American Express offers a series of airport lounges in the US, as well as a few outside of the US, which are complimentary for certain cardholders, including American Express Platinum cardholders. Since I have the American Express Platinum, I enjoy free access to these lounges. I first experienced a Centurion Lounge in Buenos Aries Ezeiza Airport (EZE), and have been a bit obsessed ever since. The Centurion Lounges in the US are rumored to be much nicer than the international lounges, but I, unfortunately, have not visited enough of these lounges to make a firm decision.
Merced Market is Mexico City’s (and North America’s) largest market and it sells anything and everything that one could possibly need. Located on the fringe of the Zocalo neighborhood, a visit to the Merced Market can be overwhelming, and possibly a bit scary, especially for non-Spanish speakers. As such, Dan and I booked a tour of the Merced Market with a local tour company – Eat Mexico – to eat some good food and explore the market.
So before you start reading, know that this was one of Dan and my favorite meals in Mexico City!, and we totally stumbled into having dinner here! I found Broka Bistrot on a travel website (I think Afar…) and I boked a table solely based on the beautiful pictures of Broka Bistrot’s dining roo.. It didn’t hurt that it got good reviews or that it was open on Sunday… In any case, it turned out to be amazing AND, its soft crab shell tacos were better than the ones at Pujol (yep, that was true!!).
If you read this post, you may have gathered that Dan and I planned a trip to Mexico City just to eat. Yes, that did, indeed, happen. Since our trip was all about food, we simply had to eat at Pujol, a Michelin starred restaurant run by famous chef Enrique Olvera that was recently ranked as the 13th best restaurant in the world! I made the reservation in January, before we even booked the plane tickets… Even as early as January, dinner was already full, so lunch it was for us! We booked the 13:30 time slot, the first one available, in an effort not to spoil any dinner…(spolier alert, that was not succesful!).
Just before lunch, we were in the Zocalo neighborhood, so we took a quick Uber ride to Pujol. We arried a bit early, so we walked around Polanco a bit before entering the restaurant right at 13:30. Polanco is quite swanky – lots of very high end shops, including the most beautiful Louis Vuitton!
CUBA. The mysterious Caribbean nation that Americans have been forbidden to visit for over half a century. Cuba has long been on my travel bucket list and when President Obama eased travel restrictions on US citizens and direct flights resumed, I immediately booked a long weekend in Havana! And, it was nothing short of magical! Havana is truly stuck in the past. My visit was interesting, thought provoking, and filled with meeting some of the nicest people that I have ever encountered abroad, but that will be the subject of another post. This post is all about how to get you to and back from Cuba legally from the US right now!
Tocumen International Airport is Panama’s main airport and one of the primary airports in Central America. Panama’s flagship carrier, Copa Airlines, operates out of this airport to all over the Americas. As a result the airport is very busy, and the inside is not nearly big enough to handle all of the people in my opinion. All parts of the airport were very crowded and there was not nearly enough seating for those waiting for flights. This coupled with the fact that there are not very many sit down restaurants/bars (only a food court) makes a lounge a good option, unless you like to shop. There is an abundance of shopping in the Panama airport!
Andres Carne des Res is a restaurant in the town of Chiá, Colombia that is most well-known for its crazy party atmosphere. Chiá is about a 40 minute drive from Bogotá and makes an easy day (or evening) trip. I visited earlier this year. The food was really great and the restaurant was very fun, but it was not quite the party that I was expecting (maybe I didn’t drink enough). Still a good time, and still highly recommended.
The Restaurant: The restaurant is a jumble of several buildings, all with outdoor and indoor seating, and all with crazy, crazy décor! With different themed rooms, it reminded me of everything from a German festival to a Moroccan souk. Staff were dressed in theme (although not necessarily to match the room), there was a live band and a gentleman walking around giving all of the women free sunflowers (that wear about two feet tall). We did not make a reservation and were seated immediately on a Sunday evening, and since the restaurant is so large, you probably only need a reservation in the busiest of times. See below: there is also dancing on tables and a cigar bar.
The Drinks. The drinks are very fancy here, and very pricey compared to other Colombian establishments. While pricey, they are also pretty strong and well prepared. We enjoyed some sparkling wine as well as a cocktail! The fun glasses are not yours to keep.
