Candelaria, Bogotá

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Calle del Embudo

Candelaria is the old, historic part of Bogotá and houses the majority of the things any traveler to Bogotá would want to see.  Plaza Bolívar, the Gold Museum, Monserrate, Botero Museum, Calle del Embudo, the less well-known La Candelaria Park and Journalist Park, which is the location of the TransMilenio station Jimenez.

There are a couple of ways you can see Candelaria.  You can just go there by yourself or you can join one of the many free walking tours.  I recommend taking a walk tour to orient yourself and get some tips from the tour guide! Unfortunately, Candelaria and in particular the famous Calle del Embudo, is known to be an area where tourists are at risk of being pick pocketed.  Not because the neighborhood itself is unsafe, although there is a lot of visible poverty, but as it is central and attracts tourists, it also attracts pick pockets.

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A Week in Bogotá

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At Monserrate

I was sitting in a meeting in April when I decided I needed a travel break. I needed to see something new, be in a new place and spend some time alone.  With that decision made I did a quick check on Google Flights to see where I could go in May for cheap.  There were a few options but, once I saw flights to Bogotá where cheap …. I decided that would be my destination.  I had never been to Colombia and the chance to see a less-traveled place appealed to me.

I wanted to rest so decided against a week-long travel whirlwind in Colombia and made the decision to just spend a week in Colombia.  It is not a decision I regret as a week is just enough time to not get bored with the city while seeing a lot of it, especially as I threw in a day trip out of Bogotá to get a small feel for Colombia outside the city.

I found people’s reaction to my trip was interesting.  Either people assumed I was going to Cartagena, or for a week-long coke binge (I was not), or they were just plain confused as why I would go to Bogotá of all places!  Before I share the amazing things I experienced and saw during my week-long trip, I’m going to answer some questions about Bogotá that I got.

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Europe 2017: Amsterdam, Netherlands

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A photo of Bloggers in their natural habitat.

Amsterdam has been on my travel bucket-list for years. So when it came to planning our trip home, I felt it would be downright scandalous not to go through Amsterdam! Luckily the difference in cost between going directly from Warsaw vs. stopping over in Amsterdam was a few hundred dollars which basically was our accommodations in Amsterdam so we went for it.

Compared to other cities we’ve been to, Amsterdam is expensive. The hostels are expensive and there aren’t as many Airbnb’s available as there where in Portugal and Spain. Since we were in Amsterdam for only two days so we stayed at the centrally located Stayokay Amsterdam Vonderplark Hostel  in a mixed dorm room – which was the most affordable hostel we could find in the center of the city.  We knew we only needed a place to sleep & shower, so it was perfect.

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Europe 2017: Warsaw, Poland

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Stare Miasto

The motherland did not welcome us with fine weather.  It was rainy, windy and cloudy the day we arrived, and it stayed that way.  It was the type of weather that leant itself to lazy days or wandering in a museum or keeping warm at a cozy cafe.

When everyone asks me how Warsaw was, I struggle to answer.  I love my birth city but, it has changed a lot and I don’t feel that strong emotional connection any more.  It no longer feels like “home”.  The majority of my key life moments occurred in Toronto.  While the ones in Warsaw are a blur now.  I remember the exact corner where the man sold popcorn in a paper cone stood or sitting with my grandpa on his balcony in the sun.  But, everything is different now and I don’t feel that feeling you do when you are in a place which hits you with emotional memories. So how was Warsaw you ask?  Wonderful, strange, emotional.

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Europe 2017: Madrid, Spain 

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After two days in Seville it was time for us to head to Madrid.   We were taking the high-speed train because why not? I decided to throw in a few different modes of transportation into our trip for fun.

We took a bus from the Plaza de la Encarnación to Santa Justa train station and in 2 hours we were in Madrid!!

As we had a flight to Warsaw the next morning, I choose an Airbnb that was located near Pacificio Metro Station. Making it easier to get to the center but, also to get to the airport in the morning.

I found that Madrid did not have the same charm as Lisbon or Seville. Everything was larger, wider and busier, it was a cosmopolitan city and it showed.

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Europe 2017: Seville, Spain

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La Encarnación square at night

We initially talked about going to Barcelona after the Algarve.   We did want to include one expensive city on our trip.  But, when we found out Seville was a mere 3 hour bus ride from Portimao, we cut Barcelona from the itinerary.

We were not disappointed!

We actually couldn’t believe how beautiful and enchanting Seville was.  And the food .. the food just got better and better with each new stop.  What we loved the most is that people truly lived in Seville.  Everyone went out on the weekend, no one stayed home.  And even thought Spain’s been faced with some economic hardships, people looked happy.  It made we wonder why we are so miserable in North America.  Does weather really make that much of a difference?  I still don’t have an answer but, moving to Seville is on my list of crazy things I could do.

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Europe 2017: Algarve, Portugal

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Good bye Lisbon!

With our stay in Portugal’s beautiful capital, Lisbon completed, our next stop was the beaches of the Algarve.  After sharing a room and bunk beds at the hostel, we rented a Airbnb in Portimao, one with a rooftop terrace and a BBQ.  We were going to enjoy this part of the trip in comfort and privacy.  Our house was not on the beach but, in a quite neighbors  that was close enough to all of the major beaches by car.   The pace in Algarve was slower.  We would wake up each morning, drive to a beach or two, and return after sunset for a relaxing dinner on the terrace.

The slower pace meant I had time to think and reflect on the last year.  It had been a year since my father’s passing and going on this trip was a family moment of bonding and healing.  We wanted to celebrate life, to cry, to laugh, to live and worry less about what would happen tomorrow.

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Europe 2017: Lisbon Portugal

Lisbon was an unexpected and beautiful surprise.  It felt like summer in October, but it was the architecture, the friendliness of the people and the culture that really made Lisbon a special place.

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Walking in Bairro Alto

Lisbon is a city built on hills, very steep ones too.  We got a swift introduction the steep hills of Lisbon  as soon as we arrived.  Upon exiting the subway we realized that to get to our hostel we had to walk up hill – there was no none-hill option.   The shorter route was also the steepest and so our introduction to Lisbon’s hilly terrain was swift and true.

We stayed at the B.A. Hostel, right in the middle of Bairro Alto.  It was a lovely hostel, the staff was friendly and helpful.  The hostel is small and seems to attract families, older adults rather than British weekend partiers.  We arrived quite early in Lisbon and had to wait to check-in to our room, so we walked down to see Praça do Comércio.

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Soul Poop: My European Adventure

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Seville, Spain

I’ve been spending some time reflecting on the past year and it seems fitting to start the new one with a look back at the last trip of the year.

I can say that 2017 was a year in which I threw my normal perfectionist-driven caution to the wind and I did one thing I had always craved to do – travel.

I have a hard time categorizing my fall trip to Europe.  It was an adventure, a family trip, a discovery quest, a time to put things to rest, to let go and cleanse the emotional blockage – as a friend described it, “a Soul Poop.”

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Chiang Mai Temple Hopping: Wat Phra Singh

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First selfie in Chiang Mai

It was impossible not to visit a temple while in Chiang Mai.  The city has a history as a Buddhist spiritual center and is compact, so you can’t walk very far without stumbling upon a temple.

Wat Phra Singh is one of the most well-known and prestigious temples in the city, and was part of itinerary for my first day in Chiang Mai.

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