This is our last week in Medellin. I think that the time has gone pretty fast here, this past week in particular, but we have made good use of the time as we’ve managed to do and see lots of things whilst we’ve been here. I feel like I really know Medellin now – I’m a proper Medellin resident, or “Paisa” (meaning a local), however I am ready to move on to our next destination now: Cartagena, Colombia.
Josh had booked a table at one of Medellin’s top restaurants to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Though we had decided that we didn’t want to go out on Valentine’s Day itself it had still been hard getting a table there since the restaurant was so popular. Tonight would also be the first night in 6 weeks that we had been out just the two of us as my sister was still with us so we were both really looking forward to some quality time. I decided to wear the black jeans that Josh had bought me the week before. Since they had flared bottoms and were quite long I was a little worried that they might drag along on the floor but thankfully I had brought a pair of heels with me (the only pair of heels that I had brought with me on my travels!). When I put my heels on it felt weird and then I remembered that I hadn’t actually worn any heels for around 5 months! Bahia was definitely not a place where you could wear heels as the ground was too dusty uneven and it was also very hilly not to mention ridiculously hot there, and Florianopolis didn’t really have many fancy places where I could wear them.
I put on the cream silk blouse and fancy stud earrings that Josh had bought me for my birthday last year and then I was ready to go. Unfortunately the Carmex lip balm that my Mum had posted to me weeks ago STILL hadn’t turned up so I was having to make do with a much inferior Nivea Lip Balm that didn’t feel as though it moisturised my lips properly. I’m not even sure that the Carmex will turn up before I leave now which is very distressing as I really need it!
We took a cab to Carmen. All of the cab drivers in Medellin seem to do “laptop navigation” – they don’t use mobile phone holders here -every driver we’ve ever had either holds their phone in one hand whilst they’re driving (not a good idea), or puts the phone in between their legs and glances downwards to see the map (also, not a good idea). Driving in general here in Colombia seems pretty dangerous with nobody really sticking to the rules of the road – they just make it up as they go along. It is very mountainous here with lots of twists and turns and steep hills but the drivers speed down them as though they were competing in F1, barely using their indicators and hardly ever checking their mirrors. To make matters even worse, there are lots of motorbikes and scooters on the road and nobody seems to be using any form of road safety. It certainly doesn’t encourage me to wish to try driving here especially as a newly passed driver. These people are crazy! On the other hand, they do play some pretty good music in their cars so perhaps I can let them off 🙂
Carmen was an upmarket Latin American restaurant in the hippest part of town El Poblado. My first impression of it looked small to me at first but when I went to the toilet later on I realised that the restaurant extended all the way out the back with an outdoor garden area and they had a downstairs too. It was fancy like many of the Medellin restaurants that we’d been to, but the food I’m disappointed to say, was good but not outstanding. The way that this place had been hyped up and the fact that it had been so hard for us to get a reservation meant to me that the food should have been incredible especially considering the general high standards of the restaurants here. But though it was good, it was not amazing.
I thought that the Peruvian restaurant Rocoto that I loved so much was better. But the cocktails that we had were good and very creative, and the decor, ambience, music and of course the conversation (since we hadn’t really had much time to talk just the two of us for awhile), was lovely too. Afterwards we walked down (me gingerly as I was still feeling a little uncomfortable wearing my heels), and found a bar so we stopped there for a few drinks first before calling another taxi to take us home. It was a really lovely evening.
Finally after 7 days of frustrating communication with the hairdresser using Google Translate, I was able to arrange for her to come back to redo mine and my sisters hair. I had been starting to get worried that she just wouldn’t bother turning up but eventually she did (late, again) and then she started doing my sisters hair. I had taken my hair out that morning and washed and conditioned it so all the girl had to do was just braid it with the hair that I had provided her in the way that I had asked her to. Thankfully my sisters hair didn’t take very long so before long she was doing my hair and this time I had bought a mirror so that I could actually see what she was doing. Not to spy on her you understand, I didn’t wish to have to check up on her but I also didn’t want to be dissatisfied with how she done my hair again. Especially since I had to pay for it! The last time she done my hair, despite me showing her a picture of what I wanted it still looked very sparse and she used too much blonde hair. The quality of the hair she had provided was bad – it was dry and brittle and broke off constantly littering the apartment with dead hair: no thanks. It took her the whole day to do both our hair so we had to provide her with lunch and dinner.
