Gabriel Garcia’s Walled City of Love

June 13, 2012 § 4 Comments

Traveling to Cartagena’s old city was like walking into a time capsule adorned in colors of a bygone colonial era. This historical, fortress-ed city is a World Heritage site and I am happy to say, immaculately preserved.

Here, old Spanish villas of incredible beauty sit complacently along narrow streets bound in bountiful Bougainvillea. This rainbow-esque congregation of walls and flowers is ensconced within a high, circular stone-wall; a fort whose continuous perimeter is dotted with rusty black canons. Across these stone walls, along the curve of the sea-line, a patch of the new city looks on longingly, gleaming glass and steel.

It’s such a bustling city. At first glance, all I could see was tourists and persistent vendors. The weekend went by. Then appeared school children, local craftsmen, blue and white-collar workers. The people, are as colorful: of multi-ethnic origin, of immutable joy that comes from living in cities by the sea. What is it about cities by the sea? A certain vibrance inhabits them, they are our ancient outposts: watching over and celebrating the companionship of land and water.

I generally prefer walkable places, where I don’t have to distract myself with local transportation. Wouldn’t you agree? The more you get to walk, the more you rub shoulders with the locals. Sense the place more keenly, the different smells of its streets. Short travels as it is feel incomplete; barely managing to skim the surface of a world unknown to us.

Cartagena’s beauty left me short of breath often. But I couldn’t stop walking, gawking, clicking. I couldn’t stop talking, in broken spanish, if need be. Warm yellow, cool blue and soft pink walls greeted me as I turned corners in a daze, blinking under the bright sky. My awe hasn’t diminished a bit since then. My ghost is still there, left in a fortress of love, one which was for a while, Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s city.

A Brief Interlude

April 28, 2012 § 2 Comments

A quick note to let you know, dear reader, that I have been away visiting family in India. Hence, the absence here. I will be back in May.

See you soon!

In the Valley of Salt – Nemacon

February 26, 2012 § 15 Comments

Nemacon was a day long pit stop, on my way to Villa de Leyva. An apt prelude to valleys, green pastures and hills, and serene villages that reside within. This little village was built by a salt mine. The mine is now on the tourist map. Although I took pictures of the mine a plenty, it is the village that fascinated me, its ample quietude and beauty.

When visiting places like this, it seems as though the landscape, the fickle light, the open spaces, small buildings rendered in playful colors, jutting against the looming hills – all collude seamlessly to create a unique atmosphere. What’s amazing to my novice eye is that this little village grew organically to create its own sense of perfection, no urban planners or architects proudly resting their case.

In Nemacon, a bright yellow cafe sits snug with an ice-cream parlor next door, an orange school beckons my attention, a green museum startles, and a white non-decrepit police station is almost missed in the blink of an eye. Few locals are found ambling here and there. Ironically, a lonesome truck reminds me of missing traffic. The town is in a happy state of siesta this afternoon.

Nemacon

Nemacon

Nemacon

Nemacon

Nemacon

Nemacon

Nemacon reminds me of color I so often miss in NYC. Its simple yet vibrant strokes are unapologetic, unrestrained and unforgettable. If you lust for tiled roofs lining the streets, doors, windows and walls with passion painted, churches posited in small town squares – there is more for you here in Valle de la Sal (Valley of Salt):

The White Village

February 16, 2012 § 5 Comments

Villa de Leyva is just a few hour’s drive from Bogota but in essence, both are thousands of miles apart. The New York Times posted this article on Villa de Leyva in 2009, which led me to do a lengthy web exploration of Latin America; the fascination finally depositing me in Colombia. And boy was I grateful.

This small town sits in a valley, surrounded by green and blue mountains. The streets are all cobblestone. The houses all whitewashed. The doors and windows, all a deep shade of green. The lanes and courtyards embellished with geraniums and electric bougainvilleas. On the outskirts of the town, on a slightly higher altitude, surround olive groves. And in the middle is Plaza Mayor, a vast expanse of multitudes of cobblestones, undulating in uneven waves. The plaza is fenced in by rows of two-story high houses, all with sloping red-tiled roofs. This is one of the largest town squares in South America.

Villa de Leyva was established in the 1500s, and is perhaps still as tranquil as it was back then. Thanks to it being a National Monument, its beautiful colonial architecture is well preserved.

I woke up in the morning to the smell of fresh bread baking down the street. Ran to get my fill before the current batch sold out. Then ambled around through the day, in a lazy pace that matched the town’s. I imagine that things get more hectic here during festivals but in their absence, especially on a week day, this place is an oasis of calm, a perfect retreat. It felt akin to being caught in a time warp, where time moves so slowly that its passing is hardly noticeable.

