Must-See in Barcelona!

There are plenty of great things to see in Barcelona – but there aren’t many that are as spectacular as La Pedrera, officially called Casa Milà. This gorgeous building is one of the two houses famous architect Antoni Gaudí designed on the grand Passeig de Gràcia. Though there are plenty of pretty buildings on the…

via 8 Reasons You Should Definitely Visit La Pedrera — Barcelona Blonde

Advertisements

Escape to Mallorca, Spain

BACK TO SPAIN! POR FIN! I just returned from a week in Mallorca, the largest of the Balearic Islands off the East coast of Spain. It was a week of being disconnected; of days filled with boat rides, snorkeling and late-afternoon gin & tonics; evenings of slow family dinners with chilled Albariño and icy cava; nights […]

via affogatos + Mallorca — Back to Spain

Quick Tips: Medellín, Colombia

Narcos, Pablo, Drugs, Bombs, Murder, Cocaine. Lots of Cocaine. Welcome to Medellín!

b9b584025f05c1d84f235c6203adddb4.jpg

Ok hopefully you’re laughing. If that’s the image you have or if it’s anything close, you need to let that go.

Before you arrive, you need to think of all those images of drug dealers, the couple of seasons of Narcos you’ve binged on, and all of the old Scarface posters, and get that out of your head. It’s not like that at all.

In fact, in the past couple of years – peace, prosperity, city improvements, and the Metrocable,  have all transformed this city in the valley. Sure it’s got the Pablo Escobar stories if you look back, but going forward, you’ll be hearing of this city in the same sentence as friendly Costa Rican towns where expats kick back. You’ll also hear that more and more friends you know are working remote, traveling, or maybe just heading to Medellín and then going to see what comes next.

The city is often called “the land of eternal spring”. Perhaps that’s fitting. The city, and the entire country, are blossoming and there’s a chance to start anew. The conditions in the city are just great for relaxing, meeting travelers and locals, or even starting up a business idea.

Now, since the New York Times has already carved out what they suggest you do in 36 Hours. I’ll just call out some tips I think can help.

WHERE TO STAY

I was a big fan of Poblado and the nearby areas. The first place you’ll check out for drinking in the square, and then for all the outdoor bars, restaurants, and clubs, will be Parque Lleras. It’s an upscale and trendy neighborhood where both locals and tourists hangout. You’ll read that it’s touristy. TripAdvisor will say it’s good and bad. And perhaps if I was going to live here for 6 months or a year, I’d want to be a bit farther off the beaten path – where the rents and restaurants would come in at cheaper prices. But if you’re in town for a few nights, you’ll enjoy your time knowing that your a stroll away from the nightlife or back to your home after a long nigh out.

I stayed at the Hostal Poblado Park and found it worked just fine – cheap cheap (around $10 a night) and it came with a small outside lounge area, a TV, and a kitchen.

WHERE TO GO OUT

Ambling through Poblado and Lleras, you’ll find all you ever wanted: every type of bar and restaurant, and people drinking outside in the streets and main square. Maybe you avoid the prostitutes that gather around the main square and the liquor store that’s the last open spot of the evening (maybe you don’t). I’ll leave that up to you.

If you’re completely overwhelmed and want a spot to grab a dinner and a few beers, or want to grab a seat and look out over the streets and get your center, I’d suggest Basilica Restaurant. 

Another great spot for a lunch or dinner is La Matriaca (definitely order the chicken soup!)

For starting off a good party night, I’d tell you to walk up from Poblado to the Happy Budda Party Hostel – their big balcony will be packed with Aussies, Brits, Americans, and you can stir up a conversation or join a group of rowdy fun seekers.

WHAT TO DO 

If I can only call out a couple, I’d point you to be sure and ascend the Metrocable to the top, explore the park, walk around, ride it back down. Great views and something you have to check off the list. Here’s a bit of info and check the view below!

Screen Shot 2017-02-12 at 11.20.38 AM.png

For a bit of culture and a good plan to start your day, venture to the city center for the Botero museum. This main square is a large meeting area with the famous, chubby statues, a hallmark of Fernando Botero.

botero-2

While you are down in the Botero plaza be sure and stop by the El Laboratorio de Cafe. It’s the perfect place if you are craving some San Francisco quality hipster coffee!

And if we are speaking of great coffee, then check out the Honesto Cafe in the Poblado area. (They got some love over on our Instagram page!)

Screen Shot 2017-02-12 at 11.20.05 AM.png

So there you go, a few quick tips on Medellín but you’ll have to go and explore for yourself. Have you been before? Got any tips or recommendations that you can share?

Post as a comment below.

#Keeptraveling

La Ciudad Perdida, Revealed

Retrospect

Reasons to smile this morning:

Awaking to Day 3, the most important of all, after surving Day 1 and Day 2. 

A different view of last night’s uninvited dinner guest:

tres1

Breakfast, as always.

Bernando rounding us up with the “let’s go!” we taught him last night, especially surprising given his quiet demeanor.

La Ciudad Perdida!

DAY THREE. 11.6 km/7.2 mi. If only our packs were this light all the time! Given our eventual return to the base camp for lunch, we take only what we need. The walk along the river turns upward as we approach the stairs leading to La Ciudad Perdida – all 1,200 of them. David and I are leading the group when we recognize the beginning structures of the Lost City. Per his suggestion, we wait for the others and continue as a group, silently following Bernando’s lead around a circle, coca leaves in hand, as we…

View original post 279 more words

Parque Tayrona, Pegado y Suavecito

Retrospect

While Santa Marta may not always be a final destination, it is certainly a starting point for and resting place after many a wonderful adventure – Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona included. Approximately 30 minutes from Santa Marta’s center and at the base of the

View original post 622 more words

Cartagena Tips: Isla Baru and the Islas del Rosario

 

So you’ve made it to Cartagena! Yes! You have done it and now you’re all set. Of course you are.

