Posted by: sucasacolombia | 25/08/2010

Feria de las Flores Day 5: Orchids, Birds, and Flowers

We are in the middle of the Feria de las Flores (Flower Festival) Medellin’s biggest annual festival, and one of the most popular in all of Colombia. Everyday we’ll be bringing you multiple blogs and videos about the events we’re attending, such as concerts, parades and exhibitions. Viva la Feria!

The event everyone recommended we checkout during the feria was Orquideas, Pájaros y Flores (Orchids, Birds and Flowers) at the Botanical Gardens.  We beat the crowds by attending in the early afternoon on a weekday but still had to compete for space to see the thousands upon thousands of gorgeous flowers.  I never realized how many varieties of orchids existed, but I’m sure I saw just about every single one of them after an afternoon at the gardens.  In addition to the orchids there were tropical flowers, roses, lilies, gerbera daisies, chrysanthemums, and I could go on and on.  Take a look at some of our favorite flowers and don’t forget you can see more on our Picasa page.

Click for more photos!

Check out our Picasa albums to see our Feria de las Flores gallery as well as pictures from our other adventures in Colombia.

Read more about Feria de las Flores here.

Posted by: sucasacolombia | 07/08/2010

Feria de las Flores, Day Two: Chiva Parade

We are in the middle of the Feria de las Flores (Flower Festival) Medellin’s biggest annual festival, and one of the most popular in all of Colombia. Everyday we’ll be bringing you multiple blogs and videos about the events we’re attending, such as concerts, parades and exhibitions. Viva la Feria!

Immediately after the pet parade we walked over to Cerro Nutibara (a hill in the middle of Medellín) to catch the procession of chiva buses beginning their journey through the city.  A chiva is very colorful bus, made to transport large amounts of passengers, luggage and cargo through the winding Andean roads.  As modern buses and other forms of transportation have become more common, many chivas are now used as party buses, complete with dance floors and a vallenato band on board.

On the day of the parade there must have been at least 50 chivas decorated with flowers and packed with jovial cheering and dancing passengers.  Here are some of our favorites:

Click here to see more photos of the Chiva Parade

Check out our Picasa albums to see our Feria de las Flores gallery as well as pictures from our other adventures in Colombia.  We’ll write about experiences after the craziness of the fair is over.

Read more about Feria de las Flores here.

Posted by: sucasacolombia | 06/08/2010

Feria de las Flores, Day Two: Pet Parade

We are in the middle of the Feria de las Flores (Flower Festival) Medellin’s biggest annual festival, and one of the most popular in all of Colombia.  Everyday we’ll be bringing you multiple blogs and videos about the events we’re attending, such as concerts, parades and exhibitions.  Viva la Feria!
Get ready for a post that will break your heart with adorableness.  Day two featured the Desfile de Mascotas (Pet Parade) which was a torturous place to go for a girl that wants a dog sooooo bad.  Enjoy the cuteness!

Click here to see more photos from the Pet Parade

Check out our Picasa albums to see our Feria de las Flores gallery as well as pictures from our other adventures in Colombia.  We’ll write about experiences after the craziness of the fair is over.

Read more about Feria de las Flores here.


Posted by: sucasacolombia | 05/08/2010

Feria de las Flores, Day One: The Horse Parade

We are in the middle of the Feria de las Flores (Flower Festival) Medellin’s biggest annual festival, and one of the most popular in all of Colombia.  Everyday we’ll be bringing you multiple blogs and videos about the events we’re attending, such as concerts, parades and exhibitions.  Viva la Feria!

There’s no better way to kick off a weeklong festival than with 8,000 horses and their possibly inebriated riders gallivanting down the highway—let the festivities begin!

Click here to see more photos from the horse parade

Check out our Picasa albums to see our Feria de las Flores gallery as well as pictures from our other adventures in Colombia.  We’ll write about experiences after the craziness of the fair is over.

Posted by: sucasacolombia | 03/08/2010

The San FranTastic Four: The Finale

*We hosted our first official guests at Su Casa Colombia this past week: Haileigh, Ashley, Joanna and Colleen.  All four live in or around beautiful San Francisco, making them the San FranTastic Four.  These are their adventures.

