Monday, March 24, 2008

Medellin, Columbia

Sue and Roy Potter on “Vindomar”, not long after our meeting, joined forces with us to spend five days in the interior of Columbia together. This was too short a time for our itinerery. We should have allowed at least a week or ten days. We flew Avianca round trip for $150 each. There are numerous flights to Medellin and this was the cheapest fare. We flew through Bogata, which is at least 3000 feet higher than Medellin, and was really quite cool hurrying from one gate to another, I could feel the thinner air. Medellin is at 1500 meters and very comfortable. The temperature was 80 degrees at mid day and cool enough later or early in the morning to need a light jacket.

There are two airports in Medellin – the regional one Herrera, almost in town and the International Cordovada Rionegro, which is 50 kilometers away from Medellin. A taxi costs 48,000 pesos and takes about 45 minutes depending on traffic. You can take a bus for 6,000 pesos (right outside the arrivals) and then a local taxi to your hotel. The local taxis are on meters and generally very inexpensive.
We made a reservation over the internet at the Poblado Plaza Hotel (part of the Estelar group, Carrera 43A No. 4 Sur – 75, Tel 268-5555 Fax 268-6949 email ), a four star hotel in the Poblado district (the original settlement location in the 1600s and now the fancier neighborhood) and paid 206,000 pesos a night per room (this was listed as a holiday special with the normal price being twice that). The rooms were very attractive with elegant linens, the buffet breakfast was enormous (and included) and the staff very helpful. Someone always spoke English at the front desk. There is a pretty rooftop exercise room/hot tub/sauna/reading room – no pool. There were a lot of hotels in Poblado and also downtown at all ranges so checking online or in a guide book should give you a big choice.
There is a great subway system in Medellin with 25 stations, Line A has 22 kilometers of track and Line B has 8. Subway is a misnomer as it is above ground but the modern attractive stations feel very safe. We walked down to the nearest station and took it downtown (one way 1,400 pesos) and walked around for the afternoon. We really enjoyed the Parque de Berrio with its charming statues by Fernando Botero (two examples are shown above, that's Roy with me at one). Botero is an internationally known sculptor and painter and he has given a big selection of his work to Medellin. Around 20 sculptures are set around the pretty park and much more can be seen in the Museum de Antioquia which faces it.
Also on the parque is the Palacio de la Cultura Rafael Urib (shown behind the statue at the top), a baroque fantastic building, once the home of the government offices and now housing a variety of cultural events. We enjoyed a show by a young modern artist there. Medellin spends more money on art and culture than most cities and sponsors its’ young artists shows. Public art is everywhere - and sometimes quite amusing as you can see from the group of unusual manniquins posed on a balconey downtown! Next was the Antiguo Palacio Nacional, once a government building and now a big shopping center but with fun architecture both inside and out. (that's a shot of the interior on the right)
Also nearby are several old churches, the Iglesia de la Veracruz (the oldest church still in use) and the Basilica de Nuesta Senora
del la Candelaria, a colonial style church built in 1781. We had a big lunch at one of the Pollo restaurants that abound in Columbia. A huge plate of roasted chicken, potatoes, cole slaw, rice and arepas with drinks was about 10,000 pesos. Later we sat in a café overlooking the square and drank a beer while watching the incredibly busy scene. Everyone seems to be in a hurry in Medellin, at least during the work day. A comparison with NYC would not be out of place. Recycling is easy here as well as you can see from the photo of the three trash options here.

The next morning, after a huge breakfast, we took a taxi to the Cerro Nutibana. This is a small mountain right in the center of town with a miniature typical village on top and some good views of the city and the surrounding mountains. We walked around the park as well then took a taxi to the nearest subway stop. Our goal was the Fundacion Jardin Botanico Joaquim Antonio Uribe (what a mouthful), a really beautiful park at the University stop on the subway and the subject of my next entry.

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