Monday, December 12, 2011


For Thanksgiving break Jenna and I got a great deal through Exito Travel on a combo package of a flight and all-inclusive beachfront hotel in Cartagena so we decided to take our first trip to the coast here in Colombia. We were accompanied by Heather and David who we have known since our Honduras days for the weekend. Our hotel was located in Bocagrande and provided us the great views of the beach below.

Closeup of the old city from out our hotel window.

Heather leaning out her window from the room next door to check out the sunset.

The draw for most visitors to Cartagena is the old walled city built by the Spanish when they colonized Colombia. We spent part of a couple days there checking out all the old architecture, narrow streets, and beauty of the place.

Photo Op on the walk from the hotel over to the old city.

View toward a beautiful cathedral in the old city from the waterfront.

This was a low part of the wall... just for a little bit of scale.

I love this style of building which lined the narrow streets. The wooden overhanging balconies and large wooden doors were mostly well-maintained or restored in the old city.

Mom and Dad this picture is for you! Check out the name of this jewelry store!

Headquarters of the Spanish Inquisition in Colombia. Apparently there is a tour you can take through this place where they show you all the devices used to torture people, but unfortunately I didn't read about this tour until I got back to Bogota... next time I guess.

More narrow streets with beautiful buildings.

Jenna and Heather walking on the wall.

The gathering of people up ahead there is the Cafe del Mar which is a very pricey bar/restaurant built on top of the wall to the city. It was however a perfect place to grab a bottle of wine and watch the sunset over the Caribbean!

Jenna, Heather, and David waiting for the vino.

Wine + Sunset + Old Cannon = Beautiful

Some nifty looking lights on the walls of the old city after dark.

There was also an old fort built on a hill overlooking the old city which was of course used to guard against any invaders. After declining the tour guides and the audio devices to tell us about the fort, we decided to make up our own stories of the history of the place and had quite a good time at it. I won't share our silly stories, but it certainly made the visit interesting.

There were lots of tunnels in the fort to explore... almost all of which I could stand up in. Shocking!

At the top of the fort enjoying the views.

Apparently the fort was built onto a very large rocky hill so that it was naturally very easy to defend.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Downtown Bogota

A few weekends ago Jenna and I went to check out downtown Bogota for the first time (which is kind of sad given that we have been here since the end of July) with our own personal tour guide Guillo. He is from Bogota and was eager to tell us about all of the history that happened there and I quite honestly can't remember all of it so I'll throw out a few facts here but let the pictures do most of the talking.

The Plaza Bolivar is full of action pretty much all the time. There are protests, celebrations, and just lots of people coming to mull around in general almost any day of the week so even though it was rainy there were plenty of people around. The building on the left here is the Congress and I can't remember what the one on the right is. I'm sure by now that giant metal thing in the middle has been turned into a Christmas tree!

The little house on the street corner here off one corner of the Plaza Bolivar is apparently where part of the independence movement here in Colombia started in 1810.

This is the Palace of Justice on the north end of the plaza. The palace is famous for the siege which took place here in 1985 where the M19 guerillas took over the palace and ended up killing 11 of the 25 supreme court justices. Let's not dwell on the violent path any more so if you want to know more about this click here.

The Plaza Bolivar is of course named for Simon Bolivar and there are plenty of connections to him here in Bogota including a house where he lived and a window he escaped from when word got to him that a group of people were coming to assassinate him. The house was on one of the many streets just like this one, however by the time we got there it was raining too hard to take any more pictures.

The first observatory in South America (or maybe all of the Americas... can't really remember).

The presidential palace is located just a little bit south of the Plaza Bolivar and just to the left of the observatory in the above picture.

There seem to be about a million old churches in the old downtown area and this is just one of the prettier ones.

A view towards the eastern mountains, a statue of some other famous guy I can't remember the name of, and yet another old church.

Don't take my lack of memory as a sign that I was not impressed with the downtown and its history. I was thoroughly impressed and am looking forward to going back, it's just that there was so much information and so much history that it was overwhelming. Even after 4.5 years in Latin America the history and interactions of places with the Spanish conquistadors and then their subsequent fight for independence from Spain are still fascinating topics.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Funny Student Conversation

I have to share a funny student conversation from today. In my last class of the day today two girls were sitting in the front desk working on their homework assignment while the rest of the class was chatting quietly and working at the same time. Girl #1 had spilled some juice in her backpack and was also trying to clean/dry it out while working on her assignment. She is a rather vocal student and after cleaning the bag and complaining quietly about her wet notebook she said quite loudly "Man I hate juice." The entire class went silent and Girl #2 who was sitting at the desk with her paused for a moment before a bewildered look came over her face and she said, "What did you say?" Girl #1 said, "It just made all of my stuff dirty and wet." Girl #2 looked very confused and then one of their classmates started laughing really hard. With her accent, it sounded like Girl #1 had said, "Man I hate Jews." Girl #2 is Jewish. You can understand her shock. Thankfully they are friends and once the misunderstanding was cleared up we all got a good laugh out of the situation!