This time I had told her not to bother using any blonde hair at all as I couldn’t check on her to see how much she was putting in. I told her to just use the hair I had provided instead because I couldn’t have anymore bad quality hair, I also wanted her to make the braids smaller, with smaller partings to ensure that it didn’t look thin and straggly and to make the length of the hair slightly longer. Well she did all of the above apart from the length – she cut the hair so that it is much shorter then it was the last time despite me asking her to make it longer! I couldn’t really what she was doing the entire time (as it was ridiculous to keep checking in the mirror every single braid she installed) so I just had to trust that she would do as I asked with regards to something that was so basic: keep the length. But no, she had cut it and now it was barely halfway down my back. Aside from that not being what I asked her to do I do not like it when it’s too short because the hair gets in my face. At least when it’s long I can just flick it over my shoulder and it’s out of the way but when it’s of a certain length it sweeps forward getting in my face and it’s bloody annoying!
Alas Josh and my sister liked my hair and despite my annoyance with it’s length I could agree that at least it WAS an improvement from the previous occasion nonetheless, it wasn’t what I asked her to do. I did wonder why she couldn’t just do what I had asked when I usually am able to get exactly what I want in London with no problems whatsoever. Hmpf.
When we were at the Botanical Gardens we noticed that there was a science museum, planetarium and an aquarium (South America’s largest freshwater aquarium no less) nearby called Parque Explora so we decided that we’d do a daytrip there and check it out. We had no idea what it would contain or whether it would be any good but we were all curious.
When we arrived, the first thing that we went to see was the aquarium – the entrance fee was a mere £6 to get in see a pretty cool aquarium complete with fish, amphibians and mammals such as turtles, poisonous frogs, a boa constrictor and a gigantic python! With octopus’, piranha’s and a gigantic electric eel, this was sea heaven. The condition of all of the tanks had me especially impressed: they were all spotlessly clean: no murky water and no questionable looking floaters. I had never seen an aquarium with so many different varieties of sea creatures and fish, including beautiful tropical fish and impeccably kept coral reefs, that was so clean and well appointed. I couldn’t imagine how much effort it must take to look after all of the species of animals here but I could clearly see that whoever was in charge was doing a good job and I was really glad to see that. I don’t really agree with animals being locked up so I’m not a fan of zoo’s and I’m especially not a fan of Seaworld (if you haven’t seen Blackfish on Netflix then please do), but I thought that this aquarium was fantastic.
There was lots of information given about the fish shown, about their living and eating habits, and some very important information on the current state of their environment including a fish tank displaying floating plastic bags to highlight the cycle of deadly plastic in the sea’s. Very effective and very scary.
After we’d had had our fishy fill, we went up the escalators to see what else there was on offer. From the outside we could see that the building was pretty big but since we hadn’t done any research before we’d gone we really had no idea what else there was to discover. We soon came to 4 buildings which were all interactive games studios.
They were called Time, On Stage, Music and Mind. Being the music lovers that we all are we first went into the Music building. The space was made up of a huge series of rooms on 2 floors. The first room that we went into was one with a number of odd looking instruments, rather they were household items that were used as instruments. Attached to them in this soundproofed room were drum sticks for the purpose of hitting the instruments with. Once we were certain that we weren’t going to get told off for making a racket it didn’t take any further prompting for Josh, my sister and I to start playing aka bashing away on these instruments with full and enthusiastic force. I really couldn’t believe you could just walk in a place like this and start playing instruments without supervision and without having to book it months in advance! (I’m talking to you UK). And that was just the start! We soon found out that the entire building was a nonstop musical adventure, including rooms with games to play, puzzles to solve, a karaoke room, a dance room and more.
We didn’t get the chance to go into the karaoke room as it was very popular so was permanently occupied. But I did have a go (okay, a couple of goes), on the hilariously entertaining Orchestra Conducting Interactive Game where you had to choose a classical composition (such as the popular Carmen by Georges Bizet) and then follow the hand gestures of the song, as if you were the conductor. If you done well you would finish the entire song but if not then you were booed off the stage by the orchestra on the screen in front of you. Even though the hand gestures were very slight and looked easy it actually wasn’t as easy as you would think. But it was so much fun!! I’ve always thought that I’d love to try being an Orchestral Conductor and now thanks to Medellin’s genius interactive museum I could now have a go! Josh and my sister had a go too and we had a great time seeing each other get booed (loudly!) off the stage, lol.
