Thursday, October 28, 2010


The inside cabin of the Embraer Regional Jet. Cozy.

I'm flying home and the plane is tiny. I might imagine myself on my own private G550 if there weren't so many people on board. Luckily, I spy an open solo exit row seat across from a pretty Middle Eastern girl and take the advantage.

Hello. I'm looking pretty haggard after thirteen hours of travel. She's quite nicely dressed and looking very expensive. We chat for a few moments before I decide that I'd rather listen to music than the loud drone of the cabin for the next hour.

The flight home is uneventful. I'm waiting for some dramatic display of power to weight ratio on takeoff but it never comes. The landing is bouncy but we don't fly off the runway, negating the landing video I've been shooting.

Soaring above the Eastern Seaboard.

As we pull up to the gate, I'm reminded that once again, I've reach home. The forecast is calling for a cold front and I'm assured that there's a long, dark and bleak winter ahead.

Time to start planning the next trip. And soon.

Cafe Opcao

Tony Adia at Cafe Opcao, Ironbound District, Newark, NJ.

For whatever reason, I really ended up with a crappy itinerary this trip. An overnight flight from Houston to Bogota that was absolutely brutal and then a nearly six hour layover in Newark for the flight home to Baltimore. I could drive a car, take a train or bus from Newark and get home faster. But then I wouldn't get the miles.

So rather than standing by for an earlier flight, or grabbing my bags and taking the train, I called up Tony Adia and told him that we should get together and get something to eat. Of course, that's not before the Border Security agent tells me that he's doing a "random screening" and then asks me if my family comes from Colombia. Uh dude, my family is from the other side of the planet and you just tried to bullshit me about 'random' screenings.

I can't help but wonder how many white people are told they're being selected for a "random" screening.

Francesinha - ham, beef and egg sandwich smothered in gravy and french fries.

And into the Ironbound District we go to find everything Portuguese and eat at Cafe Upcao. While Upcao's menu is limited (I did have Vatapa on the mind), the selections were very good and along with outside seating (and a couple Montecristo cigars), life is New Jersey can actually be good.

The lovely thing about Brazilians and I guess the Portuguese: they like eggs. Eggs on the sandwich, eggs on the steak. It's eggs, eggs, eggs and I'm liking it. The food is rich, delicious and filling, requiring a post dinner walk along the avenue where we spot a bunch of girls at dance practice. Not a bad way to return to the United States.

Chourissa Asada - BBQ Portuguese Sausage

Inside the Francesinha.

Bitoque - Sirloin steak with rice, Spanish potatoes, ham and egg on top.



Visions of a United Future...

I've got a row all to myself!

Departing Bogota.

Out the window.

Relatively comfortable - in my underwear...

Lunch. Or is it breakfast?

Not bad.

I don't know where we are but I'd like to land, please.

The City of Brotherly Love.

Going To El Dorado

A sharply dressed Gonzales takes us to the airport.

Even though it's six in the morning and we were out late the night before, Carolina insisted that she take me to the airport. I mean, I had a ride with Inman and crew but she wanted to take me - and who am I to resist? Again, that would be foolish.

So bright and early, there's Gonzales waiting with the Suzuki. This time he's sharply dressed in a suit and looking like a proper member of the Secret Service. A security detail to whisk me around town to important meetings with the President and his Cabinet members before shuttling me to the G550 for the private flight to Medellin? I certainly could get used to this.

Where I find Lauro, Laura...

But alas, I'm just a barista and even though I'm the only current WBC Certified Sensory Judge in the world, somehow, I don't think even that warrants a larger security detail...

By 6:15am we're outside of Carolina's place on the way to the airport. One thing about that girl, no matter what time of day or night, she always looks fantastic. Well dressed, well groomed and always together. I even wore nicer clothes because of her. So much for shorts.

Maybe it took an hour, or maybe it took ten minutes, whatever the case, the ride to the airport seemed short indeed. Before long, we were saying our goodbyes and I was once again making that long walk to the gate. Alone.

Brent and Mark in the departures lounge.

By now, I've traveled across the planet and nine times out of ten, it's been alone. And while there's a beauty in traveling by yourself, sadly, there's no one to share it with. Perhaps that's why I enjoy these coffee trips so much - because even though I'm traveling alone, there's usually friends at the destination that I can hang with and share the experience. It certainly makes traveling that much more enjoyable.

And it's nice to find Lauro, Laura, Brent and Mark sitting in the departure lounge. Everyone except for Mark is on an earlier flight and depart soon after. Mark and I are left to hang and chat while waiting for our respective flights to Atlanta and Newark. Not long after, Josh finds us and joins us.

My so-so ham and cheese sandwich.

Times like these are ripe moments for conversation but soon the time comes for us to board our flights back to the United States and return to reality. Our trip to Colombia comes to a close.

Departing, we make commitments for June and the WBC, along with a serious visit to the tailors of Arturo Calle and some custom-fitted outfits. Thinking of myself wearing a brilliant suit while being whisked around by Gonzales is certainly a luring thought. Back in June.

A Dunkin Donuts offers some semblance of coffee.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

One Fine Day

Dodging traffic outside of Bogota.

Carolina wanted to spend my last day in Colombia touring me around her country. Who was I to say no? That would be foolish.

So, up and early at 6am we're heading out with her mom and driver in tow. Actually, we're the ones in tow since we're sitting in the back. Gonzales, the driver, zips the Suzuki SUV through traffic like an old pro. He's got a crewcut and a bulge protruding from his hip - I decide not to enquire further.

It's a beautiful day overall and we're whisked out to towns a few hours outside of Bogota. At one point, I think we were four hours from Bogota. Along the way we saw the Virgen of Chiquinquira, blessed with holy water, sampled traditional candies and Carolina had her first taste of longanisa.

From sun up to well past sundown. It was a good time. I'll let the photos speak for themselves.

Ordering breakfast at ColFrance.

The Cemetery at Chiquinquira.

An assortment of traditional candies.

Guanabana and arrequipe. Tasty.

The Basilica at Chiquinquira.

The Padre blesses the faithful in front of the Virgen de Chiquinquira.

Inside the Basilica dome

The girls on the plaza at Chiquinquira.

Eating ice cream sandwich.

Into the valley by Raquira.

Browsing souvenir shops.

Main Street Raquira.

A Longanisa factory.

Carolina ponders her first taste of longanisa.

Chicharron Art.

Movie vehicles on the plaza in Villa de Leiva.

Now this is the way I like to live.

From the terrace of the Hotel Duruelo.

Fresh papaya.


Inside the empanada.


Rice and avocado for the Ajiaco.

Cheese and olive salad.

Chicken soup.


Dessert of queso and syrup.

Gonzales battles the rain.

Carolina and her soup at Crepes & Waffles.

Mexican Crepe.

Sweet cheese crepe.

Back into Bogota traffic.