Medellin – Comuna 13, Metrocable, Plaza Botero – December 31

The other day at the coffee shop, in addition to arranging to do the coffee/horseback tour, I had found a free graffiti walking tour of the Comuna 13 neighborhood, and had signed up to do it. So, at a little before 10am, I met our blue shirted tour guides (and fellow tourists) and we headed out. Laura gave us some history of the neighborhood (she grew up there), along with information about the symbolism in some of the key paintings that indicate hope and opportunities. Up until just a few years ago, this was not a safe area, so it’s pretty remarkable that now it’s such a welcoming place for tourists. And the escalators provide a great way for residents to commute up and down the hillside (and are reminiscent of the ones I saw in Hong Kong, though it appears that the escalators in Comuna 13 run both directions, all day). In certain areas, there were groups of kids dancing for tips.

Toward the end of our tour, the English and Spanish groups converged, and the Spanish guide gave everyone some salsa dance lessons. The kids who’d been dancing for us, earlier, had their turn to watch (and giggle).

After the tour, I grabbed a quick bite (cheese bread) and then hopped on the metrocable to check it out. I just rode it around (not getting off at the top) and enjoyed the views, before taking the train back toward my hotel.

I felt like I was coming down with a cold, so I thought it would be a great time to try a drink that I’d missed in Bogota. Lonely planet had suggested that visitors “grab a hot cup of canelazo (made with aguardiente, sugarcane, cinnamon and lime) in a cafe in La Candelaria”

The hotel staff didn’t know of anywhere nearby that served it, but a bit of google searching suggested a coffee shop near the university made it. So, I walked over that direction and found a very nice neighborhood with cute restaurants and cafes (in addition to some US chains). Unfortunately, the place I was looking for was closed. I asked at a couple of other places, but got the distinct impression that although aguardiente is popular here, canelazo is maybe just “a Bogota thing” and not something widely available/well known in Medellin. So instead I just had a beer and arepa at another place before hailing an Uber to check out Plaza Botero.

The neighborhood around Plaza Botero was the roughest I’d seen, and as it was starting to get dark, I decided not to stay long.

Hoping to get some good late-sunset views, I headed over to ride a different metrocable on the opposite side of town from the one I rode in the morning. I had to take a tram to that metrocable, though, so it was dark by the time I got there. I again just rode in a loop and headed right back down. On the way back, I had the car to myself, and if I stayed still enough, the motion sensitive lights would go out. I tried to do this so I could get some decent photos/videos, because the Christmas lights on the houses below were a crazy blinking scene to behold, but I’m afraid photos don’t do it justice.

Back to the metro, and somehow, I managed to get on the wrong train at one of the transfers, which added a bit of travel time.

Finally back in my neighborhood, I found very few restaurants open, and just a few nightclubs. I went back to a place I’d eaten a couple nights prior and ordered churrasco which came with a melon-sized slice of avocado. A good last meal of 2017!

Then, back to my hotel for a shower & nap before catching the 3:30am taxi the hotel had arranged for me to get to the airport.

Overall impressions of Medellin: a cool city. Lots of different and interesting neighborhoods, a great metro system (aside from some confusing signage), and the metrocables are a brilliant (and quiet) solution for adding public transportation to dense & mountainous areas. I’d like to spend more time exploring more or the city. Perhaps staying in a quieter hotel/neighborhood though.

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