Medellín: Comuna 13

Today we are taking a walking tour of Comuna 13, a place once considered one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the world (80s and 90s). In the past it was run by violent drug traffickers but now is a very colorful and popular neighborhood for tourism. Tourists visit Medellín and take a tour of its great graffiti art.

We meet our tour guide at our metro station, El Poblado. Once the group has all arrived we ride the metro together down to where we ride the cable cars uphill. At the end of the cable line we take a bus. Alternatively you can take the metro to San Javier metro and walk to the escalators. We took the escalators down later at the end of our tour.

View from cable car station

Once off the cable railway we stop for an arepa and fruit juice.

We hop on a bus and head further uphill to start our walk.

Once off the bus we walk a little further uphill. He tells us the history of the area. We learn stories, even personal stories of his own, about how the residents lived in fear for many years. In 2011 the government started a series of improvements to the community, including an escalator. The area gradually evolved into a safer and visited area by tourists (to the dismay of some locals). These tours try to bring dollars into the community and minimize the disruption to the locals. Hopefully our tour did not cause too much distress.

Fascination with busy power poles

We learn about one of the most famous graffiti artists of the area Chota 13 (@chota_13). We learn that he started a school in the barrio. The school is dedicated to teaching the children art and hip hop dance to keep them out of violence.

We stopped at a bar for a pit stop. The bar displays pictures of celebrity visitors. They were especially proud of the visit by former president of the USA Bill Clinton.

We stopped for some frozen mango.

Around the corner from the mango place there is a fun black light gallery. Some of the art is best seen with 3D glasses.

Eventually we start heading downhill back toward the train station

The soccer match we attend tomorrow: the two local teams

We say goodbye to our tour. The tour from Comuna 13 Medellin Graffiti was money well spent.

Before we head back to El Poblado we stop at the Museo de Antioquia so M can see all the Botero artwork. I am able to save her some time by showing her the interesting exhibits like the religious art wing.

We stop to try some cheese balls.

We head back to El Poblado. We find a very busy dog walker and some more street performers.

I try tonight to meet up with another friend I knew in college who happens to be in town. We try to stay out late to meet up with her but our schedules don’t align. They don’t even head out until late and we do our partying early. We did stay out late enough to witness just a little bit of fun of the neighborhood.

37 Park Medellín

Zona Rosa area of El Poblado

We shared a good amount of Sangria.

We stopped at one last bar where we had lots of street entertainment.

Dance groups in El Poblado

At least we had one night of fun in our vibrant neighborhood.

Tomorrow is our last day in Colombia and we plan to attend a soccer match. Wish us luck.

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: Botanical Garden and the Metrocable

For my second day of sightseeing in Medellín I decide I head down to the Jardín Botánico (Botanical Garden). I like Medellín but it is busy and there is pollution; I am craving some nature today.

I walk from my hotel Diez Hotel Categoría Colombia down to the metro station of El Poblado. It is a 20 minute walk but it is all downhill. Even with the downhill walk it gets hot walking to the station since it is pretty warm outside.

Along my walk to the metro
Active streets today

Once inside the station it takes me a little while to get the confidence to purchase a ticket and determine which direction I should go on the metro. I finally figure things out (note: There is no electronic ticket booth to purchases passes. You must visit the attendant at the ticket booth who speaks no English.). I purchase a pass with a balance on it. It is hard to determine how much I should initially put on the pass and they attendant isn’t much help (the line is long so I don’t want to hold up everyone else asking many questions). The balance enough for the current ride so everything is fine for now.

The metro system so far seems to be efficient and clean. I later learn that the metro is a huge thing of pride for the city. Other parts of the city may occasionally get destroyed but NO ONE messes with the metro. Building this train was a public works project when things were still so grim for the city. One can say it represents a beacon of hope.

It is pretty easy to reach the botanical garden once I exit the metro. I am happy to discover the garden is free to the public.

First thing I notice some of the same plants that grow pretty well where I live. It makes sense because we have a similar climate back home.

One thing we don’t see in central Florida is iguanas randomly walking around.

We do see many of lizards of the smaller size back home, like this one.

The butterfly garden is closed for some reason.

I basically wander through the park and admire all the plants.

Gardens

I finish out my visit with the succlents.

It isn’t the best botanical garden I’ve visited but it is good that it is free. It appears like some of the bigger exhibits are closed during my visit.

When I leave the botanical garden it is still early so I try to visit a sculpture park – Parque de Las Esculturas Cerro de Nutibara. The sculpture park is supposed to contain interesting sculptures and a charming replica town among other things (according to descriptions). I map out a route for a metro/bus to what I thought was one of the main entrances. I get dropped off in a quiet industrial area on one side of the hill. This area does not seem like the correct place. I wander around trying to find a park entrance and I come up with nothing. I search on my phone and it appears that where the entrance should be is blocked off due to construction. If I want to visit the park I am going to have to try to get to the other side. The problem is at this point that I am tired, not familiar with the safety of the area, and not even sure it is feasible to get there by foot. I give up and take the metro back to my hotel area.

