La Candelaria is the place to stay and roam in Bogota and L'Etoile is the place to pop in for coffee, crepes, beer, great music, art and a fabulous owner, Diana.
Anyone who has been to Bogota knows that most every day, there is a period when the sun is blotted out by haze, then mist, then rain. You can't take pictures in that ugly light and it's not much fun dashing about in chilly rain, so figure on waiting for the sun to come back while hanging out in L'Etoile.
The menu is simple -- some dessert crepes, some ham and cheese crepes, a few other snacks a veggie burger and some additions on the way.
This is not a place for a 5-course meal, this is a place to snack on crepes while enjoying fabulous coffee, or hot chocolate, warmed wine or maybe a simple beer from the bottle.
The reason you come here is the atmosphere. You don't come to Bogota for a French cafe any more than you go to Paris for arepas, but L'Etoile is worth a midday visit and an evening stop off every day.
I was drawn in, while it was perfectly nice out for pictures, by the music -- everything from Billie Holiday to Austin Powers-style fun jazz to new wave to 80s (thing Depeche Mode) to blues plus Big Brother and the Holding Company.
The music is programmed by Maria, a young artist who has musical taste and knowledge far beyond her years. She also is super-fluent in English for those of us gringos who travel to practice our Espanol, but don't mind a free-flowing chat en ingles now and then.
Diana, an actress, artist and dark-haired beauty, sets the perfect tone in her gem of a hole-in-the-wall cafe. L'Etoile is filled with art. The upstairs has cool neon and more art.
The downstairs is cozy, funky, eclectic and blessed with lovely little bar and a perfect little table right on a big window that opens onto the never-ending streetlife in La Candelaria.
The location is perfect too -- a few blocks at the most from busy Plaza Bolivar, Plaza Santander, the best museums and the majority of the accommodations for funky youth hostels to cozy inns that offer upscale service for less than $100 per night.
Speaking of stretching the dollar, L'Etoile is dirt cheap...not in quality, but in prices. My beers, cafe and hot chocolate were less than 2 bucks. The crepes and snacks don't cost much more.
In the afternoon, it is low key, with the music turned down a bit to accommodate the conversations of the wanderers who step in and fall in love with Diana, Maria and L'Etoile.
During my short visit, I saw a man dressed in Moorish garb, had a soul-searching conversation with a Jewish man of great faith and joined conversations in Spanish/English with folks of African, indigenous Colombia and European descent.
They never rush you at L'Etoile and they certainly will engage you in talk about travel, art, the local culture scene, literature and all the things that make life worth living when shared with food, drink and two of the loveliest woman in all of Bogota, if not Colombia.
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