Colombia, not Columbia is the only South American country with both Atlantic and Pacific coastlines and we are here to enjoy all she has to offer. Our first stop is Medellin. Over 20 years ago, Medellin was one of the most dangerous cities in the world. Back in the early 90’s , when the hunt for Pablo Escobar took place, the head of Medellin’s drug cartel was at its peak. Thus the reign of “El Patron” came to it’s end. Since 2002 Medellin began to change. Local politicians started to invest heavily in infrastructure and public education. Today this city is one of the most innovative metropolises in the world.
Our guide, Diego, met us at the airport. Time was against us because our dinner reservation at one of the top restaurants in the city, HATOVIEJO PALMAS, was in 1 hour, conveniently located in an upscale neighborhood across from our hotel, INTERCONTINENTAL MEDELLIN. Our luggage was delivered to the hotel while we headed directly to the restaurant. Everybody ordered from the menu and enjoyed their selections. In Miami, I was into a seafood soup kick beginning at a Peruvian restaurant so I kept it going along with a delightfully seasoned and well presented shrimp cocktail.
The next morning began our city tour. We walked through the old and the new; The Old Marketplace where back in the day one could purchase whatever kind of firearm they wanted or get a hit man. Medellín is the birthplace of famed artist and sculptor, Fernando Botero. His signature style depicts people and figures in large, exaggerated volume which can represent political criticism or humor, depending on the piece. His art can be found in highly visible places around the world, such as New York City and Paris. Here in his hometown, We strolled through BOTERO PLAZA and enjoyed various pieces of his 23 donated pieces. One of my favorites was Hombre Caminante. The man is standing on the back of a woman, showing she is the foundation and holding him up.
We got a birds eye view of the city by riding their Metrocable. It connects the poorer neighborhoods (like Rio’s favelas) to the main city. It carries over 30,000 people a day and their stations are super clean, no eating allowed; only water is allowed.
Yesterday was a full day and most enjoyable. We visited GUATAPÉ (gua- ta- pay) a 2 hour drive on the outskirts of Medellin. The adventurous ones were all set to climb Penol Boulder, aka “The Rock”, almost 700 stairs. Not yours truly though. It honestly looked like going up the “rough side of the mountain”. I took this time to browse the souvenir shops all lined up with small cafes. Since I skipped breakfast I decided to have a whole fried fish while I gazed at the lovely lakes of Guatapé and contemplated my future, God willing. The next stop was Cafe La Vina where the group enjoyed espressos, cappuccinos, lattes, wine and I had my usual Tonic Water. Afterwards while the group did more shopping; Diego offered to take me to his cousins spot to charge up my device and chill. If you want to just drop out of society for awhile, La Casona is the place. It’s a very clean and modern “hostel” but I would call it a bed and breakfast. I sat there enjoying the local color listening to their piped in music of Lauren Hill and rapper, Remy Ma. Before I left a brother and his Colombian lady were on their way out. He says to me, “I bet you’re from California”. So of course, we got into a lengthy conversation. He had a BBQ joint there in Guatapé and now about to open a bed and breakfast. He’s retired law enforcement from southern Cal, says he got his residency here after 2 months and his retirement check allows him to live like a millionaire here.
Closing out the day, after our delicious typical Colombian lunch on the waterfront of the Guatapé Reservoir, we explored the lake by speedboat. This area was one of Escobar’s getaways, hideaways, etc. so it turned out to be a Pablo Escobar boat tour. We saw his mansion, his stash house, his cottage for his women and weed. They say he did not consume his product of cocaine but he sure loved to smoke. A day on the lake was a very relaxing end to our time spent in Medellin.
Next we fly to Cartagena (kar ta hay na) for 3 days and visit San Basilio de Palenque, the African corner of Colombia.