Lovely Villa de Leyva

Wednesday, April 09, 2014
Villa de Leyva, Colombia
This morning I was up at 3 am and out the door by 3:40. My flight to Bogota left at 5:50, and Monica recommended we leave at that time. So, yes, it's a little crazy that I'm still awake at the moment. The flight to Bogota was short and smooth. (Again, can't say enough good things about Avianca airlines). We got in early, by 7 am, and it was so quiet in immigration that I was the first in line for visitors. Score! I grabbed my bag, exchanged some money and went to the taxi line. My first stop in Colombia is Villa de Leyva, a cute colonial town that has preserved all of its Spanish architecture. I was told instead of taking a cab to the main bus station, that I should shoot for "Portal del Norte," the last bus station before leaving Bogota. This would save me time on the bus.  

Traffic was horrendous in Bogota at this hour . Crazy drivers and people on motorcycles who create their own lanes. My cab driver, Ernesto, chatted with me a bit. He said my Spanish was good and was asking about my trip, He said, "Cocaina in Colombia? No. En Peru...Ecuador? Si!" I guess that was good to hear, and I had heard that the drug problems in Colombia had improved a lot. He likes Colombia but said he likes the US more.  

We got to Portal del Norte, and I discovered that's it's a place in front of the Exito grocery store where buses stop. Ernesto got out of the cab, walked with me to the sidewalk and flagged down a coach bus for me to get on. I think he wanted to help me since I was alone, but I didn't care! I paid for my ticket once I got on the bus. The coach was very clean and comfortable. At one point, these two men (I'll just call them Rico and Chico) started trying to sell stuff. They didn't come near me because I pretended I didn't understand them. That was a bit annoying, but I just read my book . Rico and Chico eventually got off the bus, which was fine with me. The bus took us as far as the town of Tunja. From here I had to catch a minibus to VDL which run every 15 minutes. Again, a person walked me to the right bus, because I was pretty clueless. I was told that Colombians are friendly and do like to help gringas. Hey, works for me.

The ride to VDL was bumpy, curvy and twisty turny, as it lies in a valley. But getting here was so worth it. I took a cheap taxi to my guest house, Case Viena, because there was no way I was walking 20 minutes with my backpack, also uphill. Once I settled in, I grabbed some lunch at a local place. For $5, I got the special which was soup, a plate of beans, meat and rice, a papaya drink and a small bowl of raspberries for dessert. Yes, all of that for $5. Oh, and a coca-cola, forgot that. That is crazy.  

The highlight of VDL, as you will see in my photos, is the Plaza Mayor, the largest plaza in Colombia . It's all stone and actually not easy to navigate on if you aren't wearing the right shoes. My Earth clogs didn't really cut it, so when I went back to the square at 6 am to attend mass, I wore my hiking tennies. The houses are mostly white with terracotta roofs. The mass was only 30 minutes, and then I went a newer place called "Barcelona Tapas," which reminded me of Barcelona. The owners, Nina and Nacho, were super cute and fun to converse with. I tried, at least, as best I could. The food was great, and the wine was even better. It seems like there are great little eateries here.  

VDL is a great town for strolling and hiking. I might try to some of that tomorrow. It's also extremely safe. I also need to purchase my bus ticket for Friday morning. I'll pretty much be moving every two days. It's kind of nuts, but I wanted to be able to see as much as possible, so we'll see how it goes.   

Hasta Manana,