Day Trippin’ in the Rocky Mountains

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Looking sharp at a wedding

I can’t believe it’s already the middle of September! It feels like only yesterday we were getting ready to head to Calgary for a family wedding.

It was a whirlwind of a week!  I did not expect family weddings to be so ….. busy.  I naively thought I was just a guest … yet it makes total sense as I’m family and who else is going to help with all of the last-minute wedding details expect family?

But, this post isn’t about the wedding which was beautiful, full of special moments and memories. Lots of people cried, which should tell you a lot about this wedding.  This is about our Calgary Rocky mountain road-trip! A fairly standard, tourist trip for Calgary and yet not because, have you seen the mountains???

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Usaquen Sunday Market, Bogotá

UBmarket-11My last day in Bogotá was a Sunday and as my flight didn’t leave until midnight, I had a full day to do whatever I wanted.  I choose to go to the Usaquen Sunday Market, a weekly fair and flea market, in the Usaquen neighbourhood.  A part of Bogotá I hadn’t yet been to and I wanted to buy some gifts.

The market is full of your standard tourist vendors which sell things that you can buy anywhere.  Usaquen Sunday Market also  featured many local artisans. I was tempted to buy some of the canned salsa and spices but, wasn’t sure if I could take them back so sadly did not.  Instead I bought some jewelry. I didn’t bother to haggle as the prices were very reasonable and I want to support these artists who spend their time creating things they love.

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Villa De Leiva, Colombia

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Plaza Mayor

Villa De Leiva is about 2 hours north-east of Bogotá.  It’s a lovely colonial town that gave me a peek into a different side of Colombia.

The town is known for its Plaza Mayor, which at 14,000 square meters is the largest square in Colombia and believed to be the largest entirely cobbled square in South America.

It is actually quite easy to get from Bogotá to Villa De Leiva using public transportation and its cheap! We left our Hostels at 6 am and where in Villa De Leiva by 11 am.  The journey took is 5 hours and cost 27,000 COP’s each which is $12!!!

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Museums of Bogotá

IMG_1339.jpgI was pleasantly surprised by the museums in Bogotá.   To ensure all Bogotáns have the opportunity for cultural enrichment, all of the musuems offer one admission free day.  Something I support! Free access to a museum or art gallery can really be an uplifting moment in your life.  When I was unemployed I would regularly go to the AGO on Wednesday night and it made a huge difference. It took my mind off my worries and took me to a place of wonder.

I did not go to all of the museums in Bogotá.  So this is not a comprehensive list all of the must-see museums and I’m sure I missed on some that others would say require a visit.   I visited about 6 museums in totally.  The most on my first day in Bogotá, which was a Monday and I had plenty of time after the Graffiti Tour!  But, this is the list of the I’d recommend.

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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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