Thursday, February 7, 2019

Medellín - the city of eternal spring.

We have definitely saved the best for last. This city in Colombia called Medellín has been transformed into a thoroughly progressive city for all to enjoy. It has a population of almost 4 million which has grown significantly since the trouble began to subside on November, 2016. There are still issues that have to be solved but like life, anything is possible. The hope is that Colombia is moving forward and Medellín is the shining example to the rest of the country. The people here are so thankful and happy that tourism is on the rise and not a day has gone by that some someone hasn’t demonstrated to us their deep sense of appreciation. They have made us feel so much at home that we will definitely be returning here in the future. 

Getting around Medellin is a city planner's dream. This is a bike friendly place with ample bike lanes, above ground metro system, cable cars for getting up to the higher mountain locations and a large fleet of taxis always ready to take you anywhere you desire. I can’t say enough about this place and for those using the US dollars you can enjoy a very reasonable vacation. 

If one plans on coming here without being on a tour I feel you should have some command of Spanish. People are very happy to work with you but we must have patience with them as the Colombianos have with us. Also like any big city one must be careful when showing money or other valuables like cell phones. They have a saying here “no des papaya” which translates to "don’t give/show papaya or your valuables".

Susan will fill in the rest of the blanks on some things to do while traveling here in Medellin along with some pictures. Love from Ricardo.

Calle 40, 74-74
We arrived and checked out our neighborhood before settling into our two week AirBnb apartment in the Laureles area of Medellin. I chose well as this is a quiet neighborhood with loads of restaurants, coffee shops and stores for groceries. After 5 weeks of travel it was nice to "settle" down and just live our lives. We found a gym, yoga classes and our favorite spots very quickly. We did one big adventure/tourist activity each day. We were 20 minutes from the Estadio Metro Station which allowed us to use the system well and explored many different areas of the city via Metro. The people are very proud of their comprehensive public transportation system which costs under $1.00/trip and includes the Metro Cables which are cable cars that go high up the mountains to ensure that the poor as well as middle class have opportunities to connect daily with the city.

Big shopping center
For our memory, I will list all the places we explored along with photos. Two weeks was great but there are many places we still have not visited in the city and surrounding area so might indeed return, especially to the city of Medellin.

Our first night was special as we met with friends Francine and Louise who are sisters that we know from San Miguel de Allende. They were on their last day of Medellin as we were on the first. They gave us many good tips, including a good taxi driver Jamie who took us on a few trips when necessary. Thanks Francine and Louise.

Comuna 13. Walking up
to the escalators
As we often do, we took the Real City Free walking tour which is the best for us to get the general history and lay of the land in a new city. Medellin is very large - close to 4 million, and growing day by day. A few days later we took the Comuna 13 History and Graffiti tour to the neighborhood which was supposedly one of the most dangerous during the long difficult history of drugs, etc. Now it is a lively, thriving community of art, music, dance and pride to show the changes that have been made.

One of the many amazing
graffiti artists

Walking up to the
home of our guide.
To connect this large area there are 8 escalators riding in zig zag up the mountain. Our guide took us to her home where she and her 13 siblings grew up and many still live there. Of course, the views from anyplace above the city are incredible. We witnessed a lively energetic break dance event during our tour which added even more to the sensual experience of this neighborhood.

Raul and Martha
A big highlight was our reconnection with Raul and Martha, a Colombian couple who left Medellin 20 years ago and recently returned. They had been Richard's English students, along with their daughters when they first arrived to Carrboro, NC. Thanks to social networking, we have been able to reconnect and enjoyed a lovely Sunday afternoon at their home. They too are proud of their revitalized city and took us on a tour of the Envigado neighborhood where they live. We met up again in Poblado at a delicious vegan restaurant - Restaurante Justo and they showed us some of the interesting areas around Poblado - a large neighborhood that seems to be the favorite of the expats from all over the world.

La Piedra de Peñol 
A day trip outside the city took us to La Piedra de Peñol and the small city of Guatapé. Once again there was a physical challenge. I wasn't sure I was going to walk up the 750 steps to the top as it looked really difficult from below. I decided to start up and could always turn around. Amazingly, it was not as hard as it looked and the views of the lakes designed for hydroelectric power were beautiful from above. Next was the colorful town of Guatapé where each of the homes have relief paintings representing something about the family, the business or a design. It is mandatory for each of the historic buildings to continue this tradition and the creativity on each home was a delight to my eyes.

A driveway into the garage

And so we don't forget....we visited the Museo de Memorias, a museum to remember the long violent history and to make sure not to forget. There are interesting exhibits to help understand what the people of this country went through. A surprise visit along with the Barefoot Park (uneventful - a few shallow pools for walking through barefoot) was the Museo de Agua. Exhibits include the history of humanity and its involvement with water at every stage. Also are exhibits to show the importance of consciousness to water usage.

At park Arvi
We took the Metro Cable to Santo Domingo station and then 15 minutes more on another cable car to Parque Arvi, a large metropolitan park with many walking trails, a restaurant (with vegan bean soup), exhibits and more. We did a short walking tour with a guide about orchids and bromeliads.

Jardin Botanico
The Botanical Garden is a short walk from the University Metro station and a lovely spot to spend an afternoon in the beautiful shaded areas with many plants, trees and flowers including orchids. We came upon a large tortoise (Colombian slider) and an iguana as we walked around.

Back to "drawing a day"

To make a general summary of Medellin I would have to say that it is my favorite large city as there is so much to see and do and so easy to live without a vehicle using the public transportation system. We had 2 weeks so that was also a plus for getting a chance to learn the city. The people of Colombia are kind and generous in all ways, all of the time. They are a proud people and seem to be happy though I will admit we did not get to meet that many. Everytime I entered a metro someone graciously gave me their seat. I presume it has something to do with my age, but it was very kind anyway.

Now we are off to Bogota for our last few days and then back to Mexico for the next several months. Again, thanks for traveling with us.

1 comment:

  1. So helpful to us as we plan to go in February! Looks wonderful and sounds like a good place to practice my Spanish