Wandering the caves of Sacromonte

This morning I walk the streets of Albaicín (Granada) on my way to wander around Sacromonte. I was introduced to the neighborhood last night when I attended a zambra flamenco show. Today I am heading up to a cave museum (Museo Cuevas del Sacromonte) for a lesson on the history of this intriguing neighborhood.

I first read about these cave homes through a fictional book series. In each of the books the protagonist has an adventure in different cities throughout the world. In one book a woman visits the hillside cave town of Sacromonte in Granada. From then on I decided I needed to see these caves in person. A summarized version of the history is that they were inhabited by Gitanos, or what some people refer to as Roma gypsies- but the word gypsy is not really a good way to describe the group of people of this heritage because of all the negative meaning associated by its use. We know now that Romani or Roma people is probably a better way to describe this ethnic group that settled in this area in the 15th century. They brought with them their distinct culture that is reflected in this part of the city.

To get to the cave museum I turn down the street I visited last night for my zambra flamenco show – another distinct Sacromonte thing. The mostly white washed buildings are built into the hill. I climb up a couple of groups of stairs to eventually get to the museum at the top.

A few feet from the entrance there are some poems on the wall.

Granada is hot but the inside of the caves is a comfortable temperature. You see why they were used.

Some of the caves are decorated as they would have been used for living. Individual caves are also used as mini-museums of their own, for instance there is one where they talk about the history of flamenco and another where you learn about the plight of the Romani people in Spain; It is very hard to read how they were mistreated as a group over time. There are also caves that show different skills like weaving and pottery.

Outside of each cave there are plants with diagrams explaining their medicinal use.

I walk along the side of the hill of the museum and get a spectacular view of Granada. Along the hill sides you can see it is almost desert like with plants you typically see in dry and hot climates.

For only 5 euro I definitely felt like I got my money’s worth. I am glad to have marked this off my to-do list.

I walk back down into another part of Granada in search of an authentic tapas place. Again the streets are quiet. It is the warmest part of the day. Most people probably are indoors at this time.

When I get to the major business district of Granada I admire the shades installed along the shopping street – they are very much needed in hot Granada. I need to send a photo of these to urban planners in Florida (hint hint….might be a good idea).

I finally find an authentic tapas restaurant, La Sitarilla, and it serves free portions with each drink you order. I probably could have sat there for hours trying a good number of dishes; but I only try two today because the servings were a good size.

There are still more things I can do in town but I have already visited everything on my must see list. I head back to my hotel to chill there for the rest of the evening.

I finish my evening with the dessert I have been eyeing (Casa Ysla Pastelería) and finishing off the bottle of wine I bought a couple days ago. Tomorrow I fly north to begin another adventure there.

Cartagena: Getsemani

It is M’s first full day in Cartagena with me. We have booked a cruise to the Rosario Islands. We could have traveled directly to an island to do a day of relaxing on the beach but from reviews it doesn’t seem like a relaxing option due to beach vendors constantly bothering you.

There are a couple different choices for a day cruise ranging from packed-like-sardines in a speedboat to a luxury yacht cruise. The speedboat option seems like it could be fun but we both agree we would prefer the more laid back (though more expensive) catamaran tour.

There is an early start of 8:00 for our tour. We leave early to ensure we arrive in time.

Morning walk to our boat tour

One we arrive we wait at the marina for quite a while.

Finally our boat arrives. It is a lovely sight to see.

After arrival we still wait to board. Eventually the staff announces that they are cancelling the cruise for the day due to strong winds at sea. We are disappointed.

Luckily we can reschedule in a couple days. There is already a line of people waiting for refunds to be processed or to book another day. They let us onto the boat to wait in comfort which is great because we get to use the very clean bathroom downstairs. M has a great idea of getting cheap morning beers from one of the vendors on the dock. It didn’t take much for her to talk me into one as well. We sip our beers while we wait our turn to rebook.

We have rebooked and the day is still early. We have a free day we did not plan for. We head from the marina area and decide to explore town a bit, stopping first in a nearby museum.

The museum we stop at is the Museo Naval del Caribe, the Museum of the Colombian Navy.

