12 January 2014

Oh Medellin, What a Dream....

As soon as Wayne and I landed, we were in love. The valleys. The mountains. The green. So pretty. So clean. A great city.

We landed on New Year’s Day, which is a terrible day to be a traveler. It’s a day to recover from your hangover, or travel, or just read books. Most things were completely closed, which was a little sad, but it was okay. We figured things out.

We were starving, and after checking into the super stylish and wonderful In House Hotel, Wayne and I wandered around until we found food. Most restaurants were closed, but we found an amazing Italian one, and filled ourselves with food. We walked around the streets, peering in closed store windows and plotting where we would go shopping and visiting once they were open.

The altitude smacked me in the face, making me sleepy. I napped while Wayne figured out how to get to the Festival of Lights and what we should do in town. We headed out on the long walk down to the Metro and then, WOW. Basically, they cover the river on both sides with crazy Christmas lights and decorations, and over the river, they hang lights to look like stars, or glowing candle lights. Truly amazing. But what really was overwhelming was the vastness of everything – people selling everything you could possibly want (or not), from popcorn to giant hot dogs to aguardiente to arepas to mangos to annoying noise makers to balloons to handmade taffy to cotton candy to helado to chocolate covered apples. It was really intense – with the lights and the people, it reminded us of Burning Man.

The next day, after sleeping lots, we took the Metro downtown and took some photos in Botero Plaza – really beautiful. Then we walked around the streets, and Wayne bought a pair of pants. Then, we headed over to the Botanic Gardens and had lunch at the café, but didn’t stay at the gardens – we finally got an email to head up for paragliding.

Paragliding is wonderful – you are flying, you see the world in a new different perspective. I thought, “Those look like toy horses. Did the creator of toy horses go paragliding?” Really beautiful waterfall. Very amazing.

The negative is that from Medellin, you have to take the Metro to Caribe, wander around Terminal Norte until you find ticket counter #11. Then you take a bus abt 45 minutes up. Then you wait around. We spent about 20 minutes paragliding, but we left the Gardens at 1pm and got back to our room at 7:30pm, so it was a long day for not a lot of activity.

Also fail – our bus driver was out of it, so I didn’t get to tell him exactly where we were going. Then I saw a paragliding school, yelled, and Wayne and I jumped out. Turns out, this school was the wrong one – and closed. Ours was 10-15min drive up the road – and it was too curvy and dangerous to walk. A local guy took pity on us and took turns giving us motorcycle roads up the mountain to the other school. It was scary and amazingly fun and gorgeous. As I waved goodbye to Wayne and headed up the mountains, clutching the back of a complete stranger, all I could think was, “I hope he doesn’t murder me.” He didn’t, and made the day a lot more fun.

We ate fantastic veggie burgers at Lentejas Express, and were so tired, we went to sleep after taking a nice walk around the neighborhood.

The next day was incredible. After running, Wayne and I took the train, then transferred to the in-Metro gondola. WOW. Then we hopped on another gondola and ended up in this amazing park on the top of these mountains outside of Medellin. The views were glorious. We weren’t outfitted properly (I was wearing a sleeveless dress (in the chill) and ballet flats, and Wayne had on his nice dress boots.), but we still did a bit of hiking and talking and enjoying the day. I bought a knit hat from a vendor to keep myself warmer, and they had lots of great vendors, so ended up buying some pressies for friends back home. There was an incredible vegetarian restaurant (set menu – 8,500 pesos) with grass and flowers growing on the roof. Then we took the gondolas back, which was less of a mess of lines and crowds.

We went to the Botanic Gardens, which were free. We took photos, admired the plants, and really enjoyed the gardens. Then, we hopped back on the Metro and went out shopping in El Poblado.

El Poblado is one of the hippest neighborhoods in Medellin – great shops, restaurants, cafes. Wayne bought some clothes, so I was happy. I ended up finding this amazing shop where the woman handmakes all of the original lace dresses. I bought three. She was so friendly, we were chatting and she bought Wayne and I a beer (though I declined mine, as a non-beer drinker). I bought a purse for work, Wayne bought a print and some cards, I bought a shirt. We are never big shoppers on trip, so this was rather fun.

Then we dumped off our purchases at our hotel, and headed back up to El Poblado for dinner. We went to a wonderful pizza place (City Pizza?) on Calle 34. It was phenomenal. We ordered a Grande pizza, which I’m pretty sure if meant for a family, but we ate it all.

Then we explored the streets of Medellin – or rather, the party scene of El Poblado. We were amazed – the styles, the fashion, the clubs, the bars, the party scene, the crowds. We couldn’t decide where to go, but on the way, we found a stand-up bar on the sidewalk with 3 shots for 5,000 pesos. Yes, please. Finally, we find a restaurant/bar with a sidewalk spot, and we drank maracuya capiroskas and pina coladas while people watching. We got up and walked around some more, and then ended up at a cute bars, sitting on the street, drinking mojitos and margaritas way past when we should have been drinking them. The bar itself only existed on the sidewalk, so that shows you how nice Medellin’s weather is – if it was cold or rainy, people wouldn’t drink outside. And really, it’s never either in Medellin – they call it the city of the eternal spring, because it’s like lovely spring weather there all year long.

In the morning, we went downtown, looked at some art and sculptures, visited the library, walked around some really neat parks with places to “ground yourself.” Wayne and I took a cab over to the museum of modern art, which had some really neat displays, including a room with video displays so creepy I almost refused to enter. Then we walked around El Poblado some more, ate lunch at a delicious vegetarian café, and drank delicious tea at the Tea Market. I felt so sad leaving Medellin – but at least the airport (only nine years old) was fantastic, with great shops. I was able to buy a fabulous (and cheap!) pair of pants, which eased the sadness of the goodbye of the city.

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