This is my very first guest post which is written by my mother! My parents came to visit me in Medellin very last minute. I think it was because they were afraid for my safety and knew I had a first rough week (which I wrote about it here). They claim it was only due to the cheap airfare….whatever the reason really doesn’t matter because I was thrilled to see them since it had been almost 5 months since I had seen them last. As for the blog post, I thought it would be good to hear about and see Colombia from a different perspective. Everyone know’s I am adventurous and pretty much up for anything so what I say about Colombia might be taken with a grain of salt. My parents on the other hand are pretty content with their lifestyle of spending winters in Florida, summers in Chicago, trips to Minnesota often, and until only recently trip to visit me in random places. They have traveled the world throughout their years but not enjoy staying close to home and family. Needless to say I was super surprised when they decided to buy tickets and even more surprised at how much they loved the city of Medellin.
Medellin, Colombia in South America? Are you crazy? It was the drug capital of the world twenty years ago. So why did Ralph and I decide to travel there? Did we miss our tech nomad daughter who left us in August 2015 to travel the US? Sure! Did we want to travel to foreign lands to explore and experience a new culture & language? Absolutely! But, honestly, what was the REAL reason that one Saturday in April, while enjoying the beauty and weather of Ft. Meyers, FL did we book a flight to Medellin??? It’s simple, if you know us! 147.00 RT on Spirit Airlines from Ft. Lauderdale! It was a 2 hour drive from FM and 6 days later, we were on our way. What an adventure!!!
As we flew over Medellin, preparing to land, we were astounded at the beauty of this country with its mountains & valleys that are part of the Andes mountain range. The vegetation and foliage were a boundless canvas of beauty and wonder. What a welcoming sight! The winding & hilly streets packed with motorcyclist & compact cars zooming around us, only added to the excitement of the day. We arrived at Park 10 Hotel in the afternoon and settled into our gorgeous room, awaiting Megan’s arrival. The staff was quite friendly, helpful,and most importantly, spoke English. That evening we walked to a local restaurant for empanadas & sangria. The food was quite flavorful and we all indulged in a variety of Colombian dishes. Of course, the sangria was delicious and helped us all have a wonderful night’s rest. Megan had the best night’s sleep since last August. Thank the Lord for air conditioning!!!
Megan did not have to work on the weekend, so she scheduled a few tours for us. First up was a street food tour by La Mesa. On Saturday we joined our tour guide, Laura (pronounce Lou-da) in Envigado, Colombia, a town southeast of Medellin, just south of El Poblado. Envigado is rich in culture, artistic, and culinary options. Our food tour consisted of about 7 stops to enjoy the food of Colombia. Among our stops were a market with unique flavors of local fruits, a tasting of 3 local juices from rare fruits, a pastry stand, a churro stand, a complete Colombian lunch, and a cup of lemon gelato to end our delicious tour. Laura was a delightful 26-year-old who could speak perfect English and was very proud to share the culture and food in this beautiful town of Envigado.
That afternoon we moved into a Hotel Sites, which was closer to Megan so we could spend more time together. It had a sun deck, swimming pool, exercise room AND free breakfast! The room was air-conditioned with good wi-fi, so Megan moved in with us for the rest of the week. What fun was that!!! We walked to the Exito (grocery store) and stocked up on staples, snacks, and drinks. We ended our evening with cheese, crackers, and fruit at the pool. With gorgeous views, these tired travelers toasted to the end of a wonderful day!
