One of the great attractions of a climate as mild as Bogotá’s is its yearlong growing season. Think first days of spring or very early summer or first days of fall in the northern hemisphere and multiply those days by 365 and you get to Bogotá year round. Add in plentiful rainfall, bursts of daily sunshine, cool breezes, and flowers that bloom without end and you begin to understand why even stalled traffic, which abounds, cannot totally succeed in providing a downer for your day. Stuck on a colectivo at 6 in the afternoon or in a taxi at any time, you can still appreciate the divine phosphorescent blues of the agapanthus in constant bloom down the center of uptown Carrera 11.

Roses are in flower year round in Bogotá, January through December. Hydrangeas are rich with purples and blues without thought to month. Day Lilies are constrained by no particular season. It gets better. Nature’s orange, yellow, red, and fuchsia tones infuse daily life in front of office towers, apartment complexes, and along busy street divides. The wet earth of Bogotá seems to know no boundary for growth. Lilies and irises color walkways and parkways and pass their days wavering nonchalantly in afternoon breezes in an urban environment that should by all manner of accounting be overwhelmed by brick and concrete and great puffs of bus fumes and truck exhausts.

The acacia morada may as well be Bogotá’s city emblem. The purple tones of the leaves of this omnipresent tree enrich even the most mundane of streets here. Sometimes shaped ornamentally and sometimes not, these gray purple leaved trees dance a daily dance across Bogotá. A friend of mine has an apartment overlooking a small park filled only with acacia morada trees, and to look down on them from above is to see a magical ballet of nature as the branches move Balanchine-like in breezy air currents back and forth.

The Sabana de Bogotá (the fertile plains that surround this city) have been identified as the perfect environment for growing flowers. Nights are cool; days are warm. Knowing that, when I first moved here, I expected to find vendors selling bunches of fresh flowers on every street corner in this city. Not so! Most Colombian cut flowers are destined for Europe and the United States. However, there are areas of the city given over to the sale of flowers.

On the western corner of Carrera 15 at Virrey Park and 89th, there is a wonderful flower market. This is in the north of the city and easily accessible from any of the upmarket hotels that now dot the area. (It sometimes seems to me that in Bogotá a new hotel opens every couple of weeks!) Well, stay here! Buy your flowers here, decorate your temporary or permanent residence here, and appreciate all that nature has on offer here. Color your everyday life. You can do that here at minimal cost.

Riding the Transmilenio along Avenida Caracas, just when you need a respite from urban concrete, you come to a stop called Flores. Right across from the Transmilenio station in the triangle where Caracas and Carrera 13 meet is the Plaza de las Flores. This is a somewhat specialized flower market where the emphasis is on flower arrangements in tall triangular or rounded wreath shapes. I always thought that these flower arrangements were for funerals. However, there is no cemetery nearby, and I am assured by Colombian friends that these flower decorations are indeed intended for a multitude of celebrations from birthdays to anniversaries to births to graduations (and I imagine even deaths!). Whatever their ultimate destination, these bouquets provide rich and vibrant color along a stretch of Caracas that might otherwise be sullen and widowed.

Paloquemao is another Transmilenio stop, though for now well off the beaten tourist track. The Paloquemao station is the gateway to one of Bogotá’s most well kept secrets, even from many Bogotanos! The Plaza de Mercado de Paloquemao is located here. This is the city’s traditional daily wholesale and retail flower, vegetable, meat and poultry market, and it is best visited early on a Thursday through Saturday morning. Rich in color and life (and market priced fresh flowers and fruit), this mercado is the place where the knowing and savvy traveler can interact with a true appreciation of what the city of Bogotá is all about. Come and simply buy some tropical leaves to decorate your hotel room! But you will not leave with leaves alone. Come and be amazed at the wealth of color and unbelievable variety of flowers still available today at a mere $2.50 a dozen. You may begin to think ….. if I lived here (or perhaps this could be a reason to live here) ……..I could have rooms or simply one room rich in exotic flowers daily.

Bogotá is full of parks, large and small, offering respite and nature’s promise throughout the city. I have my personal favorite urban spaces, often for esoteric reasons. I always enjoy sitting in the Parque Brasil at Calle 39th in Teusaquillo. And the park in the center of Usaquen is a playground for my imagination. I love, for no apparent reason beyond my love of Mexico, the unassuming Parque de Mexico, just off Carrera 15 in the 70′s. Trees in Bogotá are green year round, so in whichever park you decide to visit the interplay of leaves with the ever changing sky of this city is practically guaranteed to be your reward. Just a stone’s throw from the chic and ever popular Parque 93 with its surrounding myriad of restaurants and boutiques is the Parque del Chicó, a donation to the city by Mercedes Sierra de Pérez. Step back in time here and relax mid-morning or mid-afternoon to enjoy once again the riches of nature that interplay daily in this as yet undiscovered city of Santa Fé de Bogotá.

A version of this piece originally appeared on Gale, Cengage Learning’s Speaking Globally blog:  http://blog.gale.com/speakingglobally/the-view-from-here/the-view-from-colombia-colored-by-nature/

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