The Food: The food was superb! I was expecting more atmosphere than food, but the food turned out to be excellent! However, be prepared – the menu practically a book. About 20 pages of delicious things to suit all tastes. Per a recommendation, we started with arepa de chócolo. Amazing. This dish consisted of a sweet arepa stuffed with cheese with a special sauce for dipping. We liked this so much that we went back to Andres Express (see below) for another serving!
For mains, I went with the coconut shrimp. Again, huge dish and delicious. The shrimp were served with coconut rice and another lovely dipping sauce(!).
Dan ordered the steak, which he seemed to enjoy. It came with fried potatoes (not the best). After the mains, we were stuffed so we couldn’t order dessert. You can easily share food here.
How To Get There: There are very limited public transportation options in the Bogotá area in general. They best way to get here is to take a car. We hired a driver for the evening from Tours of Colombia, who also did our day trip to Villa de Leyva. The cost was $49/person round trip ($98 total), plus we tipped our driver. Our driver picked us up at our hotel, waited as long as we wanted at Andres Carne des Res and then drove us back to the hotel. While pricey, it was worth the piece of mind knowing that we had a ride to and from. If you do not hire a driver, it is easy to get a car from Bogotá to Chiá, and, surprising to me, easy to find a car home. See the below list of prices. I do not recommend driving, as the drinks are strong and overindulging is encouraged.
Can’t Make It To Chiá? If you can’t make it all the way to Chiá, there is a Andre Carnes des Res in Bogotá in the Parque 93 neighborhood. Note that this restaurant is neither as crazy nor as big, but it is in Bogotá proper. In addition, an Andres Express – a fast food version of Andres Carne des Res – is in the same area.
STEAL OUR DINNER
Andres Carne des Res: The original. Calle 3 N° 11A – 56, Chiá, Colombia. T: (571)8637880 | (571) 8612233 . Reservations typically not required. More expensive than other Colombian establishments. All Andres restaurants share the same website.
Andres Carne des Res: The location in Bogotá. Calle 82 interior centro comercial el retiro #12-21, Bogotá, Colombia. Claims to be open 12:00 p.m. to 3:00 a.m. everyday. I would confirm before going too late.
Andres Express: The fast food version. This is the location in Parque 93, although there are others in Bogotá. 11, Cl. 93 #12, Bogotá, Colombia.
Tour of Colombia: The tour company through which we organized our car. $49/person round trip. All organizing done via email. The driver was prompt, polite and safe. While this company is pricey, I cannot recommend them enough!
ON A BUDGET?
Andres Carne des Res is more expensive than most restaurants in the Bogotá area, but it is a destination in addition to a restaurant! If you want to enjoy the food without the crazy atmosphere, check out Andres Express, which serves the same food at much more reasonable prices!
Avianca Sala VIP is Avianca’s (Colombia’s national airline) lounge in the domestic wing of Bogotá’s El Dorado International Airport. Priority Pass cardholders have complimentary access to the lounge, so I visited it in February 2016 while waiting for a morning flight to Cartagena. While I generally enjoy lounges, even those that don’t get great reviews, I was very disappointed with this lounge, only stayed for about 10 minutes, choosing instead to sit in the general boarding area, and I did not eat a thing. Big shocker.
In my opinion, Villa de Leyva is by far the most worthwhile day (or overnight) trip from Bogotá. Bogotá is the capital of Colombia and is located pretty much in the center of the country, high in the Andes mountains. While Bogotá is easy to fly in and out of, transportation between Bogotá and other Colombian cities without a major airport can be difficult, and is pretty much limited renting/hiring a car or taking a public bus. As such, day trips, short breaks, etc. can be more difficult here than in other countries.
When you think “wine vacation,” Colombia, not surprisingly, probably doesn’t come to mind. South America has some world-class vineyards in Argentina and Chile, but Colombia has never made those those lists. Nevertheless, Colombia boasts two (maybe three…still waiting for confirmation that the third one is working), wineries that, while not top-of-the-line producers, are decent and very interesting to visit, especially for the wine enthusiast. Colombian wines are interesting to me because (1) Colombian wine is only found in Colombia; and (2) the grapes are grown at a very high altitude in the Andes mountains – unique in the commercial grape growing world. In any case, once I heard about “Colombian wineries,” I knew that I had to hit a vineyard on my trip!