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Britannia – the British Pub in Bogotá

by Alex on Oct.24, 2011, under Blog, What to do in Bogotá

Britannia is a real British pub with a real British landlord and all the inane banter that that might entail. It’s as traditional as you can get in Bogotá – clearly back home no self-respecting landlord would waste money on waitresses and to my mind a pub can do without TVs but we are in Colombia and with that comes table sevice and perpetual sport. Looking on the bright side you don’t need to expend effort in going to the bar for your next drink and let’s face it, there are a lot of sports fans out there and you only need ask to have your game shown, so long as there is no one bigger and tougher than you wanting to watch something on the other chanel…

We have Sierra del Tigre beer, the best beer by a long way in Bogotá and probably the best in Colombia. We opened with an American Pale Ale, an Irish Red, an American Brown Ale and an IPA, and have recently put on our second batch of IPA, even more hoppy than the first. We have a good range of imported beers and spirits and use decent liquor in our cocktails (many bars have recognised brands on the shelves and use cheap made-in-Colombia vodka, gin etc. for coctails). You will recognise the difference in quality when you drink at Britannia.

On Mondays we entertain our North American cousins with Monday Night Football, we have games night on a Tuesday and a language exchange on Wednesdays – come and chat foreign with the locals. Our after office special Monday to Friday gives you 20% off jugs of beer, bottles (of liquor) and coctails from 4 until 7 and the atmoshere is always friendly – a safe place to come and sit at the bar and chat with the landlord and staff. Every day we do a lunch with either a half pint of beer or a soda for $15,000 –

Britannia is on the 26 on the way from the airport to downtown or vice versa depending on your point of view, in the Marriot Hotel building, full address calle 26 number 69b-53 local 1. There is secure parking under the hotel, really secure with dogs and guns and all that jazz and you get an hour’s free parking when you come to Britannia.

So I suppose I’ll see you here. I tell you what, I’ve had a few Sierra del Tigres and am feeling generous – bring a couple of friends and if you tell me (Alex) that you found out about the pub here I’ll regale you (as they say in Spanish) with some real chips complete with lashings and lashings of salt and vinegar (whether you ask for it or not)…

Find Britannia on the map here

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¡Gringo Tuesdays!

by Alex on Mar.03, 2011, under Blog, What to do in Bogotá

gringo-tuesdays-low

I recognised ages ago, when we were still planning to open a hostel, the massive scope that there is in Bogotá for doing an event combining a language and cultural exchange with a decent party. I never thought that it would be us who realised it, but that was before we had a club…

After loads of arsing about (we were going to kick off in November) such as waiting 5 months to have a roof on the club and trying to find someone decent, reliable and affordable to do the art work, we are going to inaugurate ¡Gringo Tuesdays! on the 15th of March.

The launch party will be massive and we are hoping, as well as expecting, that the event will soon establish itself as the thing to do on Tuesdays in Bogotá. The market seems ripe for it – there is nothing much on on Tuesdays here, there are hundreds of backpackers, many of whom are keen to meet locals and practise Spanish and there are millions of friendly locals, many of them wanting to meet foreigners as well as to have an opportunity to practise their English, German, French etc.

Look, we done tickets/flyers:

Imprimir Imprimir

And posters (thanks Jaap):

gt-poster

Here is some spiel that I’ll probably change before sending out the publicity stuff:

¡Gringo Tuesdays! is a weekly event to be held at La Villa nightclub, inaugurating on Tuesday the 15th of March.

The concept is to bring together locals, ex-patriots and travellers in a fun atmosphere with the end of promoting an exchange of cultures, experiences and languages, and to throw a big party.

¡Gringo Tuesdays! will offer a friendly and relaxed atmosphere in the cool surrounds of La Villa in which to practise Spanish, English, French, German and whatever other languages want to be spoken, both informally and by way of facilitated conversation groups.

¡Gringo Tuesdays! will put on games and promotions will have a great ‘happy hour’ from 8:00 until 10:00 with two for one beers and gin and tonic, cuba libre and vodka and orange at $10,000.

The happy hour and group events (8:00-10:00) will be accompanied by low background music, allowing guests to focus on getting to know each other practising languages. At 10:00, one of La Villa’s DJs will officially start the ¡Gringo Tuesdays! party, and play through until 3:00. La Villa’s music style is indie, rock and electro (no latin music).

Entry is free until 10:00 at which point a cover of $10,000 will be charged.

As if the above would not be enough to make ¡Gringo Tuesdays! one of the best nights out in Bogotá, we will also have:

  • Cerveza Sierra del Tigre – as good as the real ale back home
  • Marmite and Vegemite on toast – the Brits and Aussies won’t be able to get enough
  • Jägerbombs and Jägertrains – all aboard!
  • Board games and tongue-twisters – red lorry yellow lorry anyone?