Afterwards we went into another room, this time one that was filled with actual instruments used in Colombian music. An attendant guided us and the couple that were in there along as we attempted to follow the screen in front of us to play along to some traditional Colombian music along with the instruments. The sound quality was incredible as the room was soundproofed and I really felt as though I was in a salsa band. It was very intense and thoroughly enjoyable. Josh and I both had the bongo drums and the rhythm we had to play wasn’t easy but it was so much fun! My sister had another instrument and she was having a wail of a time playing along to the music. I really wanted to stay in there playing along to some of the other songs that they had available but I didn’t wish to hog the drums, especially when I could see that there was a growing crowd of people outside looking on in envy of our riotous music making antics!
A particularly simple but nonetheless extremely effective part of the exhibition was a room showing film of different parts of Colombia surrounded by mirrors which gave it a really interesting effect, along with the music representative of that specific region. It was very powerful.
Afterwards I had a go dancing to some Arabic music in a room following a choreographed dancer on a video screen – from the outside you could see only my silhouette!
I couldn’t believe that all of this was available to the Colombian public for just £6. There was absolutely nothing like this that I knew of in Europe and certainly nothing like it in the UK but if we had something like this then it would be game over for every other museum because this would be an absolute HIT. So much fun for everyone of all ages and so informational! I think it’s really hard to make learning fun but this place had done it effortlessly with an unbelievable variety of things for people to see and do. I was really glad that we had gone in the week when it was still relatively quiet as I could imagine that it was a very different story on the weekend.
In the Mind room it was all about our brains and how this powerful machine works to keep us alive, work things out, understand things, and occasionally fool us. The interactive games in showed how we are all susceptible to bring tricked by our own minds, with things like hallucinations and lucid dreaming.
We were also able to participate in an interactive story game, where we were characters in a story which you could then send to yourself via email. We went into another room that initially looked as though the walls were spinning but when we went further in it felt as though I myself was spinning!
Another room allowed us to play along to old musicals with the instruments they used in the studio at the time to mimick sounds like the wind and the clip clopping of horses’ hooves. They even had a slide that children (and adults!) could go down rather then use the stairs that were provided. There were so many other things that it’s hard to even remember them all. The place was simply incredible. Infact even though we had spent almost the entire day there we almost had to be ushered out as we were one of the very last to leave.
Had I known about this incredible museum a few weeks prior I probably would have made it back a second time. Out of all of the tours we had done around the great city of Medellin this one was by far for me the most enjoyable.
Josh and I vibesin’ it up at Parque Explora
My sister reconnecting with her inner child
Tropical Fish at Parque Explora Aquarium
Creatures of the deep!
Let the (interactive games) begin!
The salsa music here is incredible – I have been introduced to many new Latin artists here, ones that I definitely wouldn’t have come across if I were back in the UK because this music is coming from the source – the Colombian people love their music and they play it at every given opportunity, whether that’s in a taxi, restaurant, hairdressers, bars you name it! When I hear a song that I like I have been able to use my faithful Shazam app in order to find out what it is and most of the time it works, so I have a fresh batch of incredible music to indulge in. There was Bossa Nova in Brazil and Salsa in Colombia – I have been in musical heaven! My favourite artist is a Puerto Rican singer called Hector Lavoe, who I discovered in the many taxi rides we’ve taken around the city – the man is a salsa genius, his music is so catchy! I’ve tried to find his albums on Amazon Prime for download but of course, they wish to charge for it. Buzzards dem.
Women here are very proud of their voluptuous good looks and to be perfectly frank, their bodies put most physique’s to shame, gym or no gym, alas there has been an interesting development: much like the fad of having boob jobs in the west here in Colombia women have resorted to getting a “Brazilian butt lift” or worse yet wearing fake bum pants, which accentuate their, eh, behind! I noticed it immediately because of the very big and unnaturally round shape and I asked my sister about it and she told me that there was such a thing as fake bum pants. Can you believe it?!
We had seen this restaurant on the day we went to the restaurant OCI. It was right next door to it and the design of the place immediately caught my eye so we decided that since we were going to be leaving soon, we’d go there for dinner. We didn’t bother making a reservation, we just turned up and thankfully the three of us we were able to get a table straight away. It was really busy, populated with all of the beautiful people of Medellin and further afield (I heard quite a few foreign accents). The illuminated bar stood in the middle of the restaurant, surrounded by stunning dark wood lattice work, allowing the light from the night sky to stream on in. An explosion of greenery decorated the space which was darkened seductively, making you feel like you were in some kind of a night garden – it was really beautifully done. We were all feeling hungry so we planned to have starters, mains AND desserts, however after the main courses had arrived we all knew that we were done. My main was average which surprised me in a place like this, but my sushi starter was nothing but. The sushi I had was the tastiest I have ever had before, with bags of flavour and texture, divine with the soy and wasabi. It was to tasty that it was a challenge to share, lol.
