December 28, 2014
It was tough to get up this morning after too few hours of sleep and go deal with three kids but such is the price for going salsa dancing in Cali. Totally worth it!
We packed up and headed off to Popayan, a beautiful colonial town about two hours away from Cali, where we would be spending the next day or two. The road through Valle de Cauca ran through small towns and sugar cane plantations and was full of military presence. We are used to seeing military checkpoints all over Colombia, but while most soldiers we normally see look like teenagers hanging out casually exchanging stories of wild nights out the night before, these soldiers looked ready for battle. They were posted every 5 miles or so and by every bridge in full camouflage, bullet proof vests, black paint on their faces and they weren’t smiling, laughing or chatting. They looked like they meant business. Of course the 100 degree Fareinheit heat probably didn’t help.
One curious thing I noticed were piled up sandbags all around. I am used to seeing sandbags to prevent flooding during rainy season all around our little town of Chia, and I innocently said to my husband, “Have they had flooding here recently?”
His bemused look let me know what a naïve and innocent gringa I am. The sandbags, it turns out, are bunkers so that the soldiers have some cover if attacked by guerillas. This is prime guerilla territory and skirmishes with the army and the local populace are quite common. There was so much army presence to protect us travelers on this major highway during the holiday season but veering even a couple miles off this main road was not advisable unless we want to risk spending months in a guerilla camp as our families negotiate ransom. No thanks!
After an adventureless (good thing) but hot ride, we arrived at our hotel, Hostal Campobello (a very pleasant bed and breakfast about 20 minutes drive from the historic center), took showers and headed to Popayan’s historic town center for dinner. With its white colonial houses, Popayan’s historic center is quite pretty and we enjoyed strolling around the town. We stumbled upon a wedding in a small local church and the girls really enjoyed the pageantry.
The real highlight of the evening however, was the Semilla Escondida, an amazing French restaurant and creperie owned by a Frenchman. The food was cheap and delicious and the desserts were to die for!
Lodging – Hostal Campabello – http://www.hostalcampobello.com/index_en.htm
We were nervous about staying here since the reviews they got on Tripadvisor were dismal. We were pleasantly surprised, however, as the rooms were clean and nicely appointed, the service was great, the house very pleasant to hang out in and the breakfasts on the patio delicious. The only thing that I didn’t like is that they charged quite abit for laundry by local standards (15,000COP per load), told me that all my wash could fit in one load and then, once the wash was already done presented me with a bill for two loads since apparently my wash did not fit into one load. I would have appreciated it if they had told me this before they did the laundry and let me decide how much I wanted to wash.
Dining – Semilla Escondida – https://es-la.facebook.com/pages/Restaurante-La-Semilla-Escondida/176640789063247
Absolutely delicious crepes, pastas, vegetarian dishes and sublime desserts! Very reasonable prices. Open all days except for Sundays.