La Villa. Kra 14a No.83-56, Zona Rosa. For more details, e-mail gringotuesdays@gmail.com

¡Gringo Tuesdays! and La Villa Links:

gringotuesdays.com
¡Gringo Tuesdays’! Facebook page
La Villa’s Facebook page

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They don’t want my blood

by Alex on Dec.28, 2010, under Blog

A while back I popped in to a blood donation tent in the centre of Bogotá. After being weighed and filling in the form I was told that I could not donate as I had recently been in an area with high risk of contracting malaria. Fair enough.

Yesterday, I’m wandering home and walk past another blood tent. Sticking my head round the door I’m told that they will open in 15 mins and would I mind waiting. So, I did some shopping and went back a while later.

The first step was to take my ID card and note, amongst other things, my nationality. Then I had my finger stabbed to give a sample which I think is used to test for anaemia. Next was answering a whole load of questions to determine if my blood was safe to use.

So, including the time that I effectively waited for them to open, the whole process took say 40 minutes.

And, get this. They don’t want my blood as I’m European and there is a risk that I might carry CJD. OK, fair enough but then the first information they took from me was the fact that I was British. So why carry on wasting my time and their time. In fact, it was clear that I was either gringo, European or antipodean when they first spoke to me. How easy would it have been to ask where I’m from. So bloody typical of how things are done here… Note also that a few months ago, nothing was said about my origin with regards to eligibility to donate…

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Piss up in a brewery

by Alex on Dec.09, 2010, under Blog, What to do in Bogotá

cerveza sierra

You have no idea how much I am enjoying writing this post…

The Cervecería Artesanal de Los Andes would like to invite you to try its beautiful beer directly from the tanks

The ‘tour’ consists of me pointing at some metal tanks and saying stuff for about 3 seconds before proceeding with the tasting, and tasting, and more tasting of the beer

We have two very good quality beers, Sierra del Tigre Pale Ale and Sierra del Tigre Brown Ale. The beer is better than much that I have drunk in the UK, home of real ale. I really like this ‘job’

The tour is free and beer is available at the much cheaper than pub price of $15,000 for 4 300 ml glasses and. If you are new to Colombia then you might not know that to buy ‘real’ beer, the most well known in Bogotá being BBC and Colón, you’ll pay, with tip $10,000 a pint

We have a regular event on Wednesday evenings will put on private events if you can arrange a group of a least 10 people, for more info mail me at alex@sierra-del-tigre.com. See our Facebook page here

We look forward to seeing you

P.S. Joking aside, we are happy to talk to you in depth about the beer making process and what makes our beer different to that which has been available until now in Colombia…

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Veg me up baby!

by Alex on Dec.06, 2010, under Blog

So, we’ve got our weekly shop nailed – loving our local market. Czech out the fresh pro-dooce below:

veg-me-up-baby

All that for $70,000 pesos – £23.60. Take off the cost of the shroomers and apples (what are very hexpensive here) and you get the rest for £17.50 – not too bad methinks…

That bunch on the left is mint, basil, lemongrass and camomile, for making agua aromatica – a popular herbal infusion here in Bogotá, cost: $1,000 pesos – 34p, which is nice!

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Laguna de Guatavita

by Alex on Nov.14, 2010, under Blog, What to do in Bogotá

The Laguna de Guatavita and the Muisca people, indigenous to her surrounds are apparently the source of the El Dorado legend that originally had nothing to do with a city of gold

guatavita

After telling us that there are many nonsense legends and the one true story, our guide recounted unto us how, as part of his inauguration, the new Cacique (chief-type thing), would strip naked, be covered in honey and then have gold dust blown over him. On a raft in the middle of the lake, the new Cacique would be struck by the first rays of the sun and in luminescent glory, throw offerings of gold alloy and gemstones into the laguna. He never though made it clear as to whether this was the ‘one true story’ or rubbish

Various peoples have over the years gone to great lengths to take the treasures from the lake, including (apparently) enslaving thousands of Muisca to empty water from the lake with pots, and cutting a great cleft in the side of the lake. We were told that the lake now contains only 30% of the water that is once did, 10 million cubic meters having been drained… Many of the artefacts taken from there lake can been seen in Bogotá’s Gold Museum e.g.

muisca-raft

This day trip involves a few hours of countryside walking through very picturesque landscape and a guided tour of the lake.