After five wonderful days with the ladies of San Fran, the exciting climax was upon us: rappelling down a 200-foot waterfall.  Although I had done it once before, even I didn’t know the magnitude of the adventure that awaited us.  Bring yourself up to speed on what is involved with waterfall rappelling by reading about my first experience and watching the video.

We awoke at 6 am and by 8 am we were suited up and ready to go, along with four other Colombians who would be joining us.  Thanks to the cloud cover, our two-hour trek started out nicely without too much perspiration and before we knew it we were practicing rappelling techniques off the side of the gazebo (that won’t make sense if you didn’t read about my first time.)

After thirty minutes of traversing the cloud forest and scaling the rock wall (the ladies later commented that the hike was almost as demanding as rappelling itself) we finally arrived at the cascade.  Much to my surprise, the waterfall had changed dramatically in the three months since I last saw it, thanks to a very rainy wet season.  The waterfall in April looked like a trickle compared to the gushing water of the present.  I suddenly felt like I hadn’t adequately prepared our guests for the intensity they were about to experience; I didn’t feel prepared myself!

I stayed behind as two by two everyone made their descent and made it safely to the bottom until it was time for Colleen and I to brave the waterfall.  Because there was so much mist coming off of the waterfall we were FREEZING as we got hooked up to the ropes, but the second we lowered ourselves over the edge the adrenaline took over and the shivers were gone.

Ashley and Joanna rappelling like pros

Just as the waterfall had changed drastically since April, so had the experience itself.  Before, I had ventured across the cascade and relished the sensation of the water falling on my legs.  This time I stayed to one side where the water was less abundant and still had trouble seeing my feet under the rushing water.  Before, I had descended at a leisurely pace, savoring every moment. This time I proceeded with a greater sense of urgency, trying not to think about what would happen if I got stuck.  Before, I had whooped, hollered and yelled with excitement.  This time, I was so completely concentrated on every step, every move, I completely forgot to make a peep.  Before, I had reached the bottom thinking it was easy peasy, lemon squeezy.  This time I reached the bottom feeling like I’d really accomplished something, like I’d really earned some bragging rights.

At the bottom, the rest of the crew was relieved when I reassured them that what they had just experienced was far more intense and difficult than what my video had advertised.  Joanna said it was just as scary and adrenaline inducing as skydiving.  I was so proud of the four ladies and Noah, most of whom had never rappelled before but navigated the waterfall with confidence and enthusiasm.  The ear-to-ear grins were enough to tell me they had really enjoyed themselves.

Upon returning to the finca we received the best welcoming we could imagine: a delicious bowl of beans, chicharón, and freshly fried plantains thanks to the wonderful and talented Mari.  While Colleen, Joanna and I relaxed with a book on the lawn, Noah, Haileigh and Ashley went for a horse back ride through the countryside.  When they returned, Ashley had a dirty knee and a story to tell.  Her horse had lost its footing while galloping and quick thinking Ashley opted to jump and roll into the bushes rather than risk being thrown from the horse.   Both Noah and Haileigh attested that Ashley had all the style and grace of a ballerina ninja.  There was still a bit of time before sunset so I hopped on Ashley’s horse and rode out with Noah and Haileigh who had bonded with her horse and wasn’t ready to stop.  The sunset over the valley was gorgeous and truly unique and I think this photo will show you why:

Our last night was a great end to our time together. It was a warm, cloudless night with a full moon and millions of stars.  We grilled my favorite cut of beef on the outdoor grill along with corn on the cob and potatoes and washed it down with wine and aguardiente.  The musical stylings of Carlos Vives accompanied us once again and we danced and talked until we (or maybe it was just me) literally fell asleep under the stars.

We returned to Medellín the next afternoon, fed the ladies some tasty empanadas and then saw them off to the airport, on to their next destination on Colombia’s Carribean coast.  We already miss the time we spent with these four intelligent, adventurous and fun San FranTastic women, but we know that when we visit San Francisco later this year we’ll have four new friends to see!

