The real humans of my life – Boulder

The past weekend, I headed up to Boulder area, to visit a long time college friend, chef, and blogger, Shru Troup. Even though she doesn’t think so, she is quite an inspiration to us all. She and her husband left their fancy schmancy jobs and promising careers at a New York investment bank to start a new life in Colorado. They are both very happy, enjoying the outdoors, hiking, biking or skiing in their spare time. Shru did culinary school and one day she will publish her own cookbook for modern vegetarian and vegan cuisine (stay tuned and in the meantime check out her recipes on her blog). She also recently decided to explore the world of food trucks.

Shru driving "Tina"
Shru driving “Tina”

I had an exciting day at her work, operating a Mexican food truck, fondly nicknamed “Tina”. We started early in the Comida restaurant in Longmont, preparing all the ingredients with the very dedicated and funny kitchen stuff. I learned to use the deep frier as I made tortilla chips for the first time in my life.

After three hours of preparation and loading the truck, we headed over to a nearby office park. It was freezing cold but we served those tacos and quesadillas like champs. The brave customers, who came by despite the below freezing temperature, showed real dedication as well.

When we came back, Shru spent 2 more hours scrubbing out the truck because that’s just the clean freak that she is. After this, she “took a break” preparing 2 different desserts (pumpkin Pie and cinnamon ice cream), as she is also the pastry chef of the restaurant.  All the while, I was recovering from all the hard work by sipping margaritas at the bar or chitchatting with her colleagues.

The rest of the weekend was quite busy between celebrating my birthday by skiing (I still remember how to, surprise!) at Keystone, hiking in Estes Park (where I was supposed to spot some Elks but saw none), checking out the Boulder yuppie/hippie scene  and eating some great home cooked food (love having chef friends). I also got to try Nepalese food for the first time at the AMAZING Sherpa’s restaurant in Boulder. It was also very interesting to read all the interesting posters and check out the photographs around the restaurant. I learned for example that Katmandu (Nepal’s capital) is Boulder’s sister city.

Colombian Adventure Part 2: Cartagena and Bogota

Continuing part 1 of the adventure, I have been wanting to go to Colombia for 5 years now, pretty much ever since I have heard about the splendors and wonders of Cartagena.

The thing though is that sometimes when you travel too much, it can be akin to over-dating. Once you’ve been around the block long enough, you must have gone out with most types (the credentials guy, the jock, the insecure but overcompensating guy, the shady guy, etc) and have had every possible conversation. Then about 5 minutes into your next date,  you had already figured out the type. Then you get bored and start nodding in the right places, stealing glances to the nearest clock and hoping your friend will call with some emergency to bail you out. Unless, the guy turns out to be REALLY SOMETHING SPECIAL.  Then the story is completely different.

Anyways, I am regressing. Back to the story: I had very high expectations of my first date with Cartagena, but then I found it quite similar to other touristic colonial towns I’ve been too. It was like the initial excitement of going out with a really good looking guy and later finding out that he is actually quite superficial and wouldn’t stop taking about the latest episode of Big Brother.  Well, I guess I am exaggerating. It’s a cute little town but there’s not much to do after day 2.

We had a terrible experience of visiting Baru Island’s Playa Blanca that held the promise of being heaven on earth but in reality turned out to be a tourist voodoo torture chamber for the local vendors. After being shoved (and charged) under a sun umbrella, we spent the whole day fending off massages, sweets, sea food, jewelry and anything else imaginable (I suppose this can be paralleled to a date with a guy that doesn’t get the meaning of the word “No”). Finally, we had to fight for our lives to get out, as the locals pushed us out as they stormed the return boat as if they were going to be stranded on the island (while the foreign tourists quietly waited in line for their turn to board).

I posted some more notes and photos about Cartagena’s streets and boutique hotels on the Blooties blog.

Bogota,  on the other hand, was more like a date with someone average who turns out to be quite interesting and then you start discovering that he has a nice smile and his eyes sparkle when he laughs and then after the date, you want to know more.

