>Colombia does Carnaval [really well]

>

Carnaval is quickly shaping up to be my favorite holiday. Four days of music, dance, parades, costumes and street parties in some foreign local? YES, thank you! While I’ve never experienced the states’ version of the celebration of excess in New Orleans, I’ve had the pleasure of donning a colorful outfit or two and taking to the streets in Spain, Brazil and now Colombia to celebrate the festival of debauchery.

Carnaval is celebrated in most predominantly Catholic countries for four days (or over a week) before the start Lent, the 40 days of abstinence leading up to Easter.

In 2009, I enjoyed my first Carnaval a la EspaƱola in Cadiz. The Spanish are really good at dressing up in group-themed costumes. They fully play the part of their outfits, whether it’s a herd of cows of a fleet of cop cars; they push shopping carts around full of booze and sing and play kazoos.

In 2010 I upped the anti a little heading to Rio’s world famous Carnaval. Worthy of its mantle as the biggest party in the world, there’s nothing quite like the hoards of revelers who come to play in Rio’s spectacular setting. However, with the high price of tickets to see the impressive parades in the Sambadromo and the sheer magnitude of the party, it could be a little inaccessible at times.

Last week’s Carnaval in Barranquilla – Colombia’s biggest party and second in size only to Rio – did not disappoint.

I wrote this bit on Barranquilla’s Carnaval for Colombia Reports. previous to heading out.

However, when we arrived to Barranquilla we were in for bit of a shock to find that the apartment that eight of us had rented out, complete with three large bedrooms, multiple bathrooms, a pool etc., simply did not exist. We were majorly scammed, as we had each put down about $80 USD as downpayment… and then we were eight gringos in a city during Carnaval with no hotel rooms available.

Plan B in full effect, a friend of a friend’s parent had an office in Barranquilla. They bent over backwards to fix us up in their office, scrapping together fixings for eight beds to squeeze into the conference room. One room with AC, a kitchen and a bathroom, and we were back in business. Without any further hijinks the celebrating commenced.

Miss Molly, who had been working behind the bar of the Dreamer Hostel in Santa Marta (which is just an hour or so away from Barranquilla) was able to come and play before returning to the States. So good to play with an old friend in such a different time and space!

Barranquilla’s parades were fabulous, a really impressive mix of the European, African and indigenous dances and traditions distinct to Colombia’s Caribbean coast.

I got a press pass to attend the Bomba Estereo concert and wrote this article for a Medellin-based magazine La Arepa.

The thing that was so superbly special about Barranquilla’s Carnaval (and this is what makes Colombia stand out from other countries as well) is the people. Barranquilleros, and Colombians in general are friendly, open and helpful. And despite the local or the decorations, its the people that make the party.

Where to next year?

>Bogota b Bangin

>

OK, so I have to admit I’m a little obsessed with Colombia’s capitol after last weekend’s wonderful albeit wet getaway. The mission was LCD Soundsystem and objective was accomplished on all accounts.

LCD does NOT disapoint live. Super-charged with energy, the whole concert was riveting from Dance yrself Clean to New York I Love You…
The Royal Center was as legit of an indoor concert venue as they come, not hindered by the fact that we got in the primo section via free press passes. Spent the majority down front left if yaddidimean and the last bit up in the balcony taking in the whole scene and feeling like Colombia is on the up and up and Bogota is kind of leading that cultural catalyst train.

We kept the momentum moving by hitting up this underground after hours club RadioBerlin after the show. Two floors, great DJ, chill spaces, friendly people and rum… pretty much the makings of an after party. That is, until the cops broke it up because it’s illegal for anywhere to stay open after 3 a.m. in Bogota. (!?!?)
Here’s one thing Medellin does have on Bogota: the weather. Bogota felt like Portland pretty much, flashbacks of how it feels to have perma-damp clothing and use a broken umbrella. It’s not the first time I’ve used plastic bags for socks and it probably won’t be the last.
Other highlights of the weekend include some sweet cultural schtuff… tons of free museums: art, gold and my favorite, a photography exhibit showing Colombia throughout the ages. I know I can jabber on but WoW sometimes a photo really does say 1000 words or however many words they say a photo says without saying a word.
I got my hair did at this hip lil place that where I went when I was last in Bogota about a year ago. “La Peluqueria” is this totally inspiring hair salon/cafe/bar/vintage boutique/art gallery and venue. It is owned and run by all women and there’s only one mirror in the whole joint so getting your hair cut there is kinda like driving blind, except you’re letting someone else who actually knows how to drive take the wheel. The whole hair-cutting experience is transformed into an all sensory enjoyment kinda deal, which is right up my ally. I also happen to know a gaggle of hip women in Portland that just might know a thing a two about hair, art, music venues, bars, clothes etc. etc.
Wheels turning…

Ajiaco is maybe my favorite typical Colombian dish, and this awesome restaurant in Bogota’s lovely/funky Candelaria neighborhood serves it up RIGHT. It’s a thick potato based soup served with half an ear of choclo (big-kerneled corn), a generous helping of shredded chicken, cream, half an avocado, capers, and spicy goodness. One big bowl of hot loving goodness? Yes, thank you.
What else? A flea market which produced this awesome leather backpack that set me back about $5 USD. A gondola ride to a mountaintop cathedral overlooking Bogota. Hackey sack in the park. Beating up and old computer keyboard and taking the ‘power’ key home with me. A hookah bar and yummy rummy coffee drinks to escape the rain. Wandering around graffiti-covered neighborhood like buildings tattooed with art and words.
Thanks Bogota, hope to see you soon!