Cartagena 2018

As part of our saying goodbye to Colombia, we took one last weekend trip to Cartagena where we stayed at the Santa Clara hotel, a former nunnery dating back to 1621, saw a plethora of birds at the Aviario Nacional de Colombia, enjoyed the beach of Playa Blanca, and sweat like crazy as we walked through the streets of the old city — in preparation for the humidity to come in Texas.

Below are some pics from our trip. To view the entire album click here.

Annika Riding On Her Own

Annika is already able to ride a bike on her own (for the most part), thanks to her Strider bike, but it also helps to have someone show her the way like her friend Lexi.  Unfortunately, Lexi and her family's time here in Bogotá has come to an end and we had a little play date picnic to say goodbye.

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Such is life as a diplomat...  

Parents Visit Bogotá

We were happy to host my parents who flew down to pay us a little visit.  We took them to Andres Carne de Res, Monserrat, Plaza Bolívar, Casa de Nariño, and Usaquen. We made an attempt to visit the town of Guatavita which failed due to road constructions and delays.  We did manage to find a scenic off-road route through the mountains that took us back down to Bogotá.

In addition, my parents got to experience a little bit of our life here as diplomats.  We introduced them to our friends and took them to the U.S. Embassy, Annika's school and swim school, showed them areas near our home, and, more importantly, spent quality time at home.  Annika misses not letting her Abuelo nap in the chair and Abuela's hugs and kisses.

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Matarredonda Ecological Park

Just a 45 minute drive from our place -- up a windy road along the Eastern Hills -- is the Matarredonda Ecological Park.  At ~11,200 feet above sea level, the park contains two unique eco systems: Andean cloud forest and Páramo (part of the Cruz Verde Páramo).   We hiked along one of the main trails in the park, a relatively flat trail called camino real allegedly set by the Muiscas and later by the Spanish Conquistadors that connected the Eastern Hills and Bogota.  We hiked along this trail and stopped briefly for lunch while enjoying the beautiful views of the páramo with the clouds rolling up the mountains.  Living in the city has unfortunately made Annika slightly uncomfortable with the experiences of hiking.  The trail was filled with rocks, flowing water, mud, and sponge like grass but she managed to enjoy it for the most part till about 45 minutes into the hike her foot sank so deep in the mud that it got inside her boots and her pants.  With Annika partly wet and the temperature dropping to the upper 40s, we decided to head back.  We still managed to hike for a couple of hours or roughly 2 miles though.  We hope to get Annika back out there soon.

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Heading back after a little spill
Back in good spirits
Puchi's perspective
Nigh Nigh!

Halloween at the Embassy

Got a lot of catching up to do as it has been a bit since our last post.  For Halloween, we headed to the US Embassy for a little trick or treating.  Embassy was very kind in keeping with this tradition so that American's posted abroad can participate, although, Bogota also celebrates Halloween, or Dia de los Niños as it is called here.  Annika was dressed as a mariposa.

Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá

Just outside of Bogota is a town called Zipaquirá known for an underground Roman Catholic church built within the tunnels of a salt mine.  Before the church was built, the miners had carved a sanctuary as a place for their daily prayers before going to work.  Construction of the church began in 1950 and was completed in 1954, and dedicated to Our Lady of Rosary, Patron saint of miners.  With Suzan in town, we decided to do something touristy and took her out for a short adventure.

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Isla de Providencia

For the July 4th (long) weekend, we travelled to Providencia, a small Caribbean island that's close to Nicaragua but officially part of Colombia. Annika took to the calm beaches and warm water...and enjoyed seafood at every meal--fish, Caribbean lobster, shrimp, octopus, and calamari. We stayed at the Hotel Deep Blue, which is not a beachfront property but which has an incredible view of the very picturesque Crab Cay. With almost no internet service and little cell phone reception, it was a true getaway, and well worth it.

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Below is the video of our trip or you can click here.

