Christmas Eve Day dawned, as most days here do, bright and sunny. Eliana was very tickled to discover that Box, her elf, had been particularly mischievous overnight and had appropriated the flour for her own purposes.
We meandered over to the mall in search of Santa…
Several family friends came for Christmas Eve dinner, and Eliana hit it off with Sebastian, a talented young artist. They gifted each other with samples of their best work.
As midnight drew nearer, everyone gathered in the living room and very graciously agreed to do a round-robin reading of “The Night Before Christmas.” Though English was just about everybody’s second language, they gamely tackled the poetic language.
The words “Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night” were still hanging in the air when the sound of fireworks signaled that Christmas had arrived! We hugged everyone, wished them a merry Christmas, and then went outside to see explosions of color in every direction. The festivities carried on for another couple hours, but Michael and I had some wrapping to attend to!
Eliana awoke on Christmas Day to find, to her delight, that Santa had indeed managed to find us in Chía. (This was a topic of some concern for several days previous!) We had a leisurely breakfast and opened presents with Maiz, Catalina, and Giacobbe.
Then we packed up the cars and set out for Maiz’s farm in Villa de Leyva, about three and a half hours northeast of Bogotá. We stopped at a historic bridge, the site of the Battle of Boyacá, looked around, and had a snack at one of the little cafés. I don’t think I’ve mentioned this yet, but in our short time here in Colombia, we have managed to leave quite a path of destruction in our wake. In general, we are not particularly clumsy people, but all bets have been off since we arrived on Colombian soil. Grocery stores tend to be our downfall, and we have mysteriously punctured bags of rice, toppled cheese displays, shattered bottles of wine, and caused virtual avalanches of cherry tomatoes. In this particular restaurant on the way to Villa de Leyva, we managed to smash a glass bottle (which had miraculously survived the journey from Minneapolis) all over the floor, as well as knock over a bottle of Coke, prompting Catalina to declare we deserved some sort of medal for our (dubious) accomplishments.
By the time we cleaned up and got back in the cars, it was nearing dusk. The dark and then the rain made the curvy, mountainous journey slightly harrowing, but finally we arrived at Rancho MG (named for Maria Eugenia – Maiz – and her partner Germán, who lives there full-time).
Eliana had a blast all week helping with the farm chores and getting to know the animals.
One day we went to “La Periquera”, a series of seven waterfalls set in a idyllic valley.
On the hike back, a group of young men passed us, and they all greeted Eliana as they walked by. Suddenly, one of them stopped and asked if he could take a picture with her. We said sure – and before we knew it, every single one of these young guys was taking a turn to crouch down and have his photo taken with her!
Another day, we visited a nearby ostrich farm. We learned all about ostriches, and we got to be up close and personal with the slightly intimidating birds. They were, well, big, and quite assertive about finding the food they knew we had.
We ate lunch at the restaurant there, where we had – what else?- ostrich burgers. After lunch, Eliana and Miguel kicked back and relaxed a bit.
That same afternoon, we visited Santo Ecce Hommo, a convent built by Dominican monks in the 1600’s. The building itself was gorgeous, but what Eliana loved was climbing all the rocks in the pasture next to the convent.
We also spent a day in Ráquira, a nearby small town known for its pottery. There were also tons of other handicrafts – it was actually a little overwhelming!
Villa de Leyva is a very charming colonial town, full of white adobe buildings with red tile roofs, cobblestone streets, and quaint shops selling colorful handcrafted goods. There are innumerable beautiful buildings surrounding lush courtyards.
There is a huge central plaza, one entire side of which is taken up by a massive church and stone stairs that run the length of the square. It was here that we decided to spend New Year’s Eve. We arrived in town early, around 7, walked around a bit, and staked out a spot in the square. There was a stage where a couple bands where playing (hip-hop and the accordion-rich ballenato), and some people were dancing, Maiz and Germán among them. Children were playing with all manner of glow-in-the-dark toys, and the whole atmosphere was just incredibly festive.
As midnight neared, the excitement mounted, and suddenly the band stopped playing and the entire plaza full of people started counting down in unison, “diez, nueve, ocho, siete…” As we reached “cero”, cheers erupted, everyone hugged everyone else, and the sky directly overhead exploded with incredible fireworks.
It was definitely one of the most dramatic and memorable New Year’s Eves we’ve ever experienced. (Except, of course, for New Year’s Eve 1998, when Michael and I laid eyes on each other for the first time!)
Though we kept pretty busy in Villa de Leyva, we also had plenty of time for relaxing…
…and having some quality sibling bonding time.
It was an amazing vacation-within-a-vacation!