Mi Tierra & The Botero Museum: Week 224

Entrance to Mi Tierra: Bogotá, Colombia

Mi Tierra is reached via a long hall lined with vintage posters and punctuated with a neon sign. Unlike the bars on the other side of the church square, there was no one waiting outside to hustle you in. And unless you knew about the bar, the inability to see into the venue from the sidewalk might be a bit dissuasive.

Luckily Tiffany, one of my colleagues, was in the know. She rounded up a large group of people from our training program and we set out on foot for the Chapinero venue. It was about ten o’clock when we arrived only to discover a metal gate blocking the entrance. Our hearts sank.

Someone rattled the gate and called down the hall. A minute or two passed without a sign of movement and then we heard footsteps approaching. It was Arturo, the owner.

Mi amor,” he affectionately called out to Tiffany. “¿Cómo estás?

Stuffed dog decoration inside Mi Tierra: Bogotá, Colombia

Of course the bar was open. Come in, come in. I wasn’t quite sure if they had opened up just for us, or if they just kept the gate closed when the venue wasn’t busy. It kind of seemed like in Bogotá, if there were enough people, anything could be reopened.

Interior of Mi Tierra: Bogotá, Colombia

During the day, Mi Tierra was an antique shop. There were no windows, so the musty smell of second hand goods filled the room. Some of the items were displayed while the rest were pushed aside to make space for the small dance floor and six tables. The most accessible items around the dance floor were wigs, hats, instruments, a wheelchair, and a small crocodile statue.

A crocodile statue and the dance floor at Mi Tierra: Bogotá, Colombia

Props and the dance floor at Mi Tierra: Bogotá, Colombia

Props and the dance floor at Mi Tierra: Bogotá, Colombia

Props and the dance floor at Mi Tierra: Bogotá, Colombia

We sat down at the largest table, the one with a vintage hairdryer, and began ordering drinks. Many bars rush you to order, but it almost felt like it was an afterthought for Arturo. “Tranquila,” he advised me when I wasn’t sure what I wanted or even how to say it. Take it easy.

Ordering drinks at Mi Tierra: Bogotá, Colombia

Out of nowhere a birthday cake appeared for Arturo’s partner. We all sang happy birthday in English and then in Spanish. After the candles were blown out, Arturo grabbed the microphone for a heartfelt serenade.

A birthday celebration at Mi Tierra: Bogotá, Colombia

The fact that such a large group of foreigners were invited in for a small birthday celebration just goes to show how friendly everyone was. While I had met a lot of nice people so far, it was the first time I felt such a generous ‘welcome’ in Colombia. If I’m ever back in Bogotá, you know where I will be.

The bar at Mi Tierra: Bogotá, Colombia

On my last day in Bogotá, three colleagues and I went to the touristy neighborhood of La Candelaria. It is one of the most historic neighborhoods in the city and many of the buildings are beautifully preserved.

Our first stop was at the Plaza de Bolívar. It dates back to 1539 when it was first called the Plaza Mayor. Nowadays, it is a massive paved area that fronts the Catedral Primada and the Capitolio Nacional (Nation’s Capital). The plaza usually attracts more people on the weekend, but this Saturday it had two strikes against it: it was raining and Colombia was set to play that afternoon in the Copa América.

El Presidente, 1997: Botero Museum, Bogotá

El Presidente, 1997

Just down the street was the Botero Museum. It was founded in 2000 with the donation of 203 artworks from Fernando Botero himself. More than half of the art was his own work, while the rest was that of international artists like Calder and Bacon. Not only was it a priceless collection, but it was also free to the public.

Mujer delante de una ventana, 1990: Botero Museum, Bogotá

Mujer delante de una ventana, 1990

While the international art collection was great, I was really there for Botero. His inflated figures are both fascinating in form and grotesque for the greed they represent.  Their fleshy figures devour their clothing and their small eyes sink into their faces, like raisins in pudding.

I could have spent all day La Candelaria looking at national treasures. However, some of the most important Colombian things can’t be found in a museum; they can only be found on a big screen TV. It was time to head back to the hotel to watch the Copa América.

Guerrilla de Eliseo Velásquez, 1988: Botero Museum, Bogotá

Guerrilla de Eliseo Velásquez, 1988

How to get to Mi Tierra: Calle 63 #11-47 (In front of Parque Lourdes), Chapinero, Bogotá

How to get to the Botero Museum: Calle 11 #4-41, Bogotá

Hombre con Perro: Botero Museum, Bogotá

Hombre con Perro, 1989

The Neighborhood Pub Crawl: Week 216

The Rose Hotel in Chippendale: Sydney, Australia

I have often contemplated the curious color palette of The Rose Hotel on my way to work. In the nicest way possible, I would say the names of the paint chips were Victorian Christmas and baby vomit.

Although I was very familiar with the exterior of the hotel, I hadn’t been inside until the ‘fight of the century’ between Mayweather and Pacquiao. The main bar with the trompe l’oeil ceilings was full, so Barret and I found a wood bench in the spacious courtyard and ordered a round of Bloody Marys with lunch. With the exception of one loud group, the audience was cheering for Pacquiao and when he lost the hotel quickly emptied.

A laundry line outside a house in Darlington: Sydney, Australia

Barret and I followed the exodus of people back out onto the street, but the afternoon weather was so nice that we decided to take a different route home. From Chippendale we walked through a quiet residential street in Darlington before ending up in Redfern.

A faded and peeling wall in Redfern: Sydney, Australia

It wasn’t so long ago that Redfern was a rough neighborhood, but the last decade has brought about significant gentrification. Strolling down Regent Street, Barret and I popped into an antique shop and against better judgment we left with two small spoons made from cow bones. Thin black decorative lines were carved into the polished surface.

