April 14, 2018
On one of my last days in Colombia, I have relatively modest plans, namely, to explore one of the posher areas in the north of the city not so far from where I am staying, including the Chico barrio and the area around Parque de los 93. It turns out that the areas may be safe, clean, with a modicum of reasonable restaurants, but in the end feels fairly soulless, without a lot of underlying character or personality.
Ubiquitous are the small green spaces usually boxed against apartment buildings, never expansive, never dramatic, and always involving the same relatively mundane grasses, aloe-like plants with fibrous leaves, and limited range of flowering plants. Given that the climate can’t really be that prohibitive, it’s not really clear as to why more imagination isn’t used in the gardening – or perhaps the look is deliberate, mandated.
Parque de los 93 is a beacon of success and desirability in the north of the city, but hardly impressive in any way. Yes, it does have well-tended lawn areas, trees with large green canopies. But although it feels institutional, in the area you can find culinary gems; this is where you can get good food in the country, that is, none of the usual greasy and bland fare. Of course, you will also be paying international prices … Now the trick is to ensure that I actually remember the location of some of these places, as I quickly seem to get lost, despite the grid pattern of the streets.
Even though the use of red brick in the cladding of the area’s residential towers is almost stifling, never mind the homogeneous design and microgardens I mention before, there are small touches that create some uniqueness, in addition to sleek modernist flourishes that take the otherwise generic look of some properties a step beyond.
Unlike further to the south in the city, despite the density, livability in the area ranks high, what with the amount of green space around us. And the bike paths are generous in size, clearly separated from roads, and flanked with green borders.
No matter what, the kind of wealth you see here puts the north of the city into an entirely different universe vis-a-vis the rest of the country; this amount of space, modernity, cleanliness, scale, impeccable degree of maintenance would only be found in a few areas of some of the other cities of Colombia.