Up bright and early on Sunday, our tour guide, Juan Jose, picked us up at 9:15 for our 2 hour ride to the town of Guatape, a small, very pretty lakeside town. The town’s main attraction is the gigantic rock, El Penol, Guatape. It has an elevation of 7005’ & is part of the Andes mountain range. Megan had planned to climb the 742 steps and we finally decided to join her. We met many Colombians, old and young, on our very slow journey up the rock. Although it was brutal, we finally made it to the top, where a snack bar and restaurant served snacks and drinks. Oh how satisfying that first taste of beer was! The views were breathtaking and the local flair was worth every step! NOW, it was time to go down the stairs. You would think, no problemo! Well, it was 10 times harder for me! My thighs throbbed with every step and my legs were shaking all over! We stopped in the town for a snack and tour, but it began to pour, so we headed back to the car. As the rain subsided, Juan suggested we take a boat ride to see the mansions on the lake. We passed by Pablo Escobar’s home and some of his family’s homes. It was very interesting and Juan shared the history of Pablo Escobar. With the Sunday traffic and the rain, we arrived at our hotel about 3 hours later, anxious for a good night’s sleep in our air-conditioned room.
The problem with being a tech nomad is that you have to work – Forty hours per/week!!! Megan started right after breakfast on Monday and hoped to complete her 8 hours by 4:00, so we could have time with her later. We have to admit that we were not too upset with hanging around the pool, since we could barely get out of bed and stand up from our previous days climb of 742 steps!!! We spent the entire day laying by the pool while doing a little reading and a ton of napping. We made lunch for all and hung out at the pool for the rest of the day.
We enjoyed the street food tour so much we decided to take their other tour, the foodie tour, which is a food tour that goes to a number of high-end restaurants in town. The food tour with Laura was scheduled for that evening and we taxied over to the meeting spot. Hopping between the raindrops we arrived at our first of three restaurants, Alambique, a delightful open air restaurant, where we were served drinks, canasticas, and apps. Each was very unique, and we enjoyed trying the local choices. On our second stop, we went to Carmen’s and were treated to four entrees: pork, sausage, ribs, & fish with Colombian spices and sauces. They were all delicious with a beautiful Colombia presentation. Our last stop was Barcal for wine and dessert. The desserts were fabulous! As we stuffed each morsel down, we knew that we had overindulged, but honestly, it was worth every mouthful!!!
Tuesday was another relaxing day by the pool for us. Our thighs still throbbed!!! Meg, of course was working. We reserved a table at an Argentina steak house a few blocks away. Our waitress did not speak English, but we all worked it out. We had an appetizer, entrée, & dessert with a large carafe (or two) of sangria. What a wonderful evening of conversation & laughter!!!
On Wednesday and Thursday Megan had to work OVERTIME! She was swamped with work and on the phone most of each day appeasing clients and quickly problem solving issues of the day. We walked to the mall and picked up a salad for Megan, and waited for her to complete her work. On Wed evening Juan Jose (our tour guide from earlier in the week who we became friends with) picked us up for a tour of the neighborhoods and a lovely dinner at Ocio, a hot spot for locals and a favorite of Tom Cruises when he is filming a movie there. Juan requested “Tom’s” table and we thoroughly enjoyed the food, ambiance & company.
Thursday was our last full day in Medellin and Megan was swamped with work. Ralph and I took a walk and had lunch at this cute, Italian outdoor bistro right across the street from our hotel. We brought Megan some delicious pasta and relaxed until dinner. We were all very tired and stuffed from the excessive vacation eating and drinking, but, of course, we were hungry. We decided to reserve a table at a Mexican restaurant, just two doors down from our hotel. We ordered apps and Margaritas and laughed most of the evening about all of our adventures that week. Megan wanted us to stay and we would have loved to do that, but we had commitments in Fort Myers and planned to head back to Libertyville in a few days.
On Friday we had an early pickup & bid fond farewell to Megan, knowing that she still had another month of adventure.
It’s hard to believe that this slice of Paradise, Medellin, until recently, was one of the most brutally violent regions in the world and known for their coffee, cocaine, and civil war. But after an aggressive anti-guerrilla crackdown in 2002, Colombia has become one of the hottest tourist destinations in South America! We were able to have a taste of their fine cuisine and travel in a few areas. There is so much more to see and do in Medellin and we look forward to returning to experience all that it has to offer!
BTW We can’t wait to hear where Megan will be going next. Meg, let us know because we will follow you ANYWHERE!!!