Esteban and I were woken up at 5 am by six gunshots. The hotel later claimed that these were fireworks but we know gunshots when we hear gunshots. And hearing gunshots while in Colombia is especially disconcerting. It was hard to go back to sleep.
We started off today’s sight-seeing in the modern art museum in an up and coming part of town. The museum was small but had an interesting collection, enough to capture the children’s interest and imagination but not so big as to get boring. Perfect.
Then off to lunch (or rather chasing Saige around the restaurant) and to the Parque de los Pies Descalsos (roughly translated as “Park of Feet Without Socks”), a sand and water park in the middle of Medellin where you have to take off your shoes and “feel your connection to the Earth” (as said the sign). There are many park staff on duty to make sure that you take off your shoes and walk around barefoot. They also lead meditation and deep breathing groups. Quite progressive, I would say!
The park has some wonderful climbing structures and water features – long pools to wade in, fountains to run around in, sculptures with man-made waterfalls. There is also a bamboo garden, in which I saw many people taking relaxing naps. Of course, this park comes complete with police and guard dogs so it feels safe and secure (I have certainly changed now that eighteen year olds with machine guns make me feel safe).
I have to say that I was impressed. This is literally the first public park I have been to in a developing country that was clean and pleasant enough to sit down in, let alone take a nap in. Nobody bothers anybody. Nobody is trying to sell anything. Again, I am not judging parks or people in developing countries. I understand the socio-economic factors that lead to trash everywhere and people trying to sell things to relatively-speaking wealthy foreigners. I am just saying that this park was incredibly nice and unexpected. And there is also something here about Colombia, and especially Medellin (which according to the Lonely Planet has a history of trying to be modern and progressive) – on the one hand, so much violence, war and poverty, more than just about any other country on Earth. On the other hand, so much civility and care. I can’t seem to reconcile the two.
Next on the agenda was Pueblito Paisa, a replica of a small Paisa (as the people from Antoquia are called) town set on a hill with superb 360 degree views of Medellin. Given the touristy reputation of Pueblito Paisa, I was expecting something that looked fake and “too perfect”. I need not have worried because it was actually pretty run down and somewhat gritty. The views were fantastic but I could not enjoy them because Saige was all over the place, picking up every piece of trash she could find and sticking it in her mouth. Esteban and I were both exhausted from the heat and chasing her around and still grumbling abit that our nanny couldn’t make it. This was the low point of the vacation! I wanted out of Medellin.
Luckily, Pueblito Paisa’s only restaurant had never heard of the law that says that you can’t sell a beer to parents who are out to dinner with minors so we were feeling renewed after a couple of beers and bandeja paisa, a traditional dish of rice and beans, morcilla (sausage made out of cow blood), chorizo (sausage made out of who knows what) and chinchirron (basically pig fat with a bit of meat.) Wow, I am moving far away from my vegetarian self! The mechanical horse in the corner of the restaurant provided the kids with some entertainment so Esteban and I could chill out a little bit and regroup.
It worked. The sun set and Pueblito paisa lit up, literally. There were Christmas lights and decorations everywhere and the fake town started to look kind of nice. And the views of Medellin, all lit up with Christmas decorations, were spectacular! This by the way, is the whole reason we came to Medellin – it is famous for its elaborate holiday decorations, lights everywhere and the river lit up by amazingly complex scenarios depicting entire towns, animals, and people, all out of lights.
After dinner, we got a taxi to drive us along the river to check out the spectacular holiday lights. All along the way, there were men with carts of pop corn, arepas, sweets, drinks, selling treats to the people in the cars. A true party on wheels!