|We got up at 4:00 to shower and shave. We had to have our bags out by 5:00 am, and be in the lobby at 5:30 to leave for the airport. We went down a little before 5:00 to the continental breakfast. It was juice, tea/coffee, with breads and some pastries. We ate and returned to the room to refresh and for our backpacks.
We left about 5:25, and the morning was not as chilly as previous days, but the skies were cloudy. We made good time to the airport as there was very little traffic on the road at that hour.
At the airport, Juan & Wendy took care of our luggage. Wendy had checked us in yesterday afternoon. We got in line and Wendy presented Juan with the OAT tip, and then he went on his way. We made sure this time to get credit for the Star Alliance program.
Then Wendy escorted us to the security checkpoint, and we said our goodbyes. She was a good guide and I let her know. We went through security quickly and then waited at our gate for our flight to Lima. The gate rep, a little later, called my name. Apparently there some trouble with my luggage, but no one could tell me in English what was the problem. So, I followed a worker bee down to the luggage sorting area where the workers sort the luggage for the planes. I was taken to a room and asked to open the luggage. Ok, wish someone had told me, because my luggage key was in my backpack upstairs.
So, we went back upstairs, and by this time everyone was in line to board. So after my boarding pass was scanned, I went back down to the luggage area and opened the luggage. They were looking for aerosol cans. I showed him my shaving cream, and he looked at my deodorant, then looked in my black all-purpose bag and pulled out the OFF insect spray can. He looked at the contents. No problem, apparently. Then we put the luggage back together. I had to sign a form and print my last name.
Then I was free to go. Instead of going back to the gate, I was walked across the tarmac to the arm attached to the plane and told to use the stairs that comes out next to the door where you step onto the plane. Now, most of the passengers had already boarded, so there was no room overhead for my backpack. Luckily, it fit under the seat. Now, Jean had the window seat, and I had the aisle seat. No one was in the middle seat yet, so I didn't bother to buckle up until whoever had that ticket showed up. Well, no one showed and the door was closed. A bonus, which makes up for the luggage incident.
So the 1 hr 40 minute flight was somewhat comfortable. No movies were offered, which was ok with me. I had planned to catch up with the Star Ledger, beginning with last Sunday. I made sure to download the paper every day, but did not have time to read them. So, today was catch up day. I already knew some of the major national news because Jean would watch CNN and BBC World. We had a smooth flight. We were served a small herb cheese spread breakfast sandwich with fruit and a muffin, and a drink of choice.
We quickly got through the new security checkpoint at Lima. We found which gate was ours, and plopped down for the 2 hour layover. I used the free 30 minute wifi at the airport to upload the last two days of blogs. Hopefully the internet in Columbia is more reliable, but I doubt it.
We started boarding finally for our 11:05 flight at 10:30, even though they tell you on the boarding pass to be at the gate by 10:05. (Hey, it's South America) Now we were on to Bogota and the main OAT trip. Except, we sat on the runway for 45 minutes before taking off. And, we had company this time, a young woman sat between us. (I knew it would be too much to hope for another empty seat) Jean had some trouble with her entertainment system, and I watched "The Girl" about Alfred Hitchcock and Tippy Hedrin. After the movie I read two more newspapers. We were served a lunch on this flight. We both had the vegetable lasagna, with dinner roll, a salad, and a cake dessert.
We landed about 2:25 pm local time in Bogota. We did not have a gate (probably because of the 45 minute delay), so we had to disembark using the stairs & taking a bus to the international arrivals terminaal. Since my day had been going so well (sarcasm), Passport Control had a problem with my passport. Apparently it would not scan properly, so I had to follow the young lady over to the supervisor booth. Someone took a magnifying glass to check, probably, the watermark in the page's paper. Apparently,nothing was wrong, because then it was handed over to the supervisor who stamped my passport and said I could go.
Hallelujah, my luggage was on the carousel. I had thoughts that it might not have made the plane after what happened in La Paz. Diego, our OAT guide, met us at the airport. Everyone in the group took sometime to change some money at the airport. Then we had our ride from airport.
What a different city Bogota is from La Paz. It looks very modern, and we saw new automobiles on the road, and new car dealerships. Their bus system has a dedicated lane, and enclosed waiting rooms; on the avenue between the lanes, there is a dedicated bicycle lane. Diego said the government is trying to encourage people to ride the bus system and bicycles to reduce traffic and pollution. There are many motorcycles on the road that weave in and out of traffic. Diego said that there are anywhere from 30-40 accidents a day involving the motorcycles.