From Portal Norte, take a bus towards Guatavita, tell the driver that you want to get of at the turning for Guatavita, you come to this after passing through Sesquilé. From here it’s about a 2 hour walk to the entrance of the park, the route is signed. Alternatively, you can get off the bus in Sesquilé and take a colectivo (bus) to the park entrance

On leaving the park (the exit is different to the entrance), walk down the hill a little to a little eating place for snackage. After that you can either get a colectivo or walk back to the main road from where you can catch a bus back to Portal Norte

If asking for directions, make sure that you specify that you want the Laguna de Guatavita as many locals might think you are looking for the Embalse de Tominé, a reservoir near to the village of Guatavita la Nueva

13,200 COP – entrance, foreigners
8,800 COP – entrance, nationals

Entrance hours 09:00 – 16:00, the park is open open until 18:00

Visit the park’s site here

Please leave feedback in the comments section below

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Mmmmm, beer…

by Alex on Nov.10, 2010, under Blog, What to do in Bogotá

I love beer, real ale is my fave and I’m also a big fan of good Belgian and German beers – Chimay, Duvel, Erdinger, Leffe, Paulaner, Westmalle and that.

Colombian beer is pretty shit. Bavaria (a massive brewery that SAB Miller paid 7.8 billion dollars for and that has probably about 95% market share) makes 5 Colombian beers, all average and below average lagers. Bogotá Beer Company and Colón make European-style beers that sell for more than you’d pay for a pint in London, this might be less disagreeable if the beer were even half as good as your average British beer. You’ll be served BBC or Colón, in Bogotá at least, in most bars that serve draught beer.

botellas San Tomás makes not bad Hefe Weizen, Märzen, Dubbel and a lager. If you are a fan of these styles of beer and don’t want to pay the hefty price charged for imported beers then give San Tomás a go. I’m told by an expert that what San Tomás lacks is due to insufficient maturing time – the cost of the storage would make the beer too expensive to market.

A friend has told me that 3 cordilleras, a Medellin brewery makes great beer, I’ve yet to taste it.

duff The funniest beer in Colombia is Duff, funny from the staggeringly blatant copyright infringement point of view…

Wholly unexpectedly, I recently found myself drinking what I have no doubt must be the best beer in Latin American and certainly better than a lot of ale that I’ve drunk at home. We Met Juan Camilo through Lee, an English guy who’s been in Bogotá for about 5 years, used to work at the Ivy and runs El Inglés, an English café on Kra. 11 with 69. Having tried his beer I was keen to meet Juan Camilo and after a few minutes of listening to his passionate and highly informative talkings it was clear that he was the veritable expert. Needless to say I was very much looking forward to it when he invited us to his house for a tasting.

We tried, and when I say tried I mean drank with great pleasure, American and English pale ales, Southern English and American brown ales, and an English IPA, with brewing notes and detailed explanations regarding the classification and properties of, and differences between the beers. All were exquisite and I felt quite privileged to have had the pleasure. We had invited Nick along, another Colombian friend of ours who is in the process of opening a brewery. By the end of the tasting I was really hoping that Nick and Juan Camilo could in some way work together, combining Juan Camilo’s expertise with Nick’s facilities and business plan – I’d love to be able to buy (or better still get for free :-) ) beer of the quality that Juan Camilo makes and also would like to help introduce Colombians to good beer.

Update: Nick’s beer is good. Better than a lot of beer you get in pubs in the UK. We are in the process of getting it out to market, we’ve had a few tastings in the brewery and already have one pub chain owner interested in buying and many more interesting in trying the beer. We are also organising ‘Piss up in a brewery’ events, the trial of which was a great success. I can’t wait until I can get this beer commercially!

And, better still in the short term, Juan Camilo has just given me 3 bottles of his IPA, it was young when we tried it, it is now perfect – by far the best I’ve ever had. Mmmmm – beer!

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Look at the doors on that!

by Alex on Jan.20, 2010, under Blog

It’s not as if I’m a massive doors fan and even though I do find good architecture and interior design appealing I’ve never banged on about it before yet I do find meself enthusing somewhat over the 1870s style Republican doors that we have in our new Bogotá pad.

Check this out spa:

doors_0
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Why Colombia for business and what indeed is my business?

by Alex on Feb.06, 2010, under Blog

In the post My new life, I chatted about how I’d ended up here, in Colombia, enthusing about the people and country in general, but why do business here?

Well… during my travels and thoughts of what the hell do I do next after a typical British upbringing and 6 years of corporate London life, I settled on the idea of opening a hostel with a view to creating a chain of hostels across Colombia. I love travel, love meeting, talking to and helping people and can be reasonably hypercritical – finding fault in the many systems and processes that we’re surrounded by and interact with on a daily basis. Many hostels are run by fellow travellers who’ve chosen to settle in some paradise, far removed from their home countries and upbringings with travel being their main qualification for running a hostel. Unfortunately, often, their enthusiasm and loving of ‘the road’ is not necessarily met with the business acumen and attention to detail necessary to create a great place to stay.

So, I decided that it’s time to put my money where my mouth is, stop bitching about the failings of other people’s efforts and get the hell on with it. And where better than Colombia? As an hispanophile, it had to be Latin America and as previously explained Colombia is my favourite place for the people, as well as all the country has to offer. Key for business though is the fact that tourism here is going mental!

