Located immediately opposite the Museo de Oro Transmilenio stop, the glorious Bolos San Francisco is a temple to those sporting pastimes which can be practiced with a cold beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other.
Comprised of a handful of bowling lanes, two pool tables, a battered rana table and a high wooden bar which provides both drinks and well-worn bowling shoes, the San Francisco’s doors have been open since 1941, and the only thing that seems to have changed since then is the presence of swish video jukebox which belts out recent vallenato and ranchera hits.
Upon descending the stairs from street-level you will be hit with a strong and unfortunate stench of sweaty feet. This seems to be the fate of all bowling alleys the world over, so don’t let it put you off entering one of the best places in town for whiling away a grey afternoon. A game of bowling (including the shoes) costs around $4,000, although special deals on certain days can lower this already dirt-cheap price.
The shoes go up to size 45 which is something of a relief to the large-footed foreigner, and come with a thick dusting of some mysterious white powder coating the insides. Your socks and your own shoes are invariably going to get covered in this stuff, so probably best to leave the Jimmy Choos in the house for this outing.
One you’re suitably shoed up it’s time to get some Aguilas in and make your way over to your lane. None of your computerized scoring machines here, you get a large sheet of paper and a pencil with which you can give members of your party silly names and note down at exactly which point in proceedings someone fell over. And guaranteed somebody will fall over, as both the floor and the shoes are incredibly slippy.
Perhaps the most bizarre thing about this bowling alley is the lack of any mechanical equipment whatsoever. A young chap sits on a little shelf at the end of the lanes, and after you fire the ball down the lane he jumps down, removes any pins that have been knocked over, hurls the ball back down a little ramp and then jumps back up again before another ball comes flying at him at high speed.
The clientele of the bowling alley is a nice mix between families, groups of friends and know-it-all bowling pros showing their girlfriends the exact stance to adopt in order to attain the longed-for strike. And once you’ve finished bowling there are wooden tables with big benches to cram around and listen to dubious Mexican music while watching other people slide around the polished wooden hall.
A game of pool could finish off your afternoon in the San Francisco, or perhaps a spirited round of rana. Rana is an inexplicably fun game which involves hurling small metal discs towards a little table with lots of holes in the top, through which your metal disc falls into a slot with a specific score. As well as the holes on top of the table there are also 3 small metal frogs with gaping mouths, and the highest score is gained by getting the disc inside one of the mouths.
A visit to this bowling alley is one of the more interesting experiences you can have in Bogotá, and comes highly recommended. And there’s even an empanada stand at the top of the stairs, allowing you to pick up a wee snack after all that sporting excitement.