With a small bag (you have sunscreen and a book, don’t you?), an open white long sleeve shirt and your swim trunks, you make your way through the streets. You are admiring the locals, the fruit vendors, the sunny sky. You can feel the ocean’s breeze and a tingling sensation begins to let you know you’re just moments away from a nice beach.

You step across the street and your eyes meet the sand and the water but……

IT’S HORRIBLE! AAAAH IT’S ALL WRONG. Dark brown sand with little bugs nipping at your plump, pale, ankles…

Six or seven men dangling hats and jewelry come up to you, creepily shaking your hand and trying to offer you all sorts of whispered deals, special offers, and it is not, what you wish was occurring.

You can’t believe it. You spin and move to see if it’s just where you are standing. Nope. Everyone on the beach looks sad and somehow confused – they are splashing angrily at the waves, secretly holding back tears. You messed up. You thought Cartagena had a nice beach. It does not. You fool!

Ok ok , so you are reading this and thinking huh? Cartagena is on the coast (isn’t it?) – I always see tropical beaches and pictures when I Google “Cartagena”. Heck, even some fancy-pants travel writer said it was Where to Go in 2017.

That’s just the point. While easy to mess up, you must know one thing before visiting Cartagena, Colombia: all of the best beaches are a boat ride away.

You’ll want to arrange a boat ticket from the central boat dock – set just outside the city walls. Any taxi can take you, or you can walk. Ask your hotel or any front desk for the schedule. Typically you want to purchase a ticket through your hotel or show up at 7:30am and buy the ticket to your island of choice from the four companies that operate the ticket booths.

Isla Baru and Playa Blanca

The most popular day trip is to Isla Baru – actually a long stretch of sand and beach called Playa Blanca – that is connected as a peninsula to Cartagena. You could technically grab a taxi and drive for 45 minutes but that would be more expensive, and the taxis don’t really drive back to Cartagena (or at least there’s fewer taxis).

When you buy the ticket, there are typically 3 or 4 companies that offer the same general plan: you get on a speed boat, they zip you to the beach, drop you off at around 10am and then give you a ticket for a lunch – it’s a fish, rice, salad, and a soda, type of a lunch. Everyone gets the same lunch. It’s a good deal. The boat also offers a multi-stop option that includes something silly like an aquarium or a tour. If you go that route, you only get an hour or two at the beach. If you are inclined with that plan, just stop reading this and go back to perusing Pinterest, or whatever it is you do with your free time.

Note that as the day wears on at Playa Blanca you run the risk of missing your boat back. The boat pulls up close to shore at 3pm and will wave and you better be close to the drop off point, because they will waive once or twice and everyone gets on the boat and departs – with or without the same number of sun seekers that rode en route in the morning. You’re back in Cartagena by 4pm.

If what you want is a day on the beach – tropical sea, sand under your toes, and a cold beer. Then Baru will be great.

Just know this: it can be crowded, there will be hasslers, people that are nice and harmless but they’ll bug the shit out of you. There’s only one way to play it. “The old prison scenario”. When you get off that boat, act like you just got off the bus that is dropping you at prison – chained to another inmate and set to serve 25 to Life. You know what I mean. Better tough it up, otherwise those beach scammers will be bugging you all day long. Keep walking down the beach, avoid any chairs that they want you to pay for, anyone who comes up to you and is annoying gets a mean mug and a no thanks. Just keep walking until you find a nice spot in the sand, nearby to a little bar, and make your camp. As long as you are ready for that, Isla Baru will be a great day trip. I like this cheat sheet of good tips too.

(The day we went to Baru it was cloudy and stormy, but still fun to hang at the beach bar. When it’s sunny, the beach is white and the water bright blue green.)

Islas del Rosario: Isla Pirata aka “Pirate Island”

From the very same launching dock to Baru, you can see a sign for a hotel / island called, Isla del Pirata. If your high school Spanish language classes don’t kick in, this is of course, Pirate Island.

Fantastic for a solo traveler looking to vibe out in a hammock or float in a calm little patch of tropical green water. Also great for a romancing couple looking to slurp tropical drinks and instagram each other. Or even a family looking to all hang – without the chaos or hassle of Baru.

It costs a bit more – maybe $75 USD per person but includes a better lunch and you will have lounge chairs, hammocks, benches, docks, all the island is for you! It feels a bit like a deserted island with: broken tables and old signs and twists of sea rope.

pirata

The sign you are looking for at the boat dock

 

pirata 2.jpg

Arrival dock

 

pirata 3.jpg

Beer with a view

 

Islas del Rosario: Gente del Mar 

For those looking for a the same general idea as Pirate Island (more comfy, less hawkers, and your own private island) but with a slightly less pirate-y feel and an actual sand beach! Then I can’t suggest Gente del Mar anymore. It is the island just past Pirate Island and you will reserve the boat ticket from the same launching dock.

Actually the beach at Gente del Mar is so serene and relaxed, that you may find yourself unable to muster the strength to flip the page of your book. Instead, you’ll just lay full recline on your lounge chair and tilt your head to the side to stare at the calm blue green water – a slight smile forming on your face as dribble makes it way down you chin.

When I was just here in October, it was great. Like, wow I don’t want to ever leave great.

gente 4.jpg

The only island with a sand beach

gente 5.jpg

You can rent stand up paddle, kayaks, and more!

gente-2

There’s snorkeling and blue green Caribbean sea

 

Well one hopes these tips will help make your stay in Cartagena, Colombia more enjoyable and ensures that you will not be deprived of your beach time.

Have you been to Cartagena, Colombia? If you have any other tips on where to find a beach, post as a comment below.

Until next time,

#Keeptraveling