Sunday, November 26, 2017

Dinner at the Club Colombia Restaurante

Inside the restaurant
For my last night in Bogotá, I wanted to eat someplace nice.  The guy sitting next to me on the flight down from Panama City had recommended the Club Colombia.  It's sometimes good policy to listen to strangers on airplanes.  This was one of those times.

Bogotá was lit up for Christmas.

A short, quick walk of about 20 blocks or so, and here I was:

The Restaurante Club Colombia.  It wasn't easy to find as it is set back from the street, with no signage, and not really well-lit.  It's like a secret hideout:

But in actuality it's got that "old school" charm:

Dark lighting.  Dark wood.  Red walls.  Reminds me of the "old Vegas" restaurants.

The appetizer was fried plantains with a side sauce that I couldn't quite place at first.  It looked tomato-ish in the dark light, but it had no tomato flavor.  It looked like a jam of some sort on the thin, crisp plantain, but the flavor was too piquant for a fruit jam.  But I knew that flavor.  It was beets.  It was a beet puree.  And it was pretty good.

As you can see, I'm having a beer.  "Club Colombia" is a prominent national beer and this is their restaurant.  It seemed only fitting to have one of their cervezas.  I had the "roja," because.

For dinner:

The sobrebarriga, a flank steak, cooked for eight hours and served in a criollo sauce.  Yes, that's a flank steak, or four of them, piled up.  A "criollo" sauce is usually finely chopped tomatoes and onions.  This had been cooked down to smooth.  It actually tasted like my mother's tomato soup-based sauce for stuffed peppers and sarma.

It came served with a side order of roasted potatoes served in the same sauce.  Between the steak, the beets, and a sarma-tasting sauce, this is exotic food from a foreign country I could've had my parents eat.

For dessert:

Merengón.  Awesome.  It was two merengue cookies, topped with cream, served with guanabana and raspberries.  I am all about the guanabana.  In the U.S., we can only get guanabana as little cans of juice in the Mexican food aisle.  In Colombia, it is everywhere.  (Guanabana ice cream?  Yes, please!)  And it is delicious.  The merengón?  Messy, but delicious. 

The place filled up when I was there.  Colombians aren't quite Argentines when it comes to dining late, but this place filled up when it got to the nine o'clock hour.

And on the walk back to the hotel, I saw one of these:

This was my first and only Starbucks sighting in three trips to Colombia.  The local "Juan Valdez" chain keeps this country almost Starbucks-free.  It's on the list of reasons I love Colombia.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

The Surreal Parque Jaime Duque

Surrealism sensory overload
Parque Jaime Duque is not like anywhere else on earth that I know of.  It's like a low budget Disneyland, only more hallucinogenically surreal, but with lessons in the history of Colombia, the history of man, and the life story of Jaime Duque.

I can't believe I've been to Colombia three times and this was only my first time here.

I mean it's got it's own Taj Mahal.  EPCOT can't top that.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.  Let's start at the very beginning.  A very good place to start.

The parking lot.

You enter through the Condor House, Edificio El Condor, so named because there is a giant condor statue on the roof.  Andean Condors are sort of theme here.

And so is this:

You pay your money and, right there, is a bust of Jaime Duque.  The first of many.  The place is lousy with statues, busts and portraits of Jaime Duque.  There are probably more artistic renditions of Jaime Duque in this one park than there is of Walt Disney himself in Disneys Land and World combined.  Admission is cheap:  $29,000.  Colombian pesos.  That's about $10 US for the general admission, $13 US if you want the upgraded admission that let's you ride the rides.  I didn't know this until it was too late.

It's Christmas in Parque Jaime Duque.

First stop:  Taj Mahal:

The hand holding the globe really is supposed to make you think of that old Sunday school song, "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands."

Monumento a Dios.  Monument to God.

Easy juxtaposition.

Ooops.  That's right.  We were heading for the Taj Mahal:

Not sure of the reason for the hands around the tree, but it works for me.

Inside the Taj Mahal are reproductions of great scenes in history and great works of art:

This one, says the description on the side, is in the Louvre:

And then there's the Museo Jaime Duque, a whole museum dedicated to the person who built this park.  Top that, Walt.

Here we see Jaime Duque as a child:

This plane is in here because Jaime Duque was involved in transatlantic aviation in the 1940s.

Apparently he owned Buicks in the 1970s.