To see more photos from rappelling, horseback riding, or the rest of the ladies’ visit, check out our Picasa album or our facebook page.  Leave a comment if you want to make me smile!

Posted by: sucasacolombia | 30/07/2010

The San FranTastic Four Part 5

*We hosted our first official guests at Su Casa Colombia this past week: Haileigh, Ashley, Joanna and Colleen.  All four live in or around beautiful San Francisco, making them the San FranTastic Four.  These are their adventures.

After spending four days in Medellín it was time for a change of scenery and to introduce the ladies to an integral part of the Colombian culture: the finca!  Literally translated, finca means farm or ranch but could just as easily mean paradise.  Most middle to upper class families in Medellín have a modest apartment or home in the city and a finca in the countryside where they retreat on the weekends.  Paisas, as the people in and around Medellín are called, are hard workers and really earn their down time.

Before we could go to the finca we had to pick up food and supplies from the market, which is part of the experience and fun of going to the finca.  We always look forward to going to the Mayorista, which is like a farmers market on steroids and HGH.  Food stall after food stall offers both exotic and familiar fruits alike at astoundingly low prices.  Every time we go we have to eat a fresh, mouthwatering arepa de chocolo with cheese, which is like very moist cornbread in the shape of a pancake.  Or for the El Torito fans out there, that little scoop of sweet corn cake that comes on every plate. Yum!

Now, with five gringas and one tall gringo in the middle of a Medellín market, you’re bound to turn a few heads; seeing tourists in the city in uncommon, seeing tourists at the Mayorista is unheard of.  Many of the workers were fascinated by us, but treated us with the utmost respect and kindness that we’ve come to expect from Paisas.  It wasn’t long before the vendors were giving us free fruits and posing for pictures with us.  So this is what it feels like to be a C-list celebrity!

With our shopping complete, we loaded up the van and began our 2.5 hour drive through the country with our wonderful driver, Juan.  I took this opportunity to educate the San FranTastics on one of my favorite Colombian musicians, Carlos Vives, and they really enjoyed his music.  So now I’ll take this opportunity to educate you too, so click the link to enjoy some of my favorite Carlos Vives songs.

Although we’d tried to warn the girls of the awesomeness of our family’s finca, all of the hype didn’t seem to prepare them for their new surroundings.  As Haileigh described it, we were in a “Jurassic Park meets Avatar” world.  We gave them a tour of the property, introduced them to the horses and cantankerous parrots, and then we headed down to the lake to cool off with a quick dip and some Aquardiente.

That evening we busted out the exotic fruits we had purchased at the Mayorista and I led the group through a fruit tasting.  We began with the tart yet tasty Uchuvas, a small orange fruit.  Second was Coruba, which also goes by the name of passion fruit in other parts of the world.  Third on the menu was the deliciously sweet Pitaya which is bright yellow and prickly on the outside, and clear with black seeds on the inside.  We ended the tasting with Zapote based solely on the necessity of floss immediately after eating its pumpkin-orange flesh.  A cross between the flavor of a cantaloupe and pumpkin, plus the texture of a ripe mango, it was by far the oddest fruit of the night.  We followed the fruit with a delicious soup by Mari, the very talented and very sweet cook/maid.  Everyone raved about the soup and there wasn’t one unhappy stomach in the bunch.

For reasons I still can’t figure out, our night ended on a bizarre yet delightful note.  While drinking wine under the stars in colorful ponchos, we spontaneously decided that our attire deserved a photo shoot, so click on the picture below to see the craziness we got into.  Who knew a poncho could inspire such fun?

Click here for more poncho pics

With a day full of  hiking, waterfall rappelling and horseback riding the next day we called it an early night so we’d have enough energy to get through it all.  Come back on Monday to read about those adventures and more!

To see more photos from the Mayorista, the Finca and more, check out our Picasa album or our facebook page.  Don’t forget to comment!