I imagine that general international perception of Colombia is still that it is ‘a dangerous place’. Indeed, when I was here 8 years ago, tales of armed hold ups of buses with the occasional kidnap were common place and indeed after spending some time in ‘safe’ areas on the Caribbean coast, I flew to Ecuador, there being no way that I was prepared to bus through the country. Whereas ’1234 tourists brutally executed’ makes for a great international news headline, ‘Colombia is now safe’ is hardly news-worthy and therefore the only information that many have of this country is negative and out-of-date. You’d be better off espousing the slogan of Colombia Tourism – ‘The only risk is wanting to stay’.

And the word is spreading. It’s not just backpackers that I’m meeting – there are plenty of people coming to Colombia for a 2 or 3 week holiday maintaining that they’ll tell friends and family on their return how wonderful a place this is to visit and the numbers are there to back it up – an increase in tourist arrivals of over 10% per year is reported in official figures. This recent boom in tourism means that you need to book to get in to the best hostels – Cranky Croc operates at about 95% occupancy and during high season turns away about 25 people a day and there are plenty of places that would not get away with their shoddy service and poor facilities in a more mature backpacking market. So this place is perfect for doing my thing – the market is here and my business partner and I have the knowledge, will and passion to do it – create a fantastic backpackers’ hostel in Bogotá. I’ll write soon of the fun we’ve had finding the house we want to buy…

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Is there chicken in chick peas?

by Alex on Feb.25, 2010, under Blog

little-chickens

Immortal words to those who watched Big Brother 2 nine years ago, words that I’m sure caused cringe much of the watching population of Wales, especially Cwmbran (Hey, that’s my home town!) from whence Helen (the owner of the above quote) came and I’m sure still comes.

The widely-cited across the t’interweb etymology of the word chickpea puts to rest thoughts of any ostensible linguistic link between the two non-genetically related foodstuffs:

The name chickpea traces back through the French chiche to Latin cicer (from which the Roman cognomen Cicero was taken). This may have been taken from the Armenian word սիսեռ (siser) which refers to the bean. This is probable because Armenian was spoken throughout the northern Middle East in the areas where evidence of the first cultivation of the beans has been found. The Oxford English Dictionary lists a 1548 citation that reads, “Cicer may be named in English Cich, or ciche pease, after the Frenche tonge.”

But lo, what is this? Take a closer look and you’ll see that the question ‘Is there chicken in chick peas?’ is totally redundant. Chick peas are hactually chickens, tiny little miniature baby frozzen chickens. Look!

I can’t believe that I’ve only just noticed this, being the cookingophile that I am. I wonder what new scientific discoveries would await me were I only to open my eyes…

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Three limes and some tea lights

by Alex on Feb.16, 2010, under Blog

So, our new apartment has a crap 2 ring electric hob with not an oven in sight – bit disappointing for someone what enthuses a relatively large amount over cooking.

This evening in the course of knocking up what I have to say was my finest curry (well selection of curries) in a while, I had to take to improvising a third ring, as it were. Worked pretty well though house mate and business partner Travis is still scraping wax off the sideboard thing…

camelman_0

Cost me though, as the tea lights burned the sideboard and the landlady, being mental, went mental and I ended up paying far too much to get it sorted out…

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http://dontevenreply.com

by Alex on Feb.20, 2010, under Blog

Brilliant!

I love this kind of mick-taking humour, it’s like a less-sophisticated Henry Root, and I don’t mean that in the pejorative sense.

When I had the pleasure of finding this site the most recent post started:

Original ad:
**** Disguisable weapons wanted ****
Wanted: hidden blades, belt buckle knives, cane swords, etc…..
Offering: cash, items for barter

From Me to **********@***********.org:

Hey,

I saw your ad looking for concealable/disguised weapons. I have several fine-crafted items you may be interested in. Respond if you are interested and I will send you pictures and prices.

Thanks,

Mike

From Jeff ****** to Me:

I am. lets see what you got.

From Me to Jeff ******:

Jeff,

Here you go:

knife1

Looks like a normal spoon, right?

knife2

Wrong. It is actually a deadly 2.5″ half-smooth, half-serrated knife with tactical grip. One minute you are enjoying a bowl of cereal, and the next you are fighting off attackers with this deadly and disguised weapon.

I am asking $50 for the blade. Let me know if you want to stop by and take a look at it.

Mike

From Jeff ****** to Me:

that is stupid as hell and looks like crap. unless you have anything better to offer, dont waste my time.

From Me to Jeff ******:

Jeff,

I am sorry you feel that way about the spoon blade. I do have some other weapons that I think you will feel differently about.

Check out what other weapons were offered.

This too is similarly funny 27bslash6.