Villa De Leyva May 2017

Slowly, slowly, we're getting out to see various parts of Colombia. We took a one-night spur-of-the-moment trip to Villa de Leyva in May. Its whitewashed colonial buildings made for a refreshing backdrop, and we spent the two days more or less just meandering through the small town. We also took a field trip to El Infiernito pre-Columbian archaeological site with its...em, "monuments". We stayed at the Casa Terra and would highly recommend it.

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Video link here

Pereira, Colombia

For Columbus Day weekend, we took a trip to Pereira, Colombia located in the foothills of the Andes in a coffee producing area called the Coffee Axis (eje cafetero).  To get away from the city life here in Bogota, we stayed at Sazagua hotel located just outside of the city with beautiful gardens, tropical flowers, and a nice pool which Annika loved.  Although it rained just about every day, we did take a couple of excursions: Cocora Valley, Aguas Claras Nature Reserve with its wax palm trees (the national tree and symbol of Colombia), lunch on the bank of the Aguas Claras creek that included delicious tamales, drinking the best coffee at Jesus Martin in Salento, and finally to Don Manolo Coffee Farm where we saw the coffee fields, harvesting, and processing of Colombian coffee.

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Sazagua Hotel
Sazagua Hotel
Aguas Claras Nature Reserve
Aguas Claras Nature Reserve
Aguas Claras Creek
Coffee shop Jesús Martín
Don Manolo Coffee Farm
Don Manolo Coffee Farm
Don Manolo Coffee Farm
Sazagua Hotel


June 17th weekend we took a little relaxation trip with our good friends to Anapoima.  While technically it's less then 100 km away, its about 5000 ft lower then Bogota.  At ~3000 feet we got to enjoy a bit more of oxygen, humidity, and warmer temperatures.

The place was fantastic with plenty of open door space, perfect for smoking cigars, and it did not require any air conditioning.  The pool was perfect with a shallow end for Annika to play in.

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Just days after the Velazquez family suffered from the flu, the owners of the jardin Annika attends invited us to their house for some Ajiaco, a traditional Colombian soup that consists of several types of potatoes and chicken.  They cooked it for hours over a leña (fire) which gave the soup a fantastic smokey flavor.

Annika just loved it and had 3 bowls.  I wished I had more but my stomach was still sensitive after not eating for 2 days because of the flu.  In any event, a great time was had by all especially Annika with the gallinas.

Chingaza National Park

Our first road trip in Colombia was to the Chingaza National Park roughly one hour east of Bogota.  Even though reservations to enter the park are required, we managed to get access to Laguna Seca.

This was Annika's first time hiking and probably hiked about 1/2 a mile of a 1 mile hike on her own.

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Sunday Ciclovia

Every Sunday and national holiday, certain streets are closed for bikers, skateboarders, runners, and walkers.  This past Sunday we wandered our way to the Simón Bolívar Park by way of the ciclovia.  Total trip was 15 miles but Annika got to enjoy the park at the half way point.

Dogs enjoy the ciclovia as well.
Certain parts get a little crowded
Passing by a dance workout
Annika able to stretch her legs for a bit

Christmas Weekend in Bogota

Our HHE arrived Monday and Julia worked very hard unpacking and getting the house in order in time for Christmas Eve.  We had a great Christmas Eve dinner at the Osland's and Annika enjoyed spending time with Isa.  For Christmas we chilled at our house drinking Old Fashioneds and opening gifts followed by Julia cooking a fantastic RibEye (meat from Argentina!).  We did manage to leave the house the day after Christmas and Annika was thankful.  She also got a chance to wear her new puff vest and holiday hat.

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Heading to the Osland's for Christmas Eve
Playing before heading out to dinner
Isa preparing cheese with sugar sprinkles
Isa making Annika cheese with sugar sprinkles. Delicious!
Our tree on Christmas Eve
It's a toothbrush!!
Annika's favorite gift is an electic toothbrush.
Old Fashioned
Old Fashioneds
Ribeye for Christmas dinner
Ribeye for Christmas dinner
Opening the last gifts Christmas night
Opening the last Christmas gifts while getting to enjoy a fireplace in our home for the first time
Santa brought her very own PFD
Santa brought her a PFD!
...and it's a hit!
Finally out of the house
Not amused
She does like for us to swing her high