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When in�Bogot�


Just a five-hour flight from New York City (seven hours from Los Angeles), Bogot is nestled between the lush mountains of Guadalupe and Monserrate, nearly two miles up in the Andean high plateau. By turns colonial and modern, this city-in-transition is frequently dubbed the Athens of South America for its dense concentration of museums (of gold, colonial art, and modern art, plus one specializing in the artist Fernando Botero), libraries, and universities, not to mention its thriving gayborhoods like the Zona Rosa and Chapinero. The 8-million-strong metro area was once notorious for crime and drugs, but wildly popular president lvaro Uribe has bolstered Bogots civic pride by increasing security and adopting strict crime-fighting tactics used by the NYPD. In 2007, he sponsored a bill that paved the way for this years constitutional court ruling that same-sex couples must be granted the same rights as heterosexuals in common-law marriages. But discrimination, violent crime, and rebel activity elsewhere in Colombia contribute to national image problems. Most recently, Colombia has been hit with global economic woes, but Bogot seems to be weathering the storm. This is most visible in the bohemian Candelaria district and the more modern Gourmet Zone (Zona G), where chefs and restaurateurs from all over Latin America are taking advantage of the colonial capitals affordable rents and setting up camp. Plus, the citys bustling Juan Valdez coffee shops, thriving emerald market, booming medical tourism business, and leather handbag shops -- stuffed with buyers from all over the world -- all suggest the city is doing quite well. STREET GUIDETHE DRINK Brokeback Mountain Caf and Bar Cra. 9A #60-25; +57-1-542-5683 This unlikely newcomer is named after Ang Lees homo-western flick, but you wont find any cowboys thumping to its background disco and house beats. Pastel couches are strewn around the lounges, while karaoke and wireless Internet keep the gay boys busy. Blues Bar Cl. 86A #13A-30; +57-1-616-7126 The gays come to this Zona Rosa bar to chitchat and shake their hips to electro and pop. Open Tuesday through Saturday, with an open bar all night for a mere 15,000 pesos ($6). THE GROOVE Theatron Cl. 58 #10-34; +57-1-235-4227 The heart of the gay ghetto of the Chapinero, this gigantic former movie theater is the citys premier gay dance club. Its various dance floors cater to everyone from househeads to lounge lizards. THE BED104 Art Suites Cra. 18A #104-77; +57-1-602-5959 Bunk down in style at this glistening but affordable boutique hotel in La Candelaria, where a group of Colombian artists have converted an apartment building into the HQ of Bogot cool. The spacious rooms have a clean monochromatic decor and stark edginess that you wont find at other area hotels. THE BITE 80 Sillas Cl. 118 #7-09; +57-1-619-2471 Tourists often dont make it to this bright, trendy, colorful cevichera in the office district of Usaqun, but theyre missing out. Its walls are bathed in chalkboard paint, where a staggering variety of raw fish (delivered daily) and Colombian fruit combinations are listed above the heads of office workers and buttoned-up 30-somethings. Andrs Carne de Res Cl. 3 #11A-56; +57-1-863-7880 Less a foodie destination than a party involving dinner (think salsa dancing and theatrical performances), the fiesta never ends at this legendary steakhouse in the suburb of Chia. The 700+ seat institution may seem ridiculously large and touristy, but its a Bogot must. Between rounds of mojitos (served in giant goblets), snack on plates of patacn (pizza made with mashed, fried plantain in lieu of dough) and tender little papas criollas (roasted baby potatoes). THE MORNING AFTERCerro Monserrate Cra. 2 Este #21-48; Paseo Bolivar; +57-1-284-5700 The $5 telefrico (cable car) ascent to this gorgeously reconstructed church and monastery takes you over lush eucalyptus-scented hills to a dizzying 10,000-foot altitude, where food vendors and fancy restaurants await. If youre feeling fit, join the regular Sunday pilgrims footing it up the hills windy paths (not to be done alone, or on any day except Sunday, due to muggers). The pilgrims come to visit the statue of Seor Cado (Fallen Christ), which dates from 1640 and is said to perform miracles. Send a letter to the editor about this article.

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Adam H. Graham