Hi friends! On Saturday evening, Fabio and I returned home from our awesome adventure in Colombia! I spent a ton of time yesterday downloading and editing photos from our trip, and today I’m excited to share part one of our recap!
The first part of our vacation was spent in Medellin, one of the largest cities in the country. Medellin is located in a valley surrounded by mountains, and is absolutely beautiful! The majority of Fabio’s family on his dad’s side still lives in Medellin, so I was really looking forward to meeting everyone. This side of his family is huge – his dad is one of ten – so I wasn’t really sure what to expect. My family is tiny by comparison, so I knew it was going to be very different from my family get-togethers!
Last Wednesday, Fabio’s sister Diane and her husband Alex joined us at BWI at 6:45 am to board our plane bound for Colombia. A few of Fabio’s other relatives who live in New York (his dad, his sister Karen, his cousin Tatiana, and his aunt, Tia Clara) were planning to meet us down there.
We landed in Medellin at about 1:30 pm, and were greeted by a whole entourage of people! There were so many of us that we needed a bus to take everyone back to the house.
We stopped for lunch in an adorable little town outside of the airport, and I was already struggling to remember who was who. This was just the group that picked us up from the airport!
For lunch, I ordered the typical Colombian platter of steak, rice, beans, chicarones (pork rinds), egg, avocado, plantains, arepa, and sausage. And no, I didn’t even come close to finishing this!
After lunch, we arrived back at the house where Fabio’s dad grew up. The family had hung tons of balloons and a welcome sign to greet us!
We spent the rest of the evening getting to know the family, while I tried my best to follow along in Spanish and remember which cousin/aunt/uncle I was talking to.
Luckily everyone was so warm and welcoming to me, and a few of the cousins spoke English so they were able to help me out.
I honestly was a little worried that it would be hard for me to fit in with a group of strangers who didn’t speak English, but it wound up being a non-issue. I couldn’t believe how welcoming and friendly everyone was, and it didn’t even seem to matter that it was difficult to communicate.
We spent the rest of the evening hanging out in the courtyard of the house listening to salsa music (some people danced, but I wasn’t ready for that yet) and getting to know one another. It was a great way to start the trip!
On Thursday morning, we set out to explore the city!
First we stopped off for some breakfast of empanadas and these little gems called papas rellenas, which were basically fried balls of potato deliciousness. Yum!
Then our group of “gringos” waited to board a tour bus that would take us around the city. Even though it was a weekday and most of Fabio’s family had to work, his uncle, Tio Juan Pablo, and Tio Juan Pablo’s girlfriend, Mary Luz, took time to venture around the city with us. So nice of them!
Truthfully the tour was pretty horrendous, and I wouldn’t recommend this tour to anyone visiting the city. Fabio and I are used to tours that provide a bit of a historical background on a city, and this tour gave us information like “there’s a softball field on your left” and “on your right is a public gym.” Ok fine, but that’s not really our cup of tea.
Luckily, our tour bus did take us to a few cool sights where we were able to get out and walk around, which we might have otherwise missed. First, we stopped at “El Parque de los Pies Descalzos” or Barefoot Park, a zen-inspired public park where you are encouraged to take off your shoes and feel the energy of the planet.
While the material on the ground looks like sand, it’s actually small pebbles that sort of massage your feet as you walk around. I loved the idea of reconnecting with the energy of the planet, and thought this little park was a lot of fun. Apparently on weekends it gets really full with families and groups who want to enjoy the park, and they even read poetry in the bamboo garden in the background, which is nicknamed “lover’s garden.”
The park also features two water basins where you can rinse your feet off afterwords.
If I am remembering correctly, our tour guide said these pools are meant for socializing, sort of like in ancient Roman times!
It was sort of like a spa, and we had a nice time wiggling our toes around in the jets. 🙂
Next, our bus took us to “Pueblito Paisa,” a replica of what little towns looked like when Medellin was first colonized. The little town is located on the top of Nutibarra Hill, which offers beautiful views of the city.
We took our time wandering around and enjoying the views.
Unfortunately it was pretty hazy out so it was difficult to see too far, but this would have been absolutely amazing on a clear day!
After that, our tour bus dropped us off at the Botero Plaza where we enjoyed taking a look at the famous statues from Botero, the famous Colombian artist. The plaza itself was beautiful!
The statues from Botero were definitely interesting, as he had a unique perspective on the human body. 😉
We loved this one that reminded us of Jack!
When we were done checking out the sculptures, we walked around an area known as “the hole” because there are shops and vendors for as far as the eye can see and it can be difficult to escape! I know the guys felt like we were stuck in a hole as all us ladies checked out the shops. 😉
I also really enjoyed checking out the street vendors selling fruit! There were so many different kinds that I had never seen before.
Next we enjoyed a quick lunch of grilled chicken, salad, and rice, before moving on to our next activity of the day: a cable car ride up the mountain!
The metro in Medellin runs North to South through the city, but a lot of the poorer population lives East to West up the mountains. The government of Medellin recently built public cable cars to transport these people up the mountains, so they wouldn’t have to climb tons of stairs (taking up to two hours) to get home. Medellin even won an innovation award for this recently, and we could see why. This free public transportation was awesome!
Not only did the cable car ride give us awesome views of the mountains and the city, but we were able to get a real glimpse into the lives of some of the poorer people in this city.
One of my favorite parts of traveling is learning about new cultures and experiencing how others live, and having a bird’s eye view into these types of homes that we would never have seen otherwise was absolutely fascinating.
It certainly made me appreciate all the comforts of my own home, and I left feeling incredibly grateful for the life that I have in the states.
Our final adventure of the day (we seriously crammed a lot in!) was visiting Fabio’s great aunt, Tia Berta, in the charming town of La Estrella on the other end of the city. I wonder if people ever get tired of these mountain views?
La Estrella was a quaint little town with a church in the middle and a town square surrounded by little cafes and shops. It reminded me a lot of Europe!
From the town square we walked a couple of blocks to where Fabio’s great aunt lives. Fabio’s grandfather grew up in this town too! I thought it was adorable.
Almost as adorable as Tia Berta, who wouldn’t let go of Fabio’s arm. She even said she was going to steal him and keep him for herself! Haha! She was a hoot.
We had a really nice time visiting Tia Berta, and I know it meant a lot to her that we stopped by to see her. 🙂
Before long though, it was time to say our goodbyes! Ciao!
After that we headed back to the house for a quick dinner before venturing out for the evening.
Most of the time when we went out in Medellin, we headed to El Poblado, a neighborhood that caters to tourists and young adults. The area surrounding Parque Lleras in El Poblado had tons of awesome restaurants and bars, including a fun beer garden-esque spot called 37 Park.
We spent our first evening in the city here and had a great time sipping mojitos and hanging out with Fabio’s cousins who are all close in age to us.
We also went out in Medellin a couple of other nights, and since those evenings don’t really fit in with any of my other recaps (which will mostly highlight day trips outside the city) I’ll share the photos here. Everywhere we went was so fun!
I’m so grateful that we had Fabio’s awesome family to take us out and show us a fun time. 🙂
Up next on my recaps, a tour of a coffee plantation!
Question of the day: What’s the most eye-opening thing you’ve seen while traveling?