villa de leyva


After our week-long vacation in Salento, Seth and I promised ourselves we would spend more time exploring Colombia. Thus we decided to spend our most recent puente (May 11-13) in Villa de Leyva, a small colonial town about three hours outside of Bogotá. (You might recognize the town’s name from the painting that we gifted my mom and Ken for Christmas!)

Seth and I woke up early on Saturday morning, took the Transmilenio to the Terminal Norte, took a second bus to Tunja, then took a third bus to Villa de Leyva. Just as our last collectivo began to shake from the transition between the smooth, paved roads of the highways to the rocky, raw “roads” of Villa de Leyva, a fellow passenger yelled, “Bienvenidos a Boyacá!” Everyone laughed.


We arrived in the center of the town around two, found our hostel near Parque Nariño, and immediately set out in search of lunch. Since the weather was nice, we chose a restaurant in the interior courtyard of Casa Quintero, an open-house collection of eateries and boutiques on the southwest face of the Plaza Mayor. At Tierra Buena we enjoyed flavorful (!) dishes of trucha Villa de Leyva (trout with green olives, onions, and plenty of cilantro) and pechuga con jalapeños y cilantro while sipping on a pair of cervezas bien frias. Just as our food arrived, clouds suddenly began to collect and rain began to pour. While the rest of our dining companions sought the warmth and dryness of the indoors, Seth and I remained outside, huddling under our big red umbrella and listening to a couple of gringo guitarists practice their evening set in English.


After lunch we snapped some photos in the plaza, strolled along the roughly cobbled streets, and ducked into some artisan shops. We stumbled upon one particularly well-edited boutique which offered only the most beautiful mochilas Arhuacas and handmade jewelry. I wondered why the shops in Bogotá were not as carefully curated.

On Saturday evening we found another courtyard collection of eateries and boutiques, so we decided to sit down for some red wine and live music. Rain began to pour (yet again), but Seth and I were able to find a table under a covered patio next to a warm fireplace. Al fresco dining is surprisingly hard to come by in Bogotá, especially outside the luxury zones of the Zona G and Zona Rosa, so we were especially thankful to have two consecutive affordable experiences.


The next day we woke up before seven and walked the town in search of breakfast. We decided upon a particular outdoor cafe that I had researched called El Patio Van Gogh. The restaurant/hangout was basically an open lot, which had been dotted with a small outdoor kitchen and a series of picnic tables. Seth and I both ordered the Changua Boyacense, a breakfast soup which consisted of milk, two eggs, almojábana, queso paipa, and cilantro pesto. Served with a hot cup of café con leche, it was by far the most delicious breakfast I had eaten in all of Colombia. I was in culinary heaven.


Bellies full, we began our six-kilometer hike to El Fósil, a museum with an almost complete, 120 million year-old kronosaurus fossil on display, in the same place in which it was found in 1977. Along the way we were surprised by how much the weather and scenery changed. During our short hike we traveled from the slightly humid climate of Villa de Leyva to an extremely hot and dry, desert-like landscape. I was glad to have my new Colombian fedora with me, even if it was only wide enough to shield my face—not my shoulders—from the sun’s intense rays.


We explored the museum for a bit, then sat down for a snack of longaniza con plátano maduro. We then continued along the path to the Estación Astronómica Muisca (El Infiernito). The Spanish named the Muisca Astronomic Observatory—basically, a Stonehenge lite—”Little Hell” because of its many phallic monoliths, a tribute to male fertility.

Sweaty and sunburned, Seth and I walked back to town and prepared to go out for drinks and dinner. We chose a combo boutique/restaurant on one of the two exclusively pedestrian streets, ordered a bottle of Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon, and relaxed. Post wine, we were hankering for some complex carbohydrates and cheese, so we walked to a little Italian restaurant, La Ricotta, for a calorie fest. Shortly after scarfing down a bowl of Tagliatelle della Zarina (tagliatelle with salmon, vodka, paprika, and pomodoro), I was ready to call it a night.


