Medellín Day 5: Jardín & Coffee

Okay, first things first. WARNING: This may be like the cheese disclosure in its controversy and disbelief. I had my first cup of coffee today. I mean for real, today is the first time I’ve ever drunk coffee. My parents were tea drinkers, there was no coffee in the house. I didn’t drink hot beverages until I started my first job out of business school and began drinking tea. While Ellen and Ben both love coffee, it just never had appeal to me. But when we booked our trip to Colombia, I promised Ellen I would drink coffee on our coffee tour. So, I did.

First we had a 3 hour drive to Jardín, with a guide and driver again from Medellín Travels. The city of Jardín is a colorful colonial town. We enjoyed seeing the Basilica Menor, it was stone and spectacular.

Throughout the town were colorful houses.

After lunch at a small restaurant, we took the gut punching ride up an unpaved road to the coffee farm. We were greeted by the farmer, who immediately prepared coffee for us.

I drank the coffee at first black and found it a little bitter. With some organic sugar cane, it was pretty good. I even had another 1/2 a cup!.

The farmer then put us to work picking coffee cherries. We learned that it takes 2 years for a coffee tree to bear fruit. And at 8 years, the tree has grown too tall to harvest and is cut down.IMG_8762IMG_8765

We then went to see the cherries get processed, removing the fruit to get to the bean. It was mesmerizing to watch!

Next, the beans are dried in the sun, taking about 7 days. They then ship the beans to a cooperative and take some of them into town to roast so they can sell directly. We bought 500g for about $6.50. The farmer was warm and enthusiastic, helping Ellen climb down the slippery slopes to get to the coffee trees. IMG_8778

One of the most interesting things we have learned is that Colombians, while proud of the coffee they grow, are not that into drinking coffee and mostly drink instant. Coffee culture is coming now to Medellín, but mostly to please tourists.

It was then a 3 hour trip back to Medellín. We had dinner at a Colombian restaurant recommended by our Pablo tour guide, Hacienda. It was simple and quiet and a fine way to end the day.



Medellín Day 4: Jardin Botánico

Today we decided to add one mode of transportation. To get to the Museo Casa de la Memoria, we took the Metro and added figuring out the tram. It cost an additional 75 cents each, but it was 3 stops that got us within 500 meters of the museum. IMG_8669

The museum commemorates the memory of the murdered and their families in the many conflicts in Colombia. The stories were powerfully told with pictures and accounts from the survivors. IMG_8675

Our next destination was Jardin Botánicode Medellin Joaquin Antonio Uribe (that’s a long name!). A free garden with colorful plants, butterflies, birds, it was wonderful to walk around and experience it with everyone out on Easter Sunday.

We even found a friend!IMG_8684

Our most anticipated meal was lunch at In Situ, a fancy restaurant in the botanical garden. When this is your view from the table, you are likely to enjoy your meal.IMG_8690

We started with a great beef appetizer. (Well, Ellen started with the bread, she loves having it all to herself for 8 days). We both had salmon (2 different preparations) for our main course, followed by chocolate mousse. We watched birds fly between trees and people stroll by. It was civilized, relaxing and wonderful. IMG_8707

Saw some street art that caught my eye when leaving the garden. IMG_8695

We stopped for coffee and then returned to the hotel. Since we were staying in tonight, we had time to use the rooftop pool, with an infinity look out onto the skyline. We stayed until it got dark.IMG_8697IMG_8704

We had leftovers from last night and cheese/crackers (for Ellen of course) from the grocery store. Quiet night before our sojourn to coffee country tomorrow.

Medellín Day 3: Museos

We made our first trip on the Medellín Metro system today. We figured out how to buy a Civica card (like a Metro SmarTrip) and load a few trips on it. $3 for 4 trips!


6 stops later we were at Parque Berīo, home to this amazing municipal building.IMG_8602

And on the other side of this building was Plaza Botero, full of 23 statues by the artist Fernando Botero. The plaza was not yet overrun with visitors yet, so with some patience you could get pictures of the sculptures without people in front of them.IMG_8605IMG_8610IMG_8632

We had been looking forward to the Museo de Antioquia, for its art and its art deco design.IMG_8634

Inside, their was work of Botero and a large number of paintings he had collected and donated to the museum. IMG_8651IMG_8644

I wondered if he had created anything to cover the Pablo Escobar period. I didn’t have to wonder long.IMG_8648IMG_8649

After leaving the museum, we found Iglesia de La Candelaria church.IMG_8658

Our 2nd museum for the day was their modern art museum, Museo De Arte Moderno. It featured some of the most modern of modern art (I didn’t take any pictures inside, I should have).IMG_8661

We waited out the expected thunderstorm, which was vicious tonight, and then Uber’d to Restaurante Hatoviejo, on the 4th floor of the mall we visited yesterday. We had a good meal, Ellen had steak and I had tuna in a berry sauce.IMG_8667

Afterwards, we went to a supermarket next door to pick up some things for dinner tomorrow. We are having a fancy lunch, so we will take advantage of the kitchen in our room and cook something up (including the doggy bag we took home tonight).