Not sure why this train replica was in here, but like everything else in Parque Jaime Duque, why not?

Explanations were all in Spanish.  This park does not get me English-speaking tourists.

Outside the museum, but still in the Taj Mahal, they were giving Christmas presents out to all the good little niños y niñas.

Then it was up to the second floor of the Taj Mahal for a cyclorama on the history of Colombia.  Again, all in Spanish.

What I'm learning is that the history of Colombia seemed to consist of a lot of people gathering in squares with their arms aloft.

And it all culminates with naked men and women flying through the air holding banners:

I'm suspecting the real Taj Mahal, the one in India, doesn't have one of these on its second floor.

Next up, literally "up," to the third floor, is "Gigantes Pequeños."  

It's a bunch of giant bugs.

Meet the Dengue Fever mosquito, coming to a bathtub near you.  And here's the scorpion:

I loved this one.  It's a praying mantis.  The name in Spanish is "mantis religiosa," religious mantis.

Lots of people in here enjoying the giant bugs:

Back to the first floor of the Taj Mahal.

Again, can you believe that none of this great stuff is in the one in India?

Next stop, the giant naked man who looks like the Statue of Liberty if the Statue of Liberty were naked.  And a man.

But, of course, there is surrealistically cool stuff to see along the way.  Like a train ride and a boat ride I couldn't take because I bought only a $29,000 admission ticket and not the $39,000 ticket.

This ride is "coffee cups."  Colombian coffee cups.  So there's no intellectual property issue with an American-based theme park referenced earlier:

Bumper cars!

A rocket.  Because why not.

A carousel.

Angry dinosaurs.

Again, because why not.

And, finally, the naked man Statue of Liberty thing:

Turns out, this is not a surrealistic, gender-bent, pornographic Statue of Liberty.

This is the Colossus of Rhodes.

This is the entrance to the replicas of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World:

Temple of Zeus:

Lighthouse of Alexandria:

I guess Mr. Duque ran out of money because some of the seven wonders are depicted just as paintings, albeit with interesting but unrelated topiary in front.

That was the Temple of Artemis.

These half-man, half-gryphons are just part of the scenery.

And here's King Tut.  Again, because why not.

 The Hanging Gardens of Babylon:

Beautiful setting, straight up.

And now it's time to visit the land of the dinosaurs:

People-eating dinosaurs:

Children love to play in the open mouths of dinosaurs.  And their parents let them!

No helicopter parents these!

These are the coolest giant dinosaurs south of Cabazon.  Maybe better than anything outside Vernal, Utah.

Although, like Cabazon, this does have a walk-through dinosaur:

This one looks menacing:

Again, who doesn't enjoy playing in the open mouth of a dinosaur?

At this point, it's time to start wandering the park to see what's next.

It's the monument to all of the peoples who built Colombia:

The laborer, por ejemplo:

Or the miner:

And just of to the side, the soldier:

It doesn't take many steps before you something weird:

Paddleboats juxtaposed against a medieval castle.


And Simon Bolivar, who's strangely inaccessible.  That's the closest I could get.


Because who doesn't enjoy some kayaking when visiting a theme park.  Whose "theme" is hallucinogens.

This is a very low-tech ride, kids in cars being towed by a small tractor.

It doesn't take fancy-fancy to make the kids happy.

Off to Mar Caribe, the Caribbean Sea.

The galleon (above) can (and will) be boarded.  The destroyer cannot.

And, like the destroyer, the Avianca airplane cannot be boarded, either.

Another view of the un-boardable Destroyer Cordoba:

And the boardable galleon:

In the lower deck of the galleon are scenes from Colombian naval history, such as this:

The very blood siege of Cartagena.  Not very Disney-fied, is it?

So kayaks:

And medieval armored guards guarding paddleboats:

Sadly, the time for the medieval castle wasn't moving and I had to meet my driver at 4:30 p.m.

So I moved on:

To the Museum of Man:

It started with the Big Bang, then through australopithecus and Neanderthal, to Cro-Magnun, to the era of recorded history.  China, for example, building the Great Wall around 200 B.C.  ("B.C., not "BCE," because as you would probably guess I was made that way.)

The Persians, who for some reason were naked and hairless:

The Phoenicians:

Chichen Itza being built by the Aztecs:

And more and more and more.  Those are just a few examples.

Time ran out on me and that was all the Parque Jaime Duque I had time for.