Find your Passion, and then Live it

Medellín, Colombia

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Fav Quote #4

"Si nada nos salva de la muerte, al menos que el amor nos salve de la vida."

- Pablo Neruda

Monday, January 16, 2012

Coveñas y Tolú

About 3 days after I got back from San Andrés, I headed out once again for another trip within Colombia. This time it would be my last major trip before I go back home to Canada in February. Over the 1st weekend in January I travelled to the caribbean coast with Leo, where we stayed in Coveñas and Tolú. This is a big tourist spot for Colombians to vacation because it´s cheap and has a really hot climate.

I was definitely really nervous about our trip to the coast, because we were going by bus.... and if you remember my trip to Bogotá ... you can understand my nervousness. Thankfully, the bus ride was quite pleasant and took the 10 hours it was suppose to. :)

We were staying in a hotel for the weekend that was located right on the beach. Our first day there (Saturday morning), we had to sit and wait around for a bit before our rooms were ready, but then we ate some breakfast and spent the day at the beach. It obviously wasnt anything spectacular like San Andrés, but it was still a beach, with warm water, and beautiful sunshine. Good enough! (Ps. after San Andrés, I think ive become a beach/water snob).

In the night we headed to Tolú, a small town about 15 km from Coveñas to walk around, eat some dinner, and do a traditional bici-taxi tour (a bicycle taxi, which is the main method of transportation in Tolú).

However the best part of the trip was on Sunday when we headed to the mud volcano!! Leo and I almost went to the mud volcano while we were in Cartagena, but it ended up being farther from the city than we initially thought so we never went. But luckily we had the opportunity to visit one in Coveñas!!! It was probably the grossest yet most fun thing Ive ever done. Basically it´s a giant pit of mud, and you bath in it. It has supposed health benefits for your skin etc, but we did it just for fun. Walking into the mud initially was so gross, the feeling between your toes, and as the mud climbs up your body was... interesting to say the least. Check out this pic, to summarize how it felt:

Once we were fully in the mud it was great. I now know how a pig feels on a hot summer day and why they lay in mud, it keeps your body really cool! Though youre in a semi-liquid, it was incredibly hard to move around in the pit. You couldnt exactly swim, you had to pull yourself through the pit by a rope.

After spending about 45 min - an hour in the pit, we were COVERED from head to toe in mud. And how, might you ask, do you get all the mud off your body? You head to the showering station where Costeñan women bath you under a shower apparatus, they do a good job too. After showering for about 10 min you are clean again, and boy does it feel good to be clean.

Here´s a before and after picture of me and leo:

After the mud volcano, we spent the rest of the day at the beach soaking up as much sun as we could before we headed back to Medellín. It was a short visit to the coast, but good none-the-less. I was able to still maintain my tan I had from San Andrés, relax in the caribbean sea, and bath in a mud volcano. Definitely a successsful weekend.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Paradise: La Isla de San Andrés

Back in October when I visited Cartagena, I had the opportunity to go to Las Islas de Rosario, which are about 1 hour from the city. There I saw water like I had never seen before, different shades of blue, and in places, so clear I could see the bottom. I was amazed by this, but people kept telling me, just wait until you go to San Andrés it is 100x more beautiful ... they were right.

San Andrés is known for being a paradise particularly for having "los siete colores del mar" or in English: "the seven colours of the sea". As soon as I set my eyes on the water I became obsessed. Anyone who looks at my facebook album from San Andrés can see quite easily how amazed I was by the colours of the water. Here are some of my favourite pictures:

My 2 weeks in paradise began on December 19th, which more importantly I spent with my mom :) This was the first time in almost a year that I saw her (10 months to be exact). This was the longest time we´ve ever gone without seeing each other. So naturally we both burst into tears at the sight of each other in the airport.

