Friday, January 22, 2010

Next stop Ribeirao Preto, Brazil

I'm always amazed that this blog gets repeat visitors checking it out and feel badly that my posting level has decreased.

Since my trip to Colombia, I spent a week in London over Thanksgiving with my boyfriend and returned to Hawaii for the holidays.

2010 looks to be a good year for least the first half of the year! I'm traveling to Ribeirao Preto, Brazil for the first time on Feb 6. It's a city about a 3-hour drive from Sao Paulo. It's been 6 years since I was last in Brazil and I look forward to eating cheese balls and fresh fruit for breakfast!

We're staying at a resort (yes, it really is for work!), but unfortunately I won't be there long enough to enjoy the weather or facility. But expect to see photos and whatever observations I have time to make so come back in February!

Playing tourist

NOTE: This is a post I drafted while in Colombia but didn't publish until 3 months later!

On Saturday I had the opportunity to play tourist in Bogota. My bodyguard and 3 policemen accompanied us (one drove the car, the other 2 were on a motorcycle to stop traffic). Felipe and I hit Museo de Oro (Gold Museum) first. There we learned everything from how gold from pre-historic times to its use as ornaments of shamans and tribal leaders. It was interesting to see how gold went from dull and simple shapes to more elaborate forms as people realized it could be flattened into thin sheets, poured into wax forms, and manipulated with tools. I love that the museums here allow you to photograph the works as long as the flash is turned off (versus Buenos Aires when I got scolded for photographing myself in front of a pile of artist-arranged candy). Of course, I took advantage of that!

After the gold museum, we hit the Botero museum located in the old part of town called La Candelaria. This was taken outisde of the Botero museum. I wish we could walk around the area. It's quite charming, even with rain clouds looming.

Botero is a famous artist from Colombia, known for his depictions of fat people and equally fat still lifes. The museum also has a scattering of paintings by European artists such as Picasso, Miro, Monet. Best of all, it's free!

Next to the Botero museum is the coin museum and another art museum primarily of Colombian artists (although there was one Texan in it!). The highlight was a vault containing 3 large decorative objects from churches. They were from the 1700's and the amount of gold, emeralds, pearls, amethysts, topaz, etc. in them were amazing. I wanted to take a photo, but they won't allow it. We had fun trying to find the diamonds after reading the placard. All were very tastefully done. The emeralds were of an incredibly dark green. Some of the stones were huge. No wonder they're kept in a vault!

A friend told us to stop at a French bakery located at the top of one of the streets in La Candelaria. Amazingly enough, we drove by it so we had to stop for the almond pastry and coffee. It was delicious and hit the spot.

The next stop was a jewelry store to buy emeralds. My bodyguard took us to a shop that looked like any other souvenir store, but in the back behind a locked door was the jewelry store. I was looking to buy a ring to go with the necklace and earrings I purchased on my last trip and my mother wanted a pair of earrings. Colombia is one of the largest emerald producing countries in the world, along with Brazil and South Africa. The choices were wide. I easily found the perfect ring. They were kind enough to resize it in 1.5 hours.

While we were waiting for the ring, we visited the Simon Bolivar Home, a short walk from the store. He spent 10 years in the house, although he wasn't there often, from 1821-1830. It's a small home full of period furnishings. The gardens are lovely. There's a large outdoor bath and small pool, which we were wondering how often either were used since Bogota is rather chilly. It was a good way to kill time and wander the grounds.
After we picked up the ring, we grabbed a bite to eat at Sopa de la Madre y Postres de la Abuela. I had a Sancocho - a soup (in this case with ribs) with a potato, yucca, plaintains, and corn and accompanied with rice and avocado. Adding some aji gave the soup a kick. I was stuffed and called it a day...until it was time to go out for the evening!