Throwback Thursday: A Slice of Culture

Now that we’re sitting in Indiantown Marina and it’s obvious that we’re going to be here for quite a long time while we fix up Daze Off to sail, I don’t want to bore you with stories that are only related to boat work (but don’t worry, they’re still coming).   I know that’s what some of you crave, but if you’re like me, you also need a little fun in there.  A little travel and a little adventure.

So for the foreseeable future while we are doing nothing much more than boat work I will be adding a Throwback Thursday post in every week as well.  Cataloging our trip so far, giving you that needed sense of travel and adventure, and for those of you that haven’t started with us from the beginning, catch you up on some of the most important or memorable parts of our travels.

After leaving Peru for our next backpacking stop of Colombia, we spent our time in two of it’s major cities before having to fly back to Guatemala where Serendipity was awaiting.  There was still plenty to keep our plates full though.  From our 54 hour bus ride between Colombia and Peru where we took on armed guards to protects us against gurillas that had robbed the two buses ahead of us, to a drunken night wandering the streets of Bogota while meeting up with one of our backpacking friends from Peru.  We enjoyed Botota for a few days although Matt had come down with terrible food poisoning that left him sick in our hostel for 3 days straight.

After Bogota we bused it to the town of Medeillin, known for being the city of eternal summer and also fostering ex-drug lord Pablo Escobar.  We tried to take in as many of the sights as possible by riding the cable cars high above the town and visiting the botanical gardens and checking out the Botero Sculpture Park in the heart of town.  It seems like our backpacking adventure through South America passed us by way to fast, but we still have a million memories from our time there.  Plus if given the chance, I know we’d be back in a heartbeat.

You can find the original post here.

Wednesday September 18, 2013

9.18.13

It was kind of nice having a forced hiatus from backpacking for just a few days. A little time away from the past few weeks of sightseeing, activities, and even the drinking. But after 48 hours of watching reruns of Friends and The Big Bang Theory (those were the only shows offered in English), we realized we needed to get out. The unsavory tablets were working well enough on Matt’s stomach that we thought we might be able to get him out of the hostel for just a few hours. The destination for the day? The historic center of Bogota.

Armed with our over-sized map once more, we stepped onto a collectivo that we were sure would take us at least close to the area we wanted to go this time, with plans to abort if necessary. ‘Ok, we need to stay on Calle 7 until we get to Carrera 13. If the bus diverts past Calle 10, we get off.’ The good thing about the streets here is they are all ascending numbers of Calles and Carreras, so you’re always relatively sure of how far away you are from something. When we did incidentally have to get off at Calle 10, we knew it was only three blocks down back to where we wanted to be on 7. No Martin Luther King Blvds to get lost on here.

My main goal for the day was soley to see the church in the large city square, but as we got off the bus the sky became overcast and a light drizzle fell on us and I didn’t know how long we’d want to be outside for. We have not had one sunny day in Bogota yet and even though we are surrounded by all the modern buildings that both of us had been slightly yearning for since we left the states, I was momentarily left yearning for the sunny beaches and good friends we left in Mancora. But ever since the salad there made Matt sick, the place gets a big black X in his book. He should have listened to me when I told him to get the ceviche…

Upon entering the square we were greeted with about a hundred rickshaws that seemed to be having some kind of protest or rally. Again, because of the language barrier, they could have been there to celebrate Larry’s 50th birthday and I would have had no way of knowing. We tried wandering around the square for a bit while appreciating the architecture, but the rickshaw drivers also had horns they would not stop blowing. Apparently they were very excited about Larry’s 50th. After close to 15 minutes of this we left for quieter side streets.

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Even though we had the luxury of sitting around for the past two days with constant internet access, I had not done much research on the area and so we just walked up and down each street unsure of what we would find. The rain was continuing on and off, and during one rainy session we ducked into an art museum. The art here was focusing mostly on a Colombian artist, Botero, who I had not been familiar with but whom Matt told me was very famous. I guess he had a thing for drawing and painting very voluptuous people. Room after room there were paintings and sketches in this style, and a large focus was on nude women at the beach or in bed, or sometimes, even in the kitchen. I think Sir Mix-a-Lot would have been very impressed.