All the exhibits are in Spanish but we understand enough to get an idea of the history. The exhibits are heavy on the military and the sea. We had some playtime in a submarine for a bit.

Side Note: M and I combined have a pretty good grasp on Spanish. We seem to fill in each others gaps well. What she doesn’t remember I remember and vice-versa. It gives me a bit more confidence.

After the museum we decide to check out the funky neighborhood of Getsemani. Fortunately it is in walking distance so no taxi is necessary.

We pass through some more charming streets on the way and stop for arepas.

Narrow walkways

We stop at Quero Arepa for an arepa snack.

Sloth at Parque Del Centenario

We walk past Parque Del Centenario where it is said you can see monkeys but we instead find a sloth on a tree. He is snacking on some tree fruits. Some people are trying to feed him and pet him but we respectfully keep our distance.

Getsemani

We have arrived in Getsemani. The neighborhood of Getsemani is funky and colorful. We originally considered staying in his neighborhood but opted to be closer to the tourist sites. If I am ever to return I am definitely staying in Getsemani. I really like the vibe.

I see lots of street art in many different cities but it never seems to get old.

Flags hang from above, in this case flags from different countries.

We watch an artist at work.

Today is about walking, eating and drinking. We stop to try local fried foods at a hipster restaurant.

Cháchara restaurant
empanada sampler

We stop for food once again, this time to split a small pizza.

We end up down a narrow and colorful street shaded by colorful umbrellas.

We are almost out of Getsemani but not before we stop at a corner bar that sells sushi and beer. We order only beer.

Once back in the tourist area we climb the fortification walls to catch the sunset.

After dark I get to try the Russian themed bar near the apartment. We decided to test our luck and have a Moscow Mule at the KGB Bar. Back in the USSR!

Keeping the theme of Soviet area relics we head next to my happy place at Cuba 1940. We don’t stay for the band tonight but we will be back.

As we walk back to the apartment we peak into a service at a beautiful church.

Even though things did not go as planned our day ended up pretty great.

Tomorrow we head on a trip a little out of town to see the pink sea. Hopefully it is the perfect pink color.

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.

Te Papa Museum

I am still in Wellington New Zealand for one more day. I have heard good things about the Te Papa Museum so that is today’s destination.

First I stop for a fancy breakfast and coffee.

The museum is in walking distance from my hotel so I stroll around town on the way there.

I am obsessed with these crossing lights. The stop is a man and the go is a lady. I am the weirdo taking pictures of the walk signal.

Te Papa museum is by the water.

The first section I visit is the Nature section, or the section dedicated to things natural to New Zealand such as volcanos, earthquakes and birds and other wildlife.

I am obsessed with this slimy sucker, something out of a science fiction movie.

And of course I have to check out the kiwis, birds I still have not seen alive.

And some bigger dumb birds with little or no arms.

The star of this exhibit is the humongous squid. It is what nightmares are made of.

It’s the biggest colossal squid ever caught! 

There is a very impressive Maori exhibit. (For the most part photos are not allowed inside). I learned many things about the Pacific peoples who came to inhabit New Zealand. I even tried to learn some new words

Rongomaraeroa Te Marae (communal meeting place)

I loved the section that contained portraits of Maori tattoos. The exhibit explained the meaning behind the tattoos. They were beautiful to see.

Kaleidoscope: Abstract Aotearoa

The modern art exhibit bursts with color.

While at the Weta Workshop yesterday I heard our guide mention the Gallipoli exhibit at the Te Papa. The workshop is responsible for designing the characters from this exhibit that shows the struggle troops from New Zealand dealt with during World War I.

It is also at this museum that I learn that I can probably never immigrate to New Zealand due to my “advanced age”. Maybe I’ll end up in a highly desired employment someday or some cute kiwi wants to help give me citizenship 😉

After the museum I stop at Mr Go’s restaurant for some Asian dishes.

I wander some more around town.

And stop for one last beer at Fortune Favours at their nice upstairs taproom.

It is back to the hotel for me to pack up and get back on the road tomorrow. I head next to Rotorua.