I spent a wonderful afternoon strolling around the brownstone tree-lined streets of Zona Rosa residential neighborhood. Then took a taxi to the artsy district of Usaquen, where I checked out the local artsy market and local crowd. I finally got to try the delicious Ajiaco soup I have been waiting for the entire trip. Bogota was also great for shopping, for souvenirs or otherwise, with many interesting and beautiful options

Colombian Adventure – Part 1: Medellin

Before departing to Medellin, Colombia my father gave me his advice: be careful of the cartel. To be honest, I have been so removed from popular culture the past few years, that I haven’t even thought about this connection. I once associated Colombia with drugs, the FARC and perhaps coffee but one day I had the pleasure of sitting on a lecture of former president Alvaro Uribe. He told us that everything was much better in Colombia now. So I took his word. He was a nice guy.

And so I left for my trip without any expectations but with some curiosity to learn more about the story of the cartel.

I was pleasantly surprised by Medellin. It’s very clean, fairly modern and well organized city, basking in greenery. The Antioqueños, Medellin’s residents, are very proud of their metro system, the only one in Colombia, and zealously ensure its cleanliness. This is an extremely impressive cultural value that we could only wish was translated to public goods in many other countries.

We took the train to the district of Santo Domingo, which just a few years ago was one of the most dangerous parts of town but have undergone a serious development effort. It is now connected with a cable car line to the metro line and has various social initiatives that helped reduce the influence of the cartels and integrate the more vulnerable populations into the city life. Connecting to another cable car, we visited Arvi park, a beautiful natural reserve on the top of the mountain.

Cable Car View
Cable Car View
Cable Car view
Cable Car view
Arvi Park
Arvi Park
Arvi Park Mariposario (Butterfly House)
Arvi Park Mariposario (Butterfly House)

Another pleasant surprise in Medellin was finding out that it’s the home town of the extremely fascinating artist, Fernando Botero. We took the train once again to the Botero Park and adjacent Antioquia Museum that features his art collection. I finally found out why Botero paints his subjects so chubby. I can’t really place it but something about his art makes me really happy. I loved Botero’s piece dedicated to Pablo Escobar’s (the former head of the infamous Medellin cartel) death. Escobar is somewhat of a legend and he kept being mentioned in other situation.

 

Botero Square
Botero Square
Botero Square
Botero Square
Botero Collection, Antioquia Museum
Botero Collection, Antioquia Museum
Botero Collection, Antioquia Museum
Botero Collection, Antioquia Museum
The death of Pablo Escobar
The death of Pablo Escobar
Chubby oranges
Chubby oranges


After this urban adventure, it was especially pleasant to travel through the beautiful mountains to the quaint city of Guatape and climbing the El Penol rock. The region just felt like a little Colombian Switzerland. In this region, Escobar’s name popped up once again when we sailed by one of the farms that used to belong to him. 

You can read about part 2 of the adventure here.

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Piedra del Penol
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Escobar’s farrmIMG_3935

The church of old El Penol Village (underwater)

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725 steps to the top
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The Colombian Fjord
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Panoramic view

Photography calls to action – Sebastião Salgado @ Jardim Botanico

To balance a bit my social / business revolutionary activities, I headed over to the Jardim Botanico to see a wonderful photography exhibition which is actually aimed at calling attention to nature’s beauty and the need to protect it, especially this day and age.

I promise that one day I will have a decent camera on my phone so that I could take adequate pictures. Until then, the below should suffice.

Images from Bonito and Pantanal

As promised, I uploaded some of my favorite photos from my recent trip to Mato Grosso do Sul. Enjoy!

The new Windows wallpaper?
The new Windows wallpaper?
Lunch time..
Lunch time..
yum yum!
yum yum!
Tick Tock..
Tick Tock..
Apparently, owls come out during the day as well.
Apparently, owls come out during the day as well.
Bambi!
Bambi!
Flying parrots.. really??
Flying parrots.. really??
Caipibaras
Caipibaras
My favorite photo. I call it Cows in Sunset. Where is Damien Hirst?
My favorite photo. I call it Cows in Sunset. Where is Damien Hirst?
Waterfalls at Boca da Onça
Waterfalls at Boca da Onça
Waterfalls at Boca da Onça
Waterfalls at Boca da Onça
Boca da Onça canyon
Boca da Onça canyon
Praia Figueira, Bonito
Praia Figueira, Bonito
Rio Sacuri
Rio Sacuri
Fish in clear waters of Rio Sacuri
Fish in clear waters of Rio Sacuri
Rio Sacuri
Rio Sacuri
Gruta de Largo Azul
Gruta de Largo Azul