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.

Hue

I can’t pronounce the town correctly but I sure can enjoy the food. Full disclosure I have been prouncing the name of this city incorrectly before I arrived to Vietnam. I always thought it sounds like view when it really sounds like way. Lesson learned. I am in Hue Vietnam after a short morning flight from Hanoi.

They have their own particular flair on many dishes. There are many fried and unhealthy things but when in Huế…..

First stop is to try some local dishes at Hanh Restaurant. It is around the corner from my hotel and a great place to try out many different Hue style dishes.

Banh Khoai – Savory fried pancake (pork, shrimp, green onion) served with peanut sauce

Kem flaunt – creme caramel with passion fruit

After lunch I do some wandering around town. Hue is nice and quiet during the day. Like many cities it gets lively at night with the walking streets. I tend not to stay out late but I do my best to try a little bit of nightlife while I am here.

Francis Savier Church (Catholic church)

During my walk I find a great park with interesting modern sculptures (Park February 3).

After dark it is time for walking streets. The streets are blocked from cars. Pedestrians, vendors, and diners are out. For some reason there are a bunch of street fires. It is not cold so not 100% sure the purpose of these.

It is almost Halloween and some restaurants celebrate with spooky decor.

I stop in a cafe to get a beer, morning glory, and a bowl of Bun bo Hue. The soup isn’t the best version that I will try in Vietnam but it is good enough for dinner. I am happy for the huge plate of morning glory. I rarely get to eat greens like this when I am traveling.

The crowd gets thicker at all the cafes as time goes on. I shop a little bit then head back to my hotel. I have a tour of Hue booked for the next day.

Tuscany: Florence Day 3

During our visit to Florence we also visited Uffizi Gallery and the Academia to see famous works by Botticelli, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and Raffaello and others. Unfortunately no pictures were allowed so I can not share my experience with you. Both museums are a must see to your visit to Florence.
We also spent time on this often photographed bridge Ponte Vecchio. The bridge which dates back to 972 has been destroyed in the past by floods but now serves a shopping district for jewelry.

On our last day of florence we visited the Boboli Gardens located behind the Pitti Palace. The peaceful gardens were a nice break from the busy and bustling tourist districts.
The gardens house many historic and contemporary artworks.

 Egyptian obelisk

Turtles holding up the obelisk?

Fountain of Neptune

Casino del Cavaliere(Porcelain Museum)

Views from the garden

Monkey business

Garden tunnel

Lemon trees at Isolotto’s Basin

Man’s best friend.

Some contemporary art

Grotticina di Vulcano grotto of Vulcan)

The Dwarf Morgante by Valerio Cigoli
Very interesting.

The gardens are another must see on your visit to Florence. As you can see, there is so much to do in Florence. Please don’t cut your visit short and rush through it in a day or two. To fully enjoy all that Florence has to offer, I would stay at least 3-4 days.
Happy travels!