We arrived at the Hotel de la Opera about 4:00. It is in the older district of Bogota. While waiting to register, the family ahead of us was speaking American English. I asked where they were from. The reply was San Diego, California. We talked for a minute, then we told them to enjoy their vacation.
Hotel de la Opera is a very convoluted hotel. We took the elevator to the second floor, but because of the layout, we then had to walk up 12 steps to get to our 2nd floor room level. This section of the hotel has four floors, but the elevator only goes to the third floor. You then take a spiral staircase to the fourth floor. Some of the group is on the seventh floor in another section of the building! Don't ask.
We took a quick walking tour of the area at 4:30. Diego took us down the street. He stopped at a obleas stand. An obleas is two wafers pressed together with a filling(s) of your choice. He had the cart lady make us one to see how it was done. You can order from one to eleven toppings. Diego ordered a caramel, raspberry jam and coconut onleas. He passed it around. It was a delicious, interesting dessert, and really inexpensive.
Diego had Richard volunteer to make one. He made a caramel, raspberry jam, and chocolate chips. He was a little unsure, but did well in the end. It takes a little practice. The cart had a picture of Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones logo. When they toured in Bogota a few years back, Mick stopped at the booth and had one of her obleas.
We then walked down to the Plaza de Bolivar. This is a large plaza that is where people gather to protest. A good area to protest because it is surrounded by the Capital building, Colombian National Congress, Palace of Justice, and the First Cathedral of Columbia. We walked a little further and Diego pointed out a supermarket for snacks, drinks and that also has an ATM. We then circled back down a different street that had a lot of restaurants that would be good on the days we have dinner on our own.
After the tour, Diego helped Jean and I get a cab to go to the Hard Rock Cafe. We used a white cab, which are larger and more comfotable, and a little more expensive. The driver quoted $25,000 COP (about $8.33 USD) for the ride. The driver was friendly but did not speak English. He adjusted the seats for us and asked if we wanted to change the music.
The ride was long through some back streets, but we still encountered commuter traffic. Along the way I noticed a big difference between Bolivia and Columbia. Columbia is more modern. The people dress upscale (people in suits, better clothing, even their casual clothing), the buildings are not all brick face. La Paz outside of the central old city, was a sea of brick buildings all the same brick color. After about 50 minutes, we arrived at the Hard Rock.
The Hard Rock was located just inside the entrance of a mall. The menu was the same as the one in Santiago, the titles of the menu items were in English, but the description of the item was in Spanish. Our waitress did not speak English, but was able to take our order. Jean found our spring roll appetizer! Spring rolls had disappeared from the menu years ago. A treat!
Jean had bruschetta for her entrée, and I had the pulled pork sandwich platter. On the way back from the rest room, Jean asked the hostess for help getting a taxi back to the hotel. Of course, she did not speak English, but conveyed to Jean that her manager, Andrew, spoke English and would call us a cab.
In the meantime, I went to the Hard Rock shop where I purchased 2 Bogota pins. Andrew was the one who waited on me. He to.d us that he started out in the kitchen, became a waiter, and moved up to manager. He phoned for a taxi, and said he would come and find us when it arrived.
I wanted my picture taken by the sign next to the entrance. As Jean was trying to take a second picture, a family was entering the mall. They hesitated and I waved them in. After they passed, the father turned and asked in very good English would we like a picture together. After he took the picture, he asked where we were from? Come to find out, the family is from Wisconsin near Green Bay. They have been in Columbia for over a month to allow the two sons to improve their Spanish. What a great idea! Both parents work from home. Right now, home just happens to be Bogota. I talked with the boys. I said that it being immersed is a lot different from being in the classroom, and the older son said "Oh yeah." Then Andrew appeared, our taxi was ready. He walked us out to the taxi, Jean thanked him and gave him a hug.
We had a yellow taxi on the way back. These are small cars that are cramped and no music, but cheaper ($15,300 COP - about $3.10 USD). The ride back to the hotel was a lot quicker because of it was the rush hour traffic. We arrived about 8:30, then we relaxed and watched TV. The hotel had Direct TV. I hit the sack at 10:00.