I’m amazed at how stupid the recipients of this guys banter are not to realise it’s a piss take…

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Cos I’m the unknown stuntman that makes Eastwood look so fine

by Alex on Mar.20, 2010, under Blog

So, we’re sitting around on a normal ‘work’ day, chatting about architecting and the like when our mate Andy (owner of Cranky Croc, best hostel in Bogotá) calls. It’s not difficult to get involved in TV in Colombia as a westerner – the look is in demand and there are not many of us here. Andy is in a mall doing extra work for a telenovela (soap opera) and one of the agents there is looking for some white boys to attend a casting for a Timberland advert; they were after a rugged look.

Convinced of our suitability based solely on not having shaved for a couple of days and having done a fun run some time in the mid nineties we headed for the casting, arriving some time later to be greeted by a rather frisky agent and noting that we were standing out from the rest of those waiting not so much due to our western looks rather due to our lacking of tight t-shirts, large biceps and other stereotypical model-esque qualities. Oh well, it was all good banter.

A little while into the obviously long wait we noted that we were outside G d G Stunts, this would explain the noises of people being beaten up that we could hear coming from inside. I didn’t think that this had anything to do with our being there reasoning that there were castings for various things going on, us being 99% sure that the two girls that had recently entered the building were auditioning for porn (mum, obviously I’ve never watched porn, Travis told me they looked like pornstars)!

Our turn came and Travis, Lee and I went into the building along with a handful of westernish-looking Colombian lads; we were expecting some kind of photo shoot thing and to be probably trying on some Timberland boots…

…and found out that the noises actually had everything to do with us.

We enter a room with a matted floor and large scaffold set up at one end. I’m pretty sure that none of us had a trepidation level of lower than 4/10. One of the stuntmen then tells us that all we need to do is ‘this’. He then runs and at the scaffold, vaults over a bar, jumps up to grab a pole along which he swings hand over hand to the right-hand scaffold tower. Defty climbing up the side of the tower he steps down to the horizontal pole that links it to the left hand tower at a height of about 10 foot. On crossing the pole he stops half way and does a comedy look left look right combo before jumping to the left hand tower, sliding down a diagonal pole to the next platform, running to the edge, doing a 180 degree jump to the floor, commando role and then giving us his ‘victorious gesture’ (I love it how so many phrases in espanish could come directly from an Austen novel).

Travis and I gave each other a nervous look. To say the least.

In the end it was a good crack. The Latinos took it all very seriously but then they were proper models and it was their job, we were just there for the banter. We clapped our encouragement and dicked about where possible. After a practice go each we did it for the camera and then shot another ‘scene’ diving to catch a bottle of ‘Pony’ a quite aptly-named (if you know Cockney rhyming slang – pony = pony and trap = crap) local drink as if it were some object of great value. We then had to vault a waist-high pile of mats that was supposed to represent a moving car, look back in relief at our near miss and then turn to the camera holding that look of relief. Needless to say I found it hard to effect looks of victory and relief without pissing myself, I am glad that I’m never likely to see the footage.

Lucky though, Travis was caught on camera. Enjoy:

Trav we’ll call that one all for that very gay photo of me that you put in the Tiësto montage x.

For those wondering, the title is a reference to the early 80s show The Fall Guy.

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In Colombia, they love trees…

by Alex on Mar.21, 2010, under Blog

They must do.

Look. These trees are obviously ill and they’ve put drips in them to make them more betterer.

I’ve never seen tree drips before…

tree-drips tree-drip
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Agent Frank Patrick, FBI.

by Alex on Apr.26, 2010, under Blog

So my mate Andy, owner of Cranky Crock (hostel) had to turn down a small acting part as it was being shot on a Friday and Friday is his BBQ day. I think he wishes that he’d asked me to do the barbie, instead of giving me the part.

The week before, my friend Sarah the Barber and I had been witness to a massive drugs bust near her house, complete with guns and blood (I even managed to get a picture of the huge stash:)

cheeky-stash

being filmed as part of a new series of a popular soap opera El Cartel de los Sapos. A week later I was to be recording with the same bunch of guys…

The scene was set in a strip club brothel type place. Normally, working on Latin America time gets right on my tits – I arrived at 11:00 and we didn’t shoot ’til 16:00. This day though I wasn’t that bothered about the time – being surrounded by scantily clad and interested in the ‘gringo’ Latinas was far preferable to hanging out in the apartment working away with the only scant cladding to be seen belonging to Travis my housemate and business partner as he wanders past me betowelled on his way to the shower.

To be fayre I was a bit nervous during the first walk-through of my scenes, surrounded by professional actors, some of whom had travelled from Mexico for the filming, film crew, director etc, even the mostly nekkid laydies didn’t have much of a calming influence. After a couple of goes though I got into my stride, as it were – it seems to me that Latin soaps are mostly about holding massively exaggerated facial expressions for overly-long periods of time, which I think I’m quite good at.

