Show down at Villa de Leyva

Villa de Leyva has not changed since 1547 when the Spanish conquistadores designed the town on a grid iron layout as a fortified settlement. A similar design seems to suit all settlements in Spanish South America from Cuba to Colombo. Low buildings with windows & balconies overlook the large empty cobbled square with narrow cobbled streets leaving at each corner. When I repeat & say cobbles I mean cobbles. Not your little French, stone sized cobbles. I am saying smooth rocks the size of a conquistador’s head or larger, over which one stumbles up, around, down & over risking a fall into the depths. Slightly smoother & more regular steps always dominate one side of the square leading up to the church.

Villa de Leyva is no different. Butch Cassidy & Sundance would be at home here, ready for their final showdown. I kept expecting a low whistle as Clint Eastwood noisily clatters into town. The only difference is the buildings now house cafes, bars & restaurants & classy tourist crafts and the square itself is home to the last days of the ‘wood festival’ – plants & garden furniture!

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The church dominates both the square and the lives of the people.

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It is also a great place for a game of Hide & Seek.

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When in Colombia gotta drink coffee. They are very proud of the quality of their coffee and so we have to sample the wares of one of the many coffee houses around the square rubbing shoulders with the locals. I have to say, this is for me heaven.

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As you all know I appreciate a good stylish hat. Well I am truely put to shame here as you can see from this selection.

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I will leave you with Eduardo & Pilar – a lovely couple who run a sandwich bar with a French ‘twist’. Thank you for open heart and your friendly spirit, and the wine!!

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Driving out of Bogota

We leave the city on a dual carriageway passing offices, businesses & tall apartment blocks. New building is taking place & mixed in are green spaces & parks. As Bogota is left behind the landscape on either side of the road becomes neatly agricultural. Small fields of grazing cattle & horses separated by fences, trees & hedges stretch up to the forested ridges & peaks of the mountains on either side of the road.

Rainladen clouds hover over the landscape always threatening to dump its load and keeping us on our toes. White & heavy grey banks spread across the sky like surf from the ocean crashing on a beach. Then very occasionally a blister of blue appears to raise hopes that the sky might clear only for such hopes to be dashed with the reforming of the ash grey blanket. Still, it’s not rained yet.

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We stop off at the salt mines started by the indigenous people before the Spanish arrived to mine, yes you guessed it, salt. The Spanish really developed it from the 18th century. Huge shafts are evidence that salt could be extracted from the volcanic, metamorphic rock. The miners started to leave small carvings & religious icons and then took these to a higher level. Groups of miners carved figures in different shafts to reflect one of the 14 stations of the cross, culminating in a huge cathedral type cavern focused on alters & a sculptured crusifix.

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Lunch is a stop at a local roadside diner. These lovely ladies cook home made sausages & fresh caught fish from the local lake – not served together I hasten to add.

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These two were so thrilled to have their photo taken.

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And this cutie is the son of the manager……aaarhhhh

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Bogota from above

It seems it is a ‘must’ for any visitor to Bogota to go up Monserrate by cable car or venicular railway – you pays yer money & takes yer choice. The queue disguised itself by seeming short on the outside but turning into a cattle market once inside the building. Never mind the one hour wait to get into the cable car we we assured of wonderful views of the city from the top and we were not disappointed. Even on the way up Bogota spread away to the far peaks & ranges of the Andes on the horizon for 180 degrees

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Coming down required a decision – 2 hours queuing for cable car was the same for the railway. The one thing about a queue is that you get to know the people around you – practically all Colombian with very few westerners. Families  & groups of all ages take this trip up another 500 metres. The atmosphere is jovial & calm. Noone gets irrate or angry. Just part of the journey. The railway gets the vote and the long wait brings the splendour of the city at night. Sorry about the quality as the image of a cramped cattle market applies to the vehicles as well as the queue!!

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The streets of Bogota, the capital of Colombia

Bogota is a city of six million people situated high up in the Andes at 2,600 metres. Yes, you folk can work out that that is almost 9,000 feet and really very high.

First impressions of Colombia – clean, friendly, fresh, music,smiles. Modern high rise glass offices share the sky line with tall apartment buildings. Subways & underpasses & arterial roads are shadowed by retaining walls covered, no swamped with street art. It seems started by Justin Berber when he played here!! Old colonial buildings spread up the mountain sides from the Spanish centre on long tentacles of streets with verandas & balconies overhanging those passing below.

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Being Sunday the streets are full of families & vendors selling food & treats. Parents pay for rides on ponies & llamas.

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The Gold Museum is crowded.

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Outside young conscripts parade.

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Bogata families visit the local museums & galleries.

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I like these images on the streets of Bogota.

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