Posted by: sucasacolombia | 29/07/2010

The San FranTastic Four part 4

*We hosted our first official guests at Su Casa Colombia this past week: Haileigh, Ashley, Joanna and Colleen.  All four live in or around beautiful San Francisco.  Haileigh and Ashley arrived four days before Colleen and Joanna so technically they were the San FranTastic Two at this point, but let’s not split hairs.

When in Medellín, visiting the Museum of Antioquia should be on everyone’s list, and that’s exactly what we set out to do on day four with Ashley and Haileigh.   The Museum of Antioquia is home to one of the largest collections by world-renowned artist, Fernando Botero, aka the guy who paints fat people.  Born and raised in Medellín, he is the city’s most celebrated son and thanks to his donation of over 100 of his pieces, he helped spark a cultural rejuvenation in Medellín’s city center.

If Botero is Medellín’s favorite son, then the nefarious Pablo Escobar is his evil stepbrother and no place better illustrates the contrast between the two than Plaza San Antonio.  We made a quick stop here before the museum tour to give the ladies an understanding of Medellín’s troubled past, its promising future, and the role that Botero and Escobar played in its development. In plaza San Antonio, two bronze statues of the same bird sit side-by-side, but with one great difference: one statue has been mutilated, disfigured, and nearly turned inside out by a bomb placed underneath it during a celebration in 1995.  The bomb killed 22 people and injured more than 100, and although it’s still unclear who was responsible, a terrorist group associated with the late Escobar was amongst those considered.

Rear view of the destroyed sculpture

Next to the mangled bird is its intact twin donated by the artist in 2000 on the condition that the original statue would remain to serve as a reminder of the futility of violence.  Now the birds, titled Birds of Peace, summarize in one glance the difference between the Medellín of the past, riddled by drug lords and crime, and its current peaceful incarnation, thanks to the resolve, resilience and fortitude of citizens like Botero.

A short walk later we were in midst of some of Botero’s most important paintings, sketches and sculptures.  Many of his paintings depict Medellín in the 1940s, and others focus on bull fighting, a profession he pursued for two years during his youth.  But the most powerful are the paintings that have personal meaning to him, such as Pedrito which he painted after his son was killed at the age of four in a car accident, or his take on Escobar’s last moments in The Death of Pablo Escobar.  Botero, age 78, continues to create art to this day, and is truly one of the most talented artists in Colombia and the world.

Having worked up quite an appetite in the museum, we took the metro to my family’s bakery/café, Todo Fresa for some delicious Colombian-style pastries, pasta, and of course, coffee.  Not to sound biased, but they make some mighty fine food there so we make a point to take all of our guests there for a meal and a tour of the bakery.  Judging by their empty plates I’d guess that Haileigh and Ashley enjoyed themselves.

That evening came the arrival of Colleen and Joanna. Finally the San FranTastic Four was complete!  After a delicious dinner by Chef Noah, some catch-up and girl talk (Noah couldn’t keep up with the latter) we headed out to the Poblado area to watch live jazz at the Museum of Modern Art.  Only problem was the band finished right before we got there.  Not to worry, we grabbed drinks at one of our favorite bars/restaurants, Bonuar, while Haileigh and Ashley filled Jo and Colleen in on their adventures.  We called it an early night so we could get up bright and early for our much-anticipated trip to our family’s ranch.

Come back tomorrow to read about our colorful trip to the market, our first day at the ranch, fruit-tasting and a spontaneous poncho photo shoot.

To see more photos from San Antonio Plaza, the Museum of Antioquia and more, check out check out our Picasa album or our facebook page.  Leave a comment for a special prize! (A smile)

Check out the Museum of Antioquia’s website here.

Posted by: sucasacolombia | 28/07/2010

The San FranTastic Four Part 3

*We hosted our first paying guests at Su Casa Colombia this past week: Haileigh, Ashley, Joanna and Colleen.  All four live in or around beautiful San Francisco.  Haileigh and Ashley arrived four days before Colleen and Joanna so technically they were the San FranTastic Two at this point, but let’s not split hairs.