It’s due to air in a few weeks and although I’m sure I’ll look a proper spaz, I’m quite looking forward to it. I wonder how many of the natives will question why an FBI man has a Brit accent. Far more I’m sure than those who will pick out the double entendre in my fave line: ‘You’re very good looking. You can pull it off.’

Bit embarrassing but if you want to see my 5 seconds of TV stardom then click here and go to 18 minutes…

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Something unexpected in my herb garden

by Alex on Apr.28, 2010, under Blog

So I bought a chilli plant and a rosemary thing – what is it, a plant, a bush, not quite sure…

Anyway, I put them on an old planter box thing on one of our 5 (five) balconies and of course I water them diligently.

herbs

Seems that their drainage has facilitated the propagation of some other herbs that have been lying dormant for a while:

da-herb

Decent!

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Police escort dos

by Alex on Jun.01, 2010, under Blog

Although the title of this post sounds like a shit sequel to an equally shit what ever you call the film that precedes the sequel, it pertains to a much cooler set up than was my first police escort experience in Colombia.

Having worked out that paying in cash rather than by debit card is going to be part of doing business here, we headed to the bank to withdraw ten million pesos. That’s about £3500/USD 5000. On signing receipt of my wads of currency, the teller told us that we could use one of the office phones to call the police for an escort. Clearly we were at first a little confused but we thought it over, figured why not, verified that it wasn’t going to cost anything and then called the boys in… green and reflective.

The standard two cops on a bike set up turned up, and in very friendly manner too. We’d not planned on this and had stuff to do before going home but didn’t want to impose on them, what to do… Basically they would come with us wherever we needed to go, so long as it was in Bogotá – decent! So we hailed a cab, one cop got in the front and the other followed us on his bike. Stopped off at an office to pay for an engineering survey then headed to the furniture district to sort some stuff out there. The guys were more than happy to chip in regarding what colour material to chose for the sofa although there was a little disagreement on the selection of colour for the cushions. We certainly got more looks than usual as we wandered around, the people in the beanbag shop were almost dumbfounded.

I guess that it might have been a small-scale insight into what it might be like living as an ‘important’ person surrounded by body guards and escorts, I must admit it did feel pretty cool in the taxi on the way home with a motorcycle outrider stopping traffic so that my beanbag-stuffed taxi could change lanes as it pleased.

I can’t think of a better example of acting out the motto ‘To Protect and Serve’…

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Parque Natural Chicaque

by Alex on Jun.22, 2010, under Blog, What to do in Bogotá

Parque Natural Chicaque is a cloud forest reserve to the south west of Bogotá. It is visitable from central Bogotá in one (long) day but it’s probably best to stay there for a night, or two.

View from park entrance:

chicaque-view-from-park-entrance

Its website tells of 18 km of footpaths through seven types of forest and more than 300 species of birds and 20 of mammals.

refugio1

Accommodation is available at the refuge (right) or in nearby cabañas, both options including breakfast, lunch and dinner. Camping at the refuge camp site includes the three meals as well as use of the refuge’s toilets, showers etc. You can also camp near the park entrance, no food is available there so bring cooking stuff.

view-west-from-refugio


The refuge has a large circular dining room with balcony with stunning views (left) of the valley of San Antonio de Tequendama, the large fireplace in the middle providing for a cosy evening after a day of exercise and general naturey stuff.


To get there by public transport from Bogotá, take the Transmilenio to the Portal Sur (1,600 COP) and from there take a bus west along the autopista to Soacha (1,300 – 1,350 COP). If you can, get a bus to El Parque de Soacha and get off the bus at El Parque (an obvious central plaza type place), other buses pass Soacha on the autopista, ask someone to tell you where to get off and walk the 3-4 blocks from the autopista to El Parque. I’ve heard that in the mornings you can find cars that will take you from El Parque to Chicaque for 10,000 – 15,000 COP. The other option is to walk two blocks south from El Parque to a small roundabout from where you can get buses that pass the entrance road to Chicaque. Buses to Apulo, Anapoima, La Mesa, Mondoñedo and Funza all pass the park entrance road. Your best bet is to stop any bus that passes and ask. As well as asking the driver to stop at the entrance to the park, it’s wise to ask fellow passengers to tell you where to get off the bus, it’s not unusual to find yourself at the end of a bus route with an unapologetic driver telling you that he forgot that he was supposed to stop for you…

peacock

From where the bus drops you it’s about a 30 minute walk to the park entrance where you pay the park entrance fee (if you get a private car from Soacha’s Parque it will bring you to the entrance). From here you can walk the trails of the upper part of the park and also use the park entrance camp site. If you are staying at the refuge/cabañas/refuge camp site, there is a fairly lengthy decent through probably about 500 metres to get to there, it’s reckoned to take about 50 minutes – we managed to scab a lift in one of the park vehicles having had a shambles of a time getting there, including ending up in Funza explaining to the bus driver that implicit in my question ‘do you go past Chicaque’ was the request that he stop there… You pay for your accommodation at the refuge. If you don’t fancy the long climb out of the park you can hire a horse to take the strain for you.

