La Candelaria

18th July 2015

Today’s adventure started with my first bus ride!!

I wanted to visit La Candelaria, the old city of Bogota and asked the guy in the hostel to order me a taxi as I couldn’t be bothered to walk downtown.  “Why a taxi” he asked, “why not take the bus?”  Well now, I’d been warned against buses but thought if he’s advising me to take public transport and he works in a hostel, then it must be ok :-).

Telling me which buses to get and the direction of the bus station, I again set off nervously.

The bus station is not like an English one.  The buses are double the length of our single story buses and the platforms line up in the middle of the road and are similar to the Jubilee line platforms. Imagine being on a tube/overground platform which serves several destinations and the buses swoop in like a tube and swoop out again – a bit like a Disney cartoon – you only have seconds to get on them before the doors shut and they zoom off to their next stop.

I managed to buy my ticket at the booth in Spanish (big pat on the back for me) but was advised to take a different bus.  I thought the ticket inspector must know better than the youth hostel worker so did as she suggested.

Eventually I found the right doors on the platform and queued up.  In the bus swooped and I was shoved from pillar to post by everyone trying to get on in the 30 seconds the doors were open.  So thrilling!

Just like the tube, everyone crowds round the doors so I made my way to the front of the bus and found a seat.  Watching the destinations come and go on the ticker machine, my map clutched in my hand, I followed the stops.  I started to realise that the bus wasn’t quite going in my direction and I was unsure where to get off.  I asked the lady next to me who was putting on her make up, in halting Spanish, what I should do and was answered back in a barrage of fast, musical notes.  I didn’t understand a word!

Luckily, opposite me, was an English speaking 50-something Colombian woman who said she would show me where to go.  She said it was dangerous to walk on my own through Calle 10 because of muggers/pick pockets.

To be honest I wouldn’t have thought it was dangerous – it was incredibly crowded as everyone was out shopping and it wasn’t the poshest place on earth but it was full of locals knowing where they were going and what they were doing so a blonde haired, pale skinned tourist would’ve stuck out like a sore thumb to any would-be attacker.

What a lovely lady she was, so warm and friendly, and I gave her a big hug at the end when she deposited me at Plaza del Bolivar.

Directly in front of me was the beautiful Catedral Primada de Colombia, the largest catholic cathedral in Colombia and one of the biggest in South America. Also in the square is the Palace of Justice with its turbulent past, the National Capitol which seats the Colombian Congress and the impressive Lievano building which seats Bogota’s mayor. Presiding over all of the impressive buildings is the statue of Simon Bolivar, the Venezuelan born military leader who helped free Colombia from Spanish rule.

I saw my first lima (or was it an alpaca) and for a fee you can ride on them (a bit like the donkeys at Blackpool beach!).

I spent most of the morning just wandering around.  I love to wander and like getting lost.  Luckily La Candelaria is full of small cobbled streets, neighbourhood squares, its on a grid system and its full of backpacker accommodation, tourists and yes, locals live there too!  There’s also no fear of mugging!

Its a really peaceful part of the city.  Most of the time I felt like I was the only person walking around.  It’s really arty, colourful, alternative and has its own vibe.  Part of me wished that I had booked to stay here as its such a chilled place.

In the afternoon I joined a graffiti tour with (originally) the Bogota Graffiti Tour.

We met beside the domed monument at Parque de los Periodistas and there must have been about 30 of us!  This was going to be a slightly different tour to the food one!

The guy who took the tour was incredibly knowledgeable about all the local artists and he took us all around La Candelaria showing us the most amazing graffiti.

However, I found the tour too big and felt like I was a schoolchild being herded by a teacher – we got told off on numerous occasions for hogging the pavements, not walking quickly enough and generally getting on the locals’ nerves.  Not the experience I wanted.

I don’t know whether this was because I was jet lagged, tired and irritable or whether I am just a stroppy English girl who doesn’t like being dictated to by anyone.  I especially don’t like being commanded to by an arrogant American man who liked to ram down our throats at every given opportunity how the tour was free but because he was the curator, had the knowledge and the artists trusted him, we (pretty much) had to give him a fee at the end.  Seriously man, we’re intelligent human beings and being told once is enough.

I’d also suggest that if over 30 people is a usual amount, then they should hold two or three tours at the same time and go to different areas so there’s no overlap.  But, saying that, the fees won’t all go to the curator then.  Miaow.

Feeling walked out once the tour had finished, I braved it and hailed a taxi.  I know, I know!  It goes against the advice I was given by my Colombian friends but really, downtown Bogota didn’t seem that dangerous to me at all.  The taxi that pulled over was driven by a man who could’ve been my dad so I felt perfectly safe and I got back to La Pinta in one piece.

I had a party to go to and needed all my energy for making merry!

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