Hugo Slimbrouck, our director of Strategic Partnerships recently took part in a fam trip to Colombia. He is sharing his exotic experience, taking us to the trendy and bustling capital Bogota, to the colonial old town of Cartagena, and to the tropical Rosario Islands. We can’t wait to discover all of Colombia’s secrets!
The most important meal of the day
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day she said, and took me out to her favorite place in the Santa Barbara neighbourhood. It was just opposite the majestic W Bogota. I like site inspections that show authenticity and this one already
The magical streets of Colombia
The next thing that was happening was pure storytelling. The streets were full of restaurants, bars, shops, street vendors, sounds, and smells. A cocktail of Latin American culture exhibiting itself to a first-time arrival from the old continent. This was my first experience of the Colombian way of life.
The night before, our new Ovation partners Jorge and Daniel had picked me up from the airport and we had enjoyed a very late dinner in the hotel. The architects of the W Bogota have created a contemporary hotel that breaths the city’s golden history. Here you do not feel like at any other chain hotel in the world. Every part of the contemporary hotel breathes the local culture with gold as its central theme. Not surprising that this is DIFE’s preferred business and meetings hotel in town.
The heart of Latin America
If one was asked to define Colombia with just one word it would be ‘variety’. Colombia lies at the heart of Latin America. It is a region of the Americas that breathes with
The first and second day of my visit, were dedicated to a better understanding of destination Bogota. Moreover, I was able to discover the possibilities this vibrant city offers to corporate, association events and incentive travel groups. The colonial downtown, known as La Candelaria has a wealth of culture and arts on offer. Taking a ride with the cable care to get a city overview, my personal guides were able to explain what lay ahead for me. We started with a visit of the historic, now Bohemian centre before going downtown to the area around the Cathedral and the Presidential Palace. One story that made me wonder in advance was the legend of El Dorado, something I much better understood after visiting the unique gold museum. But another museum caught even more of my interest. Furthermore, Colombia’s famous son Botero was also a vivid collector of art and allowed the world to discover his private collection downtown in a small hacienda turned museum. No need to go to Paris to discover the impressionists, you will find a whole collection here.
Dining and dancing
Finally, we finished our busy day with a dinner at one of DIFE Travel’s favourite restaurants for groups Andres DC. You must look up their menu, one of the craziest documents I have ever seen in a restaurant! It’s like a 60 page glossy magazine. The restaurant is on multi levels and areas, themed differently in which a group will always find a ‘semi-private’ space whilst sharing the fun of the rest of the venue.Additionally, here I discovered Colombia’s favourite sport: Salsa Dancing. Something for anyone visiting Colombia to discover – particularly in Cali or Vallenato where it originated. For us incentive planners it is one team building option amongst many.
The second leg of my Colombian discovery tour was Cartagena de los Indias. This world heritage walled city on the Caribbean coast must have been the scene of many ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ experiences. The impressive fortress and natural harbor protected the city from which the Spanish organized their gold trade. Moreover, in absence of computer games, the Spanish invented some sort of ‘Grand Theft’ avant la lettre if you like. Additionally, they were ‘exporting’ their loot from Cartagena, obviously other sea faring nations got interested in the goods and tried to get their unfair share.
The romantic and medieval city center reminded me of my home town Bruges, with lots of cafés, al fresco dining and boutique hotels. Cartagena and Bruges are both UNESCO world heritage cities. Bruges had its hay days in the 15th century whilst the golden age for Cartagena was the 16th century. I stayed at the great Intercontinental Hotel but the destination has a wide range of global brands, mixed with and intimate collection of boutique hotels in the historic center.
The Rosario Islands
If one wants to escape the city for some R&R, I would recommend the Rosario Islands just off the coast, a short boat ride away, for some real Caribbean indulgence and much needed sun and Vitamin D for a pale European. We ended up for a half day of beach relax on an island that was once the hide-away of a famous Colombian drug lord, depicted in one of the Botero pictures I discovered at the museum in Bogota. Probably a reason why these islands have white sand powder beaches 😉
Colombia is also the birth country of one of the greatest storytellers in the 21st century: Gabriel García Márquez, emerald forests and coffee plantations. An exquisite destination for wonderful experiences where corporations can create their own stories to the benefit of their incentive group audiences.
The home of shakira
What I did not discover yet on this trip were the colonial cities and haciendas. They are set in the amazing Tayrona landscapes near Barranquilla (home of Shakira Shakira). Additionally, the coffee triangle offers integrating coffee farm experiences and adventure tours. By the way, one of Shakira’s famous quotes is “It doesn’t matter if you are a musician, a business leader, a president or a student. We all have a responsibility to give back.”. Moreover,
Text and Photography by BBT Online
First published on www.bbtonline.eu