On Monday morning we returned to El Patio Van Gogh for a tropical breakfast of assorted fruits before boarding a direct bus back to Bogotá. Our trip to Villa de Leyva was exactly what we had wanted it to be: relaxing but slightly eventful. We came home with satisfied stomachs and fond memories.

To see more pictures from Villa de Leyva, click here:


[Tierra Buena: Casa Quintero, Plaza Mayor, Villa de Leyva-Colombia]

[El Patio Van Gogh: Calle 13, Villa de Leyva-Colombia]

[La Ricotta: Carrera 10a # 11-49, Villa de Leyva-Colombia ]


eje cafetero: day 6: cascada santa rita


For our last day in the Eje Cafetero, Seth and I had big plans; we were going horseback riding! Since we had opted to walk to the Reserva Natural Sacha Mama on our second day and through the Valle de Cocora on our fourth, we had severely limited our destination options. I then remembered a poster I had spotted upon checking into La Serrana, so I decided to give it another look. It was an advertisement for a tour to the Cascada Santa Rita courtesy of Omar Hernández and his finest caballos.


By ten o’clock, Seth and I were saddled up and on our way. Señor Hernández led us first through Salento, then downhill on a windy road, over a river and through a forest, eventually to the waterfall. He gave us time to climb down, swim around, and snap some photos. Although I was quite terrified of my horse for the first leg of our three-hour jaunt, I became much more comfortable and confident for the second. I even led the pack for a while, initiating trots here and there. My horse Estrella was very patient, if a little shy, and not once did she eject me from her back or send me rolling down a muddy slope!

Seth and I asked to end our tour in Salento so that we could grab some lunch. We stopped at Brunch for one last American food fix. I ordered a BLTA with actual crunchy bacon (!), while Seth devoured a plate of hot wings. For dessert we topped off with a chocolate and peanut butter brownie doused with hot fudge. I had heard several rave reviews about this brownie, and after eating dry, stale imposter after dry, stale imposter in Bogotá, I was not the least bit disappointed. Just as we were leaving the restaurant, we met a young couple from Wyoming who sat at the next table. Trey and Aubrey were in Salento for the week, but like us Trey was preparing to return to Bogotá for work. We exchanged contact information and promised to meet for a beer sometime.

We returned to La Serrana and lounged in the hammocks until dinner. Since many of the travelers that we had met were also leaving town the next day, Seth and I decided to enjoy one last supper with everyone at the hostel.

Dinner consisted of beef kebabs with red bell pepper; cucumber, tomato, and onion; hummus; tzatziki; and many glasses of Chilean wine. Seth and I met two girls from the south of Norway, Miriam and Hilda, who were vacationing in Colombia for a couple of weeks, but I spent most of the meal talking to a girl from Scotland named Emily, who had just moved to the States but was vacationing in Colombia for a month. When I told Emily that I had visited Scotland as a kid, her ears instantly perked. “Where did you go? Did you like it?” and then, cautiously, “…How was the weather?” I elaborated that I had spent most of my time in St. Andrews and a little town somewhere outside of Aberdeen called Oldmeldrum to visit family friends. Well, it turned out that she used to work in Oldmeldrum. While I could not for the life of me recall said friends’ surnames, I gave Emily all of the information I had. She was now living in Mobile, Alabama with her Houstonian boyfriend, so we mused about possibly running into one another again in the future.

Throughout the evening Seth and I also talked with Julian and Stephen, the usuals, and with Trey and Aubrey. The wine and conversation lasted until about midnight, and afterwards everyone said their goodbyes and went to bed.


My time in Salento was definitely one of my more tranquil travel experiences. I did a lot of fun things, met a lot of good people, and got a lot of deep sleep. As much as I would love to return, I have many other Colombian sites that I must get to know. I might not ever visit Salento again, but I will always have memories.

To see more pictures from Salento and the Eje Cafetero, click here:

[Brunch: Calle 6 # 3-25, Salento-Colombia]

duncan arrives

For Duncan’s first day in Paris, Seth and I decided to take him to the Conciergerie. Since Duncan is such a history and politics buff, he enjoyed touring the prison and imagining what it must have been like in 1793, when Marie Antoinette and many other revolutionaries awaited their turn at the guillotine.

