Saturday, February 27, 2016

A Visit from Mamí and Papí

In early October, my parents came to visit Bogotá for about a week.  They had clearly decided that, if their daughter were really crazy enough to get engaged to a crazy half-Colombian, they had better come down here and gauge the exact level of crazy they would be dealing with. They were pleasantly surprised to discover that Colombia’s capital city was not the third-world war zone they had expected, but rather a bustling, modern metropolis with plenty to see, do, and eat.

The jury is still out on how they feel about their future son-in-law... 

They arrived on a Thursday evening, and I had to work the following day.  I had invited them to come out to my school, but they were very tired from their trip and didn’t anticipate there being much to interest them once they had seen my classroom, so we changed the plan to meet up in the evening at their hotel in Chapinero.  Even thought they had already discovered the Monkey House pub nearby, we took them to dinner near our own house in La Macarena, at a new place called Santa Fe.  The French-Colombian fusion food there was quite tasty, and the waiters wore cute little vests and newsboy hats, which I enjoyed.

We didn’t stay terribly late, because the next morning we were planning to drive out to Villa de Leyva.  We ate breakfast with my parents at their lovely hotel buffet, and then hit the road for about three and a half hours.  The scenery along the way is very pretty, but I was afraid my parents wouldn’t want to be in the car for quite so long.  We stopped off at the war memorial for the Battle of Boyaca, which includes a large park and a restaurant, where we had a drink and used the restrooms.  This was my parents’ first encounter with the adventure that is going to a public restroom in Colombia…sometimes there are no doors on the stalls…sometimes there are no seats on the toilets...sometimes there is only one toilet paper dispenser by the entrance, and you have to take it with you into the stall, or sometimes you have to buy it from a man outside or from a little machine…  It is always a surprise, and you have to just roll with it.

Once we arrived at Villa de Leyva, I think they had a nice time.  They admired the pretty buildings and the large square, where we happened to catch a wedding in progress.  We wandered into a religious museum full of 17th century books and paintings plopped casually into glass cases and hung on walls with no temperature or humidity control, and guarded by the most terrifying statues and carvings culled from various churches.

We did some window shopping, and some actual shopping, and we had late lunch at a lovely little place with an open-air courtyard, where my mother got to taste her first ajiaco, which she adored, and Daddy had carne al trapo, which is a piece of steak wrapped in a cloth and cooked in a fire.  They also both tasted patacones for the first time, which are always a hit.

By the time we hopped into the car and headed back to Bogotá it was getting dark, and pretty much all of us Costas nodded off at some point while Maurizio made the long drive.

The following day we were up early again, this time heading out to Tominé for rowing classes.  I had been coaching a lovely group of club members every Sunday, and I was excited to show my parents the clubhouse, the lake, and my thriving rowing business.  I also told them they were getting into a boat.  They were very nervous, but excited to try this thing their daughter had been doing for nearly 15 years.  I had put them in a four-man boat with two other Colombian rowers, and I switched back and forth between Spanish and English as I was giving instructions, but my mother told me she was amazed that she seemed to understand me no matter what language I was speaking.  They were both surprised at how difficult rowing actually was, and my mother said later that she had watched it so often, she had assumed it would be really easy to pick up, but that the coordination of all the movements was actually quite challenging.

After their outing, I had another class to teach, so I sent my parents up to the clubhouse to eat some breakfast and relax.  Some of Maurizio’s aunts and cousins happened to be there that day, so they got to meet them, which was a lovely coincidence.  They wanted us to stay for lunch with them, but we had planned to go over to La Petite Alsace, the restaurant we had first visited on my birthday (and the day we got engaged), so we nibbled a few patacones with them and then made our exit, promising that we would meet up again later in the week.

La Petite Alsace is such an out-of-the-way place that not many people know about it.  The timber walls and furniture make you feel like you are in a log cabin in the woods, and everything is perfectly rustic.  The food is delicious and properly Alsacian: lots of sausages and meats and freshly made cheeses, courtesy of the goats and buffalo they keep outside.  My father was amused by the goats, and even serenaded some of them on our way out!  We stuffed ourselves full and tasted each other’s plates, effectively ruining our appetites for the fancy dinner we had tentatively planned that night, but it was worth it.

The next day they came to visit my apartment in La Macarena, and they were impressed by how open and spacious it was, and they admired its view of Monserrate.  We walked around the neighbourhood a bit, and I showed them the leather goods shop where the artist is always standing at the counter working on something.  Mom had a nice conversation with him about producing and selling one’s own art, and she got his card.  We took them to our favourite upscale grocery store, Konny, for coffee and coca tea to bring home, and then we went to a new local wine bar for some sangria before dinner at the famous and old (and expensive) El Patio restaurant.

On the sixth day of their visit (a Tuesday) we went up to Monserrate, though we didn’t make them walk the trail as we used to do!  Instead we took the funicular, which Daddy loved.  We would have taken the cable car at least one way, but it was not functioning that day.  Daddy also really enjoyed the statues of the Stations of the Cross, which are visible on the winding path up to the church, and we took lots of photos.  Mom was fascinated by the real human hair on the statue of Jesus (it always gets me, too), and the view of the sprawling city from above.

This would not be our only church of the day, as we made our way down to the city centre to explore the Cathedral, which faces the Plaza de Simon Bolivar.  We also stopped in a chocolate café for some rich refreshment.  I was hoping that Daddy and Maurizio could bond while we wandered, because Maurizio had to leave town for a conference the following day, and the rest of the visit would be just me with my parents; I think this was successful.

We stopped at a little place in La Candelaria for late lunch, where my father tried ajiaco and my mother had frijoles.  That night, we went as promised to visit Maurizio's cousin, Gloria, and her husband and children at their home, for more chocolate.  Some other relatives came, too, and it was quite the event!  My parents were glad (if a little jealous) to see that I have a family here who care for me like they would.

The next day my parents explored a Surtifruver and some other parts of Chapinero while Maurizio prepared for his trip and I did some grading  and class preparation.  After Maurizio left, I met my parents at Museo Nacional, where I had not been before, despite walking past it nearly every day.  It is a lovely building from the outside, castle-like and imposing, but inside it is not a particularly good museum. The exhibits are not terribly well organised or signed, and though the religious art exhibit is pretty cool, there isn’t much variety.  Afterward, daddy got his shoes shined by a local, and paid him twice the asking price, because he could not believe someone would do such great work for so little. In fact, my soft-hearted father overpaid and over-tipped every service person he met here in Colombia!

In the evening we went to Andres Carne de Res for dinner.  This place is a bit of a circus, with many floors of garish and colourful decor set off with weird lamps and signs, and occasionally costumed performers come to sing at you.  We waited a very long time for a table, which my father finally had to demand loudly under threat of leaving.  The drinks were expensive, and we didn’t get our food till nearly 9 pm, but it is an experience recommended by most Bogotanos, so I guess we were not allowed to miss it.

On the final day, I took my parents to a late lunch at Masa, a sandwich and salad place they had enjoyed with Maurizio when I was at work, and then brought them back to the centre to visit the Museo del Oro, which I love.  It is much better organised than the Museo Nacional, and I think my parents liked it, as well.  Finally, I brought them to the airport for a sad farewell, and a promise to visit at Christmastime.

1 comment:

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