The evenings are something else. Sunlight caresses the large plaza and its wavy ground with such golden beauty. As the sun sets, the perimeter of houses is lit up with bright yellow lights – the white walls changing to ochre. The music fills everything up, drowning the local chatter.

Here I am now, playing my Villa de Leyva slideshow, with Clair de Lune floating in the room, every time I want to go back there.

Without a doubt, Colombia in one the most underrated destinations in South America. If you don’t agree with me yet, you will! – Just a few more posts down the road. Stay tuned, folks.

An Old City Amidst New

February 9, 2012 § Leave a comment

La Candelaria, the old city of Bogota, nestles itself at the base of the hills in the east. The undulating skyline changes hue from blue to green, as the light shimmies this way and that. The houses too change colors: orange, yellow, pink and green. The streets are narrow and cobbled at times, and sometimes, wide and cemented. The people, from mixed ethnicities, working and meandering, dotting the streets and their angled corners.

I landed in Bogota at the end of summer, a slight chill in the air beginning to muster courage. The days were pleasant though, the sun bright, or weakly shifting in the clouds. This was my first trip to the South Americas, and a first to an erstwhile Spanish colony. So it did not come as a surprise when I promptly fell in love. The tall iglesias, yellow or whitewashed. The plazas like islands marooned on centuries old architecture. The alleyways winding up and down the hills, with Colombian tricolor flags flapping in the wind. With so much to dizzy me, I wondered who wouldn’t have given in with weak knees.

The only thing that worried me was a seeming lack of restoration on most buildings, except of course, those housing the government bodies.

I twisted around, twiddled and fumbled with my camera. I moaned and I suffered. Oh, the insufficiency! Little did I know there was more to see, take in with open arms, drink away. Villa de Leyva, the white city. Raquira, the tiny city of pots. Nemacon, the sleepy salt-mine town. And the last stop, the historic city of Cartagena. Stay tuned my friends, much delight is on its way!
Hasta pronto!

Bogota, Colombia

February 6, 2012 § 6 Comments

It is now well over a year since I visited Colombia. The memory however, remains as alive and rich as this amazing country is. Now that I’m back to blogging, a series reminiscing my last trip beyond the borders of United States seemed fitting. And here it is.

The capital of Colombia is by all means a bustling, cosmopolitan city. New developments and modern constructions abound. I chose to spend most of my time in the old city (La Candelaria), where remnants of the Spanish colonial era still exist, sprinkling over museums, universities, churches and houses.
La Candelaria is home to Museo del Oro (Gold) and Museo del Botero (the famous painter and artist), the sweeping Plaza de Bolivar and the Bogota Cathedral. The old city is where Bogota first formed its roots and I was ingratiated to see that it hasn’t become a historical relic of sorts.

Happily for me, this area of Bogota is far from a tourist trap. Locals flock to the plazas in multitudes and students and artists dot every corner and street. This was my first pit-stop in the Colombian world and I said a resounding hello.

Bogota-8

Coming up next- Part II of this post, capturing the myriad colors of Bogota and a little skit that opened my eyes.

It’s good to be back! Walk with me.

The You Tube

March 9, 2011 § 18 Comments

This is the real you-tube. Physical, daunting, nerving and indispensable. Public transportation is invariably a love-hate relationship. For me, surely. I try to remind myself of the love often, the gratification.

Sometimes, I go as far as being nostalgic for quirks that seem to be disappearing with the speed of light. Take books for example, just a few years ago, the subway was my book window-shopping heaven. Slumped in a chair, or swinging upright, barely holding on, I had the luxury of scanning a spittle of book-covers spread across the car. Who’s reading what now and who’s that hiding a smile behind pages and pages of stacked stories? The news of the hour was happily in my face.

No more, not much so. I don’t mind flipping open a tablet gleefully, out doing those goddamn peeping toms. But the book covers! Aren’t they for all puppies to chew on and see? The more, the merrier the terriers.

These days the subway ride leaves me hungry. So, I have turned my attention to my fellow passengers. Photographing here, let me just say, has to be very discreet. If I was the subject, I’d be jumping out of my skin at the slightest brush of an elbow or the catch of a click. The irony of an extremely public and equally self-protective habitat such as this!

I imagine that the soft pendulum-atic movements of the train were designed to calm our publicly rubbed and raw senses, to set our minds on a passive drone mode.

I’ve held on to these images for a short while now. I knew that there was so much more I had not been able to grasp & collect, take home. But twiddling with my little phone, unseen and unheard, has not been one of my better talents by far. I am more of a hello-what-do we-have-here kind of a photographer. With lesser opportunities to do so in the subway, I confess that I have felt my bravado shrinking, my hopes getting a little uncertain. The last thing I would want is for an unpleasant moment to tarnish a completely benign exercise.
So friends, enjoy this short story for now, and if there is more, I will be back, for sure, for sure.

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