Semana Uribe: Fall Break: Medellín

Posted on 23/10/2012


I know I have lots to update on, but I’d like to start with what’s most fresh on my mind: my recent fall break trip to the beautiful city of Medellín. Fall break is sort of a new thing here, by the way. It started under the presidency of Alvaro Uribe who declared the second weekend in October a break for schools–both private and public. Some schools take advantage of this time and make these days teacher training days, but I am lucky enough to work at a place that knows that value of a good break and closes during these days. For those of us who work at la Univerisidad del Norte, the break started at 12pm on Wednesday, October 10 and didn’t end until Tuesday, October 16 (the first day back to work).

(view of Medellín)

I know we travelled to Medellín not too long ago (Paisaville), but it was a VERY short trip and mainly a work trip for me. Since we have good friends in Medellín, the weather is terrific, and the city warm and inviting, we decided to go back for fall break. Coincidently, 3 of my co-workers from the university also made Medellín their fall break destination, making Thursday and Friday a real UniNorte party in Medellín!

After a delayed flight due to a hail storm in Bogotá, we safely arrived to Medellín around 10pm on Wednesday evening. We were pretty tired, so after our friends Marcela and Andres picked us up from the taxi stand, we hit the sack upon arriving to their apartment. Thursday, we met up with my co-workers and friends Kendra and Rob (both from Kansas) and headed out to some tourist spots in the city. Stop #1: Jardín Botánico (Botanical Gardens). The botanical gardens in Medellín were nice. It’s free to enter, it’s a nice break from the hectic environment and chaos of the city, and it’s got some cool plants; however, I was expecting a bit more. Because Antioquia, the department in which Medellín is located, is famous for being the epicenter of the production of Colombian flowers for export and also a hotbed for orchid growth, I was expecting to see more of these types of flowers. While there were several orchids, they were not well placed and the variety was a bit lacking. We were told by Marcela and Andres, though, that during the  Fería de Flores (a famous festival of flowers that takes place in Medellín every August) the botanical gardens are full of incredible expositions of flowers for export, orchids, and all sorts of prized exotic plants. Being the flowers and plant lover I am, I am thinking attending la Fería de las Flores will be on my list of things to do in 2013.

(cool gecko we saw in the botanical gardens)

Post- botanical gardens, we headed for lunch at las Palmitas. I have to say, this restaurant that overlooks the city has some pretty incredible food. We all ate typical Paisa dishes: cazuela de frijol (sort of like a bean soup, but better) and bandeja paisa. I have tried many cazuela de frijols and I am pretty sure this was the best one I have had yet. In fact, all of this food was delicious it sent us into a food coma for 1/2 an hour–literally, we napped on the restaurant sofas. Crazy gringos.

(Rob and Kendra with their bandeja paisa)

(me and Ele with our cazuelas de frijol)

After our nap, we headed down to el Museo de Antioquia–a museum that houses all types of art work ranging from a famous collection of Botero’s paintings and sculptures to a unique collection of Colombian modern art, and a decent collection of various paintings and sculptures from around the world. I have to say, I was impressed with the collection of modern art the museum has. Having been to several modern art museums around the world, the collection is decent and showcases the creativity and artistic talent of Colombian artists.

(in Parque Botero)

(my favorite piece from Museo de Antioquia)

Before heading into the museum, we scoped out Parque Botero–a park infront of the museum that is home to about 10 Botero sculptures. If you don’t know who Botero is, he is a famous Colombian painter and sculpture from Medellín. He is characterized for making things “chubby.” For more info go here: I, for one, and am a fan of his work!

After a good dose of tourism, we ended our evening at our friend Monica’s apartment for some serious catch up time over arepas and quesito.

Friday was insane, but lots of fun. We headed out early morning to meet up with my co-workers, Rob, Kendra, and Matt for a trip up the mountain to Parque Arví. Parque Arví is a huge swatch of land that has been converted into a conservation zone. It is located on the outskirts of Medellín, close to the small town of Santa Elena. The park will eventually have 6 different zones that people can visit, but for the time being there are only 3 zones open to the public. There is also the option of hiking tours that range between 1.5hr and 4 hrs. We chose to go to a zone that is run by Comfenalco that offers various options: ziplines, butterfly house, insect museum, boating on the lake, light hiking, and a green house. No matter which zone you choose to visit, you will initially arrive to the main entrance of the park, where staff will explain the various zones and tell you what transport you need to take to get there. In our case, we got to ride in a chiva, a typical and “antique” way of travel in small towns in the coffee region of Colombia. Overall, Parque Arví was a lot of fun–I got to eat some amazing blackberries, did my first zipline, and saw some incredible transparent butterflies.

(about to do the zipline)

(getting on the chiva)

Coming back down to Medellín from Parque Arví, we encountered a heavy rain storm. Due to this storm, the MetroCable (the easiest and safest way to get down the mountain) was closed. After running through rain for a few minutes, Ele made the executive decision to hop on a local buseta that would leave us at a Metro stop in the city… What a trip!

