To end the year, we were late in planning our travel but were all excited to explore another new South American country – Colombia for two weeks! We escaped the cold, rainy winter in SF on a flight to Medellin via Cancun. The drive into Medellin from the airport, gave us a great feel for this unique sprawling city – the downtown located in the valley, surrounded by lush green mountains spotted with varying neighborhoods at different elevations. Arriving at the Marriott Medellin, located in a upscale neighborhood, we were pretty exhausted and spent the evening listening to live music and eating at the lounge with an amazing view and getting some good sleep.
I woke everyone up next morning to quickly grab breakfast (yummy queso arepas) so we could rush to a local bar to watch the World Cup final between Argentina and France. We sat on stools with the locals staring at a massive screen sipping cerveza as we watched the best final of all time with Messi and Argentina winning against an incredible Mbappe. The locals cheered every Argentina play and the streets were filled with celebrations after the win. An amazing experience similar to the won we had 4 years ago on our sabbatical when France won while we were in Lyon. The difference was that the kids were partaking in the experience as opposed to napping last time! After the game we ate some street side tacos nearby and walked around the Parque Lleren neighborhood that was buzzing after the game with restaurants and bars filled with locals celebrating on a Sunday afternoon. We had trouble withdrawing money from an ATM (very unreliable), which messed up our plans to take the cable car up to Parque Arvi for a panaromic view. Instead we took an Uber to the Centro Historico Plaza Botero with unique sculptures that Ariana loved. It was super crowded being a Sunday and overall a bit sketchy or a neighborhood with homeless people, so we headed back to Parque Lleren to end the night with a delicious meal with Chilean wine, pizza for the kids and a local cream rice dish (like a risotto).
We woke up late, fully recovered from our flight in, and ate a delicious breakfast before catching an Uber to try our luck at Parque Arvi again. Being a Monday it was closed(!), however we were able to take the cable car from Acevedo metro station to the San Domingo station 7/8th up the mountain giving us an incredible view of Medellin and its lush green mountains while flying over the different neighborhoods and favellas. For lunch, we stopped at Mercado del Rio – a local food court where each of us enjoyed a meal and beverage including fresh mango juice for the kids. In the afternoon we joined a 3 hour walking tour of the famous Commune 13 in the San Javier neighborhood of Medellin. We explored the area while better understanding the history of hip hop, guerillas, murals and graffitis. We also got a performance of hip hop dance from local teenagers and an improvised rap battle. The highlight was ascending Commune 13 on slopes, stairs and escalators as it was filled with tourists, locals, murals, graffitis, culture and fantastic views. As the only kids as always, Ayaan and Ariana not only loved the tour but also became friendly and danced with a couple of girls on the tour visiting from Portugal. The tour gave us a great feel of the culture of Colombia and specifically Medellin. We ended the day once again in the Parque Lleren neighborhood munching on some arepas, chic Jaron and arepas.
We rushed the next morning as our driver arrived earlier than expected for our tour to a coffee plantation outside Medellin. An hour drive later, we arrived at the Arrerios coffee plantation where we wore the local picking outfit with baskets, picked our own beans, learned about the different types of coffee and the overall process of coffee making. Colombia is the third largest and finest producer of coffee in the world, primarily producing Arabica type of coffee. We smelt and tasted the cherry and honey types medium roast as well as a drink made from the mucelage. Ayaan had a whole cup of coffee with milk too! We ate the local food of the farmers that included rice, plantain and chicken wrapped in leaves. Our tour ended with Ayaan and Ariana’s first real horse ride as we rode up and down through the plantation and across the hills! Our final meal in Medellin was a special one at Carmen, one of Latin Americas top 50 restaurants. We enjoyed amazing cocktails and food while the kids were very well behaved. Anjali and the kids returned to the hotel for the night, while I strolled around the Parque Lleren neighborhood at night as it was buzzing with outdoor and rooftop bars.
The next morning we were picked up to drive two hours to the beautiful Guatape. Our Uber drive was interesting as we took an alternate route an extreme dirt road. Our hotel Los Recuerdos was located lakefront and a couple of minutes from the Piedra del Penal. We climbed up 700 steps to the top of this rock to the incredible panaromic views of miles of the lake intermingled with luscious green landscapes. We spend the evening dipping in the pool overlooking the lake and completed our day with a meal at the hotel ready for the next leg our trip to the beaches.
We really enjoyed the weather, culture, food and scenery in Medellin and could have easily stayed a couple more days. Off to Santa Marta and Cartegena!