Whilst we were eating our starters we heard loud yelling coming from a large table of people to our left. When the shouting (coming from a female) got louder, we (and the entire restaurant) looked over to see a furious looking girl standing up with a glass in her hand, who was being held back by another girl shouting obscenities (such as the word “Puta” which I understood to mean whore, lol) over at another girl and the guy that she was with. He jumped over the seats to go after her, another guy went to hold her back and the girl that she was calling a whore was trying to go after her. Seeing this domestic being played out with such a passionate Latin twist was highly entertaining I have to say, lol. Eventually the staff managed to pull the angry girl away and usher her outside. Medellin moments indeed!
On our last night we went back to a Thai restaurant we’d been to previously. The food was good, but we weren’t going for the food – it was the incredible sangria we were interested in. Josh and I had shared a jug between us the last time and it was delicious, and very strong! We left there feeling very merry indeed. Since we hadn’t yet had a chance to check out one of the salsa bars in Medellin after that disastrous attempt a few weeks ago where all we could find was “fun time girls”, opportunistic locals and a bunch of gringo’s, we planned to check out a few of the bars after dinner. The food was good (not authentically Thai perhaps), but tasty nonetheless – I ordered Pad Thai, which complimented the potent Sangria perfectly. Like the last time, I was feeling very tipsy when we left there to go in search of a bar. I don’t know what it was about that particular Sangria, because I’d had many a Sangria since arriving in Colombia, perhaps it was the apples that were infused in it, I just knew that I would definitely be hungover the following morning! We tried a local Rock bar first as per Josh’s wishes, but they told us that it was full and they weren’t letting anymore people in. Just aswell really because I definitely couldn’t hear them playing any rock music, only pop: no thanks.
Afterwards we went to a rooftop bar, where they were playing merengue music – not my favourite, I much prefer salsa, but the couples there were absolutely loving it and were doing their two-step moves to every song that came on. It was something to be admired – couples of all ages dancing together. It is something that doesn’t happen in the UK and it was so nice to see. I’m still hoping that Josh and I will find somewhere in Cartagena where we can take some private lessons. We had a great night – good food, drinks, company and much laughter. As predicted, I woke up the following day with a horrendous headache. It was worth it though!
View from our penthouse apartment
Medellin had confirmed a few things. Firstly, that it’s a great city. A beautiful city filled with an abundance of trees, plants and flowers, with the ever present mountains surrounding and incredible views from all angles.
The food scene: Impressive. Though I couldn’t say that the Colombian food itself was anything much to write home about (though we do like their Chocolo Arepa’s), there was definitely a foodie scene here with an abundance of very good restaurants and all at bargain basement prices.
Prices: Yes, life here in Medellin is cheap. Cheap for food, cheap for coffee, cheap for transportation and cheap for accommodation. What else do you need?
The Music: I have LOVED hearing Salsa music playing in restaurants, shops, and taxi’s. They are clearly very proud of their musical heritage and though they (the younger generation in particular) also very much enjoy their reggaeton (which I do not particularly like), I love hearing them playing their own traditional Colombian music and not playing whatever pop flavour of the month is currently being pushed. I’m not a fan of Shakira though and all of the Colombians seem to like her (probably because she’s the only very famous singer that’s made it out of Colombia)
Our apartment: Not specific to Colombia I know but they do seem to have a penchant for building these high-end modern high rise buildings and since the view of the city is so spectacular we have found the time spent in ours very comfortable. The apartment is spacious and beautiful with the most incredible view of a city that i’ve ever had the pleasure to see. Every moment spent in that apartment, whether lounging in bed, looking out on the balcony, cooking dinner or watching Netflix provides a view to die for.
The roads: People here drive like crazy people and that includes the taxi drivers and the buses!
The Weather: Wonderful. Well they don’t call it the “city of eternal spring” for nothing! The weather has been pretty perfect – everyday has been sunny, we have hardly experienced any rain and it hasn’t been that humid. Sunsets here are beautiful.
