Author Archives: dcborn61

London

Not normally thought of as a weekend getaway, London is really not that far away. And Ellen loves Chihuly, who has an exhibit at Kew Gardens. And with life events that made a trip good for mental health, we made last-minute plans.

We flew Virgin Atlantic to Heathrow, arriving Saturday morning. With weekend track work on the underground, we took the Heathrow Express into town, a very easy 15 minute trip. We stayed at the Cavendish London, a boutique hotel in Mayfair, a quite posh neighborhood.

We dumped our backpacks (no checked luggage!) and started our 48 hour stay. We walked to the London Eye. The view from the top was impressive, of Big Ben, which is in scaffolding now, and the rest of the city.

After the ride, we visited Winchester Cathedral. The history of England is inside.

My one request for his trip was a chance to get fish & chips. After touring the church, we found the Laughing Halibut, a perfect spot to satisfy my craving.

We had Rick Steves walking tour between the cathedral and Trafalgar Square on our phones, which included 10 Downing Street, where we hear there is a vacancy.

The National Museum is at the top of Trafalgar Square. When Ellen saw there was a DaVinci there, we had to go inside.

Since we were in Europe, Ellen had to visit her good friend Thomas Sabo.

Finally, after a short stop at the hotel, it was dinner time. Ellen picked a seafood restaurant that allowed us to walk through the theatre district. I had pollock crumble at Parsons.

Sunday, we had only one agenda item–Kew Gardens. Ellen loves Chihuly, and we have seen his installations in many places.

We started the day though with a fancy breakfast at the place to see and be seen, the Wolseley. Great service and food.

We took the Underground out to Kew Gardens. There were 12 Chihuly installations on the map, and we set off. Some we had seen before, and some were created for this display.

When we got to the big glass Temperate House, we were expecting one Chihuly. But in addition to the huge piece hanging from the ceiling, the room was full of Chihulys.

My favorite was near the Japanese Landscape.

The biggest surprise was when we got to the Shirley Sherwood Gallery. Inside, there was a display of so many pieces, it rivaled our visit to the Chihuly gallery in Seattle.

Here’s the last piece we saw. Seeing this exhibit was no doubt worth the short trip.

On our way back, we decided to do some more typically London things. We went to Harrods, and I bought some tea. We went to Buckingham Palace to visit the queen.

Our second (and final) diner was at Hide Ground in our neighborhood. It was a fantastic meal with great service. I had lamb that was outstanding, and a dessert that was strawberry with grain, served frozen on a stick.

And on the morning of our departure, took this picture of the view from our hotel room.IMG_9104

We certainly did not have time to do all the things we would have liked to, but that could take a lifetime in a London. For 48 hours, we did quite a lot.

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Medellín Day 7: Trip Home & Final Thoughts

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We didn’t have a choice on the return flight home time, but when your flight is at 6am and you need to be at the airport 2 hours early and the airport is 1 hour away, you get up VERY early. But the hotel had a car waiting for us at 3am and we got to the airport in enough time to take advantage of our Priority Pass lounge access.

Global Entry was kind of scary in Miami, in that the first step was taking a picture of us and then it printed our entry receipt. That meant the other steps, scanning the passport, fingerprints, questions about the trip were all skipped in favor of facial recognition. I guess that is our future.

Our last leg to DC went smoothly. Had to wait awhile for our luggage, but we were home to see Tashi by early evening.

Our visit to Medellín was wonderful. We were able to do everything we had planned without so much as a hitch. We used for Metro transportation, we took advantage of cheap and easy Uber and even figured out cabs when we had to.

The people were the best part. We were treated warmly everywhere we went. Very little English was spoken (it’s our fault we have never mastered Spanish), but people displayed patience and worked with us. The 3 guides we had for our tours were each wonderful. They were honest, open and we had real dialogues with them about culture and politics in our two countries.

We felt safe everywhere we went, being careful and aware of what areas were safe for our planned activities. We definitely want to come back and explore more of Colombia.

Thanks for reading along. You know there will always be new adventures!

 


Medellín Day 6: Comuna 13

Another day, another Medellín Travels tour.  This time we wanted to take the Comuna 13 tour to see an area of Medellín once violent and avoided, now a center of culture and arts. Much of the improvement comes thanks comes from the building of public transportation that connected the area to the rest of the city.

The history of Comuna 13 is dark, gangs, paramilitary groups, a brutal invasion by the government.

We started on the cable cars, taking us over the poorest part of the neighborhood.IMG_8804IMG_8789

I insisted on one picture of us together on the trip.IMG_8798

Next, on the far west side of town, we went up into the hills where a series of escalators replaced 350 steps up the mountainside. (Yes, that’s Ellen in front of me).IMG_8834

All along the way, there was just incredible street art. I’m going to publish a bunch of pictures, but I have many more. (clicking on an individual picture will bring up a larger image).

The view from the top was pretty spectacular.IMG_8841

We purchased a piece of art from one of the street artisans, an addition to our travel collection. On the way down, I noticed a soccer field that was brightly painted.IMG_8851

After returning to the neighborhood, we had lunch at the Sante Fe Mall. We then had a startling revelation. On the day after Earth Day here, private cars are banned during the day. That meant no Uber. Which meant we had to communicate our hotel’s name and address with a taxi driver who spoke no English. I showed him the address on my phone, he consulted with another driver, and off we went. An added experience!

Our last dinner was at Carmen, one of the finest restaurants in the city. We are tired but pleased with the trip. Ellen had the pez negro, the fish of the day,. I had the pato (duck), with potatoes and spinach. Ellen had a glass of cava, I had malbec. And we finished with a five chocolates dessert.IMG_8859.


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!

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