This blog entry about the events of Friday, December 21, 2007 was originally posted on January 07, 2008.
DAYS 28-32 (PART 4): Ask any Bogotan for a recommendation of where to go, and there’s no doubt that the phrase, “Andrés Carne de Res” will be mentioned with lots of encouragment and enthusiasm. “What is it?” I asked Monica once.
“I can’t really describe it,” she told me. “It’s an experience.”
Once I had gotten there, I knew exactly what she meant.
STEPH AND I had been invited to go to Andrés Carne de Res on a lively Saturday night by Camillo, who had plans to go there with a big group of his friends — he was in full-on nightly party mode since his arrival, having not been in his homeland for close to nine years. Going to Andrès Carne de Res is a must-do when in Bogota, like an obligatory pilgrimage that everyone must do at least once in a lifetime (like Oktoberfest), and being there I finally knew what all the fuss was about.
I can’t really describe the establishment myself — it is an experience — other than it is sort of a cross between a restaurant, a bar, a house party (picture above), a discoteque/nightclub, and a carnival, a place where every night that it’s open is like Mardi Gras. Out in the suburbs away from the city, Andrés Carne de Res is a wonderland for the senses about a city block long, with its kitschy decor of tchotchkes, loud music, delicious food and dressed up actors (i.e. witches), encouraging the fun. (Check out its website, which attempts to capture its eclectic, frenzied energy. Click on the tugboat to navigate around the site.)
Camillo’s friends — a couple whose names escape me — had picked us up from Victor Hugo’s apartment in an SUV, and from there we were off to the party out of town. Our carpoolers too couldn’t really describe what we were about to see, and agreed that it was just something you had to experience yourself. Once we arrived, there were crowds of people filing into the building, ready for one crazy night of debauchery, dancing, and drunkenness. Despite the driving distance from the city, excessive drinking was supported; Andrés Carne de Res provided a small army of willing, sober drivers to drive you home (even in your own car), in the likely event of getting too drunk to drive.
By the time we arrived fashionably late, most of the people in our party were already at our reserved table, well on their way to being drunk on agua diente. Sure enough we joined in on the festivities, with toasts (with Camillo, Conrad and others) and dancing. Getting into the mood, Steph had her face painted at one of the face painting stations, which wasn’t entirely geared towards the children in the restaurant — in fact, as family-oriented a place like Andrés Carne de Res is, Andrés the owner gets on the microphone at midnight inviting all the kids under the age of 18(?) to kindly leave. “Now this is when the party gets started!” someone told after the announcement.
Andrés Carne de Res is one of those theme restaurant sort of places where it’s always fun to celebrate a birthday, or at least pretend to have one, which is what the group did for a few of us, including me and Steph. The witches came along for a song and dance, adorning us with crowns and honorary sashes, and Camillo surprised Steph with an official Andrés Carne de Res gift box of assorted goodies and junk. Eventually through the night, we switched from birthday crowns to big straw hats, or whatever else we could find to put on our heads.
Steph, with paint on her face, was definitely having a good time in more ways than one, but eventually we left the Andrés Carne de Res experience and moved on. Camillo had a friend also named Camillo (“Camillo 2” Steph dubbed him), who apparently was well-connected in Bogota’s social scene, and it was under his guidance that we went back to the city to go after hours clubbing. Of course his guidance was a bit weakened by his alcohol intake (or was it more than that?), but at least we had a sober driver to take the wheel of his car.
IT WAS A CONFUSING NIGHT for me and Steph, to say the least; Camillo 2’s car pulled up by someone’s house back in town because he had to wait for someone. We waited in the back seat with Camillo 1 for a good twenty minutes; Steph was already starting to fade. “No, I’m just taking a power nap,” she excused herself. “To recharge.”
Waiting, we assumed our time on the desolate, dark street was because the other group was going to come with us, but in the end, our encounter was brief — we speculated it was sort of a hand off of sorts. Camillo 2 was a much shadier guy than Camillo 1 was, at least from our point of view, but it was funny to see him stick his driver in the trunk (it was a hatchback) to make room for any additional passengers that might have come with us to the clubs. Fortunately, the sober driver got back out of the trunk and into the driver’s seat.
