Bogotá: steak, gold, dancing and an Ambassador’s reception
This time it was Bogotá in Colombia. I came here in 2010 for a few days on my own and remember being anxious about security and not trusting anyone, but was actually surprised by what a cosmopolitan city it was. I saw dog walkers with ten loaned hounds striding in cycling shorts and businessmen drinking espressos in the sun and thought how like LA it seemed, not the rustic, crime-ridden struggle I expected through reputation.
This time I knew people on the work trip and my few days here were fun as well as great for business. Colombia seems to be turning a corner and there is opportunity for those with ideas. I was heartened by the people I met, their realism, drive and honesty and very British sense of humour (bit with a much better sense of fun). Leaving you is getting harder and harder, especially as you can now talk a little bit and ask where I am all the time. Heart-breaking. It is easier if the place I am visiting is not punishing and this trip was comfortable (great Hilton hotel), worthwhile (so I don’t feel my time away was wasted) and short (just 6 days).
What can I tell you about Bogotá? It has such a bad reputation internationally after decades of crime and it’s name goes hand in hand with cocaine, which people tell me is still its biggest export. I think this reputation makes Colombians adamant to prove the world wrong, that they are a fair and fiercely democratic people with a country full of opportunity. They are certainly resource rich and are investing heavily in education. Sure there is disparity between rich and poor, like all developing countries, but things are fairer now and patriotism is strong. The relationship with the UK is fantastic due to President Santos who spent 10 years with us and has pushed through trade agreements. They love a good time.
I went to the British Embassy for a meeting and was invited to the Ambassors residence for a reception. He is in his late 30s and seems like the youngest Ambassador in the world. He used to serve under William Hague and is a nice guy; everything you would expect of an Ambassador: charming, positive and full of praise for his country of posting. His wine left something to be desired though.
My other evening of fun was as Andres de la res (Andre’s steak house) which is a legendary restaurant/nightclub. We were assured we had a table which transpired to be a reserve list and so were left waiting by the bar, where the drinks were strong. The place is over 5 floors of dining and dancing and performance artists acting out crazy scenarios to drums and trumpets. A valentines day massacre complete with red paper blood and a tommy gun takes place over people eating steak followed by a crazy Latin shake-dance before they disappear away silently. Crazy stuff but a lot of fun. I managed to get a bite to eat at the bar but the mojitos had taken effect and I danced with Colombians and tourists for an hour or so. The next day I went to the Gold museum, a well-arranged celebration of antiquity from the region and a great way to spend a couple of hours. Free too. I love the style of animals crossed with humans and the intricacy of the gold work – crazy to think there were people hammering it out and sacrificing their virgins only a few hundred years ago.
I walked around the old part of the city, which feels how I imagine Cuba to be: colourful but shabby and the actual state of Colombia’s economy is more obvious. There a is poverty, but there is time for relaxation on a Sunday too.
I’m now on Air France 422 somewhere over the Atlantic and it is time to try to get some sleep in my rather uncomfortable plastic chair after my rather tasteless plastic meal and cognac from a plastic cup. Home to you in a matter of hours.
Some of the artefacts in the gold museum and my invitation to the Ambassador’s house