Travel

Bogota Back In Business After Years Of Turmoil

AFTER visiting Bogota and Cartagena in Colombia for a week in June – and thankfully not witnessing one bombing or kidnapping – I went to the airport for my return flight. That’s where I saw the El Tiempo headline that blissfully confirmed my impressions: Registra historica baja en homicidios.

Bogota cityscape

The rate of lethal violence in this Andean nation has been dropping. The FARC guerrilla group was laying low. Colombia’s “perpetual state of strife” (as a New York Times book critic put it) has subsided. It is a beautiful country with friendly people eager to welcome foreign friends.

Bogota apartments

The day I returned home, The New YorkTimes carried an op-ed piece by Hector Abad, the Colombian author of the searing memoir Oblivion, who insisted that economic conditions in Colombia have vastly improved under the new president, Manuel Santos. He wrote that “never in recent decades have the economic figures (inflation, unemployment, growth) been so good.”

The human landscape has been tranquil. People in the capital are in the streets, going to work, going out to restaurants, school kids flocking to museums, life abounds. There is much to learn, much to see and enjoy.

This is the land of the world’s choice coffee, and tourists are coming to savor the brew. Here are the mines giving up emeralds sparkling like fire, and visitors are coming to buy the best.

Resources My companion on the trip was Lonely Planet Colombia (paperback, 352 pages, $25.99 Amazon.com Price: $17.21) You’ll find everything you need to know to make your sojourn pleasant and informed.

The Casa de Narino, as the Presidential Palace is known, is again welcoming visitors. We were given an escorted tour by a member of the Presidential Guard.

Our guide from the Presidential Guard

Catch the changing of the guard, a colorful event that takes place at 4 o’clock on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.

Speaking of a palace, mine was the Hotel Avia. The lobby of this ultramodern boutique inn was like nothing I’ve ever seen: clean, pristine and stark. I felt I was walking into an executive’s minimal private office. The soft lighting in the lobby revealed a small desk with a lone laptop. The receptionist couldn’t be more courteous and efficient.

The glass wall displayed bottles of bubbly from floor to ceiling. On the other side was the restaurant, with comfortable tables and chairs.

Lights in the hallways are always off. But the minute you step off the elevator, or step out of your room, the sensors in the hall recognize your presence and immediately turn the lights on. I couldn’t get used to that. Either that’s cool or they’re keeping the electricity bill to a minimum.

Then there’s the sleek bathroom, an open space festooned with mirrors. Turn on the faucet in the sink, which is on a slant, and you get a gentle waterfall. I also got spritzed on my pants.

I lay on that luxurious king size bed and watch CNN (two choices, Spanish or English) on the wall-mounted flat screen. Flick a switch and the window shades swish up and down. Very modernistic. I slept like a baby. See for yourself at Calle 93 No. 11A-31. Phone (571) 705 15 55,www.hotelavia93.com.

Hotel Avia
Hotel Avia lobby
Hotel Avia bathroom