During our 2 week vacation we stayed at the Decameron MarAzul. The great thing about the Decameron resorts, is that there are 5 of them on the island, and you are able to "resort hop", and use the other Decameron facilities, open bar, and restaurants, all with your magical bracelet. So we definitely took advantage of that over the course of the 2 weeks, to try different restaurants, and be able to relax in different resorts throughout the island.

During our first few days we adjusted to the resort life quite quickly, and just relaxed. My mom and I would joke around that the biggest thing of our day was making "simple decisions", for example.... "Should I wear my black bathing suit or my purple one?" .... "Should we eat at the buffet or a la cart restaurant tonight?" ... and my personal favourite "Should I have a daiquiri or a margarita?". This became our joke throughout our vacation.

Speaking of drinks and food, both were really good. Breakfasts and Lunches were always buffet, but you could choose to go to a buffet or a la cart for dinner. You always ate breakfast at your home resort, however you could choose to eat lunch or dinner at a different Decameron resort if you wanted. At MarAzul, they had an international buffet, a stake house, and sort of an italian style restaurant.

We also tried the Thai restaurant at Decameron Aquarium, the seafood restaurant at the Decameron Rocky Cay Beach Club, as well as the international buffet, japanese and seafood restaurant at Decameron San Luis. Our favourite ended up being the seafood restaurant at San Luis, very VERY yummy food, with excellent presentation, and cute waiters. Whenever we went to go make a reservation for lunch or dinner, and we gave them our room number, they instantly recognized it and said... "Oh youre the room with the christmas decorations on the windows!" .... my Mom had brought window stickers from the dollarstore and other small xmas decor for our room. So we quickly got recognized as being "that" room lol. We also befriended one of the bartenders at MarAzul, her name was Marly, and she made THE best drinks. She had worked on cruise ships, and other resorts for over 25 years, so she definitely knew a thing or two about making delicious beverages.

There were plently of activities every day to keep you busy and some what active. My mom and I did aerobics and wateraerobics a couple times, as well I played beach volleyball. There were also nightly shows, which consisted of professional dancers, karoke night, mr and mrs decameron type pagent which guests took part in and was absolutely hilarious and reggae bands. The professional dancing shows were excellent, and spanned all kinds of dancing... whether it was salsa, tango, irish, bellydancing, etc it was all very well done.

My mom and I also did a few excursions around the island. On our third day we did an island tour which was held on a chiva!! So my mom had her first Colombian chiva experience with booze and all. It made me proud.

The tour took us all over the island, and we were able to see all the major tourist attractions: the Baptist Church, the highest point on the island (which gave stellar views), Morgans Cave + pirate museum, and the blow hole. The tour was about 4 hours long, and our tourguide was really great, he spoke English and Spanish, but we were the only 2 people on the bus who needed the English... well make that 1 (my mom), I understood everytime he spoke in Spanish lol.

A few days later we did a snorkelling tour, which was probably my favourite excursion. The tour was 3 hours, and started not too far from our resort because the waters near our resort were perfect for snorkeling, as they had different depths which offered various spots for snorkeling through the coral, as well as near the islands and cays. Our guides were Mario and Gary who we became friends with quickly over our 2 weeks at MarAzul. Gary was the guide in the water, and he showed me all kinds of things during the tour. He scared me with a seacucumber, which actually doesnt do anything and he told me that, but just as I went to reach for it (which was in his hand) he shook it and said "arrrrrr!" which scared the sh*t out of me. He also showed myself and another guy on the tour lobsters within the coral, as well as an eel, which he fed a fish head and it completely devoured it in one bite. I saw hundreds, literally hundreds of different kinds of fish, Ive never seen anything so incredible. All different shapes and sizes... Note to self: next time I go on vacation and do snorkelling im bringing a waterproof camera. At the end of the tour we headed to Acuario which is a tiny island right across the water from our hotel. On the one side of the island happens to be a common place for stingrays to gather, so we got in the water with them, and were able to feed and HOLD them!!! At that time I didnt have my camera with me (but at the end of the 2 weeks I finally got a pic with one... see below), but that day, I held about 6 or 7 of them. At first I was a little freaked out, but they´re actually very gentle creatures, super soft on their belly side, and so majestic when you see them swim under water. I got so brave I even started feeding them! Even MORE impressive is that my mom held one! It was only for about 10 secs, and she made this little shreak through her snorkel gear, but she HELD ONE! I was very proud and impressed. :) Good job Mommy.

