Discover the City of Eternal Spring – Parque Arvi, Plaza Botero and way more…
Medellin (on the map)
Medellin was some sort of dream destination for me and also a delayed, but very welcome escape from oppressing Bogotá. Also, I really can’t deny that some of my curiosity for Medellin came from the stories about the notorious cocaine kingpin Pablo Escobar… Yep, I own up to the fact that my fascination for the city and the region were nourished by all the hype around his (dis)repute. But to be fair, I had also heard and read many great things about the City of Eternal Spring itself! In fact, Medellin has undergone a few changes in the recent years to attract more travellers and reposition itself as a welcoming tourist-activities-site.
Getting to Medellin by plane
My journey began with the shortest flight I’ve ever taken in my entire life: Bogotá-Medellin in 35 minutes! Plan 10 minutes for the take off; give yourself exactly 15 minutes to gobble up some cashew nuts and one of the world’s most stomach-churning coffees, before being pressured by a flight attendant to prepare yourself for landing. You’ll be back on the ground 10 minutes later. Fast, concise, organized – thank you LAN!
EL Poblado (on the map)
If you’re travelling to Medellin, I recommend you to get a hostel or B&B in El Poblado near the Zona Rosa, an upscale and safe neighbourhood buzzing with trendy Colombians and world travelled backpackers.
Unfortunately, we were staying in a hotel, with a room that was not entirely finished due to renovation works, and where I also came face to face with Mr Roach (as in cockroach). I can tell you, I was not amused AT ALL! The smaller hostels or bed & breakfast establishments I saw while wandering around El Poblado, made a way better impression and I was jealously glancing at the small and colourful buildings popping up here and there between parks and restaurants.
A view of Medellin, El Poblado
As mentioned before, Medellin is called Ciudad de la eterna primavera (city of the eternal spring). The nickname comes from its enjoyable climate – it’s never too cold and never too hot. In fact, after leaving rainy and grey Bogotá behind me, the eternal spring was a godsend, and after the first day of discovering the neighbourhood and conquering the steep up and down hilled roads that came with it, we decided to celebrate the good weather and the eventual beginning of our summer holiday. So there we were, comfortably installed on a crowded terrace with 25°C by night, savouring a delicious bottle of chardonnay, listening to live jazz music: Boy, that was definitely holiday heaven and one of my favourite moments!
And by the same token, I made the discovery of the century that night: Let this be news to all women and girls with curly, frizzy or wavy hair: a hair-straightener-service-vending-machine in the ladies’ bathroom… I am dead serious!
I understood the presence of this hair straightener thing a bit later, when I discovered Medellin’s upper class women and their immaculate appearance: women with 2 m legs and a monster cleavage, trying to climb out of the biggest SUVs with dignity because you could mistake their skirt for a belt! In their presence, all men tend to lose it and backslide into teenage hood! So, women of the world, be warned, cause you might feel a tiny tad left out here! Narcomoda, that’s the name given to the style of those divine galls, due to the fact that the guys from the cartels used to pay (or are still paying) for their wives’, mistresses’ or girlfriends’ boob jobs. Yes, plastic surgery is big in Colombia!
Just a word about cartels
Apparently Medellin, Pablo Escobar’s former stronghold, is now free of drug cartels, money laundering and other dubious activities! A majority of Colombians will loudly and proudly tell you that there’s almost no drug activity whatsoever in Colombia… But what about international reports, what about those massive pimped up SUVs touring around the city, and what about all those Colombians who are not counting amidst that majority and dare tell the truth? Just sayin’.
But don’t let my private concern put you off visiting Medellin, because it’s definitely worth a visit. I found Medellin revitalizing, fun and very entertaining…one of my favourite spots in Colombia!
Art, trekking and local transport
Our trip to Medellin went on like it had started: eccentric, steep and somehow astonishingly refreshing! Here a few musts while staying in this fabulous kerfuffle of tourists, hipsters, paisas and extremely rich people with dubious sources of revenue:
The Plaza Botero (on the map)
The Plaza Botero is with not less than 32 Botero statues a free open-air museum in the city centre. You are literally surrounded by a 3,8 –million-populated and buzzing city and some weirdos that come with it, while contemplating art. It goes like this: you will be looking at art and the people around you will be staring at you. But Plaza Botero is an absolute must and I never felt unsafe.
Metro de Medellin
Medellin is the only Colombian city owning a metro transportation system. Medellin’s Metro is therefore worshipped by Colombians and proudly recommended as a tourist attraction, because of its good state and cleanness… Other people see it as just another public transport in another city. But I took a picture anyway (which I unfortunately deleted by mistake shortly afterwards).
After taking the Metro to Acevedo take Linea K of the Metrocable to Santo Domingo, where the Spanish Library is standing, all dark and mysterious, on the hillside of the city overlooking the Comunas (poorer neighbourhoods). Continue then on the Linea L to Parque Arvi. Other Metrocables will take you to other parks where you can practice activities like paragliding, climbing, …
Parque Arvi (on the map)
Parque Arvi is one of the largest nature reserves in the region and the perfect destination for trekking fans or soft-adventure-aficionados, here you can trek, camp and observe birds. I strongly recommend you to take a trip up there. And if ever you should get lost, there are very nice policemen watching out for you and offering doughnuts to every lost soul they can take care of (been there, done that… and promptly forgot to take a picture of those 10 doughnut offering policemen. What a cliché!)
Parque Lleras (on the map)
Parque Lleras is truly the heart of Medellin’s Zona Rosa in El Poblado. This is also the neighbourhood where Medellin’s nightlife is thriving. Zona Rosa is packed with bars, clubs and restaurants and people party as well outside in the streets and Parque Lleras over the weekend. A pleasant atmosphere is always guaranteed over there.
Centro Commercial Santa Fe (on the map)
If you feel like treating yourself to some indoor shopping, then there’s only one place to go: the Centro Commercial Santa Fe. Where else can you see such a gigantic indoor flower garden? … and the shops are great as well!
Wanna have a bite?
Verdeo (on the map)
Verdeo is a colourful veggie restaurant, It’s a heaven of peace and has also tasty fresh juices on the menu.
Pergamino Café (on the map)
Have a coffee at Pergamino Café in Zona Rosa of El Poblado. That delectable Colombian coffee truly sets my heart aflutter. By the way, they serve, as well great Colombian pastries!
Ajiacos y Mondongos (on the map)
Ajiacos y Mondongos is a simple smallish local restaurant serving traditional Colombian cuisine, the menu only displays 3 platos (3 dishes): Mondongo (Pork, Tripe and Chorizo Soup), Ajiaco (Colombian Chicken and Potato Soup) and Cazuela (Red bean stew). Making you feel, as if you were eating dishes, prepared by your grandmother… that’s their philosophy!
As for me, I went for the Cazuela!
Bar y BBQ Aloha (on the map)
Bar y BBQ Aloha is a small and cozy place next to Parque Lleras. Get installed on the terrace and order the burger or the ribs… plenty of sweet and salted flavours, deriving from the Hawaiian cuisine.
Other useful links
Stay tuned, there’s more to come about Colombia!