After sunset, we took the subway to the Eiffel Tower. We laid out on the lawn for nearly an hour just admiring the twinkling lights.

To see some photos from last week, click here:

To see some photos from yesterday, click here:

belated photos

With the start of a new month comes 300 MB of fresh Flickr space. Unfortunately, my belated photographs from the end of March have already consumed 97% of said space. Additionally, my overall photostream currently consists of 185 photos. At the 200-photo mark, Flickr begins to hide old photos from public view.

So, to upgrade or not to upgrade? Is $24.95/year worth unlimited storage? (If you say no, you won’t see any photos of my April adventures. Think about that.)

While you debate, look at my pictures from the end of March!

the 5th, 6th, and 7th arrondissements (Eliot’s visit):


saint chapelle

Today after studio, Seth and I rushed to meet Eliot at Saint Chapelle. Consecrated in 1248, the gothic chapel reveals Louis IX’s political and cultural ambitions to become the central monarch of western Christendom. The most visually beautiful aspects of the chapel are its stained glass, for which the stonework is a delicate framework, and its rose windows, which were added to the upper chapel in the fifteenth century.

For a few other photos of Saint Chapelle, click here:

I can’t help but wonder: If Saint Chapelle charges eight Euros per adult admission, why are half the lights out? Tsk, tsk.

the lunch club: part deux

Today our class participated in a leisurely walking tour around the eighteenth and nineteenth arrondissements. We visited the Père Lachaise cemetery (where Oscar Wilde and other famous people are buried) and Buttes Chaumont (a beautiful scenic park on a hill); we admired street art by Mosko & Compagnie and Nemo; we strolled through Belleville.

UPDATE: To check out some photos from the walking tour, click here:

After our wonderful walk in the sun, we stopped at Le Vieux Belleville for our second lunch club session. For my starter, I enjoyed a small charcuterie plate with salami, prosciutto, and rillettes (a sort of pork spread). Seth chose a salad with smoked salmon and chèvre (goat cheese). For our main course, we split two entrees: rare horse steak and stewed beef kidneys. Both were just okay. The horse steak was not thoroughly seasoned. I definitely prefer horse raw, mixed with herbs and citrus, to rare. As for the kidneys, they were a little too potent for my taste. I prefer lamb sweetbreads to beef, as they are milder in both odor and flavor. I had never eaten beef kidneys, though, so I was happy to try something new.

Tomorrow evening, Seth and I are attending a potluck feast hosted by Brian and MJ. I think Seth and I will use our leftover tomato paste to make lasagna. Yes, dear reader, that means my next entry will focus on food… again.

food + photos on the right bank

Toward the end of last week, I got very busy with schoolwork and did not have any time to write. This weekend, however, I had both days off to do whatever I wanted. Most of my classmates fled to London or Brussels, but since Seth’s friend Evan was visiting from Seattle, we decided to stay and tour the city.

On Friday night, we took the subway to Montmarte for a nice walk and a leisurely dinner. Sanket met us at the station, and off we went in search of a fondue place Evan had his heart set on. The restaurant was swarming with American sorority girls, so we decided to try another. (Unfortunately, in Paris if you do not have reservations or if you are not at the restaurant—any restaurant—before eight o’clock, you will not get a table until ten thirty, when the next round of dinner is served. Some restaurants only serve one round of dinner.) We walked until we found the promising Chéri Bibi, a trendy French restaurant located just beneath the Sacre Coeur. While we waited for our 10:30 seating, we stopped in a café for a glass of wine. (3-4 Euro. I will never, ever take the wine-by-the-glass prices in this city for granted.) By the time our table was ready, we were all very hungry. We sat down, fully prepared to speak broken French, when our waiter approached us. He immediately asked whether we preferred him to speak in French or English. Despite our insistence that he talk to us in French, he spoke English most of the time. We interpreted the prix-fixe chalkboard menu without any problems and placed our orders with ease. Seth ordered a spicy grilled shrimp appetizer with a veal main course; Sanket chose a fresh mozzarella and green pepper appetizer with a gorgonzola and walnut pasta; Evan opted for a salmon pâte appetizer with a duck breast main course; and I chose the pork pâte with the duck. All of the dishes were good, but none of them were spectacular. I will say though, if there ever was a myth about the French serving small portions, consider that false. Seth, Evan, and I received unusually large chunks of meat. I had to pawn off at least half of my duck (which was cooked a delicious, juicy rare) to the boys. By the time we finished dinner, it was already one in the morning. (We were not even the last group to finish our meal; several other tables were still occupied.) We decided to head home so we could wake up at a reasonable hour and enjoy our Saturday.