During our last weekend my mom and I did what was called the Island Safari Tour. It consisted of visiting the Botanical Gardens of San Andrés, a large coral wall, and an organic farm. The Botanical Garden tour was actually very good. The tour guide was very knowledgeable because the garden is owned by the National University of Colombia, and it is primarily used as a research facility, but open to tourists for tours to get funding money for their studies. I loved how the garden was set up, as it started with how the plants came to the island, and all sectioned off by different types or categories of plants. The garden also has a lookout tower which offers incredible views of the eastern part of the island.

It was just a really good tour, and if you go to the island I recommend you do it. Next we headed to this huge wall which is actually made up of coral and has taken millions of years to form because it was pushed up from below the sea. Our tour guide, Henry (a Cuban-Canadian, who was super cute) explained all about the wall, how the island was formed, and the importance of the coral and the wall. There were even large vines hanging from near by trees, so I obviously had to swing on one to have my "George of the Jungle" moment.

After the wall we headed to an organic farm which was owned and run by a former rastafarian. This farm had been in his family for generations and he takes great pride in its upkeeping and continual growth of organic only products. He picked a banana right off a tree for my mom and I to eat, as well we tried fresh coconut water, fresh jaimaica juice and ginger cookies. All of which were grown on the farm. He also keeps black crabs (which are apparently delicious and very expensive in restaurants), iguanas, and turtles.

Moving onto the 2 big celebrations while on the island: Christmas Eve and New Years Eve. Now I say Christmas Eve and not Christmas, because in Colombia, the big celebration of the holidays occurs on the 24th not the 25th like in Canada. So we had a special Christmas dinner on the 24th instead of the 25th. To me it was all the same, bc there was no snow, so it didnt feel like Christmas for me either way lol. The resort had a special Christmas buffet for us, and the food was incredible. There were 2 roasted pigs and 3 turkeys, along with other types of seafood, speciality appetizers, rice dishes, pasta dishes, breads, fruits oh and the dessert table! Check it out:

Then... then there was New Years Eve. I thought the Christmas Eve dinner couldnt be beat, boy was I wrong. The New Years Eve dinner was like 10x better than the dinner on the 24th. On the 31st we had LOBSTER! The first time ever in my life that I have eaten it, and it was yummy! Along with many other dishes to choose from, and omg the dessert table was incredible!!! I went up twice for desserts because 1) there were so many to choose from and 2) they were DELICIOUS.

Just like a normal New Years Eve, my mom and I got dressed up and partied the night away. Practically every room in the resort was given a free bottle of champagne and a bowl of grapes. The whole champagne grape thing is apparently a Colombian tradition for New Years, because they made a big deal about eating grapes that night lol. After the DELICIOUS dinner the resort had tables set out on the beach, a stage and 2 bars. So all the guests brought in the new year having one giant beach party. We danced infront of the stage in the sand, counted down til midnight and watched fireworks over the water. It was a really great night. :)

Finally some of my favourite things about my vacation were the following:

Acuario Island (Rose Cay)
Everyday you could take a free 10 min boat ride from our resort to 2 islands across the water. They were called Acuario (Rose Cay) and Haynes Cay. Acuario is given its name because that´s exactly what it´s like. A natural aquarium. It was here I did a lot of my snorkeling, where you could see some incredible fish, which seemed to always be hungry whenever we brought bread to feed them. They would even take the bread right out of your hands! You could also swim next to stingrays, and one day... wait for it... i even saw a SHARK! It was a reef shark, so it wasnt crazy big or anything but still... A SHARK.
My mom and I visited Acuario quite a bit, because 1) it was FREE and at our resort and 2) it was BEAUTIFUL. Here are some pictures:

San Luis Beach
We visited the Decameron San Luis resort a lot as well, mostly because they had a beautiful beach right across from the resort and great restaurants. I LOVED the San Luis beach, so it was definitely my 2nd favourite location next to Acuario being my #1.

