Friday, 24 October 2014

0123 - Villa de Layva

Tues 21st Oct. 

We pack up, go into town to go to bank, and find a diamond instead.  This little town is absolutely gorgeous, and we very quickly decide to wander at leisure, and if the day slips away from us because we are enjoying it, then we will just go back to Hostel Jorge again.

We park in a little square where there seems to be no restriction and is also safe being in full public view in a crowded area, and start walking into town to find a bank.  We are down to about $10 in local currency, so a bank is vital !! We have been looking for ATM’s for several days but none in the small villages, and the ones we did find rejected both my cards for some reason. Before we had even found a bank, we found the main plaza – Supposedly one
of the biggest in the entire Americas – and it certainly is big.  It, and all the streets, are cobbled using large stones, and they are very rough both to walk on and to drive on. After finding a bank where my card thankfully worked, we had a delicious Columbian coffee in a little café just off the main plaza – Neither of us were great coffee drinkers before this trip, but the beautiful Central and now the Columbian coffee is starting to convert us !! Then we set off to explore,  firstly checking out a small tourist office for information. Founded in 1572, it was declared a national monument in 1954, and is a beautiful colonial settlement that has been preserved in its entirety – Virtually no modern architecture exists here.
Many of the original houses in the centre have been tastefully refurbished into large walk through shopping areas and restaurants and are absolutely exquisite. Coffee shops, courtyards in dappled sunlight, and menus outside restaurants that just made your mouth water and want to go into each and every one to try their fare.  Dogs snoozing in the warm sun in the cobbled lane ways, and many locals just enjoying the town and all it has to offer.  We just could not believe this town – It even makes places like Antigua and the old city of Cartagena seem touristy and overdone. Villa de Layva is relaxed, quiet, and sleepy, and a place where Columbians come rather than tourists, and is way off the cruise ship tour routes.  The more we wandered around it, the more we enjoyed it.  One restaurant we looked at had a private room off the main restaurant that obviously was originally the kitchen, as the walls and ceiling were black with soot and grease from the old open fires that must have been used there for centuries – And it was done so tastefully it was superb.  It just made you want to have a dinner party there with some good friends.  Another restaurant had bottles everywhere hanging from the ceiling, and then upstairs had a balcony over looking the old tiled rooftops of the town. 

We found an old Carmelite Monastery tucked away in one corner of town, and passed little shops and houses with colourful flower boxes on the balconies.  The man plaza really is enormous, and apparently in November each year they have a major horse festival there when they cover the entire square with sand so the horses can prance and do whatever they do.  We found a large poster of the plaza being used for a kite flying festival, and it shows just how enormous it is.

By about one o’clock we needed a rest and some food – We had done a lot of walking and the altitude, while no longer a real issue for us, does still make you a little extra weary.  The Tourist office had told us about a restaurant called MiCocina, which is actually a cooking school, but is open to the public and did excellent local menus each day.  We found it, and went through to sit in the courtyard, and ordered the local set menu, which was soup, grilled fish or a kind of beef stew (we had one of each between us), and then a banana in strawberry coulis with cream.  We could hardly finish the meal, it was delicious, and cost us 10,000 pesos each – about $5 !!!   Incredible.

We then wandered a little more before heading back to the camp site for a second night, and relaxing in the afternoon sunshine reading or blogging.  The campsite gardens are a pleasure to sit out in, amongst the flowers and birds.  It is cool out of the sun, but with the clear air from the altitude, the sun is very intense and quite warm.  At night it is cold, and we were glad of our extra warm sleeping bags instead of just the sheets that we were using down at sea level.  Janet reckons her “bedroom” downstairs is colder than my “upstairs” one, but I am not too sure about that !

Anyway, a wonderful day in an exquisite town that is way off the normal tourist trail.  We could easily have stayed here longer, if only to sample some more of the restaurants, but we need to keep heading south in order to be in Santiago Chile by December 19th when Janet has a flight booked back to Australia for Christmas.

Pics here - To be annotated later

1 comment:

  1. Hope you like Colombia as much as we did. See your taking a similar route