The next day, Seth and I met Evan at the Pompidou. We walked around the plaza a bit before making our way to L’île de la Cité (the island of the city). Evan had never been to Paris, so he was dying to see the Notre Dame Cathedral. We spent about three hours touring the church, photographing tourists in the plaza, and examining the old city. After all that walking, we began to crave some ice cream from the world famous Berthillon. Evan ordered a simple chocolate, and Seth scarfed down a cherry and caramel. I savored my fig and caramel scoops as long as I possibly could. They were just so… heavenly. For dinner, we journeyed to the sixth arrondissement. Evan picked out a small, somewhat hidden place called La Ferrandaise. Because we arrived around seven thirty, we secured a table without any problem. As we scanned the menu and sipped a Bordeaux, our waitress brought us a “welcome soup,” which I think was made of creamy butternut squash and cauliflower. It was warm, comforting, and, most importantly, very tasty. Like Chéri Bibi, this restaurant’s menu was also prix-fixe. I chose the feuilleté d’escargots et tétragones, beurre de ciboulette (a puff pastry of snails, butter, and chives) for my entrée. Then, Seth and I shared a large pot of bouille de rascasse et daurade, sauce rouille et croûtons (a stew of boiled scorpion fish, served with rouille sauce and crispy bread) for our plat principal. I had never eaten snails before, so I was surprised to find that they were not so slimy. They were actually quite chewy, like mussels. The rubbery texture of the escargots and the flaky texture of the pastry contrasted strangely, but I still enjoyed the dish. As for the soup, it was not as broth-based as I expected. It was thick, creamy, and spicy, much like an étouffée. All of the food was very filling and comforting, almost as if it was home cooked. For dessert, I ordered a cheese plate. I wrongly assumed that the waitress would bring a plate of four, modestly sized pieces of cheese to the table for me to enjoy. No. She brought a huge cutting board with four amazingly large chunks of cheese from the Puy de Dôme region and two knives. “Vous vous servez,” she said. I was mortified! Everyone at the restaurant stared at me, wondering how (and how much) I was supposed to serve myself. I carefully sliced one sliver from each bleu cheese and one from each cream and pushed the cutting board to the edge of the table. As I bit into a mild bleu cheese, my heart melted. The taste was totally worth the initial embarrassment.

After dinner, Evan, Seth, and I wandered around the sixth to the Senate and to Saint Sulpice. Once we began to feel less full, we met Sanket and slipped into a bar. Evan and I had one round of beer (Heineken, blah!) and we were ready to go home. Seth and Sanket stayed out a bit longer.

This afternoon, Seth and I met Evan at the Bastille for some shopping at the market. Afterward, we walked along the Promenade to the Bibliothèque nationale de France. Since few stores are open and few people seem to leave their homes, Sundays in Paris are quite dreary. Seth and I began to feel drowsy and draggy, so after one last stop to the Montparnasse cemetery, we took the subway home. Luckily, we managed to find an open bakery, and we are now enjoying a baguette and some cheese.

I have posted some photos from this weekend. Enjoy!

i joined the communist party!


But our class did visit their French headquarters. Designed by Oscar Niemeyer (1967-1980), the building features a subterranean entrance which cleverly contrasts with that of the French National Assembly.

As part of our second Replaying Modernism walking tour, we also visited the Church of Notre Dame du Raincy. Designed by Auguste Perret (1921-1922), it was the first religious building in France to be constructed of concrete. Perret adapted his material of choice to achieve the lightness (both weight and brightness) of early Gothic cathedrals.

I hope the photos will be worth the second entry.