After Costa Rica, Dan and I had planned to spend a few days in Panama City before flying on to Medellín. However, when we were looking at places to stay and researching the cost of food and attractions, we realised that the city was way, way over our budget. Things cost as much there as they do in London! So on the spur of the moment we decided to change our flights out of Panama to a few days earlier, giving us just one night’s layover in Panama City before continuing on to our first stop in Colombia.
We decided to head to Medellín first to visit our friend Al, who has been living there for around 2 years. Fortunately for us, Al’s business partner had planned a three week visit to the UK during the time we were there, so we got to stay in her lovely apartment in Poblado – a popular neighbourhood in the city and top gringo hotspot. It was amazing to have an apartment all to ourselves, and we subsequently spent the first three weeks we were in Medellín watching Netflix, cooking lots of food, occasionally wandering out into Poblado to get coffee, and just generally enjoying being in our own space and not unpacking/repacking our bags every few days.
It didn’t take us long to pick a few favourite coffee spots in Poblado. The first was Hija Mia, a cafe owned by a guy from New Zealand where we sampled our first blue cheese croissants and drank far too many cups of the delicious coffee. Another favourite was Velvet, which not only serves amazing coffee but also accompanies each cup with a tasty little cake – needless to say I was definitely a fan!
As well as coffee, we quickly fell in love with the food in Medellín and regularly indulged in Menu Del Dia – a traditional lunch or dinner in Colombia that consists of a juice drink, soup, and a huge plate of food featuring some sort of meat (usually chicken, chorizo or pork) accompanied by rice, salad, chips, plantain, vegetables or beans, and of course, an arepa. These meals can be found in most traditional Colombian restaurants, and they are always delicious and insanely cheap – most menu del dias we tried were around 8,000 pesos, or roughly £2.50!
Although we would have quite happily devoted our first 3 weeks in Medellín entirely to eating and drinking, we did venture out to do a bit of sightseeing. Our first visit was to the Museo De Antioquia, an art museum that houses an absolutely enormous collection of works by Medellín born artist Fernando Botero – combined with a number of Botero statues dotted around the square outside the museum, this is a must see attraction in Medellín. We also visited the Casa De La Memoria museum, an incredibly moving experience that features personal stories from and the history of the conflict in Colombia. The room of artifacts and momentos from lost loved ones is especially powerful.
On a sunny day we went to check out the Botanical Gardens, which proved interesting mainly because there was actually very little botany to be seen! It’s more of a park than a garden, but it’s still a very pleasant walk, and there is a nice cafe near the entrance that does cheap food and drinks.
Then on 1st May, after a few weeks recharging the batteries, Michelle joined us in Medellín! Having been given a 3 month sabbatical from work, she had decided to join us to travel around Colombia, Ecuador and Peru – and I was delighted (while Dan was slightly horrified) to find out that Michelle had bought a blue version of our Osprey Farpoint 70, so the three of us make up a complete colour set! We’re still waiting for Osprey to contact us about endorsement…
Michelle hit the ground running as we embarked on a very touristy week in Medellín, where we introduced her to all the amazing cafes, bars and menu del dias. We also took a fantastic 4 hour walking tour, where we learned all about the history, culture and people of the city. Best of all, it was totally free! We did our tour with Real City Tours who were absolutely brilliant – we definitely recommend them if you’re ever in Medellín!
Another day we took the metro out to Parque Explora, an enormous interactive museum that features giant model dinosaurs, an aquarium, a reptile and creepy crawly house, and numerous science experiments and exhibitions that would give the London Science Museum a run for its money!
Our final act of sightseeing in Medellín was to ride the famous cable cars up to the barrios high in the mountains on the outskirts of the city. For just 2400 pesos you can go all the way from Poblado to the end of the metro cable and back – provided you do what we did and don’t actually get off the cable car!
At the end of our busy week we were sad to leave Medellín – we really fell in love with the city, and Dan and I are definitely planning to return there to teach English at some point – but also really excited to head out and explore more of Colombia!