Back to Medellín

M and I head to Medellín Colombia today. It is the second time for me and the first for her. A couple weeks ago I spent some days leisurely around the city. I hope to see more this time around.

The flight to Medellín from Cartagena is only around an hour and ten minutes so our travel journey is not long. The flight is in the morning and I order a cheese and ham toasted sandwich to hold me over before my journey.

When we arrive we check into the same hotel I stayed in prior, Diez Hotel Categoria in El Poblado. It is a good choice. Our room has two beds and a hammock that overlooks the neighborhood.

I wasn’t sure how we would feel when we arrived so we didn’t have much booked on our first day in Medellín. Luckily we are early enough to take a free walking day tour with Real City Tours (pay guide by tips).

Fortunately I already navigated the metro during my prior visit so we took the metro to meet our tour.

We are a little early for our tour so we stop for a beer in a old charming bar called Salón Málaga. Most were not drinking, in fact we thought we were getting a sneer from the table next to us but we ended up chatting with the girl and her mother instead. They were Spanish speaking but actually live in the USA and were tourists in Medellin as well. We made plans to share a taxi with them to Guatapé the next day but plans fell through when they had to leave town early.

We meet up with our tour guide who then takes us around the city and points out different landmarks.

Plaza Cisneros
Parque de la Luz (Plaza Cisneros)

At one point we sit by an old train station (Edificio Antigua Estación del Ferrocarril de Antioquia) where our guide gives us a “real talk” about the history of Medellin – tells us the history of all the factions that caused turmoil: the government, the military, drug lords, right wing militia, left wing militia. The losers are the ordinary people who had to live through the war and terror.

We are taken to a shopping district where there are lots of pop up stands you can get cheap goods (Carabobo pedestrian street).

National Palace Mall

Sex workers hang out in front of this church.

Parroquia de la Veracruz
We are told where to go to get some great empanadas

We end up at the Botero park where we can see lots of Botero statues.

Our tour group

Our guide talks about the metro and the pride the locals have for their train.

We are told the area under the train is where people go to exchange goods. We don’t have time to watch but we go back later to see it in action. Mostly men take items to exchange (belt buckle, watch, coins or whatnot) and engage with conversations with others to see if a deal can be made. It is interesting to watch and seems to be a sport of its own in the city.

We walk by some musicians playing outside at Parque Berrío. People are dancing to the music.

Parque Berrío
Fun Jesus taxi
Church across the street from Berrio Park

Our guide talks about some local fruits. I finally get to try that weird looking fruit (guama) from my first visit to Medellín.

guama

Finally he takes us to the Parque San Antonio where he tells us the story of the bombed statue.

Parque San Antonio

At the end there is a question and answer session about the city. Some was asking about seeing a futbol (soccer) game while in town. The guide tells us about the upcoming El Clásico Paisa game. I don’t listen too carefully because at this point going to a soccer game in Medellín seems too intimidating to me. Plus I am not sure we’ll have time. M pays attention though and is able to talk me into attending the game. More on that later.

Cartagena

It is my first full day in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia. I have a couple days here alone before a friend comes to meet me. I’ll save the major sights for when she arrives, now is the time for me to enjoy the city leisurely.

Fortunately I wake up early enough to take advantage of the free buffet breakfast at the hotel. A friendly kitchen staff member greets me and asks how I would like my eggs. I enjoy coffee and the buffet of fresh fruit along with my eggs.

Against better judgement I have been eating a good amount of fresh fruit in Colombia but it isn’t until my visit to Cartagena that it has an effect on me. The bacteria in Cartagena is different than other parts of Colombia. I have some mild stomach discomfort here (the water quality has something to do with its lower elevation).

After breakfast I wander around to explore and stop to order a fun cocktail and a snack at Lobo de Mar.

I am once again in another town where the buildings are painted in vivid colors. It is a beautiful sight to see.

I grab a beer and rest in the courtyard of my hotel to escape the heat and book some tours.

my hotel

The next day or so is about the same; I take things easy.

