GOT PLANS? WE DO NOW
One night while sitting down to dinner of stinky cheese and crusty bread at the apartment in Bogotá, Guillermo (our Airbnb hosts are Luisa and Guillermo) asked us if we had any plans the next day. We responded that we had no concrete plans and that we were open to almost anything. He then told us to be ready to go early the next morning. Morning arrived and we got ourselves ready, not knowing what the day had in store. At 8:09am, Guillermo messaged us through WhatsApp and it went exactly like this:
GUILLERMO: What’s up?
GUILLERMO: Are you up already
US: Yes. We are getting ready to go
GUILLERMO: We’ve got plans for you
US: Should we be scared or excited?
GUILLERMO: A little of both….
US: We are ready to go
We expected to spend the day walking or taking the bus around Bogotá, since those are the easiest forms of transportation. But, much to our surprise, Luisa unexpectedly pulled an adorable little 4-door Nissan out of the parking garage of the apartment building. This was our first indication that our day was about to be action-packed. It felt quite strange being in a car after a few weeks of nothing but busses and our feet for transportation. It also allowed us to take pictures from the safety of the vehicle. Not more than a few minutes on the road, Guillermo asked us if we had had breakfast yet. We replied that we had not and that we would be happy to go wherever they took us. They said ok, but did not reveal to where exactly we were headed. We just kept heading towards the south of Bogotá, to areas that Guillermo previously warned us about.
PLAZA DE PALOQUEMAO
The first place that Luisa and Guillermo brought us was quite an unexpected treat. It was a very large marketplace, marked by a tall white tower inscribed with the name of the place, “Plaza de Paloquemao”. It was an amazing place, jam-packed with hundreds and hundreds of vendors selling every type of food you could imagine. We started in an enormous area filled with an incredible variety of fresh fruits. There must have been at least a hundred fruit vendors; each with stands heaping with fresh, locally-grown delicacies.
We wove our way through a labyrinth of different stands until we came across the favorite vendor of Luisa and Guillermo, a gregarious and kind man affectionately referred to as Toyota. He was happy to share samples of any of the exotic fruits that we cared to try. We tried about a dozen different fruits, including cherimoya, feijoa, granadilla, gulupa, mangosteen, maracuyá, pitahaya (dragonfruit), tomate de árbol, uchuva (gooseberry), and zapote. All of these fruits were absolutely delicious. Luisa picked up many fruits from Toyota to bring home in her Nissan.
After sampling Toyota’s delicious fares, we continued to stroll around the vast marketplace where we came across a section of vegetables just as large as that of the fruits. There were also large areas where they sold a great variety of different meats, fish, dairy products, herbs, hot peppers, and sauces. In addition, there were also a few dozen vendors selling various wares for the kitchen. Eventually we came across a giant food court where Guillermo invited us to try three very popular and traditional Colombian soups. All of the soups contained various vegetables, but were quite distinct in their meat products. The first soup that we tried contained cow spleen and had a very gamey flavor. The second was made of cow’s knees; the flavor was good but the consistency was that of gelatin, making it a little difficult for us to stomach. The final one, and Sally’s favorite, consisted of bull penis. It was not nearly as gamey as the others and it had a smooth nutty finish.
After our soup sampling session, it was high time for some good Colombian coffee. We stopped at a small coffee stand where each of us had a cup of our favorite “tinto”, which is nothing more than strong black coffee.
When our coffee was finished, Guillermo led us outside to another part of Plaza de Paloquemao, to what he called a “semi-legal” flower market. Apparently, the majority of the really nice flowers grown in Colombia are solely destined for exportation. The flowers that are not quite up to par are the ones that make it to the flower shops around Colombia and to flower markets such as the one at the Plaza of Paloquemao. However, the giant marketplace of flowers at Paloquemao also contains some of the flowers that were destined for export. These nicer flowers just happened to “fall off of the export trucks”. Thus, the flower market at Paloquemao is quite impressive and makes available a wide variety of different flowers in various qualities, many of which are quite inexpensive.
Sally managed to get two dozen roses for just 2,000 Colombian pesos, less than one US dollar. Some of the flowers we saw there included many different types of roses, endless rows of various colored daisies, Calla lilies, Asian lilies, birds of paradise, lobster claws (Heliconia rostrata), and many examples of Colombia’s national flower, the orchid.
We had such an incredible time at the Plaza de Paloquemao! However, our day was only just beginning! Look for part two of our Adventures With Luisa and Guillermo very soon!
To see all of our photos from Plaza de Paloquemao, check out our photo album on facebook:
For PART TWO of our Adventures With Luisa and Guillermo, click here!