After a night of fireworks, dancing and drinking, day three started off in an unexpected way: we went to the gym.  It took a lot of will power but somehow we made it to the nearby gym for a Rumba class (Ashley’s idea, not mine!)  Who knew that working out could be so much fun?  Our instructor, Andrés (who we initially mistook for an unattractive lady) had more energy, charisma, and female charm than the three of us combined.  He had us smiling from ear to ear and laughing whenever he busted out a new outrageous move.  By the end of the class we were exhausted from participating in the Andrés Show.  He must have been just as smitten with us gringas because after the class he ran over to us and told Haileigh and Ashley what good dancers they were and agreed to take a picture with us.  I’m not big on working out, but I will definitely be coming back for the Rumba class!

A few blocks from the gym was an artisan fair which is always the best place to find souvenirs.  Noah joined us as we perused the stalls filled with jewelry, purses, hats, toys, and just about every trinket imaginable. The find of the day were the bracelets and rings made out of antique forks.  Yes, jewelry made from forks.  Each piece was unique and stunning; we got the number of the artisan so we can take future guests to get their own repurposed jewelry. Ashley and Haileigh came away with plenty of gifts to give friends and family back home, and a few things for themselves.

That night we set out to put our new dance moves to good use at one of Medellín’s best-known salsa clubs, El Eslabón Prendido.  We arrived to a nearly empty bar, but that quickly changed once the live band started playing.  It took a few songs for the crowd to get warmed up and just when the dance floor filled up, the band took an hour-long break. And so we learned our lesson to not sit on our haunches when the band is playing. The patrons were a mix of locals, foreigners from Israel, the Netherlands, the States, and more.  Most dancers were very talented but kindly brought it down a couple of notches when they danced with us.  Between the ambiance, the excellent band, the inviting crowd and the delicious (and reasonably priced) mojitos, this is a spot worth returning to!  Check out the video below for a preview of the band.  The club was very dark and the video quality isn’t great, so this is more for listening purposes.  Fight the urge to get up and dance if you can!

Tomorrow we visit the acclaimed Fernando Botero collection at the Museum of Antioquia, give the ladies a taste of our family’s bakery, Todo Fresa, and finally welcome the other half of the San FranTastic Four to Medellín!

To see more pics with Andrés, the artisan fair, or salsa dancing check out check out our Picasa album or our facebook page.  Don’t forget to comment!

Posted by: sucasacolombia | 27/07/2010

San FranTastic Four Part Two*

*We hosted our first paying guests at Su Casa Colombia this past week: Haileigh, Ashley, Joanna and Colleen.  All four live in or around beautiful San Francisco.  Haileigh and Ashley arrived four days before Colleen and Joanna so technically they were the San FranTastic Two at this point, but let’s not split hairs.

Day two of Ashley and Haileigh’s visit was both Noah’s 28th birthday and the night of a huge fireworks celebration commemorating Colombia’s 200th birthday so we knew we had a big day ahead of us.  Our first mission was to give the ladies a better view of Medellin, and where better to do that from the Metrocable?

The Metrocable is a gondola lift system connected to the metro lines that shuttles passengers to and from the hard to reach barrios located on Medellin’s steep mountainsides.  Most gondola lifts around the world are used as ski lifts or for tourism purposes, but here they are used to connect otherwise isolated towns to the rest of the city, thus providing more job opportunities and reducing crime.  Best of all, a ride on the Metrocable is free with the purchase of a Metro ticket!

The views from the Metrocable were impressive and really showed our guests a different side of the city.  It was the first clear day in weeks so we took advantage of the opportunity to take several gorgeous photos of the valley.  On our way back down the Metrocable came to a halt twice, which I’m sure happens whenever slower passengers get on, but this certainly made acrophobic Haileigh nervous while we were suspended in the air.  I’m sure she’ll agree that the vistas and pictures were more than worth the scare!

Next on our to do list was to get the birthday boy a present he’d been wanting every since we went to Guatape in February.  We finally found the game Sapo, kind of like corn hole or washers but with more opportunities for points, and Noah had to have it.  We are looking forward to many a Sapo tournament in the days to come!

