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We all know that Colombia is making huge strides forward, and today those of us here enjoy one of the most diverse, culturally rich countries in the world. For many, however, all they've ever seen is negative news coming out of the country (no matter how much positive press is being written right now). It has always interested me just what these people might think of Colombia should they experience it for themselves....
Fortunately for me and my curiosity, my parents came to visit me a while ago, and were kind enough to tell me all about their first impressions. So here I present to you my dear mother describing her first memories travelling to Colombia!
Coming to Colombia wasn’t an easy decision for me. I grew up in a generation where Colombia was associated with kidnappings, crime and trouble. So for me, thinking to come to this country at first just wasn’t on the agenda. However, since my son is living here and I’ve done a great deal of research (a great deal of research) I decided I should give it a try – after all, any bad reports I heard tended to be from people who themselves hadn’t visited. Those who had enthused endlessly about the country’s merits.
I stepped out into Bogotá’s El Dorado airport to my smiling son, JL and Marcela. They’d come to pick Bernie (my husband) and I up and take us to our hotel. At first we wer taken aback at just how friendly these guys were, having just met us for the first time. We got in the taxi, and he too was incredibly friendly... The more people we met the more we began to realise that this friendliness was a Colombian trait, and one of the aspects of the country that would make our stay so memorable.
At first what really struck me about Bogotá was the traffic and the clouds, but then we were arriving at peak time and during rainy season so I should have expected it really. Paul (my son) kept trying to direct my attention to the surrounding mountains, or the modern hotels that are found near the airport, but I guess as a Brit I'm stuck in my ways thinking about traffic and weather!
After an hour driving through the city we reached our hotel near Zona T. We walked to a nearby Italian restaurant for some delicious pasta and incredible tempura prawns before heading to one of Bogotá's infamous pubs for some delicious home-brewed beer. I couldn't believe how nice it was, and Bernie, a true beer-lover, said straight away he'd be taking some home!
It's hard how to describe how we felt in those first few hours. Obviously the excitement at seeing our son was one of the major factors, but also seeing a country that contrasted so much with what I'd heard and imagined was a real eye-opener. I knew from what Paul had told me that things were different, but what I found was a truly cosmopolitan city full of exceptionally friendly people and amazingly varied architecture.
If someone would have told me ten years ago I'd be sitting in the centre of Bogotá sipping cocktails with my husband and son I'd have laughed in their face! But such is Colombia, a country that doesn't stop surprising you.