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Travel: Feasting eyes on Botero’s Medellín in Colombia

We happened to be in Medellín, Colombia, to welcome the New Year of 2015, during our first visit to Colombia and Ecuador.

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Medellín is south of Bogota and is Colombia’s second-largest city.

Our hotel, Prada 61, was north of the centre of town. This neighbourhood, also called Prada, did not seem to be the safest, nor did the streets just outside our hotel at night.

The first morning we walked to the Botanical Gardens, which was relaxing. We visited the butterflies held in an enclosed space, but few opened their wings for us or our cameras.

We took the above-ground metro, clean and fast, across the city to the El Poblado neighbourhood, very upscale with lots of restaurants and boutiques. We discovered an excellent vegetarian restaurant, Verdeo, which was listed in our
Colombia guid book, and had delicious organic tomato soup and salads.

We spent a couple of hours wandering around and met two brothers who told us what we should see. We took their first recommendation and grabbed a cab to the Publito Paisa, a miniature colonial town, very Disneylandish, with a colourful show of Christmas decorations that are lit up after dark. It’s at the top of a hill and from all around you can view the cityscapes.

Medellín is like no city we’ve ever experienced because of the way it’s built on hilltops that cascade toward the valley in the centre. From almost anywhere you can see these hills and it’s especially beautiful at night.

The colourfully lit decorations for the season were everywhere. From Publito Paisa, we got directions to the nearest crêpes-and-waffles restaurant, our favourite, which we discovered in Bogota. It was in a huge complex called Premiere Plaza, which is a beautiful mall— if such a thing is possible—of three floors with views of the city.

Colombia is more sophisticated and advanced in some ways than Canada and the U.S. For example in the washroom, there is a cubicle for families with a tiny toilet for children.

People everywhere were incredibly friendly and patient with us when we asked questions. One young woman wanted to know if I spoke English, after I asked her which direction we should walk in to see the neighbourhood of El Problato.

The inside of Prada 61 was beautiful. The first night we arrived at 10 by taxi from the airport and our hosts made us dinner in the little hotel restaurant. We both had their cream of tomato soup. Irwin had the filet mignon, a small but very tender piece with salad. I had pasta with cheese, asparagus and mushroom sauce without the pasta.

We met an interesting American woman staying at the hotel who was planning on buying a condo in Medellín, but who told us she was having a lot of trouble with the bureaucratic process of visiting potential condos. She had already been staying at the hotel for a couple of months.

The second day we had lunch at yet another vegetarian restaurant in a lovely area of Medellín in El Probado: Govinda’s veggie buffet filled us up for a total of $9 for both of us.

We spent hours wandering around in central Medellín on December 31 watching thousands of people get ready for New Year’s Eve. That was exhausting!We couldn’t get into the Botero Museum on the square because it was closing early, but the sculptures kept us happy as we marveled at Botero’s genius and chutzpah for creating these massive creatures.

For New Year’s we hunkered down in our hotel with our flat-screen TV, venturing downstairs to have a quiet dinner and then back to our room to watch the New Year’s festivities on TV.

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