Once I get to my metro stop it is a long, hot walk uphill. I make lots of stops to catch my breath.

More street art
Street performers

Instead of going back to my hotel I hang out in a park for a little bit. This area is quiet now but I know it gets busy in the evening. I end up calling early night once again.

The following day I decide to try at nature once more. Today I want to visit Arvi park. According to my research all I have to do is take the metro to the Acevedo station (on line A) and take the metrocable (K-Line Metrocable).

The metrocable gives me an arial view of town.

I arrive to the top of the line where I am supposed to switch to the L that will take me to Arvi Park. The only problem is the L line is closed. There is no reason posted. My only choice now is to wander out into an unknown neighborhood to find a taxi or take the cable line back down the way I came. I end up taking the line back down. I wish I would have known the line was closed so I could have arranged another form of transport. At this point a good amount of the day has passed so I decide to just go back the neighborhood I am staying in. Hopefully I have time to visit the park on my next visit to town.

View from metro

Once back at the hotel I do research on how I am getting to my next town tomorrow. I have been using the app Rome2rio the past couple months for travel research and up until now it has been pretty reliable with routes and time frames. The app is not accurate in Colombia. I tried using it to plan my travel to Jardin tomorrow. It is completely wrong. First it has me leaving from the wrong bus station; there are two bus stations in Medellin (north and south) and it is very important to be clear on what station you need to leave from. Secondly the app routes me through the wrong town. Luckily I discuss my travel plans with the concierge at my hotel prior to leaving. I would have had a very unhappy travel day tomorrow.

Last days of Melbourne

As I said before I am loving my time in Melbourne. Keeping in with the theme I am keeping my visit casual and at times lazy. I need the downtime during travel but it always comes with guilt that I didn’t see and do all the things I could have during my stay.

I spend some time wandering around the neighborhood I am staying in.

My apartment building

I once again walk by the large church of St Patrick’s Cathedral.

I walk by the building below and admire the metal terraces. I would have loved to see the inside.

Tasma Terrace

The Old Treasury Building

I also visit the museum in The Old Treasury Building.

City then and now

I view an informative exhibit of aborigines during the gold rush.

I enjoyed the exbibit of Wayward women of Victoria. The exhibit features some women from the turn of the century 1900 who didn’t fit in the moral standards of the time: some are criminals, some are just trying to survive.

Koorie Heritage Trust

Later I walk over to the aboriginal museum Koorie Heritage Trust. It is a small museum but highlights some of the aboriginal history in Victoria.

Melbourne has a replica of the fearless girl statue!

The new Star Wars movie has just be released at the theaters. I decide to head to the nearby theater for a viewing. They sell craft cocktails at the theatre concession.

After the movie I wander around some more local neighborhoods. This time I wander through Fitzroy which is nearby my apartment. It has the same feel as my Collingwood but doesn’t contain as much new construction.

I see housing created out of what seems like shipping crates.

More fun row homes.

And more street art.

I stop at a couple more breweries as time allows.

The first brewery is Fixation Brewing Co. I sip my beer and watch the large dog at the table next to me continually tangle himself with the leash around the chairs.

Molly Rose Brewing is a small brewery where I sneak in one glass before closing.

At some point I end up in a grocery store where I educate myself about the difference between pasta sauce (tomato sauce) and tomato sauce (ketup).

I head back and pack up. The next day I am heading to Sydney. I am taking the skybus to the airport once more but I arrive early for my ride so I wander around the train station for a bit before I catch my flight.

Soon I am on my plane with a nice bottle of wine. See you in Sydney!

Melbourne Street Art

It is boxing day in Melbourne (what Aussies, Kiwis and British call the day after Christmas).

My Christmas Day yesterday was I spent mostly inside eating and watching movies. I like to celebrate my holidays the lazy way.

Today I decide to go for a tourist walk around town.

I start at the nearby park Fitzroy Gardens. I am obsessed with the beautiful purple flower trees – Jacaranda I believe.

Earlier I downloaded tourist walking tours. I use the maps to wander around town.

Princess Theatre: Now contains Harry Potter

Tattersalls Lane

It is the day after Christmas and shoppers are lined up around the block waiting for who knows what.

More artwork

Presgrave Place

Centre Place

Stopped for lunch at a cafe down a funky street (Eliana Lulu).

I could not resist these doughnuts. I picked up one for later.

Hosier Lane

AC/DC Lane

AC/DC Lane, named after the famous rock group, is one of the most popular tourist spots in town. Here you find street art mostly music related.

Strachan Lane

Finally I finish out the day at Strachan Lane where there is some more rock art as well as Alice in Wonderland themed art. I am heading back toward my apartment so I decide it is a good time to call it the day. Besides I have a very good looking doughnut just waiting to be eaten.

Another great day completed in Melbourne!