I see on a map the home of Gabriel García Márquez (the famous Colombian author) but I cannot find it. While I really like the novel Love in the Time of Cholera, I had a annoying experience reading One Hundred Years of Solitude. Many praise the novel but I find it impossible to follow. There are so many characters introduced in different timelines and they all seem to have similar names. I’ve tried to read it three times and still have not been able to complete it. I am unable to locate the house.

I did see this boutique hotel in his honor…..the map shows that this hotel is right next door to the house. If it is there I did not see it.

Gabriel García Márquez on the wall

There is also a fortification around the city “Murallas De Cartagena”. One can walk along the walls as I did a few times during my visit.

More city photos

Botero statue

One plaza has a bunch of sculptures by Edgardo Carmona, a local sculptor.

Street Arepa

I soon find one of my favorite places to have a drink in town – Cuba 1940. I watch live music here a couple days later. (Cartagena really makes me want to party, lol).

While people watching I’ve seen Captain America, Iron Man, Deadpool, Spiderman, Edward Scissorhands and a large-bellied man dancing shirtless in a hula skirt. Being Friday night people must be out for birthday celebrations or stag nights. Cartagena is a fun city.

Later on I treat myself to a nice meal at Agua De Leon restaurant. The restaurant is busy but they are able to seat me at the bar. I still have a view of the live band playing up front.

Ceviche
Mac n cheese de langosta

The next day …

I have a travel partner again! My friend M has arrived. I’ve checked out of my hotel and transferred my belongings to the apartment where we will spend the next couple days. Unfortunately when we arrive they want all cash payment. We are both confused because we thought we had prepaid. Additionally the booking had no specification about paying in cash. We don’t have that much cash on hand so we ask if we can pay later after we are able to withdrawal more money; hopefully we have high ATM limits. After we gather the funds we have a really hard time finding a person to pay. Our days are similar, we return after sightseeing and we still not know who/how to pay. It makes us a little irritated and anxious. Eventually we learn that there is an office that is not often occupied. One day we find a person in the “office”. They seem ready to leave but we make sure that we pay for our stay and get a receipt. Whew! Glad that drama is over! Luckily our next hotel is prepaid by credit card.

Area outside the hotel

Once we drop our bags off we hit the ground running. We first head out for a beer at the pub around the corner.

We then walk around town a bit. We end up catching the tail end of a wedding. It is fun to see local wedding traditons.

Finally we share a Colombian version of a charcuterie platter. We have an early morning cruise scheduled tomorrow so no late night for us.

Medellín: Day 1

My view from my hotel room

I have just left Bogotá DC Colombia and now I am in Medellín where I continue my Colombian travels. I am here for a couple days but I take things easy because I will return with a friend in a couple weeks. Medellín is one of those cities I wanted to spend extra time in and get the feel of. Slow travel is my style so spending lots of time in a city makes me feel like I don’t miss out on too much and at the same time don’t have to rush my travels.

Medellín was once the most dangerous city in the world and now is a popular place for tourists to visit. Medellín is no Disney World but you are very unlikely to get murdered on its streets anymore. Pickpockets are still an issue as in any big city but if you keep your wits about you then your visit should be relatively pleasant. It is pretty tough to get around if you don’t have some understanding of Spanish. It might be easier to visit in a tour group if you have no grasp on the Spanish language; I know enough to get by (or to be dangerous they say).

I am staying in El Poblado which is a 30 minute cab ride from the airport. El Poblado is very popular with tourists due to its safety, comforts and party like atmosphere at night (think South Beach). I am not much of a partier anymore but it is neat to hear the music and fun on the streets below, even if I choose not to partake. (side note: The weather reminds me of back home in central Florida where it gets hot & humid and randomly rains throughout the day. My first things I notice on my drive from the airport is the intoxicating smell of delicious BBQ from street-side grills and then pouring rain for the rest of my ride.)