There were prints from other famous artists as well, and some of our time was also spent enjoying the works of Picasso, Monet, Van Gogh, and Chagall. Which are always nice to admire because, as Julia Robert’s character says in Notting Hill, “Happiness isn’t happiness without a violin playing goat”.

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 We tried our hands at one more museum as well, one on the history of Colombia and Bogota, but everything was in Spanish. Most of it was more than my basic knowledge could piece together and soon it just became annoying trying to figure out what each item meant. I think a grand total of 15 minutes was spent in that museum. The staff may have thought that we’d gotten ourselves lost since we wandered back by the entrance so quickly, trying to point us back to where the exhibits, and us trying to motion that, no, we wanted to leave. At least I got a few cool postcards with the entrance fee. You can expect to get it in about three months Huong!

Having completed a giant circle of the area, we ended up back in the main square where most of the rickshaw drivers had finally departed. And I was hoping to get back there in time for cake….

Taking one more turn down a side street that would point us in the direction of our hostel, even though there was no way we would be walking the 60 blocks back, we knew it was our last day in Bogota and wanted to see as much as we could. The rain had other plans for us though. At this point we were wet, we were cold, and we were hungry. That is exactly when we saw the golden arches of McDonald’s shine down on us like a beacon. And I was finally able to get my Mc Whopper. I mean, Big Mac.

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 They have llamas!!

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Random Images from Botero Sculpture Park

Tuesday September 24, 2013

Botero Sculpture Park Medellin Colombia

It turns out that some bad food did get the better of us our last few days here in Medellin.  Not bad enough to leave us doubled over with stomach cramps or never leaving a bathroom out of sight, but enough that we’ve been content to sit around the hostel for most of the day.  It’s really been more of an energy zapper than anything.  Isn’t it fun being sick on vacation?

We did force ourselves to get out one more time though, however short the trip was, to visit the Botero Sculpture Park.  This is the same artist that I mentioned that we’d seen a lot of his works back in Bogota.  This sculpture park has 23 works of art displayed by renowned Medellin artist Fernando Botero, and here are a few random images from our time wandering through them.

Botero Sculpture Park Medellin Colombia

Botero Sculpture Park Medellin Colombia

Botero Sculpture Park Medellin Colombia

Botero Sculpture Park Medellin Colombia

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Botero Sculpture Park Medellin Colombia

 

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Don’t Envy the Envigado

Monday September 23, 2013

Parque Envigado, Medellin, Colombia

I feel like our Medellin sightseeing fails keep coming one after another. I’m sure there’s a ton of amazing things to see around here, we just keeping missing out on them. Even if we think we’re looking in the right place.

Take yesterday for example. After having spent Saturday at the mall, I was determined to make it out to a desireable sightseeing place. I landed on the botanical gardens of Medellin. How could you go wrong there? Well, in all honesty, we had been shooting for the amusement park across the road, only to realize once we had gotten there that Matt’s stomach is still only at about 60% and probably couldn’t handle most of the rides. We happened upon the gardens as we decided to walk the surrounding area. Admission was free and it was a lovely Sunday afternoon, and I couldn’t help thinking to myself, ‘Yes, you got it right this time’.

Only we found out, that about 50% of the place had been taken over by a book fair. And it was packed. You couldn’t stand in one spot without getting stampeded, and we kept losing each other in the crowd as we searched through the maze of stands to find a way out. Luckily we eventually did find an exit, which led us out to the food booths. This was much more our style. We spent a good 30 minutes wandering from stand to stand to see what each one offered, and landed on chicken kabobs drizzled in BBQ sauce with sides of salad and little fried potato balls. It was delicious, but I did start to worry when I noticed that the center pieces of my chicken were still uncooked and raw. Not just pink, but bordering on purple.

From there we wandered the grounds of the botanical garden a little more, but didn’t see anything that was too botanical. What it felt like, was ‘Central Park Medellin’, a nice grassy spot enveloped in trees, right in the middle of the city. A perfect place to come with a picnic, place a blanket on the ground, and read a good book or talk to friends and family. Which is what almost every other person there besides us was doing. After doing a loop of the place we decided that it might be a good spot to come back to later with a blanket and a book, but we were done with it for the day.