In the evening we set out on foot for the Medellin River where the fireworks show was taking place. Four lanes of highway had been blocked off along the water and we found ourselves shoulder to shoulder in an enthusiastic crowd that went on as far as the eye could see.   The fireworks show was absolutely spectacular and too good for words so we have plenty of pictures and videos to make you feel like you were there.

Click here for more pictures

After the show we found a nice spot on the grass next to the river for people watching and toasting with Medellin’s drink of choice: Aquardiente.  After getting a photo with a friendly cross dresser we walked to the Metro and made a brief stop at Plaza Cisneros for a photo shoot with the 300 eighty-foot tall light sabers that were illuminated for the festive occasion.

Click here to see the entire photo shoot

Our night ended at Parque Lleras, the nightlife hotspot, where we drank more Aquardiente while waiting for our cousins and friends to arrive.  Our group decided to go dancing at a club called Octavia, where I had to use a fake ID for the first time in years.  It’s rare, but sometimes they will card you in Colombia.  To say we cut a rug would be a gross underestimation.  We cut the rug, they replaced it, and then we cut it again.  It was a bad day to be the rug.  There’s only one picture that can really sum up the night, and I think it really captures up the energy, movement, and our unwillingness to stay in one place:

Check out our blog tomorrow to read about our Rumba class with the fabulous Andrés, fork bracelets at the artisan fair, and our attempt at salsa dancing.  To get our updates emailed directly to you, enter your email under the banner on the right hand side and click Sign Me Up!

To see more photos from the Metrocable, fireworks and more, check out our Picasa album or our facebook page.  And don’t forget to leave us a comment below!

Posted by: sucasacolombia | 26/07/2010

Day One with the San FranTastic Four*

*We hosted our first official guests at Su Casa Colombia this past week: Haileigh, Ashley, Joanna and Colleen.  All four live in or around beautiful San Francisco.  Haileigh and Ashley arrived four days before Colleen and Joanna so technically they were the San FranTastic Two at this point, but let’s not split hairs.

Haileigh and Ashley arrived late one stormy Saturday night.  They’d backpacked around Bogotá, Villa De Leyva, and San Gil before they showed up on our doorstep, sick of rain and long bus rides.  Our first order of business the following morning was to do a load of laundry so they could stop wearing their underwear inside out.  For fear of rain, we draped their unmentionables on our banister instead of the clothesline outside, which made quite the festive birthday decorations for Noah who was turning 28 the next day.

We wasted no time in showing the ladies around Medellín and took the Metro to the Botanical Garden.  While exploring the butterfly habitat several young Colombian girls took a liking to Ashley and Haileigh, mistaking them for celebrities and asking them if they were on TV.  Of course, they had to take a picture with their adoring fans.

During a bathroom break we found an unexpected source of entertainment when we discovered a tiny, tiny toilet.  Perhaps our photo shoot wasn’t sanitary but it was well worth it.  Later, by the lake were enthralled by the odd habits of the wildlife; first by the double-decker turtles, and second by the mating rituals of couplous enamorous.

Our next stop was Parque de los Deseos (Park of Wishes) a free attraction which lures young children in with water fountains then tricks them into accidentally learning about physics and stars.  We watched the children play as we stuffed our face with some of the healthiest food available: delicious mini donuts, kettle corn, and hot dogs.  You’ve gotta watch your figure, even when you’re on vacation.

Before heading home we made a quick pit stop at Plaza Botero where posing with Fernando Botero’s rotund sculptures is a must.

Somehow we were blessed with a day without rain–something that’s happened only a handful of times since April–and a gorgeous cotton candy colored sunset to boot.  Thanks to the favorable weather we were able to enjoy dinner, wine, and a game of spades on our rooftop terrace. The ambiance and company were splendid.

Tune in tomorrow to read about how we celebrated Colombia’s 200th anniversary and Haileigh’s confrontation with her fear of heights.  For more pictures from Ashley and Haileigh’s first day in Medellín, check out our Picasa album or our facebook page.

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