One day on the beach, a man with an iguana came along, and after inquiring about his lizard, he ended up putting it on my head for some photos.

The Natural Swimming Pool
On the other side of the island (the west side) there is something called La Piscinita... or the Natural Swimming Pool. Basically it´s this small cove area which has a diving board and the water is so clear you can see the fish so clearly without being in the water.-It also offers a great location to watch the sunset. We went here twice. It was a lot of fun, expensive to get there by taxi but worth it. It only costs 2.500 COP to get in, and they give you bread to feed the fish. Snorkeling here was INCREDIBLE. The fish were amazing to see.

Surprisingly our vacation didnt fly past me like I thought it would. The first week went quickly, but SO SO nice to have that extra week, because that one seemed to pass by slower. However our vacation did finally come to an end, and my mom and I went our seperate ways. She back to Canada, and me back to Colombia for another month until I make my way back to the land of ice and snow. The day we left, my mom had to leave for the airport first, so I actually had 4 hours to myself before i had to make my way to the airport. So naturally I hung out with Gary and Greggory (the 2 guys who ran the boat to Acuario), where I visited the island twice, went swimming in the middle of the ocean, held a starfish and more importantly FINALLY GOT A PICTURE OF ME HOLDING A STINGRAY!!! Check out how I spent my final hours in San Andrés:

To sum up... San Andrés was BEAUTIFUL. I would go back in a heart-beat. The people were incredibly friendly, the resort was great, and the island/water, well the pictures dont do it justice. I can´t wait to go back to my little paradise. :)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Luces Navideñas de Medellín 2011

This past Christmas was the first December/Christmas, in my life, without snow. It was such an odd thing not to have snow around this time of the year, and honestly I never truly had the holiday/Christmas spirit because of it. Without the cold and snow, it just didnt feel like Christmas to me.

However, Medellín is a city that never has snow, but that doesnt mean they never have the Christmas spirit. In fact, Medellín probably puts most countries to shame when it comes to the Christmas spirit. The detail, decoration, and adornments that fill the city is no short of impressive.

To start with, it seems like every neighbourhood, shopping mall, and institution gets covered in christmas decorations. Unlike in Canada where Christmas colours are normally represented by red and green (or blue and white for winter), here in Colombia any colour is fair game. In fact, the brighter the colours the better. The most impressive parts of the city (outside of the Alumbrados, which I will explain below) for me were the shopping malls, particular Santa Fe, which is close to my apartment. They had everything from hundreds of strings of lights hanging from the roof, to christmas trees, displays and even a skating rink right in the middle of the mall!! Check out some of the beautiful photos:

As mentioned above, the most impressive part of Christmas in Medellín is the tradition that starts at the beginning of December and concludes in the first week or so of January, it is known as the Alumbrados Navideños (Christmas Lights). This tradition has been alive for over 40 years, thanks to EPM (Empresas Públicas de Medellín, a utilities company) who has been responsible for adorning the city of Medellín with millions of lights every year, (around 16 million this year!!). They do everything from the design, installation, and of course cover the costs (which im guessing by the number of structures and lights they put up, it isnt cheap). The Alumbrados have become so well known that they are a major tourist attraction for locals and foreigners alike. Hundreds of paisas work tirelessly monthes before hand to create the lighting spectacle. From a personal experience, it was incredible to see. It is something NOT to miss if you are visiting Colombia in December! Check out some pics below!