This past weekend I went for a bike ride in Bogotá’s Ciclovía, the one day a week that dozens of city streets are closed off in order to give people mile upon mile of open roads for biking, skating and walking. It’s really an amazing event and without a doubt one of the best ways to get to know the city.
The best part is that it happens EVERY Sunday throughout the year (holidays too) – every city should implement something like this. Aside from that, there is also all kinds of food you can sample along the way.
Here are a few pictures of some of the different food stalls and carts that were spotted:
This was one of my favorites and not because I love guanabana fruit but actually, if you look closely you can spot some speakers on the front end of the cart. Now, you might expect to hear some vallenatos or some other typically Colombian music, but instead it was Lady Ga Ga’s “Bad Romance” coming out of the makeshift stereo. Go figure.
Next came the raspado or shaved-ice. This guy hand cranks that contraption to shave the ice and then drizzles flavored syrups and sweetened condensed milk on top. Not bad if you’re craving something cool and refreshing and maybe just a little bit cloying.
Then came this young man pushing his cart full of chontaduro, the fruit of a palm tree that grows in the coastal regions of South and Central America. I am still learning about this fruit and I actually tasted it for the first time a few weeks back, but by the number of carts I see on a daily basis it is very popular indeed.
Now, if you feel like something a little bit more substantial you can have an arepa smothered in butter and sprinkled with salt. Like with the chontaduro, you can find arepa vendors all along Bogotá’s city streets especially during the week and after 5pm – that’s when people are just getting out of work and need a snack.
Another street food staple is corn on the cob – also smothered in butter and sprinkled with salt, of course. The corn eaten in this part of the world is not the kind with small, sweet kernels. Instead they are starchier, bigger, and not as sweet but believe me they are just as delicious, especially when the kernels get a little bit charred.
My dad tells this anecdote of when a business partner of his from the U.S. came to visit Colombia in the 80’s. When the guy saw everyone eating this variety of corn he told my dad that that was the corn they fed the pigs back home. Jeez, lucky pigs!
I saved the best for last – Bogotá’s ubiquitous, unmissable, and picturesque fruit carts. They are everywhere, all the time, every day, selling cups of papaya, mango, green mango, assorted fruit cups with toppings like coconut, cream, condensed milk, and freshly pressed orange juice – a fruit lovers paradise.
My absolute favorite snack is the salpicón. This is what gets me out of bed and onto a bicycle on a lazy Sunday morning. The promise of a cup of chopped up fruit swimming in fruit juice. It’s the perfect ending to a ride or a walk. Unfortunately, sometimes the vendor chooses to add this stuff called Frutiño which tastes like liquid jello to me and totally ruins the fresh fruit experience but go around and taste a couple until you find one that you like. My favorite is on the south side of the Virrey Park right in front of the fitness machines. Good stuff…
The cup that’s being served here costs $1,500 pesos and that includes the ñapa. Ñapa is a word that comes from the Andean Quechua language and it’s basically like an add-on or bonus; in this case you get an extra ladle of salpicon after you’ve finished your first serving.
Ciclovía is lots of fun and one of the highlights of living in Bogotá. There are several shops where you can rent bikes by the hour or by the day such as Mike Ceaser’s Bogota Bike Tours in the Candelaria neighborhood (he also does bike tours that include a trip to the Paloquemao central market).
So if and when you make it out to Bogotá’s Ciclovia, make sure to leave some room for a snack…