Following my Minca jungle adventures, I take an early-morning cab ride to the Santa Marta airport from where I have a 9:00 am flight to Bogota for a quick connection on to Medellin. After a really smooth and on-time LATAM Airlines flight, I land in Medellin at 12:15 pm. I’m incredibly impressed with Colombian airports as, so far, they’ve been easy to navigate and have had the cleanest restrooms of any airports I’ve been in.
A taxi to my hotel in the Pabaldo neighborhood takes about 45 minutes and costs about $20.00. As we drive, I begin to see the beauty of this city. With a population of about 2.5 million, this big city still retains its natural beauty with tall, green mountains and parks decorating the landscape. The mountains are striking and, as I gasp at the beauty, my taxi driver smiles saying, “You like?”
“Si, muy bonito!”
He seems proud of his city and stops on the side of the road insisting that I take a photo.
He drops me at my hotel, the Estelar Blue, a business hotel at which I was lucky enough to score a great deal using Orbitz and a coupon code. The hotel is in the Poblado district of Medellin, an area where most have told me to stay as it’s nice and safe. (We’ll talk more about safety tomorrow). Upon my arrival, I’m happy to hear that, though I’ve arrived at about 1:30 pm, my room is ready.
I enter my room and breathe in deeply. Though there was nothing at all wrong with my room in Minca (though I could have done without Tarantulina Joli), it’s really nice to have the luxury of a large, softer bed, a TV (well, one channel is in English and, unfortunately, it’s HLN), a shower which can hold at least five people (hey, I’m good at making friends), an air conditioner, a minibar, and teak floors (I’m feeling all classy). The price of this place includes breakfast, as most hotels in Colombia do, as well as a light dinner (this is unusual).
I spend the rest of the day grabbing some lunch and taking a nap as it seems I’m a bit exhausted after non-stop travel since May.
Keeping it simple the following day, I walk less than a mile to the Santa Fe Mall. With 380 shops, it’s the largest mall in Medellin and there’s nothing you can’t buy here (including a car). It’s also a great way to see the fashions in another country as well as getting out of the tourist shopping areas. And malls usually have salons to get your hair cut, and I desperately need one. I enter a salon and ask if they have someone who knows how to cut pelo rizado (curly hair – thanks, Google Translate!). The lady disappears and returns with their pelo rizado expert who agrees to cut my hair for the low price of US$14.00. If you’ve been with me since the beginning of Drop Me Anywhere, you’ll know that I used to have hair issues and had to accept the possibility of bad haircuts while traveling. In the end, the cut is good, but only because I wanted my hair shorter. If not, I might need a few drinks.
As I walk through the Santa Fe Mall, I come to an atrium filled (and I mean filled) by a giant peacock. This peacock is made from over 200,000 of colorful flowers and is only on display temporarily a leftover from the recent Féria de Las Flores, the Medellin Flower Festival, which ended just a few days ago (really sad that I missed it). It’s beautiful and delicate, and its size is overwhelming.I walk back to my hotel and, in the way, I encounter one of the many street performers of Medellin. These men and women earn money mainly by juggling in front of cars stopped at red lights. This guy happens to be incredibly talented and, as the light changes, to red, he quickly grabs his rope which is tied to an electric pole and runs across the street to ties the other end. He then jumps on the rope, removes his hat which he throws onto his right foot, balances a ball on his head, which he begins spinning (the ball, not his head, though that would be cool), and starts to juggle clubs. Again, this is all being done at a red light. I stand smiling and applauding while a car horn beeps from the back of the line. Just as the light turns green, he jumps down and gathers his rope to allow traffic to proceed. Impressed, I reach into my purse and hand him COP10,000 (US$3.37).
Just down the street from me is the Hollywood Casino where I spend the evening at a blackjack table, learning some of the different betting rules here in Colombia. There’s the lucky lady circle, where you can lay down extra bets where you’ll win more money should you draw one or two queens, as well as another unnamed circle which will earn you more winnings if you get dealt two of the same numbers or suits in your initial deal (or something like that). I stick to the basics and lose COP100,000 (US$33.73). Still, I enjoy speaking to a few local fellow players who speak English and I consider my losses money well spent on an enjoyable evening. Oh, and like Las Vegas, drinks are free!
Walking back to my hotel, the streets are well-lit and bustling and I feel perfectly safe and look forward to tomorrow when I’ll walk through some of the, formerly, most crime-ridden streets in the world.