The People: The Colombian people are nice with a generally sunny disposition but I haven’t found them to be quite as friendly as in Brazil. However, they seem to love the fact that people are starting to visit their country and this is still a city so perhaps they will be friendlier in Cartagena on the Caribbean coast.
Crime: We haven’t had anything bad happen to us whilst we have been here and we haven’t felt on edge at all really apart from the time when we go shopping and feel as though we are literally going to be pounced upon by the shop staff! But I know for sure that there’s been alot more crime back in the UK and Europe in general since we’ve been here (such as multiple terror attacks), including one where I live so I’m very glad that I’ve been here and not there!
Seediness: Yes, there is a seedy element in Medellin. In part because of the Colombian women who are generally very attractive, and partly because it’s cheap and legal to get a prostitute here! It does mean that there are many scantily clad women standing around on the street corners parading their wares coupled with sleazy men on the prowl (not a good look). In addition there was “Porn Road” where pornography was on offer freely on the streets. They don’t attempt to hide it infact they even have sex shops in the shopping malls.
The Barrios: Everywhere has their poor community and of course I didn’t actually GO to the barrios but I passed through them and I was pretty shocked by what I saw. In comparison to the rest of Medellin that I had seen which was orderly and clean the barrios seemed to be a law unto themselves: The forgotten part of Medellin. And there were literally thousands of homes in the barrios, I could only imagine how many people must live there in such squalor: It must be tens of thousands.
Language: It hasn’t been easy in part because I never learnt Spanish in school or before I arrived here. I learnt a little Portuguese before I went to Brazil but that was that and I don’t really have any intentions of learning Spanish because I wish to learn French so it’s been a little challenging but not too bad for the most part. It’s certainly an easier language to learn then Portuguese or French.
Parque Explora: Is the best museum I have ever been to. I loved the Perfume Museum in Paris and I have a soft spot for The Natural History Museum in London because I’ve always loved learning about all of the animals that inhabit this planet with us ever since I was young and my Dad has always really been into science, however this museum takes learning to the next level with literally hours of interactive learning. Getting bored in this place is almost impossible – and we never even made it to the Planetarium! The sheer creativity of the place really blew my mind. I would love to see this kind of museum in Europe.
Crepes and Waffles: It might not sound very groundbreaking or original but trust me this place is a hit in Colombia! There are franchises literally everywhere and everyone, no matter the age (or dietary requirements I hasten to add), goes there. This is because Crepes and Waffles offer more then just Crepes and Waffles even though their Crepes are Wonderful and their Waffles are Fantastic – they offer them along with the largest variety of fresh fresh and vegetables I have ever seen and they do excellent salads and desserts too. The only thing that lets them down is that they don’t currently have any gluten free options. For the gluten free people (such as Josh and my sister), the only choice is to have a salad, but thankfully the salads are delicious too, and at least when you have had a salad for lunch it doesn’t make you feel too guilty when you then have a dessert (well that’s my excuse anyway!)
Poverty: I’d have to say that the level of poverty that I’ve seen in this city has been second to none. People on drugs, refugees with very young children begging for food, shady looking people trying to sell their (possibly stolen) wares, people with severe disabilities, people with mental health issues, the homeless, and many prostitutes all congregating in the same area. It really was a sight for sore eyes and came as a bit of a shock when contrasted with the well organised, clean, leafy highstreets of Medellin.
Mosquito free zone: 6 weeks in and I have only been bitten once on that trip into the mountains for the coffee tour. It might possibly be because of where our apartment is: very high up in a slightly cooler part of the city, as my sisters friend who was staying in Laureles said that she had been bitten multiple times and she’d only been here for 4 days but mosquitoes usually ravish me so this has come as a bit of a pleasant surprise that I haven’t been bitten. On the other hand perhaps it wasn’t mosquito’s that bit her at all? – she was staying in hostels afterall and I really do not know how clean they are – it could have been a midge, bed bug or flea or something.
So, could I live here? – well as a matter of fact, yes I could. It hasn’t “touched my heart” like Bahia did but then I’m not sure a city ever could. Well, not one I’ve ever been to anyway, but with respect to the basics of having a good life: good weather, activities, safety, culture and food, Medellin hits the nail on the head. So if I were someone who was considering moving out of Europe and it didn’t really matter where (I’m not because I don’t want to be to far from my family), then I would certainly not discount Medellin: The city of eternal spring.