They have peacocks too…

Prices:

Entrance to park – 10,000 COP
Camping at the entrance camp site – 10,000 COP
Camping at the refuge campsite including breakfast, lunch and dinner – 42,000 COP
Accommodation, breakfast, lunch and dinner at the refuge – 75,000 COP
Accommodation, breakfast, lunch and dinner per couple at the refuge – 159,000 COP
Accommodation per couple in a cabaña plus brekka, lunch and dinner at the refuge – 220,000 COP
Horse rental – 16,000 COP
Guide (general) – 55,000 COP
Guide (specialist) – 65,000 COP

Just found some lovely pictures of Chicaque here

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Gunshots

by Alex on Jul.06, 2010, under Blog

I’ve heard a few explosions since being in our new(ish) flat. I’ve never worried that they might be bombs and the lack of any subsequent siren action has suggested that they were indeed something other than bombs.

Hearing two bangs in quick succession this afternoon, I thought nothing of it, after all from the not unusual noises one hears ’round here it seems that letting off fireworks is not infrequent… Ten minutes later in my local shop I asked Ángel, the owner, what all the police were doing – he told me that they were looking for a criminal. I asked him about the bangs and he said that indeed they had been gunshots. Apparently the police had fired (into the air), presumably to frighten the guy. To be fair if anyone fired a shot near me I’d run like shit, cops or otherwise!

The mental thing is that about 2 blocks from here is a massive police complex with plenty of guys outside sporting automatic weaponry, not the place to do crime, by any means.

Still, I guess it’s better than worse, definitely a safe part of town to live in…

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Since when have angels had permission to come down from heaven?

by Alex on Sep.18, 2010, under Blog

Of the many cultural differences between here (Colombia) and the country in which I grew up, one of the most blatant and in-your-face is the way that men and women interact. It is, interesting to say the least.

I recently followed a link sent to me by a friend and clicked the ‘login via Facebook’ option and lo, without warning, I had a profile on Badoo.com which appears to me to a hook up site very thinly veiled as some kind of social networking thing.

Flicking through public comments on profile photographs on Badoo one notices a theme. I’m not going to express my opinion though I do wonder how the authors possibly think they are going to be taken seriously. Check these out:

Hey, since when have angels had permission to come down from heaven? Don’t tell me that you’ve escaped. Well, if that is what’s happened I’d love to cut your wings so that you can’t go back and be able to look upon the beauty that you are, precious princess

An exquisite woman is not she who has most men at her feet but she who has one man that makes her really happy
A beautiful woman is not the youngest nor the slimmest, neither her with the smoothest skin nor the fairest hair, rather she who with just a smile and good counsel can bring cheer to your life
A rich woman is not her with many titles or academic honours, it is she who would sacrifice her dream for the happiness of others
An exquisite woman is not the most passionate, but she who shakes with joy on making love with the man she loves
An interesting woman is not she who feels flattered for being admired for her beauty and elegance, it is she of solid character who can say no
And a man, an exquisite man is he who values this kind of woman

Meeting people via this medium is a lottery, there are people of all types, for all types of people. The key lies in sincerity, respect and chemistry. Your profile caught my attention and if you’d like to get in touch it would be interesting to know a bit about you. I love your look and demeanour – the irony with this is that the guy has left the same comment on loads of girls’ pictures

In the beginning we were one, unknown, splendour without gaze, love without value. Then two through many reincarnations, we lost the footprints of the other without looking for each other, without finding each other. Like curious, frightened children wandering the world without destination painfully conquering fears and at last, suddenly, light is born. Aeons bear fruit, conscience lights the path brining us back together, to the one, to the same

Precious, you are the most beautiful woman in the world. I’d love to talk to you, my MSN is … sending you lots of kisses xxxxxxxxxx The sun hides itself, out-shined by the beauty of your heart

Not sure about you, but I think I’m going to chuck…

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Colombian economics

by Alex on Oct.10, 2010, under Blog

Economies of scale, supply and demand – I used to consider these laws reasonably universal. I do remember years ago in Chepstow Market shaking my head at a sign declaring something like ‘t-shirts: 1-£2, 3-£6, 5-£10′. It gets much better than that here…

economies-of-scale-1

A box of 100 tea bags – $15,100 pesos, 2 boxes of 50 tea bags $14,320 pesos. Although counter-intuitive, it’s perfectly usual here to find larger quantities of stuff costing more per unit that smaller quantities, always worth checking the prices carefully.

