When we were booking our trip to Colombia we had no idea that there was a public holiday on Monday, August 15th (Feast of the Assumption of Mary.) To the Hayes Family a long weekend=trip, even when we are in another country. The problem was that this long weekend=trip to everyone else in Colombia too. Flights to Medellin, the Coffee Country and any beach location were ridiculously expensive. We had pretty much resigned ourselves to staying in Bogota (poor us) when a friend of Sean’s recommended that we visit the colonial town of Villa de Leyva, about three hours north east of Bogota and arranged for us to stay at a hotel nearby. Considered to be one of the prettiest towns in Colombia, Villa de Leyva is a popular weekend getaway for Bogataños. Eli and Zuly were married there and also recommended that we check it out.
However, the first part of our trip was a lesson for the kids (and a reminder to us) that sometimes–often times–things do not go the way you expect them to go. Excited to check out another part of the country, we left Bogota early in the morning and promptly hit horrendous traffic: standstill traffic, traffic stops, detours. We got it all including inexplicable speed bumps in the middle of highways. The scenery was gorgeous but did not make up for the time we spent in the car with not one single stop. By the time we got to Villa de Leyva we had been driving for nearly five hours. (My kids are troopers. I am not.) Our driver didn’t know where he was going, so instead of going to the hotel for lunch as planned (and dealing with even more traffic) we told him to meet us later and that we would walk into town and get lunch.
It was a hot, dusty 10 minute walk into the center of town but it was much better than sitting in the car. The town was packed because of the annual kite festival. (Sorry, Villa de Leyva but that kite festival was not great. The enormous town square was filled with people watching other people fly kites, the ordinary kind of kite that you can buy at any seaside vacation shop on the Jersey shore. This was not the Olympics of kite flying.)
(The not-so-exciting kite festival. See what I mean? But, the backdrop was pretty spectacular.)
It was also much hotter and sunnier than in Bogota and unfortunately, I had decided to wear my new boots. I thought I was going to melt. We had no idea where we were going, were all starving and several of us were very cranky. We were questioning our decision to leave Bogota. But, by some luck of a well worded Google search we found Mi Cocina, a cooking school/restaurant in the middle of town.
Lunch was delicious (and so were the beers.) We sat under the umbrellas in the restaurant’s garden and made a game plan: ice cream, shopping and a bit of sightseeing. We quickly found the ice cream (delicious), looked in a few shops and walked around the town. But, I don’t think that we were able to really appreciate how pretty the town is because of the crowds and the heat. It felt like all of Bogota was in Villa de Leyva. Frankly, it wasn’t the day we expected to have and we weren’t having a lot of fun.
We texted the driver and then our comedy of errors really began: he couldn’t find us, we couldn’t find him. He didn’t understand us, we didn’t understand him. We ended up walking out of town and sat outside a shop calling and texting him. He still had no idea where we were. We called the hotel. We asked the couple sitting next to us to talk to the driver and give him directions. Nearly an hour later just as our phones were beginning to die, the sun was setting and the panic was starting to rear its ugly head, he finally collected us and we sat in silence as we drove the dusty 10 kilometers out of town down a winding, bumpy dirt road to our hotel, the Passadhi Guesthouse.
We had no idea what to expect when we arrived. When we Googled the name of the hotel we were a bit skeptical because it appeared that we were staying at a vegetarian yoga retreat. (Those of you who know Sean and Oscar can imagine their response. But they both loved the place.) And, although on paper the Passadhi Guesthouse is a vegetarian yoga retreat, it is also so much more and turned out to be one of the most special places we have ever stayed.
Edmundo, one of the owners, greeted us at the gate and showed us to our two bedroom cottage overlooking the mountains. The house was decorated with warm and rustic finishes: terracotta floor tiles, orange rag rugs, wood trim around the windows and bunches of rosemary and flowers in each room. The whitewashed walls were decorated with colorful paintings of Indian goddesses. There was a hammock on the porch outside, overlooking the pond, the trees and the mountains.
We rested for a while, happy to be in the fresh, cool air and out of the dusty, hot crowds in Villa de Leyva. The atmosphere at the Passadhi Guesthouse was so calm and peaceful it made the rest of the not-so-great day completely worth it.
With flashlights in hand, we walked up to main house for dinner. It was completely dark as we made our way over a small wooden bridge. The only sounds we were heard were the frogs singing in the pond. The stars were bright and the air smelled like burning wood and wet grass. When when we reached the house a few minutes later, we were greeted by a fire in the fireplace and Edmundo’s wife Gisele, who gave us a big hug and a glass of wine. Both of them have studied and traveled extensively in India and the large living room, dining room and kitchen area were decorated with many objects from their travels. Soon, we were joined by the other guests, a couple from Bogota, an American woman traveling around South America and Gisele’s sister Stella. We sat around the table and ate a light dinner of pumpkin soup, fresh bread and local cheese. I was so nervous about Oscar’s reaction (he hates vegetables) but he actually liked the soup. We chatted with the other guests and made plans to go on a hike after breakfast the next morning. But, we were so tired after our long day, we were the first ones to say good night. Edmundo and Gisele’s giant Great Dane, Ruru, walked us back to our house, turning back toward his own home once we had safely reached the footbridge. Under the watchful eye of the goddesses, we slept. And what to do tomorrow? Stay tuned…