Medellín Day 2: Pablo

We wanted to see the Medellín of Pablo Escobar from a historical perspective, not to in any way glorify his activities. So we chose a tour that brought us to the significant places, without enriching his family or his former associates.

We started at the building he was in when the combination of good guys and bad guys (hard to always say who was who) surrounded him.IMG_8557

Pablo went out the back window (which is now bricked up) and was shot on the roof of the building behind it.IMG_8558

We visited the cemetery where he and his family are buried. IMG_8562

When you want your hits to go well, you take the bullets to church of course. In this case, a church where a vision of the Virgin Mary has appeared, Iglesia de Santa Ana. We got there just as a Good Friday service was finishing up.IMG_8566

Next to the church was a restaurant where they were preparing buñuelos, a fried corn and cheese ball.

There were as big as your hand!IMG_8572

The square was full of people and color.IMG_8576

Our last significant stop was at La Catedral, Escobar’s “prison” high on a mountaintop.IMG_8585IMG_8583IMG_8582

Now used by Benedictine monks, they are quick to point out that they are not making use of Pablo’s buildings.IMG_8588

Our guide from Medellín Travels was young and had learned his history well. He had answers to every question and did not in any way romanticize the believed 100,000 murders that took place during the time of Escobar. We were glad we did the tour, we came away with an understanding of the period.

We got back to our hotel in time for a late lunch. We were going to walk to get a last pizza before Passover, but the afternoon rainstorm timed itself to thwart that effort. We found a small restaurant open across from our hotel and had a not-so-great lunch.

For dinner, we had a reservation, but our Uber pulled up to a darkened restaurant. We had tried to plan for Good Friday, but our plans were only as good as the reservations taken for the night. We had the Uber take us to an area with plenty of restaurants, and we decided Greek was calling our name. So we ate at Greek Connection, complete with lamb, plate smashing and belly dancing. So a traditional Passover seder!


Medellín Day 1: 6 Hours South

After trips to Argentina, Peru and Chile (and a little begging by my childhood friend Maria), we finally planned a trip to Colombia to add to our South American countries. We will be visiting for 6 nights, staying in Medellín the whole time, with two tours and the rest on our own exploring the city.

Getting to Medellín was pretty simple–a 3 hour flight to Miami and a 3 hour flight from Miami to Medellín. American Airlines was fine, and when we heard the travelers assigned to the exit row for the 2nd flight couldn’t stay there, we volunteered for the hardship of more legroom!

Immigration, getting our luggage and Customs at Medellín’s airport was a breeze. The airport had an ATM, so I got Colombian pesos. Only problem was, the car from the hotel that was supposed to meet us didn’t. After looking around and trying to call, we went to the Information desk and a very nice woman called the hotel and determined there was no car. But she negotiated for the hotel to pay for a cab and got us in a car.

So while the Hotel Sites didn’t wow us from the start, it is a lovely hotel in a great location. We dropped our luggage and headed for the Santefé Mall, as we wanted to get SIM cards before Good Friday, since things may be closed. The mall was truly something to see.IMG_8541

We came upon the Movistar store first, so that was our choice. While the employee spoke no English, I communicated that we wanted data only cards, at least 2GB. And maybe 15 minutes and 70,000 pesos later ($22), we had cards with 2.5GB. One of the easier SIM purchase stories.

The mall had a sporting goods store, so I got my desired souvenir, a national soccer jersey.IMG_8553

It had a Starbucks, so we got a Colombia mug. And it had a grocery store in the basement, which had Ellen giddy as she loves little more (maybe Tashi) than foreign grocery stores. IMG_8542

We were going to walk to dinner, but it was pouring so we got an Uber instead (less than $3). Our reservation was at one of the best restaurants, Oci.MDE. We had a great meal, tuna tartare as an appetizer, beef tenderloin for me, short ribs for Ellen as the main course, and then a delicious ice cream sandwich with salted caramel. Not a bad start!IMG_8552

Philippines Day 10: Ayala Museum

We hadn’t been to a museum yet this trip, so we had to rectify that. Today we went to the Ayala Museum.

It combined art and history.

I especially appreciated the 61 dioramas that told the history of the Philippines, from pre-colonial times to the problems caused by the Spaniards, British and Americans.

Dinner was my first udon meal at Maragame Udon. I had a beef bowl that was delicious. Diner for the 4 of us was $21.

I’ll work on my impressions of Manila in a post tomorrow as we make our way home, via Portland, Oregon for a wedding that was important for us to attend.

Philippines Day 9: The Fort

We were on our own today, Ben & Courtney went back to work.

Courtney had arranged a driver for us to take us to the oldest part of Manila. The Philippines had been colonized by the Spaniards back in the 1500’s. The history reminded us of our visits to Peru and Chile.

First stop was Fort Santiago.

We visited two churches, Manila Cathedral, destroyed in the war and rebuilt

and San Agustin Church which survived.

We went out on a pier in the harbor and got a view of the US Embassy.

After dinner, we walked through a night Market at Mercado Central. Such sights and smells.

One more day of sightseeing before we head back to the States.