Not quite ready to go back to the hostel just yet we walked the main streets by where the metro had let us out and found there was a large planetarium and little pools outside with hundreds of kids playing. We took seats on the ground back by most of the parents, and watched as little kids ran around in their underwear, shooting squirt guns at each other, blowing bubbles, or even engaging in a game of soccer. It was almost as fun just to watch the kids having their fun, and we stayed planted in our spot for a good hour until the sun was getting low enough that we realized we didn’t want a walk back from the metro in the dark.

into the mist

Planetarium Medellin Colombia

Planetarium Medellin Colombia

Now that I think about it, yesterday wasn’t too bad. We didn’t get the kind of sightseeing we had expected from the gardens, but we still had a good time nonetheless. I guess the bigger disappointment in sightseeing would have been today. Since Matt is usually the one to plan all our destinations while sailing, this whole South American trip was left up to me. What cities we would see, what we would do while we’re there, and even what places we would stay in. Matt wanted no part in the planning, a break from his usual routing.

So once again I scoured the internet for things to do in Medellin and cross referenced it against the information I had gotten out of the information book at the first hostel we stayed in. Oh, did I mention we moved? Our last one was too crowded, too loud, and too expensive for what we were getting in return. Instead we moved about two blocks over to a nice little hostel at the end of a road with much more updated amenities and a small pool on the roof. We were even able to spring for a private room, which has been so worthwhile for unwinding at the end of each day. We swing past the mini mart right across the street on our way back in for the night, grab a Mt. Dew for Matt, a beer for me, and spend the evenings in peace on our computer or watching a movie. As far as making friends with the other backpackers, we’ve tried a few times and have actually chatted a few people up when we’re hanging out near the pool, but it’s impossible to see any of them after 8 pm unless you plan on spending the night out at various bars until 2 am. We have neither the cash or the energy for that.

Anyway, back to the subject. I was trying to research fun things for us to do in Medellin and I kept coming across this place called Envigado, the new ‘up and coming neighborhood’. Every time I searched images it showed a great looking town square and mentioned all the nice shops and restaurants surrounding it. Sounded enticing enough. When I found that the metro went there and it was only a couple blocks of walking up to the town square I figured it would be a great way to spend an afternoon.

I was very wrong.  Possibly only because I had high expectations in my head, but other than the one block that housed Parque Envigado, it did not look very appealing.  If this was supposed to be the next up and coming neighborhood after Poblado, where we are staying, then it does not look like it going to be coming for a long, long time.  In Poblado we’re surrounded by modern shops, restaurants, cafes, parks.  It’s the perfect spot for tourist like us to be in.  From what we say of Envigado though, it looks a little worn down, and with tienda style concrete stores that fill the streets of Fronteras back home.

We really did try to make the most of it while we were there.  After having made our way to the park where we sat and enjoyed the beauty of the trees and the church for awhile, we took to wandering the streets.  We even planned on having lunch at a nice place, if we ever came across one.  After going far and wide and poking our heads into places that made us think we were back in Guatemala, we decided to call defeat and head back to Poblado.  I think the effects of the raw chicken at the botanical garden were starting to take effect, and I didn’t want to add any more random street food to problems that were already started in my stomach.  No, I think it needs the cheesy goodness of Domino’s Pizza.  I think we’ll swing by there on the way back to the hostel.  I’ll just have to remember not to remind Matt that he saw them rolling dough on the metal pizza box holders on the back of their motorbikes when we were dining at the Mexican restaurant next to it the other night.

Matt in Parque Envigado

Parque Envigon

Parque Envigado

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Santa Fe Mall

Saturday September 21, 2013

maze at Santa Fe Mall Medellin Colombia

Last night I had a little free time on my hands as Matt hijacked my computer away from me, getting into an in-depth conversation with our friend Ren about boats on the market, using my Facebook page to communicate since he refuses to get his own.  (The only person I ever want to talk to is you, stands his reasoning).  So I sat at the table in our hostel with Spanish music videos blaring in the background behind me, with not much else to do.  Stealing a glance behind me to the receptionist table, I spied a binder which held information about Medellin in general and things to do here.  Finally being able to match up activities written on the chalkboard with their detailed description in the book, I flipped through pages as I looked at things like the Pablo Escobar tour (complete with a tour inside of his old house, given by his brother), the Barefoot Park,  Botanical Gardens, Santa Fe Mall, Guatape Lakes and Pueblito Paisa.

