Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Guasca, Colombia and its beautiful church

The Colombian town of Guasca is a hidden gem. It's situated a little higher than the towns that surround it on the northern outskirts of Bogotá. It's not on the main road and you have to drive out of the way to get there, fortunately only about 2 kilometers. If you leave Bogotá by the mountain road that goes toward La Calera and continue on as if you were going to Guatavita, you can turn off where the sign indicates Guasca. When we went, we didn't stay long, just enough to take in the pretty views that were the result of this city being on a small hill above the others. Also noteworthy was the church that occupied a prominent place in the plaza, especially as the whole plaza was sloped uphill and the church sat at the top. I just loved the interior of this church, which looked very well maintained.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Joys of the "Almuerzo Típico"

I am always blown away by the large portions of food that I get when I travel in Colombia. This is what you would call an "almuerzo típico" (literally translated "typical lunch"). Aside from the steak, beans, plantain chips, rice, potato, tomatoes, and blackberry juice ("jugo de mora") pictured here, the meal starts out with a soup of the day. The soup could be, for example, a pasta soup or a broth with some meat and potatoes mixed in. All this together sold for $2.25!
In Colombia itself, the almuerzo típico sometimes suffers from an image problem. Often - and I found this out very early in my travels there - some of the locals, judging by the crowds, seem to prefer eating at a hamburger place because of its suggestion of an American eating experience, and usually pay more for what I think is inferior food. It may be human nature to prefer those products that seem out of the ordinary even when they aren't better than one's own.
There is at least one exception to this rule, however. Colombians, and people from many other parts of the world as well, don't like to rush their meals unless they're absolutely forced to. I recall that when some of my in-laws came up from Colombia and visited New York with us, the biggest culture shock for them was something I never would have imagined. It happened when we were driving through Manhattan and we saw a man standing on the sidewalk eating a hamburger. They were absolutely astonished to see him finish it in five bites!