25 July 2012

Travels with Sara Part 1: Medellin

At a library donated to a poorer Medellin neighborhood by the Spanish royals

July means a visit from a college friend and the opportunity to travel to Medellin and San Basilio de Palenque, two very different destinations.

At a family meal!
Everyone raves about Medellin, because in a country that is somewhat organizationally challenged, Medellin has it all figured out. Their public transportation system especially is something to brag about and consists not only of a coordinated bus and light rail system, but it has cable cars as a part of the transport as well. The system was purposefully made to connect the poorer neighborhoods with downtown as a way to facilitate people from those areas getting to work. If people from troubled neighborhoods have jobs, life will improve all around in the city. It is simple but ingenious. Medellin's had a troubled past, having been in the middle of Pablo Escobar's "realm", but it's done wonders to pull itself out of that past. While there are still issues, it is a city to be rivaled in Colombia.
"Typical" for the region: Bandeja Paisa

Sara and I met up in Medellin and stayed with friends who are Medellin natives. That is the best way to get to know a place--stay with the locals! Plus we got a bit of Colombian family culture with a great family meal that included a sister, cousin, & brother-in-law. 

Medellin's known as the "city of eternal spring" and is a little cooler than Cartagena, which was a welcome change. Sara and I even got to join in on Medellin's "Ciclovia", where they close many of the downtown streets to car traffic and you can ride, roller blade, walk or run to your heart's content. It was a great way to see the city and get some exercise!

At the Bridge of the West!
We took a day trip to one of the colonial pueblos about 1.5 hours outside the city, Santa Fe de Antioquia. It was a cute little town, but the highlight for us was a trip to the nearby Puente del Occidente, or Bridge of the West. We got there via an enclosed mototaxi (kind of a "tuk tuk") which made it even more fun and our driver gave us the low down on what to expect--the Brooklyn Bridge! Well, he explained that it was built in the late 19th century and designed by Colombian Jose Manuel Villa, who also helped with the design of the Brooklyn Bridge. Not quite NYC, but still very impressive!

Next up, San Basilio de Palenque....

More photos & comments on our trip to Medellin are here.

More photos of & comments on our trip Santa Fe de Antioquia and el Puente de Occidente are here.

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