I have no idea how or why I landed on this, but when Matt asked me what I wanted to do today, I replied “Go to the Santa Fe Mall”.  Don’t ask me what made me decided to spend one of our traveling days going to a mall, I probably still couldn’t answer you on that one.  Worst.Sightseers.Ever.  I think it had to do with the girl we rode the cable car back with yesterday that would not stop talking about it.  So we once again wrote down detailed directions on a little notebook, and walked about the mile and a half to get there.

I have to say, if I were interested in malls, this would be the place to be.  It’s about 4 stories high, and filled with hundreds of stores, ranging from Aeropostle to Chanel.  It actually kind of reminds me of the snooty one we stopped at in Palm Beach just before we went to the Bahamas.  This mall was made special though, made by the fact that it was an open air mall.  Kind of like the football stadiums that have domes which retract, this mall had a ceiling that retracts.  And if it’s built in the City of Eternal Spring, then why not?

Santa Fe Mall Medellin Colombia

 In the middle of the mall, they also have this giant maze, which actually would be kind of cool if you had kids to take through it.  Now that I look back on it, we should have gone through it even though we don’t have kids.  Damn it, why didn’t I realize this earlier?!

maze at Santa Fe Mall Medellin Colombia

 It took all of 30 minutes of walking around before I realized what a mistake it was to waste a day by going there.  We didn’t need anything.  We couldn’t buy it anyway.  When I asked Matt why he agreed to go after I suggested it he goes “Because you wanted to go.  And my baby always gets what she wants”*.  Awww.  But seriously honey, you should have known better.  Next time, just shake me out of it.

There was only one entertaining part at the mall, and that was where we were wandering through the food court up on the 4th floor.  Matt is, well, pretty deathly afraid of heights.  What he didn’t realize himself is that a narrow walkway we were using to get from one side of the mall to the other was made out of opaque glass.  Which, half way across, I felt the cruel need to mention it to him.  “Hey Matt”, I casually mentioned, “You should look down”.  And as soon as he could see the remaining three floors below him just past his feet, he stopped dead in his tracks.  He literally had to close his eyes while I guided him the rest of the way across.  I’m sure there was something I was getting back at him for, I can’t really be that mean, can I?

By the way, the food court did happen to have an outdoor seating area which afforded some pretty great views of the city.

outdoor eating area Santa Fe Mall Medellin Colombia

 When we got back to our hostel that evening, we found them gearing up to throw a large party.  It was Saturday night, so a party at a hostel didn’t seem unusual, but all the heart shaped balloons and red and white decorations did.  That’s when we found out that Colombia has a holiday called ‘Love and Friendship Day’.  It’s kind of like our Valentine’s Day (which is also celebrated there), but instead of just showing appreciation for lovers, you show it for your friends on this day as well.

This is how one article describes it.  “Colombians celebrate Love and Friendship Day by sending both their friends and boyfriends/girlfriends cards, similar to the way Valentine’s Day is celebrated in other countries. [But] As opposed to Valentine’s Day, Love and Friendship Day always ends with a group of friends out partying, dancing and drinking all night.”

We thought it was sweet of our hostel to be celebrating a holiday like this.  We should have known better.  It’s a hostel.  No one there is part of a couple (unless you’re us).  Our hostel was celebrating an ‘Anti Love and Friendship Day’.  It’s then that I realized all the balloons were painted with the words ‘Love Sucks’.  Kind of makes one all gooey inside seeing how much effort they put into their anti-holiday party.  Being the only resident couple there, we stayed away for the most part, although I did have a few glasses of complimentary sangria pushed my way when I went downstairs to the bar to grab a beer for their 2×1 happy hour special.  I guess Anti-Love and Friendship Day isn’t that bad.

Love Sucks party at Tiger Paw Hostel

Love Sucks Party at Tiger's Paw Hostel

Love Sucks party at Tigers Paw Hostel

 

 

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The Metro-Cable of Medellin

Friday September 20, 2013

metro-cable Medellin

As much as we would have liked to stay in Bogota a little longer, explore the city more, and most of all, go out with Nicholas and Diana again, we decided that five days there was enough and if we didn’t start moving toward Medellin, we might never get there. We had spent one more full day on a bus, from around 9:00 am to 8:00 at night, but this time I planned ahead. I went with the deluxe class that had personal tv screens for each person, and wireless internet access whenever the bus was passing through an area that celluar access was available. I consider the $10 extra for the both of us well worth the upgrade.

