Romance. It’s an age-old argument; a classic battle of the sexes. Who craves it more – men or women? And, like a good red wine or right wing politics, is it something that appeals to us more as we age?
Perhaps it’s the abundance of reasonably priced red roses or just the flamboyant Latin flattery but Colombia is certainly a country drenched in romance – at least, the sugary, gift-wrapped kind.
Even Bogota, beneath all of the complications it endures as the nation’s capital, has a decidedly softer side. You only need to travel the teleferica at sunset or take a Sunday morning stroll in parque Simon Bolivar to see an abundance of loved-up couples (the latter even has that boating lake if you can’t resist a soppy Hollywood effect).
Then there are the restaurants, the hidden restaurants – the ones where you can get change from 20,000 pesos (£7) but still tell the world you’ve discovered the next culinary genius.
Take your loved one out to lunch at Felipan (Kr 13 # 51) and enjoy vegetarian cuisine from a former Colombian baker who travelled the world before returning to try and tempt his countrymen away from the diet staple of white rice and beans.
Or try Hana Gourmet (Kr 14 # 98) for Japanese delights from a young Colombian who spent a year in the Asian country learning her craft. Then there’s always the Olivia Verde academy (Cll 102 # 15) where the reasonable prices are the only clue that your food was produced by earnest young students and not fully-fledged chefs.
With change in your pocket you can then treat your date to something else – a bouquet of flowers, maybe some decent chocolate. But here comes the minefield. Money. Or rather, who is the one spending it?
Folk from the States, Europeans, Canadians and those from Down Under – we’re all the same when it comes to the difficult etiquette of who ‘invites’ who. Feminism made it a challenge in our countries too. Does a man make an assumption and pay for a woman, casting aspersions on her earning power, her hard-fought equality? Or does he dig deep into his pockets to avoid appearing downright cheap?
Colombia takes that delicate judgement and amplifies it a hundredfold. I’ll never forget a Colombian friend calmly telling me: “It’s okay to pay for your boyfriend, maybe when you’ve been dating for around a year.” I didn’t dare tell her I pulled out my wallet sometime around our fifth date.
So, do what you can. Take a sneaky look in her handbag. If you don’t see a wallet, honey, you’re paying. For women it’s more difficult – if you’re planning to grab the bill, you best look girly as you do it.
Perhaps it’s best to cast aside this need to pay all together. Brave the crowds at Exito instead and throw a meal together in your apartment. Grab your roses on the street corner and buy some chocolate on the bus home.
And if all else fails, there’s always parque Simon Bolivar. I hear the boating lake is particularly beautiful this time of year.