Friday, 1 June 2012

An evening out in Cochabamba

During our journey back to Cochabamba, I had found a veggie restaurant in our guide book where I thought we could eat that evening.  It looked like it was only a mile or so east of our hotel.  We met up with Carlos, who seemed to have recovered from his night drive, and Carlos and Herman went off shopping for more food and probably an opportunity to have a meaty dinner. 

Meanwhile, we got a taxi with Sandro to the restaurant.  The taxi driver didn’t know the restaurant but seemed to know the road, but pronouncing it completely differently to me, so I wasn’t 100% sure we were heading in the right direction.  We had travelled a fair distance over the main bridge, into the centre of town and into a slightly run down area, when I started telling Sandro and the taxi driver that we were in completely the wrong bit of town.  I read out the names of road close by and the taxi driver kept saying “si, si”.  I got frustrated and made him pull over, so I could show him that the restaurant was east of the hotel, not south of the river.  The taxi driver was adamant that we were in the area of the restaurant and said that driven down the road twice.  On closer inspection of the book, I realised that the area to the east of the hotel was in fact an enlarged box of the central area of town, south of the river.  Fortunately Sandro found my map reading skills hilarious and the taxi driver had just thought I was mad anyway.  So again we drove around the block and stopped in the right road, which was a side alley in a slightly bohemian, slightly dodgy looking area. 

There was no sign of the restaurant but we got out to have a look.  Sandro looked uncomfortable and asked the taxi to wait.  Then Chris spotted a sign for the restaurant in an entrance to a courtyard with apartments.  We walked in and Sandro asked a lady where the entrance to the restaurant was.  There was quite an exchange in Spanish before Sandro explained that the restaurant was only open at lunchtimes but there was a place serving pasta upstairs.  The whole place looked decidedly unsavoury to me, so I suggested that maybe we look for somewhere better.  At this point, Chris had enough and insisted that as it was late we should just go upstairs and get some food.  He pointed out that this was the same place that I had taken them to eat.  Sandro therefore let the taxi go and Birdgirl and I headed up some dark outside steps.  We found a dark doorway into a place called “Café Fusion” and tentatively went in thinking that it was a dodgy establishment.  Instead, we found the coolest bar I have probably ever been into. It was like an old 1950’s French jazz club/bar with original large wooden windows and trendy, arty clientele smoking away at candlelit tables.    The walls had lots of back and white photographs of Billie Holiday and other amazing looking stars of the past, artwork and indigenous items (like an old feather arrows).  I thought “amazing” but I think Sandro thought “OMG, people smoking, what kind of place is this?”  The menu had a section of vegetarian pasta and was the first place in Bolivia to serve tea, so was perfect.  As we had driven around, I had been too busy trying to give directions to the taxi driver to notice the trendy, arty looking types or the 6” tall transvestite or the numerous bars and cafes.  For the first time on a birding trip abroad, we enjoyed the food, ambience and our luck stumbling upon the place.  Just as we were leaving, a couple in their twenties sat at the table opposite us.  She was wearing a satin dress that looked like it was a French Chanel item from the 50’s.  They sat their smoking and looking like they had walked off a film set.  Meanwhile, we were sitting there in our stinking, dusty and very unfashionable birding clothes!

It goes without saying that the guide book did say that vegetarian restaurant was only open at lunchtimes.

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