Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Exploding Fun in Colombia

Tejo is Colombia's national pastime and I was fortunate to learn and play the game during my time in Bogota. It is similar to horseshoes, bocce or American corn hole but with a bang. It is played by tossing roughly a 2kg disc, called "Tejo" across a lane, about sixty-five feet in length, onto an angled board covered completely with clay. In the center of the board is a metal circle called "bocin" and around the perimeter are four folded paper triangles filled with gunpowder, called "mechas". The object is to get the tejo inside the bocin along with hitting one, or more, of the mechas so it explodes. Yes, explodes! The more your team, usually three to four people, hits the mechas or gets close to the bocin, wins. CRAZY FUN!
I can think of a few sports in the world where drinking while playing is encouraged. I couldn't imagine playing darts, pool, corn hole or even bowling without an ice cold alcoholic beverage. So tejo with explosives and heavy weights = excessive amounts of beer drinking. And the added bonus, it is free to play as long as you order, and continue to order, lots and lots of beer. I was with seven other people so we ordered a crate of beer which was more convenient than going up to the front each time.
Lastly, after many, many cervezas you can dance with a local like I did.
So the next time you are in Bogota or anywhere in Columbia, try and play Tejo. Guaranteed to be a blast

Friday, March 1, 2013

Top 5 Things To See in Rome

I was looking back at some photos and reminiscing about the time I have spent in Rome. I think if you plan on traveling to a different country, Rome should be on that list. The Eternal City with countless pizzerias, wonderful family-owned trattorias, cafes, delicious pastries and yummy gelato. Whenever I travel, I usually look for a furnished apartment to rent versus staying in a hotel. Most of the time, I find renting a furnished apartment is more cost-effective and you have more space and privacy. Here are a few sites I have used and would recommend for furnished apartments: Airbnb, Roomorama and Oh-Rome

As you can imagine, listing only five things to see in Rome can be arduous. If you ask those who have visited or even live(d) there, you will not be surprised that everyone's opinion will vary. So after much consideration, here is my top five list "when in Rome" of what not to miss.

#1 COLOSSEUM / ROMAN FORUM 
The Colosseum, as you would expect, is massive. It was the largest amphitheater built in Rome and could hold 50,000 people. As I walked through the dilapidated ruins, I tried to imagine what it was like back in 80 AD when Gladiator slaves where fighting each other, or animals, to the death. 

I am not much for personal guided tours, so I purchased my ticket, online, that included a map with a downloadable audio guide. The ticket also included Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum and was good for two days so I didn't have to see all the sights at once. If you plan on visiting all three sites in one day, I would suggest visiting the Roman Forum first, give yourself about 3 hours, before heading to the Colosseum. The total cost (in 2012) was $18 US / 13.50 Euro.

#2 THE PANTHEON 
You will find the Pantheon at the Pizza della Rotanda, with cafes around the perimeter of the square. A perfect place to rest your weary feet, have an espresso and just take in this magnificent building. Built in 126AD, it is one of the best preserved Roman buildings.
The large opening in the center of the dome is the only form of light inside the Pantheon. The 43 meter high dome used to be the highest in the world until the Florence Cathedral was built in 1436.

#3 TREVI FOUNTAIN
Probably one of the most famous fountains in the world and my favorite place to go late at night. As you can imagine, during the day, this area is jam packed. Tourists trying to take photos or excited children scurrying threw the crowds to throw coins into the water for good luck. It occurred to me that most people would probably not visit Trevi Fountain in the late evening. So as you can see in the photo below, I found my peaceful time with just me and the Trevi Foundation around 10pm.
#4 VATICAN CITY
Visiting Vatican City will take up most, if not all, of your day so plan accordingly. Most people enter Vatican city by going over the Ponte St. Angelo bridge to St. Peter's Square. There are several museums to walk through and the entire complex is the largest in the world with over 1,400 rooms. In addition to visiting the museums, you can tour St. Peter's Basilica and the papal tombs. If visiting St. Peter's Basilica, check ahead of time on the dress attire. I know last time I was there, shorts and bare arms were not permitted.

#5 PIAZZA NAVONA
Of all the city squares in Rome, Piazza Navona is my favorite. I remember my first time in Rome, I stumbled upon this area walking from my hotel. It was so lively with numerous restaurants bordering the piazza and musicians signing in the streets. My fiance also introduced me to a wonderful wine bar called La Botticella and the owners name is Giovanni. Stop by and have a drink, you will have a great time!
And lastly, if I proceeded to list five more "Things to see in Rome" I would include:

Stroll the Trastevere Street
Browse Campo de' Fiori
Eat at a family run trattoria
People watch on the Spanish Steps
and
Visit the Villa Borghese, one of the world's finest small art museums

WHAT IS YOUR TOP FIVE?



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