We ended up at Gotika, a club I’ve read was known to be the hot spot for the drug dealing elite in Bogota. In fact, once inside the club (through Camillo 2’s connections), Steph noticed vials secretly being passed from hand to hand while we innocently just drank beer. The scene was right out of a movie: a (most likely) drug-induced rave with loud techno music blasting and vibrating through every seam of the walls. There were multiple floors to Gotika — and therefore multiple dancefloors — and it was on the upper level, with its musical tastes a bit more local, that Camillo 2 introduced us to some club regulars. “You know Pablo Escobar?” Camillo 2 asked me.
“Huh?” I answered close to his ear, raising my voice above the loud music.
“Escobar. You know, the biggest druglord in Colombia,” he said, voice also raised. “That’s his son over there. Let’s go meet him.”
Our introductions to the son of the notorious, world-renowned cocaine kingpin were brief. I shook his hand. “Mucho gusto,” I greeted Escobar, refraining myself from asking to take my photo with him. He glared at me, but figured I was good people in the presence of hobnobbing Camillo 2. How’s that for meeting the locals?
Our time at Gotika was another interesting one to say the least, dancing and not dancing in the non-techno music room, but eventually we left in search of another place. Camillo 2’s driver took us to another spot, a gay club which was the only place still lively at five in the morning, but apparently Camillo 2’s connections weren’t good enough to get us in without a cover. Paying was silly since they were closing in an hour anyway, and so we called it a night, just as it was approaching daybreak.
Camillo 1, still in back-in-Colombia-party-mode, suggested we continue with breakfast and see go from there, but Steph and I were exhausted and just wanted to go back home to Victor Hugo, who graciously agreed to stay up for us no matter how late, since he wouldn’t give up a spare key. Camillo 2’s driver dropped off Camillo 1 at his mom’s place in Zona Rosa, leaving Steph and I to fend for ourselves with the now completely wasted Camillo 2, slumped in the front passenger-side seat. It should have only been ten minutes to make it to Victor Hugo’s apartment, but the driver kept on getting lost with the address we gave him. Camillo 2 got fed up and switched places with the sober driver, much to our chagrin. Needless to say, Steph and I were a bit concerned with our predicament, but fortunately the switch off was only around the corner from our final destination, and we returned home safely.
“[How was last night?]” Victor Hugo asked me the next morning.
“[Good. Fun,]” I told him with my limited Spanish vocabulary. If only I could have said more.
“[Were you cold last night sleeping?]” he asked. (The previous night it was really cold in the room at night, and he wanted to know if the extra blanket he gave us was sufficient.)
“[It wasn’t cold last night because it was morning,]” I joked. I guess that was another advantage to a crazy night that goes on until dawn.
Previous entry: New Friends In The New Bogota
The shooting entry coming up next…
Escobar’s son, that’s the kind of place I wouldn’t be comfortable in. Reading these posts is a bit like watching a horror movie where the bad stuff hasn’t happened yet. You know something bad is going to happen and you kind of know when, but it’s still nerve racking.
As soon as Escobar was mentioned I though it was the shot entry…
I would really questioned about Escobar’s son being there….
we need to compare scars, esse.
you could write in a book, Chapter 69: Escobar’s Son. I meet Escobar’s son. I’m still alive. Next chapter..
my favorite place that i’v never been to
(i’m 1/2 jealous)
I cheated and read the latest entry..trying to look for the “shot” entry..patiently waiting. Back to day 9
Seriously awesome, thanks!
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New Friends In The New Bogota
THE GLOBAL TRIP GLOSSARY
Confused at some of the jargon that's developed with this blog and its readers over the years? Here's what they mean:BFFN: acronym for "Best Friend For Now"; a friend made on the road, who will share travel experiences for the time being, only to part ways and lose touch with