As for accommodations, I took advantage of my friend’s great research skills and decided to stay in the same hotel that I will stay in later in my trip. It is an upgrade to my normal travel but it is my last month of traveling so I don’t have to be as budget conscious. The friend I am traveling with is a fantastic planner so I trust the research she put into the hotels. She made a good choice.

My room

My first night is uneventful as they often are because travel days wear me down.

On my first official day I am heading down to Plazuela Nutibara.

Medellín has a tram that can take me across town but I don’t yet have the courage to take it (Don’t worry I’ll be on it by tomorrow). I take a very scary taxi ride down to the Antioquia Museum to look at art (and more Botero).

Outside the museum at Plazuela Nutibara are lots of Botero statues:

Inside the Antioquia Museum I find more Botero art.

I really love Botero’s expressive animals.

I like this mural by Pedro Nel Gómez.

I take note of other Colombia artists.

Liberación, La Boca Roja – Wilfredo Lam

I really like the work of Carlos Correa and similar artists. I wish they had prints for sale.

There is a religious art room that doesn’t have your average gothic or renaissance art.

While the museum has some great art, the layout and organization of it is confusing. I see signs for exhibits but the doors are shut and locked with seemingly no reason. (Just a note in case someone wanders around the place confused like I was.)

After the Antioquia Museum I wander to a nearby park (Parque de Bolívar) where I walk around and people watch.

I walk down nearby streets and as time passes I get further away from what would be considered commercial tourist areas (Though most tourist areas have the feeling of more crowded with locals than tourists). Not wanting to get lost I turn back and head onto main shopping streets. Streets are busy with consumerism (shops and street vendors) as well as street entertainers.

guama – I didn’t try this until my next visit to town.

I eventually walk to Parque San Antonio. It is a large outdoor space. I hear music playing all around.

There are some Botero bird statues. There are two because one is destroyed from a bomb in 1995 killing 29 people. The destroyed bird remains and a new one is placed nearby. They serve as a reminder of that day.

A little further down I come to a bridge area. I seem to be walking in the general direction I need to in order to reach the my hotel. However since I am not really familiar with the neighborhoods I decide to call it a day and take a cab back to my hotel area.

After the cab drops me off at El Poblado I walk around to get a feel of the area. I later order dinner at an Asian fusion restaurant.

I enjoy the performance artists at the red lights. This guy juggles on a tight rope.

Pezetarian Medellin (temporarily closed)

The restaurant is on a street that becomes lively at night. I am missing out on the fun tonight. Perhaps I’ll partake in a few weeks when my friend visits me?

Bogota Museum Day

La Candelaria area of Bogota

I am still in Bogota Colombia and will spend the day visiting museums.

Colombia is still new to me and the public transportation is intimidating so I end up using the Cabify app to call a taxi to take me to the main tourist areas.

I start first at the Museo Botero to get a good look at some of Botero’s chunky art work. His pictures and sculptures are so much fun to see.

Love the chubby animals and the expressions they hold.

Along with the Botero art the museum contains pieces from other artists.

Max Ernst

After the Botero museum I head over to the Museo de Oro. I really have no interest in gold but the museum is highly rated so I give it a try anyway.

I see lots of gold pieces but what is great about this museum is organization of items and customs by different indigenous groups of the nearby regions (pre-Hispanic societies).

I like the exhibit on the extensive drainage channels built by Zenúes indigenous people. The channels are built to handle the regular floods of the region while still being able to maintain agriculture. It is pretty advanced for its time.

I spent the rest of the afternoon walking around the area of La Candelaria.

I once again used Cabify to order a taxi. I had a hard time getting taxi to pick me up. I used a taxi app but practically had to push someone out of my cab when it arrived because people were trying to flag down cabs that would never stop. I am leaving Bogota tomorrow but if I ever return I will definitely learn public transport.

Bogota is such a nice city that I could have used a couple more days in exploring the region. Maybe someday I will return.