore, the one we were hunting down, closed permanently. This seemed incredible considering the reviews it had received and the fact that it hosted a writer’s group for the last ten years. Grieving another loss of a privately owned bookstore, we marched onward.
Finally reaching Parque Museo del Chicó, we rested in the park among the flowers and trees, but did not seek out the museum. When it was time to return, we had a great sense of how far we walked. When looking for something in particular, the miles melt away unnoticed, but when the adventure is over, the return is not as titillating. There were some graphics on walls along the way to divert our attention shortly, but this was about it. There are hundreds of buses on this route, but they all require a pre-paid card, but no place to buy one along our way.
By the time we returned to the apartment, Rolando was ready for us to move. He graciously offered to meet us to help with the luggage. Since we were on the fourth floor, we accepted with much gratitude. I had tried getting an Uber taxi, but to no avail. The address where we were kept changing each time I was ready to put the order in. Rolando did it on his account successfully.
Our second long-term apartment is pleasantly located on the first floor in the La Candelaria district, which is the historic center of the city. The place is supreme. At the apartment, entering into the dining and living area, it is a long and slightly narrow room. Ahead is a wall with two doorways with a small vertical hallway on the other side. To the left is another long hallway that goes the length of the apartment. The kitchen sits off this hallway, with the next room being a bedroom with a full bathroom. At the end of the hallway is a washtub for cleaning. To the right of the first hall the first room is a small study with a desk and chair. Beyond this is a second bedroom, with a full bathroom adjoining it. It is immaculately clean and comfortable.
Rolando gave us a walking tour of the neighborhood, but again there was a retention issue. He walked us in a giant circle, but weaving in and out of different streets along the way, thus causing us to lose our orientation. Rolando was pointing out things that would be useful like grocery stores and places to visit. The fact that it was now dark out did not help matters. However, he is an exceptional host and has been most pleasant to deal with. He did show us where the tourism office is located,so we will make this first on the list for a visit.
Final note: When we returned to the apartment after looking for the Author’s Bookstore, I did find evidence that there was a battle between owners and it did indeed close permanently.