Front door of The Bearded Tit in Redfern: Sydney, Australia

A few doors down from the antique shop was an establishment called The Bearded Tit. It’s an LGBT-friendly bar named after a puffy white bird that breeds in the reedy swamps of Europe and Asia. The backyard housed a ‘caravan of love’ and the gender-less bathrooms had a large moose hanging near the sinks.

A coaster at The Bearded Tit: Sydney, Australia

The best part about The Bearded Tit was its support for art. Local and international artists can apply to have their work displayed in a number of unique ways- from a wall to a curiosity cabinet. A ‘taxidermy tableaux’ surrounded a TV that was perfect for video art and resident artists could receive free bar food and 50% off drinks.

A small bakery on the Regent Street in Redfern: Sydney, Australia

After a round of champagne, Barret and I continued our circuitous journey home. Small family-owned restaurants, bakeries, and video rental relics lined the rest of Regent Street.

A terrace house in Erskineville: Sydney, Australia

It was dinnertime when we reached Erskineville, but neither of us wanted to cook so we walked through our neighborhood and towards the southern end of Newtown.

The Union Hotel in Newtown: Sydney, Australia

The Union Hotel had a lively cover band in the front and a large self-contained restaurant in the back. We ordered food and sat down near a father and his young daughter whom were both reading books. While there are more charming hotels further up King Street, Barret and I were both drawn to the classic brick Aussie hotel circa 1946.

The reason that I like Sydney’s inner west neighborhoods so much is that they are a perfect combination of historic buildings, livability, and community culture. It’s definitely not a cheap place to live, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a better area for a stroll and a neighborhood pub crawl.

How to get to The Rose Hotel: 52-54 Cleveland Street, Chippendale NSW 2008

How to get to The Bearded Tit: 183 Regent Street, Redfern NSW 2016

How to get to the Union Hotel: 576 King Street, Newtown NSW 2042

Marble Bar: Week 210

Marble Bar: Sydney, Australia

There is something about old, soft marble that is so incredible appealing to me. The marble floors were the first thing I noticed when I inspected my current house. I’m not sure if it’s the original flooring, but a lifetime of foot traffic has left the surface smooth and as cool to the touch as a puddle of water.

I actually wish all the flooring in the house was marble. How delicious it would feel in the middle of a heat wave, how much quieter it would be than the squeaky wood planks in the dining room.

Marble Bar: Sydney, Australia

That’s kind of how Marble Bar feels- like a cool, dark sanctuary. It was originally constructed in 1893 with the finest Belgian and African marbles and financed through a horseracing sweepstakes. Originally known as the George Adams Bar, it was closed in 1968 and reopened five years later after being painstakingly reconstructed inside the Sydney Hilton.

One hundred and twenty-two years ago, it would have been the finest bar in the colony to escape to from a hot summer’s day. I could just imagine men in top hats twirling their moustaches and swirling their brandies. Nowadays, Marble Bar attracts celebratory office workers and tourists. The drinks are definitely priced more for the tourist end of that spectrum though.

Marble Bar: Sydney, Australia

At the end of the day I usually prefer a bargain, but it is nice to occasionally slip into something a bit more luxurious. For some people that might mean a Chanel dress. For me it means 100 tons of National Trust of Australia “A”-rated marble.

How to get to Marble Bar: LB1, Hilton Sydney Hotel, 488 George Street, Sydney NSW 2000

The Rocks Village Bizarre – Week 144

A street magician at The Rocks Village Bizarre: Sydney, Australia

“Gather round folks,” an enthusiastic woman called out to the crowd. One of her front teeth was blacked out and the intonation of her voice seemed oddly antiquated. “Be prepared to see something of the likes you have never seen before. Folks, this one of a kind show is free and truly of the most remarkable order. ”

Barret and I moved in closer with the rest of the curious onlookers and waited for the thick velvet curtain to be drawn. Behind it was an alley with a carpet spread across the cobblestone ground. For some reason the five minute show reminded me of a sly merchant from the Victorian era; all hype and showmanship without actually delivering. You want an elixir to magically cure your gout? Take this cloudy tonic that gives you diarrhea. You want a magic show? Here’s a slight slight-of-hand.

A Hole in the Sky pop-up bar at The Rocks Village Bizarre: Sydney, Australia

Every Friday from November 1st– December 20th The Rocks, one of the oldest neighborhoods in Sydney, turned into a sideshow-esque bizarre. The cobbled precinct was filled with curiosities inspired by yesteryear: speakeasys, fortune tellers, and the Push Gangs that ran the streets in the 1880s.

After the dubious magician, Barret and I strolled through the market and past girls in flapper costumes. We picked up a black and white patterned mask and continued down George Street. There were white feathers painted on the sidewalk that led to a pop-up bar called Hole in the Sky, admission by mask only.

The front room, where the DJ and bar were located, was relatively empty. However, there were quite a few people tucked into the warren of minimalistic rooms. The moment we made it upstairs I felt like I had crashed a house party.

A Hole in the Sky pop-up bar at The Rocks Village Bizarre: Sydney, Australia

The room fronting George Street was inspired by clouds but had an industrial edge. The chandelier was made with packing material and the short stools were loosely wrapped in plastic cording. I could feel the crunch of white Astro Turf underfoot.

While Barret and I sipped our wine, the strobe light in the corner slid a pale pink wash across the room. It must have been sunset in the clouds; what a curious world indeed.

About: The Rocks Village Bizarre

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