Once in the city, Kendra & I headed for the mall, el Tesoro, while the guys and Ele went to watch the Colombia vs. Paraguay game in Parque Lleras– a hip park area surrounded by lots of neat bars and restaurants. Later in the evening,  our friends Marcela and Andres picked us up and took us to have Mexican food at a a place called Milagros. What a perfect way to end the evening. The food was incredible and the quality of the company hard to beat 😉

(dinner with Marcela and Andres)


Saturday was a bit of a relaxing day. Our first stop was the Museum of Modern Art of Medellín. While the gift shop had some neat trinkets, the actual museum was not that impressive. The museum can only hold one exhibit at a time, and has no permanent collection. The exhibit on when we went was interesting, but I don’t know if it was worth the 7,000 COP we paid to get in ($3.50 USD). The price you pay to get in, by the way, is voluntary–you decide how much you would like to donate. It is worth mentioning, though, that there is a semi-exhibit located around the museum, where poster-sized versions of work previously on display inside the museum can be seen, as well as a wall of some pretty impressive graffiti that is located infront of the museum restaurant. The work displayed outside right now is that of Catalina Estrada, a collection I would have gladly paid 7,000COP to see. In other words, if you plan to check out MAMM check the current exhibit on their website first.

(graffiti infront of MAMM)

After our quick stroll through the MAMM, We went to eat a restaraunt that Ele really likes called Mondong, that sells–you guessed it–Mondongo (a traditional soup from this area of Colombia). After a good lunch, Marcela took us to Museo el Castillo–a castle. That’s right, a real castle in the middle of Medellín, Colombia. I never thought I would see a real castle in Colombia. However, this one is pretty impressive. It was built in the early 1900s by a Colombian and his German wife. Their intention was always to leave the castle to the public in the form of a museum that would showcase their admirable collection of furniture, art, scupltures, ceramics, dishes, etc… from both colonial Colombia and Europe. Walking through the castle, it was hard not to think about, be reminded of, and miss my great-grandmother (Betty Jo Jones) and all the amazing things she had collected and displayed in her house from her time in Europe and Asia. If you knew my great-grandmother and had been to her house, you would know what I am talking about 🙂 Anyway, if you’re in Medellín, I definitely recommend taking a tour of the castle. Tours start every hour on the hour, and you must be part of a tour; free-roaming is not allowed. Check out the website for more info:

(the front of the castle)

As Colombia is currently in rainy season (there are no “real” seasons here, but there are times of the year when it tends to rain more), the afternoons in Medellín tended to be rainy. Saturday was no exception. So, we decided to head to a mall, SantaFé, to walk around and enjoy a Cinnabon before heading back to Andres and Marcela’s apartment for a homecooked meal and movie night.

Our last day in Medellín (Sunday), was spent with Marcela, Andres, Marcela’s mom, Marcela’s aunt, and Marcela’s nephew. Just a sidenote, I really like spending time with families here, whether it be Marcela’s family, Ele’s family, etc… because, although I miss my family VERY much, being in a family atmosphere makes that “family hole” in my heart not feel so big. Before spending the better part of the day in Rionegro and Llanogrande, we went to the Medellín sports complex to watch Andres swim and check out the facilities. What an incredible facility! They have amazing pools, basketball courts, gymnastic areas, volleyball courts, and lots more. I am envious of these facilities and sad that we don’t have something similar in Barranquilla. Ironically, the quality and quantity of public swimming facilities is small and hard to come by here in Barranquilla.

(the pools I wish we had in Barranquilla)

After some delicious fried goods were eaten outside the sports complext, we headed to Llanogradne and spent several hours at Marcela’s aunt’s finca, a smallhouse or “farm” in the countryside. I aspire to, one day, have a finca like Marcela’s aunt with a few farm animals, a nice garden, and quaint house. After some warm tintos (black coffee) to warm us up (it’s pretty chilly in Llanogrande), we headed to a small town called San Antonio to listen to some live and typical music from Antioquia. What a fun night we had listening to music and eating freshly fried empanadas.

(Feeding the rooster at the finca)

We had such a great time in Medellín!!! The only complaint I have about the whole trip has to do with a beautiful and spectacular orchid I bought and named Pequitas. What a beauty she was–she made me think of my mamaw (Susan Reeves) who loves orchids. We bought her during our trip to Llanogrande on Sunday and I immediately fell in love with her–yes, I believe you can fall in love with plants. When we got to the airport on Sunday, we asked Avianca assistants if I would have trouble flying with her. They told us, “no,” and my worries were gone… until we went through security. Security told me that to fly with a plant with roots, I would have to get a permission form from the Botanical Society of Antioquia. How was I supposed to do this? Well, they have an office in the airport, but because Monday was a holiday they were not open… Meaning, Pequitas would be unable to fly to Barranquilla with me. Frustrated and sad, I walked back out of security. I scoped out the people in the corridor and saw a family saying goodbye. I went up to the older lady in the family and asked her if she liked orchids. A big smile came across her face and she told that she loved them. I quickly explained my situation with Pequitas, and asked her if she would like to have her. She told me she would love to take her, and that she would take good care of her. As sad as I was to leave behind Pequitas, I am happy that she will be in the hands of someone that will love her.

So, other than losing Pequitas, a break in Medellín was just what I needed before diving into the last few weeks of fall semester! And, as much as I love living on the coast, everytime I visit, Medellín conquers a bigger piece of my Colombian soul…

¡Hasta pronto, querida Medellín!

Posted in: Colombia, Travels