Sunday, September 9, 2012

Day Cuatro: Up to Usaquén

The grand entrance
Day Cuatro of La Gran Aventura Colombiana is acabado. Finito. Finished.

This was a mostly rainy, mostly lazy day. It rains a lot in Bogotá. But, like Seattle, the rain is not a deterrent to outdoor activity.  I had the option of heading southward, to the downtown, maybe take the funicular up to Monserrate.  Or I could northward to upscale barrio of Usaquén.

I decided to head northward because a large number of roads in Bogotá are blocked off on Sundays.  For pedestrians and bicyclists. They surrender the core of their mega-city to Las Bicicletas one day a week. Considering the traffic down there, that's great for the people who live there.  But what about us turistas?  What about our needs?  I wasn't sure of the logistics of traveling down south to the central part of town, so I cabbed it up to Usaquén to check it out the Sunday flea market.  It was just a 15 minute cab ride.  But the rains started just as the cab pulled into Usaquén.

The place was crowded and wet:

Scenes from a flea market
There were booths selling food.  There were booths selling clothing.  Their were LOTS of booths selling decorative kitsch.  With the rain falling, I probably should have patronized the mobile coffee man:

More scenes of a flea market: the Coffee Man
Wandering the streets of the flea market with a tank of coffee strapped to his back.  Come to think of it, that really would be a good way to make it through a work day, wouldn't it?  A tank of coffee strapped to your back?

Most people planned better than me and brought their umbrellas.
Still more scenes of a flea market
I could tell this was an upscale part of town.  Instead of the little tiny cars found in other parts of Bogotá, in this neighborhood I saw a huge number of SUVs, plus Audis, BMWs and Volvos.  I wandered over to the Santa Barbara church to check out mass times:

Santa Barbara church in Usaquén
Too late for the early masses;  way too early for the evening masses.  One thing I noticed in front of the church, as the noon mass let out, was this bicyclist:

The rollerblading bicyclist waits for church to empty
Look at his feet.  A bicycle AND rollerblades.  (A) Choose one set of wheels and stick to it.  (B) How the Hades does one pedal a bicycle with rollerblades on your feet.  I guess you can just glide along with your feet on the ground.  And that would work well on the downward slopes.  But for every downhill in Bogotá, there's an equivalent and brutal uphill.  And you're going to need to pedal for that.

After getting tired of being rained on, I decided to have a late lunch.  As I said, this is the cosmopolitan side of town.  The food options were many:  Italian, Argentine, Mexican.  Perhaps a faux British pub, such as the London Calling Pub.  Maybe the Bogota Brewing Company, as the brew-pub scene comes to South America.

While I was intrigued at the thought of what a hot-spice-hating people would do with Mexican Food, I opted for Colombian.  After all, I'm in Colombia and, when I travel, that's the only part of the whole "eat local" movement that I buy into.  The Maracca Parrilla (Parrilla = Grill) looked interesting.  It had a singer-guitarist playing who sounded good and was not too loud.*  So I stopped in there:
Inside the Maracca Parrilla
I ordered the sobrebarriga a la criolla, which came with "papa sour," an arepa, and a salad:

Sobrebarriga a la criolla
"Sobrebarriga" is a skirt steak, the part of the cow that is better known to Los Americanos as "fajita meat."  The "a la criolla" referred to the mild but tasty tomato/onion sauce that seems to recur frequently in Colombian cuisine.  The "papa sour" was just roasted potatoes with a generous dollop of sour cream.  The salad was weird.  It had peas on it and mushy carrots in it.  Salad fail.

But the rest of the meal was quite good and very filling.  Not "Sanalejo" good, mind you.  What is?  But it was a delicious bit o' cow.

After I finished my leisurely-paced meal, I saw that the sun had come out.  And the crowd around the flea market got bigger and livelier:
Scenes from a flea market
Even the Balloon Man on Stilts seemed happier with the sun out:

Balloon Man. Now on Stilts!

Footnote *:  Of course the guitar player at the restaurant was not going to be "too loud."  Colombia is the softest-speaking country I've yet been to.  Colombianos are not just very friendly and very polite, they speak softly.  You can in a room crowded with Colombians and you can hear yourself think.  It's very noce.  Unlike every other people in the world, a roomful of Colombians is not loud, distracting or deafening.  Waiters and waitresses are borderline "low talkers," for you Seinfeld fans out there.  A loud talker such as me is quite the alien presence.

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