I little while ago we were outside a Crystal Castles gig looking for tickets. We knew there were plenty of tickets on the door and with the number of ticket touts around, you’d imagine you’d have been able to find a bargain. Imagine again:

Me: Hello mate, how much for a ticket
Tout: $110,000
Me: They are only $90,000 on the door
Tout: There are no tickets left on the door
Clearly I did not believe this but checked anyway
Me: I’ve just asked, they do have tickets on the door, for $90,000
Tout: OK then, $100,000
Me: Why would I pay you 100 when I can pay 90 on the door, you need to sell them for less than they cost on the door
Tout: 100
I walk away, familiarly bemused

One day on bed street – a street with about 30 bed shops selling pretty much the same stuff:

Me: Hello mate, I have a price of 420,000 pesos for that bed and I’m going in to every shop looking for the best price I can get, can you do better than 420,000?
Shop bloke: I can do it for 450,000
Me: Ok, well I’ll keep looking to see if anyone can beat 420,000
Shop bloke: 430,000 if you buy it now
Me: I’ve just told you that I can get it for 420,000, why would I pay you more for the same thing…

This does tie in nicely with many sales experiences one suffers here, my best so far being when I went shopping for a shower head, not knowing the word for shower head:

Me: Hi there, I’m looking for the shower thing that goes at the end of the tube that comes out of the wall in the shower. I DO NOT need an electric one, we have gas heating so we have hot water coming out of the tube. I just need the plastic thing that spreads the ALREADY HOT WATER out
Shop bloke: Here you go (handing over an electric shower head)
Me: I just told you that I do not need an electric one. We have hot water, I just need the thing that goes at the end of the tube
The shop bloke then comes back with what looks like a wooden pear with electric windings around it supplied by a long electric cable. I guessed it was a heating element that you could throw into a large pot of water
Me trying not to go mental: What is that, that’s got nothing to do with a shower AND it’s clearly an electical appliance. What has that got to do with what I asked you for?
Shop bloke looks utterly bewildered and a little hurt
I walk away, familiarly bemused

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A picture of some cute stuff for Sarah

by Alex on Oct.25, 2010, under Blog

cuteosity

I was in Puerto Nariño in the Colombian Amazon with my fiend Kate on top of a watch tower. Watching and stuff. She went down before me and I was overcome with disdain as the sounds of her ahhhhhhing scratched at my ear drums. I reasoned that she had come across a puppy and/or kitten and railed at the devolution of 25 years that she seemed to have suffered, judging by the stoopid sounds I was hearing. So, I followed her down, nose held high, face of scorn, then promptly turned to mush when I came across these little guys…

More pics here

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Monday Night Football

by Alex on Oct.24, 2011, under What to do in Bogotá

Where can you watch Monday Night Football in Bogotá I hear you ask, well fret no more and make your way to Britannia in Salitre where we show the football every Monday and offer the best beer in Bogotá.

monday-night-football

Britannia is a traditional British pub with a real live British landlord, traditional meals such as fish and chips and bangers and mash and a decent range of other dishes to suit most palates as well as a good selection of snacks.

We have Sierra del Tigre beers made here in Bogotá, at the moment we have American Pale Ale, Irish Red, American Brown Ale and an IPA – you will definitely notice the difference between ours and other ‘artesanal’ beers, we also have a fair selection of imported beers and our expert bartender can make you a great version of pretty much whatever cocktail you might be after.

Britannia is located on the 26 – the main road from downtown to the airport – calle 26 no. 69b-45 local 1, right under the Marriott hotel. There is secure parking available, entrance on the 69b, and you get one hour’s free parking and for the months of October and November if you ask for it you get your second Sierra del Tigre beer free when you come for Monday Night Football.

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Shit on the nativity

by Alex on Jan.04, 2011, under Blog

This is well funny…

I’ve been spending a lot of time recently on SpanishDick.com, a great place to learn Spanish that also has a lovely community of people to help you with questions about Spanish language usage.

Anyway, today came up the question regarding what a caganer is. It seems that it is traditional in some parts to include in one’s nativity scene, a figure of someone just having curled out a massive logger!

caganer
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Domicilios Lupe, La Macarena

by Alex on Dec.03, 2010, under What to do in Bogotá

Podemos solucionar sus necesidades en las horas de la noche, llevandoles cervezas, licores, hielo, cigarillos, pasantes y pasabocas dentro del sector de La Macarena

Durante los ultimos cinco años mucha gente de este sector han sido clientes de Licores Lupe y, con el tiempo, se han convertido mas en amigos que en clientes de ambos Ángel y Lupe. Desafortunadamente, el sitio se cierra al publico por motivos de fuerza mayor, sin embargo queremos seguirles prestando servicios a domicilio

Llame al 310 797 0944 entre 4 pm y 3 am para prestarles servicio a domicilio

Lupe Home Deliveries

Call 310 797 0944 for home deliveries of beer, liquor, ice, soft drinks, cigarettes and snacks in La Macarena. Service available between 16:00 and 03:00

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