After stepping of the bus in Medellin we were pleasantly surprised in two ways. One was that the ‘City of Eternal Spring’ was true to it’s name. Even at night the air was warm with the promise that I might have the chance to slip into shorts and a t-shirt once more on this journey. The other pleasant surprise, is that at a concession stand they were selling Mt. Dew. MT. DEW!!! We had been searching for this ever since we’d left the States, and not one country we had been to stocked it in any shelves, restaurants, or soda dispensers. It’s a good thing we have our priorities straight as we travel the world.

With five full days to spend here in Medellin before our plane departs on the 25th, there is only one sight to see here that’s kind of an absolute must. It’s not the tour of Pablo Escobar’s home, although that’s a pretty popular one too. No, we were on a mission to find and ride the cable cars. These are a gondola lift system with the purpose of reaching some of the underdeveloped suburban areas of the city. They extend far into the hills of Medellin and allow cheap sources of travel to the more impoverished citizens of the city. There are multiple lines of the cable cars, and we obviously chose the tourist one.

Again, we were only going on basic knowledge that we found online that gave directions of taking the metro to a certain line, and riding it to the top to a place called Arvi for some a nice spot to wander around. Not wanting to bother with cab drivers again, we made a list of very detailed instructions on a piece of paper getting ourselves from the hostel to the metro, and to the stop where we could board the cable cars. We surprisingly managed to do both just fine and before we knew it we were stepping into a cable car with a few others, on our way up the hill.

The views were amazing, and although I wanted to refrain from looking like the eager tourist between the other locals we were sandwiched in between, I couldn’t help myself. The camera was out and I was snapping away, trying not to plaster myself against all four windows while trying to get the best views.

Matt on metro cable Medellin

view from metro-cable Medellin

This happened to be a double line gondola and there was a stop about 2/3rds of the way up the hill/mountain where we had to disembark from one cable car, pay another fee, and ride the other one to Arvi.  We really had no idea about anywhere we were going, we just assumed it would be a quaint little town at the top of the hill with great lookouts plus little shops and restaurants.  In the heat of Medellin I had finally pulled a sundress back out of my bag and was looking forward to a nice afternoon of strolling around in the sun.  But as we got closer to the very top of the hill, there was no end for the cable car in sight.

Instead we got to the top, and then continued on back through a now flat surface.  With views still looking down upon the city there were many fields with lush green rows of produce sitting on top of a soil rich earth.  As the car continued back the landscape turned to forests of pine and deciduous trees.  Did we just get transported back to Michigan?  It almost looked like we had, with the exception of mountains looming in the background.

crops growing over Medellin

cable car heading to Arvi.

 Finally getting dropped off at our destination, we wandered outside into the fresh air only to find that the temperature had dropped about 15 degrees.  Plus, there were no cobblestone streets filled with shops and restaurants.  No, we had just been carried to a type of National Park.  Um, not quite what we had in mind for the day, but sure, let’s see what they’ve got.

entering Arvi Park, Medellin

 We were shortly greeted by a park guide, who only spoke Spanish, but with the help of a translator we found that they gave free tours of the park and there was a young English speaking girl just about to start.  It ended up only being the two of us and her, and with my sundress and flip flops on, I followed the two into the brush.

Throughout the tour, our guide did her best to explain the different plants and trees surrounding us, even though she wasn’t absolutely fluent in English yet.  She did rather well though, and at times it became a game to try and figure out the English word she was trying to translate to us.  Kind of like ‘Taboo: Nature Version’.

orchid in Arvi Park

road through Arvi Park

 I swear I’m back in Michigan..

horses through Arvi Park Medellin

 Oh look, she has on a sundress and sandals too.

Trails through Arvi Park Medellin

 Overall the tour was nice, but I think I would have enjoyed it more had I been wearing the appropriate attire.  Near the end all I wanted to do was get back into the sun because I was shivering and covered in goosebumps.  We thanked our guide, and went to find food at a little restaurant about a half mile down the hill from the cable cars.  Time to add a new beer to my World Beer Tour.  I think I’ll try the Aguila today.

lunch outside Arvi Park Medellin

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